West Indies legend, Sir Andy Roberts, has called for more aggression from the Caribbean fast bowlers ahead of the third and decisive Test against England, which bowls off in Grenada on Wednesday.

So far, bowlers have rarely managed to gain the ascendancy with the two previous pitches in Antigua and Barbados offering very little in the way of assistance.  In the previous Test, a total of 1,238 runs were scored, including a deflating 507 for 9 declared scored by England in the first innings.

If the West Indies are to break the deadlock on the back of two prior draws, Roberts believes the region’s pace bowlers must give more effort at the crease to unsettle the English batsmen.

“Aggressive doesn’t mean you have to be up in somebody’s face, but you can be aggressive in your approach, you can be aggressive in your steering because that’s one of the things I did. I never swore but when I looked at you and I see you turn away, then I say ‘yes, I have you because you can’t look me in the eye’, and that is what is required,” Roberts told the Good Morning Jojo Radio program.

“I see many West Indian fast bowlers going back to the days of Mervyn Dillion, Reon King, and when they get hit for boundaries they smile, they don’t get upset,” he added.

“The ball doesn’t come off the pitch faster than you release it, so if you’re a fast bowler then it means you’re a fast bowler, you can’t be a fast bowler and a fast-medium bowler. What is being taught today is line and length and bowl fourth and fifth stump outside the off stump, but instead of attacking the batsman, attacking the stumps, they are bowling outside of off stump, which is what they practice so sometimes it seems as though the coaches are at fault sometimes. In order to get the best out of the fast bowlers, you have to encourage them to bowl fast.”

It is all to play for at the Grenada National Stadium as West Indies and England go in search of a Test series-clinching victory.

The Windies have dug in for draws under pressure on the final day in Antigua and Barbados.

England are bottom of the World Test Championship table, with the Windies directly above them as both sides strive to transform their fortunes in the longest format.

The tourists look set to be without seamer Ollie Robinson once again as he continues to struggle with fitness issues.

England have not won a Test series in the Caribbean for 18 years, but have undoubtedly made strides during this tour as they battle for the Richards-Botham Trophy.

Yet they are still without a win in eight matches in the longest format and have been unable to show the potency to dismiss West Indies twice when in a great position to take the lead in this series.

Kraigg Brathwaite was the Windies' hero at Kensington Oval, showing incredible application and skill in both innings.

The skipper batted for 710 minutes for his 160 in the first innings and dug in for an unbeaten 56 on the last day in Bridgetown to keep the series level.

England must produce some heat on the Spice Island if they are to head home with a 1-0 victory.

 

Brathwaite and Root leading by example

The Windies were indebted to opener Brathwaite in Barbados as he dropped the anchor in both innings on his home ground.

By facing 673 balls combined in his two obdurate knocks, the skipper set a record for the most deliveries faced by a West Indies batter in a single Test. Brathwaite has the more runs than anyone else in this series, scoring 304 at an average of 101.33.

Prolific England captain Joe Root has also been magnificent, racking up 284 - including two centuries - at an average of 71.


Overton set to return, unchanged squad for Windies

Craig Overton was ruled out of the second Test due to illness, but is set to get another opportunity with Matt Fisher expected to step aside.

Saqib Mahmood should also be unleashed on the Windies again after an excellent opening spell on the final day in Barbados, with spinner Matt Parkinson facing the prospect of missing out again and Robinson not fit.

West Indies named an unchanged squad after frustrating the tourists once again on the final day.

England batter Jason Roy has been given a suspended two-match international ban by the Cricket Discipline Commission.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) revealed Roy had admitted a charge of "conducting himself in a manner which may be prejudicial to the interests of cricket or which may bring the game of cricket, the ECB and himself into disrepute."

A disciplinary panel ruled that the opener had been in breach of ECB Directive 3.3, but did not specify what the matter relates to.

Roy has been given a fine of £2,500, which he must pay by March 31.

The 31-year-old pulled out of this year's Indian Premier League for personal reasons.

Roy had been due to play for new franchise Gujarat Titans in the competition, which runs from March 26 to May 29.

The powerful right-hander was last in action for the Quetta Gladiators in the Pakistan Super League a month ago.

 

As was the case after the first Test in Antigua, Cricket West Indies selectors have opted to leave the squad unchanged for the third and final Apex Test beginning on Thursday at the Grenada National Stadium.

The three-match Apex Series is level 0-0 following a draws in the first Apex Test match at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua and the second Apex Test at Kensington Oval in Barbados, which ended on Sunday.

According to Lead Selector Desmond Haynes, the team showed their fighting spirit in the just-concluded Test in Barbados.

“We were very impressed with the captain, Kraigg Brathwaite, showing the fight in both innings and the way he led from the front with the bat,” Haynes said.

“Also, Jermaine Blackwood, and the way he played in the first innings to get a century. They batted very well together. We really appreciated the fighting spirit from the batting department. We decided to stick with the same squad and want to see them continue to give a big effort in the third Apex Test match.

Captain Kraigg Brathwaite was named Player-of-the-Match in the second Apex Test. He scored an outstanding 160 in the first innings – his 10th Test century and his first on home soil, and then 56 not out in the second innings on the final day.

 

England interim head coach Paul Collingwood heaped praise on Ben Stokes for helping to heal the "scar tissue" from another Ashes disappointment.

Joe Root's tourists were thoroughly outplayed against their old foes Australia, succumbing to a 4-0 series defeat Down Under that saw Chris Silverwood dismissed in the wake of the hammering.

Collingwood was placed in temporary charge to lead a new-look England side, without James Anderson or Stuart Broad, to the Caribbean for a three-Test series against West Indies.

England remain in search of their first win under Collingwood – and in eight Tests overall – but have produced encouraging performances in consecutive draws in Antigua and Barbados.

Stokes, who bemoaned his fitness levels after averaging 23.6 with the bat and 71.5 with the ball in Australia, has been integral to the visitors' spirited showings against Kraigg Brathwaite's side.

Indeed, no seamer has sent down more overs in the series than Stokes (77) for his five wickets and economy of just 1.81. He also registered his first century since July 2020 with a brisk 120 in the second Test.

Collingwood was keen to credit superstar all-rounder Stokes for aiding Root and the rest of the England side in recovering from a familiar Ashes fate as they eye a winner-takes-all decider in Grenada, which starts on Thursday.

 

"He's phenomenal, he's box office," Collingwood said of Stokes.

"He was going into the Ashes with not much cricket under his belt. Now he's fit, he's determined, and you can tell he wants to make a difference in the dressing room as a leader.

"When he's preparing himself like he is at the moment, he certainly leads. He wants to go out in the middle and put in big performances. He wants the ball in hand, to score the runs, and he's doing just that at the moment.

"Even in the meetings when we first arrived, getting the scar tissue from Australia out the way and [discussing] how we were going to move forward, you could see and hear he had the bit between his teeth and wants to lead this team. I think he and Joe Root have done a magnificent job turning this round.

"He's just desperate to do well for the badge, for England. It's amazing when he's got this kind of attitude, as we all know he's one of the best. Long may it continue."

With a fully fit Stokes partnering the in-form Root, Jonny Bairstow and England's refreshed top order, Collingwood finds it hard to fault the efforts of his team so far.

"They want to put on a show, get a win under their belts, and we have a great attitude at the moment," he added. 

"All the way through the [second] Test match, we were pushing for the win. It always felt as though we were a session or session and a half behind the game with the pace Brathwaite batted in the first innings, but he showed great resilience right the way through the Test match to get a draw for them.

"It's been hard work, but you cannot fault the effort. If you could measure attitude and effort, it couldn't get any better than that."

The only criticism of England against West Indies so far has been their failure to take 20 wickets in a Test, albeit on two placid pitches, leading to calls for the inclusion of leg-spinner Matt Parkinson, who Collingwood feels will be ready whenever called upon.

"He is ready as can be," Collingwood said.

"The simple fact is, in COVID-19 times, you don't get matches in between. They are back-to-back-to-back, and it is putting a lot of stress on the players. The downside is we don't have matches in between to have preparation time for guys who are not playing."

West Indies Test captain Kraigg Brathwaite etched his name into the history books with his batting performance in the recently concluded second Apex Test match against England at the Kensington Oval in Barbados.

In the first innings, Brathwaite struck his 10th Test hundred, a marathon 160 off 489 balls. He followed that up in the second innings with 56 not out off 184 balls to break the record for the most deliveries faced by a West Indian in a Test match with 673.

“I enjoyed it. The pitch at times with the harder ball was difficult but I just decided to stick to my plan which was to play as straight and as late as possible,” he said in his post-match interview.

"I’ve put in a lot of work over the years and to do it at home is a quite pleasing feeling. I’m very happy and thankful,” he added.

Aside from his personal accomplishments, the West Indies captain also praised his players who stood tall in the game, including vice-captain Jermaine Blackwood, who struck 102 in the first innings, his third Test ton.

“I thought it was a tremendous effort. Obviously, Jermaine didn’t get runs in the first game but when we came out, we had the right attitude and just decided we would fight. England bowled extremely well but it was good that a team put up 500 and, for us as a team, we could fight and score 400 and bat 180 overs," Brathwaite said.

"I thought that was a superb effort. That’s the attitude we want and that’s what the fans want to see. Once we continue with that attitude, we’ll continue to do well.”  

Even with his stellar performances at the crease so far in the series, Brathwaite still hopes for a pitch that will better aid his bowlers in the third and final Test in Grenada.

“We’d like to see something in it for the pacers but, in saying that, I thought we put in a very big effort. Obviously, we want a result in the last Test going our way so we have to see what Grenada produces but let’s hope it has something for the pacers,” he said.

The third and final Test bowls off on March 24th at the National Cricket Stadium in Grenada.

 

 

 

 

Kyle Walker-Peters and Tyrick Mitchell have been called up to the England squad for the first time after Gareth Southgate was forced to make four changes to his squad.

A hamstring injury to Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold and fitness concerns over Chelsea's Reece James left the Three Lions with Luke Shaw as their sole fit full-back in the 25-man squad that was named on Thursday.

Newcastle United's Kieran Trippier and Chelsea's Ben Chilwell are injured, while Kyle Walker of Manchester City was left out as Southgate considered his options. Manchester United man Shaw, while called up, has not played since the end of February after contracting coronavirus.

Southgate has reacted to the latest setbacks by calling in Southampton full-back Walker-Peters and Crystal Palace's Mitchell, who could make their senior debuts across friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast.

Walker-Peters won the Under-20 World Cup in 2017, but Mitchell has not featured for any of England's youth sides.

Meanwhile, West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone replaces Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale, who missed Saturday's 1-0 win at Aston Villa with a muscle injury.

The final change saw Tammy Abraham, who scored twice in Roma's 3-0 derby win over Lazio on Sunday, drop out as Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins comes in.

The Rugby Football Union's (RFU) claim England made progress during a tough Six Nations campaign has been criticised by ex-international Ugo Monye, who called their statement "dishonest".

Eddie Jones' side finished a distant third behind Ireland and Grand Slam winners France, managing just two wins from their five games.

It marked a second successive dismal Six Nations, far removed from reaching the final of the 2019 World Cup that marked the high point of the Australian's tenure in charge.

Now, a year-and-a-half out from the 2023 World Cup in France, the RFU has sought to frame their results as stepping stones, but Monye – a 14-time England international – believes such claims are untruthful.

"I want to know who in the RFU thinks that signifies progress and are happy with how things are," Monye told BBC Sport's Rugby Union Daily podcast.

"Fundamentally it's just dishonest. There isn't progress. With the financial backing, the player pool and the coaching staff they have you cannot be winning two out of five games two years in a row.

England captain Joe Root defended his decision to wait until lunch to declare after Kraigg Brathwaite made history to salvage a draw at Kensington Oval.

Root declared with the tourists 185-5 after batting on during a morning session on day five that included short delays due to rain in Barbados.

The Windies were never likely to chase down a target of 282 to win, but Brathwaite led by example with 56 not out after making 160 in a marathon first innings, to frustrate England with support from Joshua Da Silva (30no) and Jermaine Blackwood (27).

West Indies batted out 65 overs and were 135-5 when Root shook hands with Brathwaite, setting up a series decider in Grenada.

Opener Brathwaite set a record for the most balls faced by a West Indies batsman in a single Test – 673 – on the back of his incredible first-innings vigil.

Jack Leach took 3-26 and debutant Saqib Mahmood 2-21 on the last day as England were unable to force a victory, having also failed to bowl West Indies out on day five in Antigua.

Root had no regrets about not ending England's second innings earlier in the day.

He said in the post-match presentation: "It's always a tricky one. With how small this ground is and how strong the winds are, a couple of overs of someone coming off – you don't want to make it too close."

Root praised spinner Leach, who racked up 94.5 overs in the match on a flat pitch.

"It's really pleasing to see Jack play the way he has. You can see how much he enjoys it out there," Root said. "He's bowling with great control and looks threatening. It's great to see him find his feet and look comfortable at this level."

Marathon man Brathwaite was delighted by the fight his side showed under pressure.

He said: "I thought it was a tremendous effort. England bowled extremely well. It was good as a team we could fight and put 400 back. Fighting at the end, that is the attitude we want."

Brathwaite wants to see a surface in Grenada that will give the Windies paceman more of an opportunity to do damage.

He added: "We put in a very big effort, but we want a result in the last Test. We have to see what they produce [the pitch for the final Test] but let's hope it has something for the pacers."

Kraigg Brathwaite rescued West Indies with a record-breaking innings on his home ground as England again failed to force a final-day victory at Kensington Oval.

Windies captain Brathwaite spent 710 minutes at the crease to hold the tourists up with an excellent 160 in the first innings and he followed that up with a resolute unbeaten 56 in Barbados on Sunday to keep the three-match series level at 0-0.

Joe Root set West Indies 282 to win by declaring on 185-6, but Brathwaite set a record of 673 for the most balls faced by a West Indies player in a single Test as he dug in for a second time.

Brathwaite showed incredible concentration and skill as the Windies frustrated England for the second time in the series to grind out a draw, reaching 135-5 from 65 overs to set up a decider in Grenada.

Jack Leach (3-36) and Saqib Mahmood (2-21) gave the tourists high hopes of forcing a victory, but they were unable to dislodge the rock-solid Brathwaite or Joshua Da Silva (30 not out).

Spinner Veerasammy Permaul (2-29) removed Alex Lees (24) and Joe Root after England resumed on 40 without loss in need of quick runs before declaring.

Rain breaks held the tourists up, but Zak Crawley (40) and Dan Lawrence (41) built the lead, while Ben Stokes made a brisk 18 prior to striking Kemar Roach to Brathwaite at cover, having sent the paceman for a huge six over midwicket.

Jonny Bairstow made 29 off 25 balls, but the runs had dried up for England before the declaration came after more rain brought the players in once again late in the morning session.

Leach got the early breakthrough in his first over, with John Campbell caught by Leeds close to the bat. Mahmood then took centre stage, Root reacting to catch Shamarh Brooks after a Crawley juggling act and the captain held again on at first slip to dismiss Nkrumah Bonner.

West Indies were 65-3 at tea after a stand of 50 between the incredible Brathwaite and Jermaine Blackwood was ended by Leach, courtesy of Bairstow's catch close in to send the number five packing for 27.

Jason Holder faced 24 balls before departing for a duck, as Lawrence took a great diving catch at cover for Leach, but Brathwaite continued to stand firm with support from Da Silva in an unbroken partnership of 42.

 

Brathwaite shows incredible staying power

Another incredible captain's innings from Brathwaite at the top of the order left England scratching their hands.

The opener made England toil with a marathon 489-ball knock in the first innings and he dug in again when his team needed him on the final day.

Brathwaite's 184 balls faced on Sunday under great pressure moved him beyond the record of 582 that were delivered to Brian Lara, when he made his sensational 400 against England in April 2004.
 

England fall short despite Mahmood burst and Leach marathon

Mahmood led the way for England as he took 2-12 in an impressive opening spell.

Leach also did damage and racked up 94.5 overs in the match, but the spinner could not find a way to dismiss the phenomenal Brathwaite.

England head coach Eddie Jones has called upon fans to maintain faith in the team's development after a disappointing Six Nations campaign ended with a 25-13 loss to France.

Saturday's defeat to the Grand Slam champions ensured England finished third in the 2022 standings, after Wales suffered a shock loss to Italy and Ireland beat Scotland in the final round of fixtures.

England have now lost three games in three separate editions of the Six Nations under the Australian, having done so just twice in 16 campaigns prior to his 2015 appointment.

But Jones has called upon supporters to maintain faith in the team, which he says is going through a "rebuilding" process ahead of next year's World Cup in France. 

"They [England fans] have got to have some faith," Jones said on Sunday. "I think I have done a reasonable job for England over the past seven years.

"We are going through a period now where we are rebuilding the team and it takes time. Look at the French team, it took them three years to win the [Six Nations] Championship [after appointing head coach Fabien Galthie in 2019].

"We have rebuilt the side from the last Six Nations [after finishing fifth in 2021]. I think the progress is very positive, [but] the results aren't the results we would like.

"We would all like to be winning tournaments and be top of the table, but we are not quite good enough to do that now.

"But within the next 12 to 14 months when we prepare for the World Cup, we will be."

England intend to use the World Cup in Qatar to highlight concerns around the host country, but Gareth Southgate says they must be "realistic" as any demonstration will be "complicated" and "different to taking the knee".

Qatar's poor human rights record has been a concern during the build-up to the 2022 finals.

The nation's stance towards women and the LGBTQ+ community was widely raised as an issue before FIFA awarded it the 2022 tournament. Since then, during preparation for the finals, the deaths of thousands of migrant workers have been reported, although Qatar's organising committee disputed what it called "inaccurate claims" around the number of fatalities.

England – semi-finalists in Russia in 2018 – have qualified for the World Cup and plan to make the most of their platform.

However, manager Southgate suggested it was unlikely the Three Lions would follow the example of Norway, who wore T-shirts in qualifying calling for "human rights on and off the pitch".

Indeed, Southgate explained it was difficult to come up with the right response after learning of female and LGBTQ+ fans who were staying away.

Describing that as "a great shame", Southgate said: "We stand for inclusivity as a team, and it would be horrible to think some of our fans feel they can't go because they feel threatened, or they're worried about their safety."

Detailing England's thought process, he continued: "I don't think it's something where we're just going to be able to come out with a statement that will satisfy everything.

"This is different to taking the knee and the importance we felt on that. We're not saying this is any less important.

"We feel the World Cup is an opportunity to highlight some of these issues and we have a platform to be able to do that. We've also got to do that in a responsible way.

"I'm not sure that just wearing a T-shirt makes a difference. I don't totally know what we can do in every aspect to make a difference.

"I think we have to be realistic about what that might be. We're going to a country that FIFA decided where this tournament was going to be played: it's culturally different and religiously different.

"So, there are some things we're not going to be able to affect. Maybe there are some things that we can affect.

"If we can and we think they're worthwhile, then we'll try to do that. Without a doubt, one of the priorities in my mind is our own fans and how they're going to be dealt with in particular, but there may be other issues.

"I don't think any of us are complacent about any of it. I'm certainly taking it very seriously. I want to make sure the players are protected, I want to make sure they are able to use their voice in the right way, but I also don't want them to be used with broader agendas at play, perhaps.

"So, it's going to be complicated. And I think we're going to get some criticism whatever we do, but we're going to try to do the best that we can."

England head coach Eddie Jones conceded he had not "done a good enough job" after his side suffered a 25-13 loss to France, who secured a long-awaited Six Nations title and Grand Slam on Saturday.

A second-half try from Freddie Steward gave England hope, but Antoine Dupont went over on the hour to secure victory for Les Bleus at the Parc des Princes.

It was England's third defeat of the tournament, and the third time they have lost as many under the Australian, having done so just twice in 16 editions before his appointment in 2015.

Questions have been asked about Jones' position, but following the defeat, the 62-year-old said they were "for other people".

"That is not a question I need to answer," he said. "I just do my job, it is a question for other people to answer. I am not even thinking about that."

"I'm disappointed, disappointed for the fans, for the players, I obviously haven't done a good enough job, I accept that, but we're moving in the right direction. The results aren't good enough. When you rebuild a team it takes time.

"France are deserved champions of the Six Nations, they are the best team, but we had enough chances to win that game, we just didn't put them away, we were not quite clinical enough in doing that.

"That has been a little bit of the story of us in the Six Nations, we have put ourselves in position to win the three games we have lost but not been clinical enough, not been good enough, particularly in some of our clean out work to win those games.

"So that is disappointing, but the spirit we showed is going to make sure this team keeps moving in the right direction."

England finished in third-place after Wales' shock loss to Italy and Ireland's win over Scotland in the final round of matches in the 2022 tournament.

West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite insists he has not completely turned his back on the shorter formats of cricket, despite sole dedication to red-ball cricket for the past several years.

Few can argue that the format has certainly suited the opener.  On Saturday, against England, Brathwaite scored his 10th international century, and the batsman has been far and away the team’s most consistent player over the last five years.  Overall, it is Brathwaite who has scored the most runs during the period with 1730.

Brathwaite has never played a T20 international for the West Indies and has not played a One Day International since 2017.  The formats could, however, pique his interest in the future.

“It’s just unfortunate that every time we have a Test series it’s during our 50 over tournament.  So, I don’t get an opportunity to perform in that format,” Brathwaite told members of the media on Saturday.

“I still love to play 50 over cricket, it’s an aspiration of mine but obviously Test cricket I have been fighting hard for the last few years and I really enjoy it, the grind, but at some point, I would love to get back into ODI cricket,” he added.

“T20 as well, obviously you get into 50 over and show progress there and then get into T20.  It will be tough but I’m still looking to get there.”

 

France coach Fabien Galthie called his side's Six Nations title "destiny" after he led them to their first Grand Slam in a dozen years with a 25-13 win over England on Saturday.

Les Bleus triumphed on their own turf at the Stade de France to throw down a gauntlet ahead of next year's home World Cup, where they will now be among the hot favourites.

Speaking after the full-time whistle confirmed they had edged Ireland for the crown, Galthie was ecstatic to get over the line two decades on from winning the championship as a player.

"After the frustration of second place, to finally be in first?" he said. "It's great. We're not doing somersaults yet because we're at a press conference, but they will come!"

"There was a lot of tension during the match, because there was a lot of expectation. The symbolism of the Grand Slam was strong.

"We've not experienced this type of close match, [and] this tension jumped out at us. But it's an incredible first experience that will make us grow even more.

“It proves that we made the right choices, built the right team. It also means that we are on the right path with a team that is still young.

"This Saturday evening, the average age was 26 years old. The team will continue to grow and progress until the World Cup."

"It's a long way between 2002 and 2022. But there is no coincidence. The path makes the destiny. Twenty years earlier, I am on the ground.

"Twenty years later, I am in the stands and I accompany the players to claim the trophy. It's nice to still be able to touch this feeling!"

With the 2023 edition of the World Cup on home soil, France will be heading in pursuit of a maiden triumph, having finished as runners-up three times since 1987.

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