Tag: England

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

The UEFA Nations League Explained

The World Cup may be over but this week saw the start of a new chapter in international footballing competition: the UEFA Nations League. But what actually is it? How does it work? And does it even make sense?

The Nations League is a brand new European competition. The idea, UEFA says, is that adding a new trophy and route for qualifying to the Euros will make international breaks a bit less tedious and the quality higher. The competition will be played every 2 years and will replace some existing friendlies. Although others sadly remain.

The 55 UEFA teams are split into four divisions: A (12 teams), B (12 teams), C (15 teams), and D (16 teams). This is done based on their coefficient. For those who don’t know what the coefficients are, every other year in November, UEFA releases their rankings (coefficients) for their comprising countries based upon their performances in friendlies as well as the last major tournament, if the team was present. Still following?

Each of those four divisions is then further split into four groups of either three or four teams depending on division size. So we have A1-4, B1-4 etc etc. Now to the actual games. Each team will play the others in their group twice, once at home, and once away. These games will be played in September, October, and November 2018. After all those games have been played, those that top their group in divisions B, C, and D will be promoted to the next division up, while those that finish bottom of their groups in divisions A, B, and C will be relegated to the division below.

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That is the end of phase one of the competition, and will be for most nations, the end of the journey for another two years. In June 2019 though, phase two begins. The four teams that topped their group in division A will go the UEFA Nations League Finals. Rather than a round robin style competition to decide the winner, the teams will be drawn into two semi-finals. The winners of each game will progress to the final, and those that lose will play in the third place playoff. Finally, whoever wins the final will be crowned the winners of the inaugural UEFA Nations League.

But wait, there’s more. The Nations League will also allow for another passage of entry into Euro 2020 besides the traditional qualifiers. The 16 group winners will go to the playoffs to play for the final four Euro places. Those teams will be divided into groups by division, so the division one group winners play each other and so on. Again, rather than a round robin this will be done as drawn as two semi-finals then a final. The teams that emerge victorious will gain a place in Euro 2020. It’s getting a bit confusing now isn’t it?

I can hear your questions now, ‘but James, what if the team that wins their group has already qualified for the Euro’s via the traditional route?’. Well, in that case, the next highest ranked team in the division, not the group, will get a place. You read that right, a team in a different group will get the place over a team in that same group if they are ranked higher.

‘But James, what happens if all 12 teams in division A qualify via the traditional route? Where do those four places in the playoffs go?’. A great question, and one where the answer isn’t clear. The emerging consensus is that the four best ranked teams in division B who didn’t win their group would get places, making it eight teams out of 12 in division B getting places in the playoffs.

It would seem then, that division B is the best place to be in terms of probability for making the Euros through the playoffs. The chances of this scenario are very unlikely though, as there is inevitably at least one major team that suffers a pitiful qualifying campaign and crashes out. Italy and the Netherlands are the obvious examples from the last World Cup.

UEFA’s hopes though, are that if a major footballing nation fails to qualify through the traditional route they can have a second chance in the playoffs if they top their group, or if they don’t top their group but the team that does win their group has already qualified and if all the higher ranked teams in their division have already qualified or received a place in the playoff from being the next highest ranked team after a team that finished top of their group had already qualified in the traditional qualifying so that they are next in line for a place.

If you’ve read all that and you’re still confused, join the club.