Tag: England

England complete first ever tour whitewash of Sri Lanka

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 win UEFA Nations League group in a thrilling game against Croatia

England came from behind against Croatia to win both the match and their group in the thrilling final game of the UEFA Nations League Group Stage. The victory sends the Three Lions through to the Semi-Finals of the competition which take place next June. 

Croatia, the side which sent England home from the World Cup this summer, looked as though they would win yet again after Andrej Kramaric scored for the visitors in the 57th minute. Kramaric, who plays his club football with Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, seemed to have an eternity to shoot. When he finally picked his spot his attempt was deflected off Eric Dier’s thigh past a diving Jordan Pickford.

The scoreline didn’t reflect the football being played as England were dominating in terms of chances but couldn’t seem to convert them into goals. Croatia, on the other hand, managed to find the back of the net with their first effort on target. If the result stayed the same England would have been relegated to Group B of the Nations League. 

Gareth Southgate was determined to make sure his side wouldn’t be lumped together with other poor international sides such as Germany, falling from the upper echelon of European football that is the Nations League Division A. He brought on Dele Alli early on in the second half before making a double substitution ten minutes later with in-form Jadon Sancho and Jesse Lingard coming on.

These substitutions proved pivotal in the England comeback. Jesse Lingard tapped home an equaliser with 12 minutes of ordinary time left before Harry Kane scored from a Ben Chilwell free kick. The Croatian side was stunned. In seven minutes they had gone from topping the group to being relegated.

The atmosphere around Wembley was electric. Every one of the 78,221 knew exactly what those two late goals meant. Not only did we save ourselves from embarrassing relegation, not only did we top our group and progress to the Semi-Finals next June, but we took revenge on a Croatian side that ended our World Cup dreams, relegating them in the process. It doesn’t stop the hurt, but it certainly helps.

To add insult to injury for Croatia, the now iconic ‘3 Lions (Football’s Coming Home)’ anthem rang around the ground as the final whistle blew. We may not have won the world cup be we still have a chance of winning the inaugural UEFA Nations League. The newest, and some would argue most elite, international competition there is.

Talking about the victory after the game, Southgate said “I think the most pleasing thing of the year has been the connection with the fans and being able to share brilliant experiences with them. Today was brilliant, I can’t remember the new Wembley like that. We have exciting players that give them excitement.”

“We were by far the better team in the first half and we came back from a soft goal. If you’re going to win a game that’s the way you want to win. We were playing against a very, very good side. To keep the ball, use the ball and create chances was very pleasing. And you have to keep calm, when you think the chances have gone then you have to keep believing.”

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford echoed his manager’s sentiments saying “the atmosphere is probably the best we’ve had at Wembley. This Nations League makes you want to beat the best. We’ve beaten two of the top 10 sides in the world. Now we have another semi-final, it’ll be a good summer.”

Elsewhere in Division A of the Nations League, three more teams joined England in the Semi-Finals and three more joined Croatia in Division B. Netherlands stunned everyone by taking 7 points from a possible 12 and topping a group which included France and Germany. As previously mentioned Germany, who underperformed massively at the world cup, continued their run of poor form winning none of their four games.

Switzerland took the third spot in the Semi-Finals topping their group on goal difference, Iceland finished rock bottom there on 0 points. Finally the fourth spot went to Portugal who went undefeated in their group, while Poland also failed to register a win.

So, England knows their opponents: Portugal, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. All eyes now turn to the draw that takes place in Dublin on December 3rd. There the match times, venues and fixtures will be announced. If England wants to win their first major trophy since 1966, they will need to win two more games. 

Southgate and his players will be confident that they have a good chance of lifting the inaugural Nations League trophy, an achievement that will surely cement Southgate as one of the greatest managers ever to grace the beautiful game. 

Joking aside, there is no doubt that this England side is the most promising we have seen in many, many years. We have young players, talented players, playing as a team, not as individuals. Players who want to represent their country, who are proud of what that means.

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

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 rescue a win against an improving Japanese side in their third Autumn International

England scored three tries in the final 20 minutes at Twickenham to beat a Japanese side that is getting better with every passing fixture. The 35-15 scoreline may deceive fans into thinking that this was a routine victory but the reality was very different with Eddie Jones’ team going into halftime 15-10 down.

Ten months out from the World Cup, hosted in Japan, the Cherry Blossoms showed that they are not far from the quality of the world’s best by playing some fantastic attacking rugby. Ryoto Nakamura scored the game’s opening try in the 22nd minute with captain Michael Leitch extending their lead nine minutes later.

With England struggling to find a way through the Japanese defence in the first half Jones needed to shake up his side if they wanted to avoid an upset. It took until the 56th minute for a George Ford penalty to really get the English firing on all cylinders.

Debut international tries came for Mark Wilson and Joe Cokansiga as well as another penalty for Ford and suddenly England were 30-15 up. A collective sigh of relief was let out around the 81,151 mostly English crowd. Substitute Dylan Hartley sealed the victory four minutes from full time but the game exposed flaws that will need to be corrected before the team head to Japan next September.

After the game, Japan’s head coach Jamie Joseph said “We gave sloppy penalties away and allowed England back in which was a little bit disappointing, but I’m proud of the players all the same. Our mentality is slowly changing, we’re starting to believe that we can take these bigger teams on and that’s going to help us next year.”

England’s final Autumn International is against Australia on Saturday 24th November. Australia has had a difficult set of fixtures with losses to both New Zealand and Wales before a comfortable win against Italy. The last five meetings between the two sides have been England victories and England will be hoping to extend that unbeaten run.

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

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

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

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