England win the final Test against West Indies in a game overshadowed by on-field homophobic comments

West Indies bowler Shannon Gabriel allegedly asked Root ‘why are you smiling? Do you like boys?’

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England claimed a 232-run win in the third and final Test against West Indies to stop the first whitewashing by their opposition since 1986. The victory was vital if they want to stand any chance of beating Australia in the upcoming Ashes series.

After the game, captain Joe Root said that “this was a really important week for this group. It has been much more what we are about. To play in the manner we have, coming back from two disappointing games, was massive going into what is a really important summer. It is nice to finish on a high even though we have lost the series.”

With several batting collapses in the first two Tests, England relished their opposition suffering a similar fate, losing all ten wickets for 154 runs in the first innings. This collapse meant that when England declared on 361-5 in their second innings, West Indies had to chase 485 runs to win. 

Root led his side impressively, scoring 122 runs to guide England to victory. However, it was during his time at the crease that an incident with West Indies bowler Shannon Gabriel occurred, which has sadly dampened an otherwise great Test series.

Describing the incident, Gabriel said: “the pressure was on and England’s captain Joe Root was looking at me intensely as I prepared to bowl, which may have been the usual psychological strategy with which all Test cricketers are familiar.”

“I recognise now that I was attempting to break through my own tension when I said to Joe Root: ‘why are you smiling? Do you like boys?’ His response, which was picked up by the microphone was: ‘don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay’.”

“I then responded: ‘I have no issues with that, but you should stop smiling at me’. I know now that it was offensive and for that I am deeply sorry. To my team-mates and members of the England team, especially their captain Joe Root, I extend an unreserved apology for a comment which in the context of on-the-field rivalry, I assumed was inoffensive sporting banter.”

Gabriel was charged by the International Cricket Council under article 2.13, which is used for the use of language that is not permissible. It states that it “is intended to cover a Player or Player Support Personnel directing language of a personal, insulting, obscene and/or offensive nature at any Player, Player Support Personnel, Umpire or Match Referee during an International Match.”

By accepting this charge, Gabriel was fined 75% of his earnings for the match and picked up three demerit points. As the player already had five, he reached the threshold where he would be given a four-match ODI ban. This means he will miss the first four out of five ODI’s between the two sides starting on February 20th. 

The point Gabriel mentions in his statement, about how he assumed it was “inoffensive sporting banter” is an issue that Cricket commentator Fazeer Mohammed discussed on the Test Match Special podcast.

“In the Caribbean, there tends to be a different attitude towards what I will describe as homophobic remarks. Of course in England and many other parts of the world there’s a very different attitude. There’s a zero level of tolerance to this sort of situation, if it is that he said something that could be defined as homophobic.”

“It’s all part of the learning process. If you’re playing international sport, with all these microphones, all these cameras around, you’re going to get caught sooner or later.”

Kyler Murray: to MLB or not to MLB

Murray has announced he will be leaving the Oakland A’s to pursue a career in the NFL.

Texas-born athlete Kyler Murray has announced that he has chosen to target a career in the NFL playing American football over the MLB playing baseball. The 21-year-old was drafted ninth overall by the MLB side Oakland Athletics, who some may know from the film Moneyball, last June.

Murray received a signing-on bonus of $4.66 million by the A’s, of which he will repay or forfeit the majority. After being drafted in the MLB he stayed at Oklahoma University to play a season as their starting quarterback. The incredible talent of this young athlete was clear as he won the Heisman Trophy, given to the best college football player in America that season.

In a Twitter post, Murray answered questions about his future, saying: “I am firmly and fully committing my life to becoming an NFL quarterback. Football has been my love and passion my entire life. I was raised to play QB, and I very much look forward to dedicating 100% of myself to being the best QB possible and winning NFL championships.”

“I have started an extensive training program to further prepare myself for upcoming NFL workouts and interviews,” added Murray. “I eagerly await the opportunity to continue to prove to NFL decision makers that I am the franchise QB in this draft.”

The Oklahoma Sooners finished the season with an impressive 12-2 record with Murray recording some brilliant numbers. He topped the league in passing yards with 4361, along with 1001 rushing yards and a total of 54 touchdowns.

He will be hoping that his consistent performances last season, as well as his results in the NFL combine taking place on the 26th February, will be enough to convince franchises he is good enough. The first round of the draft begins on the 25th April and ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr predicts Murray will be a top 5 pick. If Kiper Jr is correct he will be the first player ever to be picked in the first round in both the NFL and MLB.

The general manager of the Oakland Athletics, David Forst, said that he does not regret picking Murray in the draft, even though his side will not receive a compensation draft pick. “We’ve known all along that this was a possibility, we’ve been in constant contact and we knew he had a great option in the NFL.”

“When we knew definitively is not the story here. We’ve known from the tone of the conversations that he could choose the NFL. We’ll focus on what we need to do to make sure that if he comes back to baseball at some point then he’ll come back with the A’s.”

Defensive masterclass or offensive shambles: Super Bowl LIII

The Patriots victory was a record sixth ring in the Brady-Belichick dynasty.

Cast your mind back to January 1973. Aerosmith had just released their debut album, CBS sells the New York Yankees for $10 million, and the pilot for Last of the Summer Wine airs in the UK. The Miami Dolphins are looking to beat the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII to achieve the first-ever perfect undefeated season. 

90,182 people cram into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to see what is sure to be an epic standoff between two great teams. The temperature is 29 degrees Celsius, the hottest ever Super Bowl, and the fans can’t wait for the game to begin.

However, they were faced with the lowest scoring game of Super Bowl history, a 14-7 win for the Dolphins, who got their perfect season. 45 years and 45 Super Bowls later, no game has scored lower than the 21 points seen in 1973, and fans have been treated to some magical games. That is, of course, until 2019.

Sadly for American Football fans everywhere, Super Bowl LIII broke the record for the fewest points scored, just 16 in 60 minutes of play as the New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3. 

The match was a repeat of Super Bowl XXXVI, in which head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady defeated the Rams 20-17 to win their first Super Bowl rings. 17 years later, the Belichick-Brady partnership is still going strong and this victory is their sixth.

In the early stages of the first quarter Brady was struggling. His first throw of the entire game was intercepted and the Patriots were forced to use two timeouts as they tried to adapt and adjust to the Rams’ game plan. Thankfully Brady had wide receiver Julian Edelman to get the offensive game flowing.

He picked Edelman out with a 25-yard pass to put the Patriots within field goal range which Stephen Gostkowski successfully converted from 42 yards to set the score at 3-0. For the rest of the first half there was little in the way of offensive action.

The Patriots shut out their opponents completely, with the Rams only gaining two first downs the entire half. Besides the field goal though, the Rams were defensively solid too. The missing piece of the puzzle was their offence. 

Third-year quarterback Jared Goff looked overwhelmed by the Patriot’s defensive strategy, getting sacked four times. Goff had possession for just 10 minutes compared with 20 for the Patriots, highlighting his lack of ability to convert plays into first downs.

It wasn’t until the third quarter that Goff managed to make a breakthrough. Todd Gurley made a couple of first down runs to finally start building some momentum for the Rams. The drive culminated in a Super Bowl record 53-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal to tie the game up at 3-3 with minutes to go in the third quarter. 

40 minutes of football played and all there was to show for it was two field goals. This would not be the first Super Bowl without a touchdown however, as rookie running back Sony Michel scored his sixth touchdown of the play-offs, and the most important one of his career so far.

Goff and the Rams had no reply. The Rams offence that scored an average of 32.9 points per game in the regular season could not score even one touchdown. With four minutes left in the fourth quarter there was a glimmer of hope however for an upset.

The Rams needed to kick a field goal, recover an onside kick, then drive for a touchdown. Those hopes were quickly squashed though as Goff through the same pass two downs in a row and cornerback Stephon Gilmore intercepted the second to seal the game for the Patriots.

The result seemed like destiny. Tom Brady and the Patriots were discarded as contenders at the start of the season yet here they were, fighting for the Super Bowl for the third season in the row. 

The Belichick-Brady era has broken almost every record you could imagine. Oldest player to win a Super Bowl, oldest manager, most career NFL wins, most Super Bowl wins by a team, a player. The list goes on and on.

The most important number though is 199. Without this one the football landscape would undoubtedly look completely different. 199 is the pick of the NFL draft in 2000 that the New England Patriots used to sign Tom Brady. 

After his name was called out, Brady reportedly went to Robert Kraft, the Patriots owner, looked him in the eye, and said ‘i’m the best decision this organisation has ever made’. Nine Super Bowl appearances and six Super Bowl wins later, it seems he was right.

Super Bowl LIII had a massive amount of non-football fans tuning in too. Not for the football game though, but for the half-time show. Over 1.2 million people signed a petition to get the song Sweet Victory, from the tv show Spongebob Squarepants, performed during the show.

The creator of the show, Stephen Hillenburg, passed away in November 2018, and in a tribute to his legacy, and to the impact he’s had on millions of people across the world, the fans wanted to give something back. 

Maroon 5 confirmed in the build-up to the Super Bowl that Spongebob would be involved and the stage was set for an incredibly touching moment. Think then of the disappointment when the introduction to the song was played for mere seconds to introduce Travis Scott’s Sicko Mode. 

The disappointment didn’t end there either, as Maroon 5’s set descended into a Magic Mike-esque strip/singing combo with neither done remotely well. The only sweet victory to be seen on Super Bowl night was by those who chose to go to sleep instead.

England suffer embarrassing defeat in West Indies Test Series

Joe Root’s side looks set to suffer their first whitewash against the West Indies since 1986.

The West Indies have achieved their first Test series win against England since 2009 by securing a second Test victory in Antigua to put the score at an insurmountable 2-0 with only one Test remaining. England will be hoping that they can avoid further embarrassment and not suffer a whitewash by winning the final Test in St Lucia.

The opening test took place at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, a ground where Hanif Mohammad became the first Pakistani batsman to score a triple hundred, hitting 337 runs back in 1958, the eighth-highest score in a single Test innings ever. 

England failed to achieve that figure of 337 runs in total over both innings, reaching a dismal 323 all told. Captain Joe Root’s side fell to a 381 run defeat, the seventh-heaviest Test defeat England have ever suffered, with West Indies off-spinner Roston Chase taking an impressive eight wickets for 60 runs. 

It could be said that the Test was lost after England’s first innings. 77 was all Root’s side could muster, not due to world-class bowling but due to horrendous batting. Burns, Root, Stokes, Ali, Buttler, and Foakes all fell for four or less. 

After the West Indies declared in their second innings 627 runs ahead, England would need to smash the current fourth innings chase record of 418 set by the West Indies in 2003. When Root fell, the score was 167-4 and all was not lost yet, there was still a glimmer of hope for a comeback.

Sadly though the final six wickets were lost for 34 runs in another shambles of a batting performance. After the loss Root said: “we have played way below our potential. We have to remember that there are still two games left in this series and we have to come back very strong very quickly and learn a few lessons.”

“At no point will we underestimate these guys, we haven’t so far. It just shows how difficult it is to win away from home. There are some guys that are hurting. It doesn’t make us a bad side overnight. It’s about picking ourselves up very quickly. We’ve got to learn very quickly.”

Root’s sentiment was echoed by coach Trevor Bayliss and the England side was hoping to bounce back in the second Test taking place at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua. The stadium holds the unsavoury nickname of ‘Antigua’s 366th beach’ due to a Test match against England in 2009 being abandoned after just ten balls.

The groundsmen decided to apply an extra layer of sand after heavy rain in Antigua. The extra sand meant that the West Indies bowlers at the time, Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards, were unable to gain a foothold when running in, making bowling near impossible. 

The incident was an embarrassment for West Indies cricket as the ground was suspended from international cricket for 12 months. England were surely hoping for something similar to happen during their Test, however, the only embarrassment here was the batting performance put forward by Root’s side.

They failed to even reach the run total of the first Test, achieving just 319 over both innings. Going into the West Indies’ second innings they only had to chase 14 runs to win the Test and the series.

As if the run total enough wasn’t enough to put England cricket fans into hiding, the fact that Darren Bravo batted for longer than the whole of England’s second innings should do it. Bravo batted for 342 minutes and hit 50 off 216, the third slowest fifty in Test history. England on the other hand batted for 211 minutes, clearly failing to learn from the mistakes of the first test.

Joe Root seemed a bit more resigned with his remarks after the Test: “we’ve been outperformed once again and that’s quite hard to take. Scoring under 200 isn’t going to win you many games of cricket.”

“West Indies know these conditions well and they’ve exploited them to their advantage. They’ve played some really good stuff at times and made it very difficult. They’re fully deserving of winning the series.”

The final Test takes place at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in Saint Lucia, named after the fast-medium bowler who captained West Indies to back-to-back ICC World Twenty20 titles in 2012 and 2016. 

If the West Indies manage to beat the English, which is not a stretch of the imagination by any means, it will be their first whitewashing against England on home soil since 1986. The sides in ’86 featured such great names as Graham Gooch, Allan Lamb and Ian Botham for England and the same Viv Richards for the West Indies whose named ground Root’s side lost at days ago.

With just one Test left before the Ashes, England really needs to put on a show if they want any hope of regaining the trophy they lost so comprehensively last time around. The final test starts on the 9th February and will finish, barring another England collapse, on the 13th February.