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.

New England Patriots to face Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII

Brady will be looking to win his sixth Super Bowl ring against the Rams.

The New England Patriots defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31 in overtime to reach a third successive Super Bowl. Elsewhere the Los Angeles Rams won in overtime 26-23 against the New Orleans Saints to reach their fourth-ever Super Bowl.

This isn’t the first time that these two teams have met at the Super Bowl. Back in 2001, the two sides met at Super Bowl XXXVI, although the LA Rams were playing in St. Louis at the time. The game ended 20-17 to the Patriots, led by second-year quarterback Tom Brady who was named MVP, and was the first in the franchise’s history. 

That game marked the start of the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady partnership that has since seen 8 more Super Bowl appearances and 4 more victories. Both Belichick and Brady are considered amongst the greatest coaches and quarterbacks in NFL history. Their Patriots have a winning or tied record against every team in the NFL. 

Back in 2019, this was the first time in the Super Bowl era that both the AFC and NFC Championship games have gone to overtime. In the AFC Championship the Patriots, who were appearing in their eighth straight Championship game, were dominant in the first two quarters, going into half time 14-0 up. 

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw touchdown passes to Travis Kelce and Damien Williams to take the score to 17-14 Patriots going into the final quarter of the game. An incredible 38 points were scored in the fourth quarter with the lead moving to the Chiefs then back to the Patriots before Mahomes managed to get within field goal range with just 32 seconds left to send it to overtime. 

Sadly it wasn’t to be for the Chiefs as the Patriots won with a touchdown from the only possession of overtime. After the game, Brady said: “We knew it was going to be tough. Kansas are explosive and they have been beating teams here all year. It was awesome, what a game.”

Elsewhere in the NFC Championship game, the Los Angeles Rams were behind for the entirety of the game, only pulling level with a field goal to force overtime. Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein kicked four field goals throughout the game with the last the game winner.

The game was not without its controversy though as the New Orleans Saints were denied an obvious pass interference penalty that would have presented a fantastic opportunity to score a game-winning touchdown. The Saints were well inside the Rams half late in the fourth quarter with the score tied.

The football was thrown to receiver TommyLee Lewis who was taken out by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman well before the ball arrived. The referees should have called for pass interference but no penalty was given. 

The head coach of the Saints Sean Payton said: “It’s tough to get over it. It was as obvious a call (as could be) and how two guys can look at that and come up and arrive with their decision, I don’t know. It happened though, so we can’t dwell on it. We’ll probably never get over it.”

With the AFC and NFC Championships over, all eyes now turn to Super Bowl LIII. It will be hosted at the Mercedes-Benz stadium in Atlanta and will be the third Super Bowl hosted in the city, the two others being XXVIII in 1994 and XXXIV in 2000, the latter of which saw the Rams, then in St. Louis, win their first Super Bowl.

The Patriots will be playing in their third consecutive final, becoming only the third franchise to achieve the feat. The other teams were a Buffalo Bills side that played in four consecutive Super Bowls from XXV to XXVIII losing all four and the Miami Dolphins in three consecutive Super Bowls from VI to VIII, winning twice.

This game also sees record age differences between both the coaches and the quarterbacks. Patriots coach Bill Belichick is 33 years older than the Rams’ Sean McVay, and Brady is 17 years older than Jared Goff.

With Brady looking to win his sixth ring, Super Bowl LIII is set to be a thriller. The game will take place on Sunday, February 3rd with BBC coverage starting from 11:30pm. 

Search called off after Cardiff City signing Emiliano Sala’s plane disappearance

“We were looking forward to providing Emiliano with the next step in his life and career”

At 15:15 on 24th January 2019, Guernsey Police announced that they had called off the search for missing Cardiff City signing Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson after failing to find any sign.

Harbourmaster Captain David Barker said that the chance of finding the pair alive at this point was “extremely remote”. “We reviewed all the information available to us, as well as knowing what emergency equipment was on board, and have taken the difficult decision to end the search.”

He added: “I understand Emiliano Sala’s family are not content with the decision to stop the search and I fully understand that. I’m absolutely confident that we couldn’t have done any more.”

“Despite best efforts of air and search assets from the Channel Islands, UK, and France, we have been unable to find any trace of the aircraft, the pilot, or the passenger.”

The 28-year-old Argentine striker became Cardiff City’s record signing, joining from Ligue 1 club Nantes for a £15 million fee. He was enjoying a phenomenal season in the French league scoring 12 goals, just one less than Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar. 

After the signing was completed he returned to Nantes to say a final goodbye to his teammates, who he had played with for three-and-a-half seasons. It was on this return leg back to Cardiff that the plane disappeared from the radars. 

Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan gave a short statement about the events, saying: “We were looking forward to providing Emiliano with the next step in his life and career. Those who met Emiliano described a good-natured and humble young man who was eager to impress in the Premier League.”

“The response from the football community has been truly touching and we place on record our sincere thanks to those who have sent messages of support. We also thank everyone involved with the search and rescue operation, and continue to pray for Emiliano, David Ibbotson and their families.”

Judd Trump beats Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-4 to win his first Masters title at Alexandra Palace

“I was getting sick of losing and watching other players winning all the titles on TV.”

Judd Trump pulled off a convincing victory in the final of the Masters against Ronnie O’Sullivan. The match was expected to be closely fought between two of the biggest snooker players however Trump played magnificently in the first session creating a lead that was too much for the seven-time champion O’Sullivan.

Trump had not won a Triple Crown (World Championships, UK Championship, and the Masters) event in eight years since the UK Championships in 2011, but his performance would have you believe it was only a few months. He took a commanding 4-0 lead in the first session, with O’Sullivan picking up just 45 points. 

The 43-year-old O’Sullivan managed to take the next frame but could not get any more of a foothold in the session and it ended 7-1 to Trump. With the match a ‘best of 19 frames’ format, O’Sullivan would need to achieve a 9-2 or better scoreline in the evening session to win.

Whilst this may seem an insurmountable task, it has been seen in a Masters final before. Back in 1991 the defending champion Stephen Hendry came up against Mike Hallett and was expected to seal a quick and simple victory. Hendry, to the surprise of everyone except perhaps Hallet, went down 7-0, then 8-2. 

With this iteration of the tournament a ‘best of 17 frames’ format, Hallet needed just one more frame to take his first Triple Crown title. Hendry proved to be far from beaten though and, in what has been called one of the greatest finals in snooker history, he won 7 straight frames to successfully defend his Masters title. Hallett later said, “it took me about six months to get over it, I was totally crushed.”

Sadly, for O’Sullivan and the audience watching, there wasn’t a legendary comeback like Hendry’s. Despite O’Sullivan getting two century performances getting three frames back, he ultimately lost to Trump 10-4. Trump wins £200,000 for his victory and receives the Paul Hunter Trophy.

After the match, Trump said: “I have waited a long time for this. It has been seven or eight years since I last won a big one. You are always surprised when you have a lead against Ronnie at any point. He looked sharp tonight. I had to be at my best to just get to 3-3 in the last session.”

“I was getting sick of losing and watching other players winning all the titles on TV,” said Trump. “The likes of Mark Selby consistently staying at world number one, Mark Williams coming back to form and winning the World Championship and obviously Ronnie O’Sullivan. 

“This is easily the biggest event I have won now. I used to play all-out attack and it worked now and again but this week I did not play brilliantly apart from against O’Sullivan. I am very pleased with how I dug in and showed patience.

“It has been a long time since I won a massive event and it has taken a lot of hard work and sacrifice. The rewards have paid off for the practice I have done over the last four or five months. Hopefully it is a major turning point in my career now and I can kick on.”

With the next Triple Crown event coming in April with the World Championships, the result of this final seems to have changed a few people’s minds about who could win. Six-time world champion Steve Davis said: “It’s put the cat among the pigeons for the World Championship because all of a sudden he is a credible winner. He plays a modern-day game.”

“It’s no-compromise snooker. He doesn’t shirk up his responsibilities on the table. He can play safe, he knows how to mix it up, but he’s happiest among the balls the same as O’Sullivan is. Some of the modern players coming through, they’re changing the equation for what are the right and wrong shots.”