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Ramblings about football and sport in general

Vikings march past Durham

Yorkshire continued their impressive start to the Royal London One-Day Cup with a five-wicket victory over Durham at Headingley.

The Vikings were spearheaded by Johnny Bairstow’s career best score of 174 as they cruised past the 336 target with 14 balls to spare.

Bairstow was the third man to score a century on the day, after both Stephen Cook and Michael Richardson reached three figures for Durham.

 

Bairstow batting

 

Cook was the mainstay of the Durham innings as they started the match strongly. They raced onto 124-0 before captain Keaton Jennings was caught brilliantly on the boundary by Peter Handscomb for 72.

Cook then shared another 124-run stand with Richardson before departing for 106 off 114 balls. He was caught by Bresnan off Rafiq less than two overs after reaching his century.

The Durham innings would then reach a lull as Graham Clark, ex-England captain Paul Collingwood, and Paul Coughlin fell cheaply to leave them 280-5 after being 238-1 just seven overs prior.

Cameron Steel joined Richardson for a late rally in which they scored 56 off the last 31 balls. Richardson would cap off a fine innings with three boundaries in the final over before scoring two off the final ball to finish unbeaten with an 87-ball century.

Yorkshire’s reply started in quick fashion as they raced onto 50 inside 7 overs. Adam Lyth departed soon after though for 16 after pulling Chris Rushworth to deep square leg.

This led to England’s new test captain Joe Root joining Bairstow at the crease. The two made a solid start to their partnership with Root happy to play back up to Bairstow’s quicker scoring.

The seventeenth over proved to be pivotal in the outcome of the match as Bairstow was given a lifeline. On 71 he picked out Cook at long-off who dropped the catch and allowed the Yorkshireman to continue his free scoring.

Bairstow made Durham pay for that reprieve as he reached his century in the 23rd over. It came off 70 balls and included 13 boundaries.

 

 

 

In what was described by Tim Bresnan as the greatest innings he has ever seen the big shots from Bairstow would not stop.

He hit Steel for four consecutive boundaries as he approached 150 and an over later it arrived with a two off the bowling of James Weighell.

 

 

 

Bairstow’s innings ended in the 34th over after edging behind off Weighell for a magnificent 174. He left the pitch to a standing ovation and Yorkshire needing 87 from the final 16 overs.

Root was bowled a short time later for 55 by Weighell who finished strongly with figures of 3-60 off his ten overs. Captain Gary Ballance and Handscomb shared a 71-run partnership to edge Yorkshire closer to victory before Tim Bresnan knocked off the winning runs with a four off 24-year-old Coughlin.

It would be man of the match Bairstow that would take all the plaudits however as his 16 fours and seven leg-side sixes lead his side to victory. He will be glad to be inform ahead of the Champions Trophy with England next month.

The result means Yorkshire top the North group after three games with 6 points, while Durham suffered their first defeat to sit on one point following a no result and a win to go with their two-point penalty for financial trouble.

Leeds Trinity Lions ready for the new season

Leeds Trinity University cricket team are anxiously waiting for the new season to start according to new signing Cameron Patel.

Training began back in September ahead of the new season and it is now under a month until the opening round of fixtures.

They will be looking to go one better than last season when they finished as narrow runners up to West Yorkshire rivals Bradford.

With promotion the target there is a lot of pressure on the players this season. And the Lions have made many changes to last season including a lot of first year university students joining the side.

Patel, one of the new recruits, believes the side are ready and raring to go for the new season. “We’re looking forward to the matches and hopefully we’ll get promoted.”

Trinity will be competing in the Northern 3B League. The season begins with a home match against Huddersfield.

 

 

The Lions will have to get used to a new pitch after moving grounds. Their home games will be played at King George’s Field, which is also the home of Horsforth Cricket Club. The ground is closer to the university than the previous one. Trinity had previously played their matches at Horsforth Hall – over a mile away from the university.

The pavilion at the new ground was rebuilt in 2016, after premiership footballer James Milner donated the money to them. The former England midfielder, who is also chancellor of Leeds Children’s University, was keen to help support the project in the town where he was brought up.

Fast bowler Patel commented on the first game being: “a tough match but a good one to get started on.”

Long distance away trips to Newcastle and Sunderland are on the agenda for TASC and Patel noted how the team spirit will help for those games. He is especially looking forward to Newcastle. “It’ll be a nice night out after the game. Obviously we want the win first.”

Trinity will also play Hull while they’ll finish the season with a home game against York.

When asked about targets for himself, the 19-year-old stated: “I’d love to take as many wickets as possible and score a few runs down the order.” 

Guardiola’s FA Cup dream

Manchester City progressed to the last eight of the FA Cup with a 5-1 victory over Huddersfield last night.

Pep Guardiola’s side had to come from behind to reach the quarter finals for the first time in three years.

The Spaniard was brought in with the aim of ‘transforming’ the club and that has so far had a mixed effect. They currently sit third in the Premier League, albeit 11 points behind leaders Chelsea. They also lost to rivals Manchester United in the fourth round of the EFL Cup.

However, they are well placed to reach the Champions League quarter finals after a first leg 5-3 victory over Monaco. A favourable trip to Middlesbrough in the FA Cup suggests they are not far away from a visit to Wembley either.

 

 

Team selection has become a big talking point in the FA Cup over recent years. In a time when many say the ‘magic’ of the cup is dying it was refreshing to see a top side make just four changes from their previous match. Even though Huddersfield themselves played a weakened side Guardiola was still determined to show his intentions to win a domestic trophy this season.

Compare just four changes to the nine changes he made in the EFL Cup defeat back in October and it shows a shift in momentum. Back then there was a strong belief that City would be in the title hunt so a cup was not the priority. Chelsea’s dominance of 14 wins in 17 games since then has changed the agenda for the 2014 champions.

 

 

That four of the top six in the Premier League had already qualified for the last eight must have contributed to Guardiola’s decision to play a strong side. Alan Shearer went as far as saying that the success of their rivals in the EFL Cup contributed to his selection.

Having won a trophy in every season as a manager further explains why the 46-year-old would take the FA Cup seriously. With the Premier League title seemingly now out of reach the man with 21 managerial trophies to his name is under pressure to produce in other competitions.

Bringing the FA Cup to Manchester would give fans hope that this is just the beginning of a great era for the club under Guardiola. City fans will be hoping that come the summer they will have at least one if not two more trophies in the cabinet.

Will Sam Allardyce keep Crystal Palace up?

Crystal Palace are in a slump. They currently lie 19th in the Premier League after 25 games and have struggled for results since September.

They started the season with high expectations. The club record transfer fee was broken on Christian Benteke with an initial £27m that could eventually rise to £32m with add-ons. Andros Townsend, James Tomkins and Steve Mandanda were other high profile signings during the summer.

And 11 points after the first seven fixtures gave the fans a strong belief they would push for a top half finish instead of staving off relegation. At one stage, they were as high as seventh, just a win away from the Champions’ League places.

That was as good as it would get for The Eagles though as four points from the following 10 games led to Alan Pardew being sacked and Sam Allardyce installed as manager just before Christmas.

 

sam-allardyce

 

 

Allardyce was expected to keep Palace up comfortably after his success with Sunderland last season. However, eight games into his reign the club’s situation has worsened. They have taken just four points and have conceded 14 goals so far in his tenure.

Allardyce has never had a worse start at a Premier League club. He is averaging just 0.5 points a game. This is despite him spending more than he has before in the transfer market. In January they spent over £35 million – more than any other Premier League club. The decision to try to spend their way to safety has not paid off so far.

 

 

 

Pundits are split over the Sam Allardyce effect. Paul Merson said that Allardyce is the type of manager that will keep them up while Matt Le Tissier went the opposite route and said he has lost his mojo.

Palace can hold hope in the fact that Allardyce’s end of season results tend to be better. Last season his Sunderland side collected 19 points in the final 13 games. If the same were to happen this season, the South London club would amass 38 points. This would be on par with the 38.4 points on average it is to stay in the Premier League.

They also have home advantage in most of their crucial games – five of their remaining home fixtures are against sides in the bottom half. At Sunderland, Allardyce lost two of his last eight at home. Both of those were against sides that finished in the top four.

With their next game against 16th-placed Middlesbrough, Palace fans will hope their fortunes turn around quickly and that Allardyce can work his magic once again.

Will captaincy affect Joe Root’s performances?

 

The long awaited appointment of Joe Root as England captain was finally made on Monday.

The move comes as no surprise as Root has long been tipped to succeed Alistair Cook as England captain.

The 26-year-old had a magnificent 2016 after scoring 1477 runs, just four runs shy of Michael Vaughan’s record set back in 2002.

 

 

 

The decision has been questioned by many who believe that this could hamper his individual performances. Andrew Flintoff went as far as saying the job was the worst he’d ever encountered.

The batting average became a major talking point during Cook’s reign as captain. He famously went nearly two years without a century from May 2013 to May 2015 while captain and this led to his captaincy being called into question. Despite this Cook’s average was not affected as it stayed at 46 both as captain and when just in the ranks.

Other England captains have had mixed results when it comes to their own form as captain. Graham Gooch flourished when batting as captain. His average was 58.72 when he was in charge whereas he scored at a measly 35.93 when he wasn’t.

Self-proclaimed Yorkshireman Vaughan had a massive drop in scoring runs when captaining England. His average with the bat was 50.98 before he was given the reigns. That lowered to 36.02 when he was skipper. This does not reflect his overall impact as captain though as he has the most wins as England captain with 26.

Recent captains in the modern game have seen their averages when captain raise. Kane Williamson has seen his average rise above 50 since he became captain of New Zealand. This is seen as meagre compared to India and Australia’s current captains.

Virat Kohli’s average has gone from 41 to above 60 in his 23 matches leading India. His impact in Alistair Cook’s final series as England captain was shown to be massive. Kohli averaged 109 in just eight innings in India’s four-nil victory.

Steve Smith has seen an even more remarkable rise in his batting stats since being named as Australia’s captain in 2015. His average is 73.73 as captain of Australia compared to an impressive 51.83 beforehand.

All three of these men have also seen their win percentages rise in the test team after becoming captain of their respective countries.

These are all positive signs as Root hopes not to be a burden as Yorkshire’s 10th leader of the England test side.

 

Snooker coverage: UK Championship

Later on this evening there are two matches. Former world number one Mark Williams faces 26 year-old Liam Highfield. Williams is the strong favourite having come from 5-3 down to defeat Ricky Walden in the last round. However, Highfield is looking to continue his recent good form by beating the former two-time champion here.

Elsewhere, Stephen Maguire faces the upcoming Belgian player Luca Brecel, who is looking to reach the quarter-final in York for the second time. Maguire, a former world number two, will be looking for his second crown in a tournament that has seen him reach at least the last eight in seven of the last nine years. Brecel has never beaten Maguire but will be looking to change that following his 6-1 victory over Yu De Lu in the last round.

 

Here’s what happened in the action earlier on today:

 

16:48 – Jamie Jones is in to the quarter finals of the UK Championship after a nervy 6-2 win over David Gilbert. Gilbert misses a red when he required snookers to hand Jones the win.

16:47 – Jones takes a long pot on and misses but leaves Gilbert snookered.

16:43 – Gilbert with some bad fortune leaves Jones with a red over the pocket after a double kiss. Gilbert now needs snookers.

16:41 – Jones pots a red to look like he is going to close the match before feeling the pressure and missing what looked like an easy green.

16:40 – As the match reaches the three hour mark a safety battle has ensued. Both plays look nervy here.

 

16:33 – Gilbert is back in the frame with a nice pot on the red to the top right corner. He then leaves the white short in positioning on the red. He misses the shot that follows.

16:31 – Jones builds his lead to 41 after a pot on the black. He then misses a tough red to give Gilbert a lifeline.

16:28 – Jones plays a great safety shot leaving Gilbert snookered behind the blue. Gilbert does brilliantly to get out of it safely.

16:25 – We now move to the other table where Jamie Jones is facing David gilbert. Jones currently leads by 5 frames to 2.

16:24 – John Higgins beats Mark Allen 6-3 to reach the quarter final of the UK Championship. He closes the match with a break of 90 after dominating the ninth frame leaving Allen with little chance to get in to it.

16:22 – He makes two shots on the pink to leave Allen needing snookers if he gets back to the table.

16:21 – Higgins in a strong position here as he moves 59 ahead and he makes a good cannon into the pack to give himself a good shot on the pink.

16:18 – Allen misses the same type of shot to put Higgins back in prime position to finish the match.

16:17 – Poor positional shot after potting a black leaves Higgins in a tough position. He then misses the shot on a red to the middle pocket for a break of 29.

16:15 – Higgins makes a tough cut on the black to take control of the ninth frame.

Live updates of John Higgins against Mark Allen in the UK Championship last 16. The score is currently 5-3 to Higgins as Allen has just conceded the eighth frame.

British Tennis: At an all-time high?

After decades of struggling the not too distant future looks bright for British tennis players. A world number one, promising young stars and plenty of titles have changed a long history of suffering for our players. but how can this resurgence of British tennis keep going?

Andy Murray has been British number one for over a decade, and at 29 is in the prime of his career. His rejuvenated partnership with coach Ivan Lendl has given him that extra level that has allowed him to flourish and become world number one, finally overcoming the domination of Novak Djokovic. If this pairing is left alone then Murray can look forward to at least a couple of years as the top dog in tennis.

The success of Andy’s brother Jamie is another reason British tennis can be excited for the near future. He won the first two grand slams of his career as he enjoyed lots of success with Brazilian Bruno Soares in the doubles. They won the trophy of best doubles team of the year so expect them to be a strong force in 2017.

The rise of other players like Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans is something else that British tennis can look forward to. Both sit comfortably inside the world rankings top 100 and had remarkable runs at US Open this year. Evans even had a match point against eventual champion Stan Wawrinka in the 3rd round.

Let’s not forget Johanna Konta. She powered her way into the top 10 of the women’s rankings moving up 37 places. She also defeated Venus Williams in July to record her first WTA title. Being 25 she definitely has a bright future ahead of her in the sport as does all of British tennis.

 

 

 

 

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