England hope Archer is on target against Smith in second Ashes Test

England’s Jofra Archer during a training session at Lord’s cricket ground in London on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 13 August 2019

England hope Archer is on target against Smith in second Ashes Test

  • Holders Australia, bidding to win their first away Ashes series for 18 years

LONDON: England are set to field a revamped attack featuring fast bowler Jofra Archer as they try to finally get Australia’s batting star Steve Smith out cheaply and level the Ashes in the second Test at Lord’s.

Holders Australia, bidding to win their first away Ashes series for 18 years, humbled England last time out thanks in large part to Smith, who returned to this level following a 12-month ban for his involvement in a ball-tampering scandal with two centuries as they cruised to a 251-run first Test win at Edgbaston.

England have only twice won the Ashes after losing the opener — when all-rounder Ian Botham turned the 1981 series on its head with several superb solo efforts, and in the thrilling 2005 contest which they edged 2-1.

Defeat at Edgbaston was made worse for England by the fact that James Anderson, their all-time leading wicket-taker, broke down after bowling just four overs with a calf injury that has ruled the 37-year-old swing specialist out of a Lord’s encounter starting Wednesday.

“We are very aware that England played without James Anderson, one of their best players and we got lucky,” said Australia coach Justin Langer.

“That’s the truth of it, with him not playing. He’s a brilliant fast bowler, one of the all-time greats, so if he only bowls four overs for the match then we got lucky there.

“Here at Lord’s there’s different conditions and different pressures so we just have to make sure we’re right for this Test match,” added the former Australia opener, who played at the “home of cricket” for English county Middlesex.

Anderson’s absence means England are set to give a Test debut to Archer, who will be returning to the ground where he bowled the dramatic Super Over that sealed a thrilling World Cup final win over New Zealand last month.

But the 24-year-old, coached at Sussex by former Australia paceman Jason Gillespie, has played just 28 first-class matches and Langer was looking to his batsmen to wear Archer down in a way that’s not possible in a one-day international, where bowlers are restricted to a maximum of 10 overs.

“It’s the same for everyone in Test cricket, get them into their second, third and fourth spells,” Langer said.

But a defiant Archer insisted he was ready for the challenge, having proved his fitness for Sussex in a 2nd XI match against Gloucestershire during which he took 6-27 in the first innings and then scored 108 after a side strain ruled him out of contention at Edgbaston.

“I’ve played a lot more red-ball cricket and it’s my preferred format,” Archer said. “I’m more ready than I’ve ever been.

“I bowled 50 overs in one game for Sussex and am the one usually bowling at the end.

England are also set to field left-arm spinner Jack Leach, who scored a career-best 92 in the one-off Test win over Ireland at Lord’s last month, after Moeen Ali was dropped following the off-spinner’s lacklustre display at Edgbaston.

Analysis by CricViz shows Smith averages a modest 34.90 against left-arm spin compared to a superb overall Test mark of nearly 63.

But as for suggestions Smith had an inherent weakness when confronted with this type of bowling, Langer replied: “No, I don’t buy into it.

“He has got this incredible ability to solve problems.”


Man United, Inter favorites for Europa League finale

Updated 10 August 2020

Man United, Inter favorites for Europa League finale

  • All games from the quarterfinals onwards will be played as one-off ties across four venues

PARIS: Manchester United, Inter Milan and Sevilla headline a quintet of former champions traveling to Germany for a remodeled eight-team straight knockout tournament that will crown the winner of a Europa League campaign heavily disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

All games from the quarterfinals onwards in this season’s competition will be played behind closed doors as one-off ties across four venues — Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen — following a five-month interruption.

While a Champions League berth still awaits the victor of the final in Cologne on Aug. 21, much has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak that brought European football to a standstill in March.

“There are rules and regulations on the bubble that’s going to travel. We’ve got to stick together, stay together in and around the hotel and the training ground,” United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said of the strict health protocols clubs must respect.

Players and staff will undergo virus testing before departing for Germany and again on the eve of a match once arriving, a process repeated for each subsequent game in the final tournament.

UEFA has advised teams to travel on charter flights and minimize contact with the general public, strongly recommending the use of exclusive hotels — to which players will largely be confined — in order to avoid potential cross-contamination.

Masks will not be required for substitutes and coaching staff but they must maintain social distancing when seated, with players instructed to limit contact as much as possible when warming up. Match balls will be disinfected before kickoff and at half-time.

United, the 2017 winners, face FC Copenhagen in Monday’s quarterfinal in Cologne while Serie A runners-up Inter take on Bayer Leverkusen in a clash of former UEFA Cup champions at Dusseldorf Arena.

England forward Jesse Lingard, who played in United’s 2-0 win over Ajax in the final three years ago, is confident the team can capture the title for a second time.

“We can’t wait to get there and play this game now. 100 per cent I want to win it again,” Lingard told MUTV.

“Lifting a trophy is a special feeling you can’t really explain and winning it before you take that confidence forward. We have got a mixture of youth and experience in the squad and for the young lads to win their first trophy, it will be perfect for them.”

Should United advance to the last four they would face either Sevilla — who have won the Europa League and its precursor, the UEFA Cup, a record five times — or Premier League rivals Wolves in Cologne
on Aug. 16.

Wolves are through to a first European quarterfinal since 1972 but were punished by UEFA in midweek after failing to comply with Financial Fair Play requirements. They take on Sevilla in Duisburg on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Inter beat Getafe 2-0 in a single-leg last-16 tie Wednesday in Gelsenkirchen, and Antonio Conte’s men harbor hopes of adding to the three UEFA Cups won in the 1990s.

“This is an important competition. It doesn’t matter where and under what conditions you’re playing, you should only be focused on the upcoming match,” midfielder Christian Eriksen told Inter TV.

“It’s certainly not as fun playing without fans, the atmosphere isn’t there. We’ll try to excite them while they’re watching on TV, and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to embrace our supporters again soon.”

Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk, winners of the 2009 edition, play Swiss outfit Basel in the other quarterfinal in Gelsenkirchen.

This year’s Europa League final was initially due to be played in the Polish city of Gdansk in late May before the health crisis forced a change of plans.

Gdansk will host next year’s final instead.