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?’

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.”

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.

England complete first ever tour whitewash of Sri Lanka

Moeen Ali and Jack Leach both grabbed four wickets in a close finish to the series.

England have completed their first ever whitewash in Sri Lanka after an incredibly close 42-run victory in the third and final Test in Colombo.

It appeared as though Sri Lanka might be able to salvage a consolation win in this Test with Kusal Mendis scoring 86 and Roshen Silva reaching 65. The England bowlers struggling to make headway with the Sri Lankan batsman.

Eventually, Jack Leach continued his fantastic form with a run out of Mendis that set England back on the right track. Moeen Ali also proved himself to be one of the best spin bowlers in the world by taking four wickets, including Perera and Silva with only one run between them.

With the scorecard reading 226-9, it seemed routine for England to finish the game, the series, and the tour, however, it proved anything but. Lakmal and Pushpukumara managed a very respectable last-wicket stand of 58 before Lakmal finally succumbed by lbw to Leach, who joined Ali on a four-wicket haul.

Talking about the tour Joe Root, England’s captain, said “it has been a fabulous tour. It has been a complete team performance throughout the whole trip. Everyone has contributed in some shape or form and that is the most pleasing and impressive thing.”

England have sprung back from their own whitewashing by Australia in the Ashes by winning eight of their last nine Tests. They have just four more Tests left though, three against West Indies and a one-off against Ireland, before the Ashes comes around again on August 1st 2019.

England seal Sri Lanka series with a win in the second Test

A maiden Test five-wicket haul for Jack Leach gave England their first Test series win in Sri Lanka since 2001.

England won their first series away from home since beating South Africa in January 2016 by sealing a victory in the second Test against Sri Lanka. Joe Root captained the side to a 2-0 lead with the third and final Test starting on Friday 23rd November.

Going into day 5 the result was very much in the balance with Sri Lanka sitting on 226-7 needing just 75 runs to level the series. The home side started well but suffered two wickets in three balls from Moeen Ali that all but ended any hopes of a victory. First Niroshan Dickwella fell for 35 after edging to first slip where Ben Stokes made a comfortable catch and then two balls later Suranga Lakmal was bowled for a duck.

The final wicket fell as Jack Leach achieved his first Test five-wicket haul. Leach caught and bowled Malinda Pushpakmura and the celebrations from the English side quickly followed. This was their first series win in Sri Lanka since March 2001 and only their second ever. Sri Lanka finished on 243 runs, 57 short of victory.

Talking after the Test captain Joe Root said: “The guys have worked extremely hard here. We said we’re going to play in a certain manner and we’ve backed that up completely throughout the two games. That’s probably the most pleasing thing.”

“We’ve stuck to our guns, been ruthless when we’ve had our opportunities to get ahead in the games and we’ve soaked up pressure well. This team is growing all the time, looking to improve in practice and driving that standard up which is a great position to be in.”

Root stepped up in the second innings making a fantastic 124, his 15th Test century. The Yorkshireman said that he “wants to get to number one in the world” and regardless of the outcome in the third Test England will overtake South Africa to take second place in the world rankings. Only India stands in the way.

With the Cricket World Cup taking place next May in England and Wales, Root and his team will be looking to make the most of the closing Test of this series as well as the tour of the West Indies in the new year. The final Test against Sri Lanka will take place in Colombo and starts at 04:30 on Friday 23rd November.

England’s first One Day International against Sri Lanka abandoned after heavy rain

Johnny Bairstow and Jason Roy fell early on in the start of the Autumn tour

England’s first cricket match since their 4-1 Test series win against India was abandoned after 15 overs due to heavy rain. The one-day international, played in the town of Dambulla, was called off mid-afternoon due to a sodden outfield.

Sri Lanka won the toss and opted to field but the England team looked eager to get started. In the 15 overs that were played England managed to reach a score of 92-2. Johnny Bairstow and Jason Roy were the openers and managed to reach 25 and 24 respectively before getting caught out.

The first wicket came as a delivery from fast-medium bowler Nuwan Pradeep was edged by Bairstow and comfortably caught behind the stumps. Five balls later Roy completely misjudged a ball from Akila Dananjaya to get caught at mid-off.

Third and fourth at the crease were Joe Root and Eoin Morgan who picked up runs quickly, reaching 25 and 14 respectively before the game was called off.

Talking to BBC Sport about the match Morgan said “It has been a little bit frustrating but there is plenty of energy in the camp, we’re excited about being here and getting into the series. This has halted that energy a bit but we’re hoping to get a full game in for the second match, especially with the reserve day. Only time will tell if we’ve had enough preparation but we certainly will be fresh.”

The second ODI will also take place in Dambulla, in the centre of Sri Lanka, on Saturday, with a reserve day on Sunday in case rain becomes an issue again.

After the five-match series of ODI’s concludes on October 23rd there is a one-off T20 game on the 27th followed by a three-match Test series to finish the year. In January 2019 the English team will begin a 3-month tour of the West Indies with a similar format to this tour of Sri Lanka except featuring three T20 games instead of one.

James Anderson becomes Test cricket’s most prolific fast bowler

He overtook Australian Glen McGrath by taking the final wicket of the Test series against India

James Anderson broke Glen McGrath’s record for wickets taken by a fast bowler in the final Test match against India this week. The Englishman took the final wicket in the game that saw Alastair Cook bow out of international cricket.

His tally of 564 leaves him fourth in the list of all-time wicket-takers. Only spin bowlers Anil Kumble (619, India), Shane Warne (708, Australia), and Muttiah Muralitharan (800, Sri Lanka) have taken more.

Anderson, 36, deserves a lot of praise for maintaining fitness levels and drive over his long career, which has undoubtedly contributed to his success. The hardest thing for a bowler at the top of his game is to maintain that level for many years. Far too often have we seen great bowlers retire early due to injuries or losing their edge.

Mitchell Johnson is a prime example. The Australian played 73 Test matches taking 313 wickets leaving him as the fourth best wicket taker for his country when he retired. He had a tumultuous career, losing his place in the side due to stints of poor form at times, but also winning ICC Cricketer of the year twice too. Had Johnson had the longevity of Anderson, he could have been challenging for that record too. Gough, Harmison, and Jones too ended their careers early as their bodies let them down.

McGrath was dignified as his record was broken, challenging Anderson to take more wickets. “If he can raise the bar to 600 wickets, that’s an incredible effort. I was proud to hold it for as long as I did. For it to be beaten by somebody like Jimmy Anderson is great”

“I have a lot of respect for Jimmy. He’s been an incredible bowler for a long time. To have played well over 140 Tests and just keep running in, day in, day out, and remain at the top of his game. Yeah, I’m very proud Jimmy’s got there.’

Fellow Englishman Stuart Broad is the next most likely active player to break Anderson’s record. Four years younger and 133 wickets behind, if Broad can keep up with the physicality of a packed cricketing schedule he may eclipse his teammate. McGrath doubts that the record will be broken any time soon, “just to play enough games to get anywhere near it is tough in itself.” Anderson has currently played 143 Test matches, 11 more than any other fast bowler.

He says he isn’t done with Test cricket quite yet though. “I don’t really think about it. I play my best when I focus on what’s ahead of me; the next game, the next series, whatever it is. I don’t like looking too far ahead. I don’t think it helps certainly me or the team.”

England will be hoping they can continue their winning form in tours of Sri Lanka and West Indies this winter. Continuing their momentum will be crucial as the side looks forward to next summer’s Ashes.

Alastair Cook steps away from international cricket after a record-breaking career

His 147 helped lead England to a 4-1 series win

Alastair Cook finished his 12 year batting career with a century in the fifth Test against India at The Oval.  His 147 helped guide England to a 4-1 series win in the final match of the Summer.

In an interview with Sky Sports he said “the timing is right”. “I started noticing things in my game and preparations were missing. That edge isn’t there.”

Cook got his first start as part of the England side that toured India in early 2006. The team suffered heavily from stomach complaints, an issue that almost always dogs the team in India. That didn’t stop Cook however as he scored a promising 60 in the first innings and followed it up with a fantastic 104* in the second.

The centuries came thick and fast and in December 2012, again against India, he became England’s record centurion in Kolkata. Lighting up Eden Gardens he reached 190 in 377 balls before ultimately being run out by Kohli.

Three years and many standing ovations later it was time for another major record to be broken, this time surpassing Graham Gooch as England’s record Test runs batsman.

For his farewell Test this week, the crowd at The Oval gave him an ovation every opportunity they could. He began day four on 46, quickly reaching his half-century early on in the morning session. With every over that passed the fans grew more tense, anticipating the opportunity of a final century.

His stint at the crease wasn’t just plain sailing. On 72 India appealed for a catch at silly point but, to the relief of almost everyone in the ground, he was found not out. On he powered, and soon he reached 96. The crowd rose to their feet, only Jadeja could stop Cook now.

The delivery came, Cook leaned back and cut the ball through point for a comfortable single. The ball rolled out to Jaspit Bumrah, a player whose had a great Test series. A momentary lapse in concentration saw him throw well beyond the stumps, rolling all the way for a boundary. Play was paused for several minutes as The Oval marked the occasion.

When he finally fell for 147, every Indian fielder on the pitch came to shake his hand and, for one final time, the crowd acknowledged Cook. An extraordinary career for an extraordinary cricketer.

The incredible numbers of Cook’s career:

  • Matches:  161
  • Innings:  291
  • Runs: 12,472
  • 50s:  57
  • 100s:  33
  • Highest Score:  294
  • Average:  45.35