Plunkett the game-squeezer takes pleasure in ruining the crowd’s fun

There can’t have been many punters who left the County Ground at Bristol on Sunday night feeling short-changed. With Moeen Ali scorching all before him with his sensational 53-ball hundred, and Chris Gayle responding with ominous intent during his 94 from 78, a grand total of 28 sixes were struck in the course of the two innings – the most ever scored in an international match in England. That’s entertainment, as Gloucestershire’s marketing men would amply agree.

And yet, had it not been for a less prominently celebrated performance, England’s eventual 124-run win would have been significantly less comfortable, and perhaps even in doubt altogether. Instead, once the dust had settled on a pulsating afternoon’s strokeplay, there were Liam Plunkett’s figures standing out from the carnage – a career-best haul of 5 for 52 in 8.1 match-sealing overs.

It was, as Plunkett readily agreed, something of a killjoy’s performance. This is, after all, a player who has been forging an invaluable niche in England’s one-day plans in recent seasons – that of the mid-innings aggressor, the man whose extra oomph can force a mistake out of even the most well-set batsman, or demand that they shelve some of their intent in a bid to keep their powder dry for the slog overs.

And that he did to impressive effect in the course of a run-laden contest. After entering the attack in the tenth over, his first two wickets were classic heavy-ball dismissals, as first Shai Hope and then – controversially – Marlon Samuels were drawn into drives and beaten by extra bounce outside off stump. Then, when he returned in the 34th over, Plunkett’s second-ball bouncer lured Jason Mohammed into a top-edged slap to square leg, before Devendra Bishoo and Jason Holder completed his haul with the contest effectively settled.

“Everyone wants to see sixes and fours, so you try to come in in that middle period, and close a team down,” Plunkett said. “That’s why I do like it, because you feel as though you can run the game in that period. I love to be the bad guy for the crowd, it means I’m not getting hit out of the park.”

He’s clearly revelling in that villainous role. Plunkett’s Bristol haul propelled him into elite company among England’s one-day cricketers – with two matches remaining of the 2017 season, he has become the joint third-most prolific wicket-taker in a home ODI summer, with 20 scalps – alongside his regular middle-overs partner, Adil Rashid, who himself picked off three wickets to hasten West Indies’ demise in Sunday’s contest.

“If we can squeeze them in that middle period, it’s invaluable,” said Plunkett. “That’s what me and Rash have done in the last year or two, because people are getting set and looking to knock it around a bit, and not take as many risks. So if you can get a couple of big wickets there, it gets the tail in earlier and hopefully limits the damage at the back end. So I do relish it, trying to take a few wickets, and [at Bristol] I did that.”

Plunkett didn’t have everything his own way during his afternoon’s work. In fact, he suffered the indignity of being pounded for the biggest six of the match: his second ball to Gayle was swiped clean out of the ground over midwicket. But he took stock and adjusted his approach accordingly – aided, he said, by the prep he’d been able to do thanks to dressing-room footage of Gayle’s previous performances.

“The two bouncers I bowled to him, he flapped at to get out of the way, but the ball he hit for six was chest high, which obviously isn’t a good delivery,” Plunkett said. “I still backed myself to go at his head or mix the pace up, but you’ve got to stick to your plans. The stuff that’s in the dressing room gives you reminders before you go out, but if you don’t bowl well, it’s still your fault. There’s no-one else to blame but yourself.”

After a washout in Nottingham, England have now secured an unassailable 2-0 series lead in the five-match series, and Plunkett has few doubts about his team’s ability to wrap up the rubber in Wednesday’s fourth ODI at The Oval. His side, he believes, are simply better than West Indies, the No.9-ranked ODI side, who must now go through the ICC’s qualification tournament if they want to secure one of the two remaining places at the 2019 World Cup.

“We feel as though, if we can get an early wicket, we can get on top of them,” he said. “We feel like we do back ourselves, we’re a good team. Obviously you can never take it for granted, but if you can get one [wicket], you can squeeze them because they’re a team that likes boundaries and play out dot balls. We feel we are a better team because we hit boundaries but also run the ones and twos.”

That said, the Gayle factor can never be entirely discounted. After all, who needs ones and twos when you can deal exclusively in fours and sixes?

“He played nicely, didn’t he?” said Plunkett. “We know he’s dangerous. You look at the stats he’s got, even his bowling – he’s got 160 wickets or something – so he’s a great cricketer, isn’t he? We’ve got a method though, we have to try and squeeze him, although if you miss, he’ll hit it miles. You need to shut him down and try to get him to run the singles he doesn’t want to run – because a couple of run-outs have saved us as well.”

Perhaps coincidentally, the Bristol ODI was England’s last international fixture before the announcement of England’s Ashes squad – and while the days have long since passed of players earning themselves winter-tour places on the strength of an outstanding performance in the season-ending NatWest Trophy final (for instance, Ashley Cowan in 1997), the circumstances of this late-September series are not entirely dissimilar.

Thus, in the wake of the stress fracture that has scuppered the hopes of Middlesex’s Toby Roland-Jones, could there yet be a vacancy for a tall deck-hitting seamer with the stamina and experience to give Australia’s batsmen the hurry-up on flat pitches?

Plunkett, understandably, is refusing to get his hopes up. After all, he hasn’t played a Test match for England since 2014 while, through a combination of injury and England call-ups, he has played just two first-class matches for Yorkshire this season, albeit that included a hard-earned four-wicket haul against Somerset at Scarborough.

“I’ve not played that much so, I guess, there’s nothing to go by,” he said. “I guess they know what they’re going to get with me, I’ve been around for plenty of time, so if I got the go-ahead, happy days. But I can’t see it happening.

“Obviously I’d love to go in the Ashes squad, but I know it’s far for me. I’ve done well in white-ball cricket and I’ve been successful in that, so maybe they think me as a white-ball bowler. But I am happy where I’m at and I feel good in the one-day team right now.”

Harvey keeping Rice and Houston football teams off campus

osh Rahman and the Rice football team were about 8,500 miles from their Houston campus, in a time zone 15 hours ahead, when they started to hear about a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

At first, they didn’t think much about the system that would become Hurricane Harvey.

“It escalated very quickly,” Rahman said. “Then we learned this thing is different.”

And now, even while back in Texas after playing their season opener in Australia, the Owls still feel a long, long way from home.

With the city of Houston overwhelmed by flooding from the catastrophic storm that is the heaviest tropical downpour in U.S. history, Rice’s 101 players are now based at a downtown Fort Worth hotel. They were going to TCU’s campus Wednesday for some running, stretching and weightlifting – their first football activity since getting back from Sydney, where they lost to 14th-ranked Stanford on Sunday afternoon, or late Saturday night Texas time.

“We all want to be back in Houston. We just can’t get there,” said Rice coach David Bailiff, whose team doesn’t play again until Sept. 9 at UTEP.

Bailiff is constantly in communication with his wife at their home near a levee with two dogs after flood waters cut off access to get out of the neighborhood, but still with no water inside. Bailiff said the immediate family members for all his players and coaches are safe, though many did evacuate their homes.

“We have high anxiety and worry, but I also have a job to do taking care of these young men here,” Bailiff said. “I know my wife’s safe upstairs in the house. She’s dry. … She’s really handled it pretty dang good.”

While the Owls will work out at TCU about a four-hour drive from their campus, the Houston Cougars have been in Austin since last Friday, when they evacuated on the same day Harvey made landfall near Rockport, northeast of Corpus Christi, as a Category 4 hurricane.

The Cougars had been preparing at the University of Texas for their scheduled season opener Saturday at Texas-San Antonio that they have instead decided to postpone.

“We felt like it wasn’t the right thing to do in terms of where our city is,” first-year Houston head coach Major Applewhite said. “We have to focus on our families right now and get back some sense of normalcy.”

Like the Rice team that arrived Monday in Fort Worth, the Cougars don’t know how long they will remain away from the nation’s fourth-largest city. Rice left Houston for Australia on Aug. 20.

“This is bigger than football,” Cougars running back Dillon Birden said. “We’re ready to get back to our city and help our city.”

At least eight Rice players know their apartments or houses near campus have flooded, along with numerous vehicles, Bailiff said. Many of the players are unsure, and worry they will also have significant water damage.

Bailiff said when the Owls get back to Houston, they will “attack those apartments first as a team, and get those apartments cleaned out.”

Rahman, a senior defensive end for Rice, said it was stressful knowing his parents had decided to remain in their Sugar Land home near the Brazos River despite a mandatory evacuation because of flooding. He said he is frequently talking with them, and that no water had gotten into their home as of late Tuesday.

“First, because it was jet lag, I woke up at 1 a.m. (Tuesday). Wide awake. The first thing I did was call my mom,” he said. “They said it’s a little scary. … I think they’re doing well. They’re dealing with it the best possible way they can. Everyone here, the entire, time, is dealing with it the best possible way they can.”

Rice linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee, whose parents were on the trip to Australia, remembers the mental toll his mother from Louisiana experienced when she had family members in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Now he knows how she felt, watching from afar on television and social media what his family and friends are dealing with in Houston.

“Houston’s a really big part of me,” Ellerbee said. “You want to be somewhere where you can help and make a difference and contribute.”

Five things we learned from the Ravens’ 13-9 win over the Bills

1) It’s amazing how quickly this has become a “broken record” team.

It struck me as I was starting to think about what to write midway through the third quarter: three games into the preseason, there’s almost nothing new to say about the 2017 Ravens.

We came into the preseason expecting to see a deep, potentially overwhelming defense. If anything, that defense has been better than expected.

We came in expecting to see a disorganized offense, lacking in home-run playmakers. If anything, that offense has been more anemic than feared.

We’re not going to see the starters again until Week 1 in Cincinnati, and absolutely nothing has changed about this team’s big picture.

You can choose to be excited, given that the offense should receive an eventual boost with the return of Joe Flacco. Or you can choose to be bummed out, given the rut the team has lived in for two years.

But I’m not sure we’ve “learned” much of anything the past three weeks.

2) The running game simply hasn’t been good enough.

Terrance West and Buck Allen combined for 28 yards on 11 carries in the first half, roughly in line with what we’ve seen throughout the preseason. If their production doesn’t improve substantially in the real games, this offense will be in trouble.

1) It’s amazing how quickly this has become a “broken record” team.

It struck me as I was starting to think about what to write midway through the third quarter: three games into the preseason, there’s almost nothing new to say about the 2017 Ravens.

We came into the preseason expecting to see a deep, potentially overwhelming defense. If anything, that defense has been better than expected.

We came in expecting to see a disorganized offense, lacking in home-run playmakers. If anything, that offense has been more anemic than feared.

We’re not going to see the starters again until Week 1 in Cincinnati, and absolutely nothing has changed about this team’s big picture.

You can choose to be excited, given that the offense should receive an eventual boost with the return of Joe Flacco. Or you can choose to be bummed out, given the rut the team has lived in for two years.

But I’m not sure we’ve “learned” much of anything the past three weeks.

2) The running game simply hasn’t been good enough.

Terrance West and Buck Allen combined for 28 yards on 11 carries in the first half, roughly in line with what we’ve seen throughout the preseason. If their production doesn’t improve substantially in the real games, this offense will be in trouble.

Now 500 pounds, former NY Giants QB goes deep in battle against obesity

Stepping on the scale last year for the first time since he left the NFL in 2008, former New York Giants quarterback Jared Lorenzen was hit harder than he ever had been by a blitzing linebacker.

At least it felt that way when he read 502.8 pounds on the digital display.

© Getty Images Jared Lorenzen as a New York Giant in 2007. He served as Eli Manning’s backup and earned a Super Bowl ring that season.

He had a sense he was putting on too much weight each time he had to go up a shirt size — 3XL to 4XL — but nothing prepared him to see that number.

“It’s embarrassing, it’s life-altering, it’s scary,” Lorenzen told TODAY. “When I watched the little screen … I looked at myself and even then, I thought, ‘I’m not that guy.’

“I was to a point where I realized that if I went to bed and didn’t wake up, people would say, ‘Well look at him, he’s huge.’ It wouldn’t be unexpected. That’s where it hit me: Oh, my God, I could die.”

© courtesy of Jared Lorenzen Lorenzen tipped the scales at 502 pounds last year — and is now doing something about it.But Lorenzen, who is a dad to a 14-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son, is going on offense.

The 36-year-old University of Kentucky football legend is embarking on a healthier lifestyle to lose weight as part of a planned video initiative called “The Jared Lorenzen Project.”

And he’s hoping fans will join him.

“I would get kids come up to me all the time, telling me, ‘I’ve been a quarterback because you’re big and I’m big,’ said Lorenzen, whose nickname during his career was “The Hefty Lefty.”

“It means the world that these kids were quarterbacks because of me, but I also want them to realize there’s a stage where you have just got to be healthier.”

The docuseries is the brainchild of filmmaker Anthony Holt, who previously made a documentary about ex-NBA star Antoine Walker’s post-retirement financial troubles.

Lorenzen met the Holt at the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony in 2015, where he and Walker were inducted for their respective stellar college careers.

“It wasn’t until I went to the induction and heard Jared speak, and the way he captivated a room telling a story during his induction speech,” said Holt, “that I knew he was someone that — if he wanted to do this and really dedicate himself to this — could really inspire and change the lives of millions of other people.”

© courtesy of Jared Lorenzen Lorenzen said he wants to live to see his daughter get married and his son play college football.A year after they met, Holt convinced Lorenzen to embark on a life-changing regimen — and to do it in front of cameras.

He put together an all-star support team: celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson and nutritionist Philip Goglia.

Before the full-scale regimen begins this fall, Lorenzen has taken small steps to change his lifestyle. For example, he’s traded the 10 to 12 Diet Cokes he drank a day for 3 gallons of water on a doctor’s advice.

His team also built a mobile gym in a trailer that they plan to drive to different communities so Lorenzen “can rally fans to work out with him,” Holt said.

© courtesy of Jared Lorenzen Lorenzen said he was always the biggest player on the field.Lorenzen has always been big — he was 13.3 pounds at birth. Once he started playing sports, no opposing player would dare make fun of his weight.

“I was bigger than all of them, but they weren’t going to do anything because I was better than them, too,” Lorenzen said.

Bigger than many offensive lineman blocking for him, he could run over defenders to pick up yardage when he wasn’t torching them from the air.

He set 11 school records and six NCAA records during his time at Kentucky. And while his NFL career was less prolific, he did win a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants, serving as Eli Manning’s backup for three seasons.

© courtesy of Jared Lorenzen Lorenzen helped off the field after breaking his ankle in his last professional game in the Continental Indoor Football League.”My size was an advantage to an extent, but once you get too big and you can’t move, you’re in trouble,” said Lorenzen. “There were times in my career where I’d hand off the ball and I’d run downfield to block. Well, I couldn’t do that towards the end. I’d hand the ball off and have to stop to catch my breath.”

By 2014, he was playing quarterback in the decidedly less glamorous Continental Indoor Football League, having ballooned to around 300 pounds.

His career came to an end after he shattered his ankle on a tackle — one he’s certain he would have dodged if he’d been fitter.

He’s kept busy since then, coaching his son’s football team, launching a T-shirt company, and working in sales near his home in Kentucky.

But without the regular exercise, he’s found himself at 500 pounds.
Currently in the fundraising stage (there’s a GoFundMe page), the Jared Lorenzen Project will be a video journal that includes workout and nutrition guides on partner site

Holt plans to start shooting footage next month.

“I have very important reasons for doing this,” said Lorenzen. “I look at my daughter every day and say if I continue, I’m not going to see her get married. I look at my son, he’s 7, I want to watch him grow up and play ball.”

Seahawks win 26-13; Chiefs’ Ware sprains right knee

© The Associated Press Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware is taken off the field on a cart after an injury during the first half of an NFL football preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, Friday, Aug…

SEATTLE — Kansas City running back Spencer Ware’s right knee injury might not be as bad as first feared.

Ware sprained his right knee and was carted off the field in the Chiefs’ 26-13 preseason loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Friday night. But Kansas City coach Andy Reid said after the game that X-rays came back negative and that Ware would have an MRI to further access the damage Saturday.

It was optimistic news for what appeared to be a major injury.

“We’ll just see how that turns out,” Reid said.

Russell Wilson was again brilliant for Seattle, throwing for 200 yards and a touchdown, but his performance was secondary to the injury suffered by Ware and the impact it could have for the Chiefs.

Ware remained on the turf after making a 6-yard reception on a pass from Alex Smith in the first quarter. Ware appeared to take an awkward step with his right leg during the play and team trainers were looking at his knee while he was down on the field. Players from both teams took a knee while Ware was examined, and he was taken off the field on a cart.

“Our guys like the heck out of him. He is one of our guys,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said about Ware, who began his career with the Seahawks. “I wanted to send him some love and hope he is OK.”

It was the second straight week a starter in Seattle was taken off the field with a knee injury. The Seahawks lost starting left tackle George Fant for the season last week due because of a torn ACL in his right knee.

The Chiefs have depth at running back with veteran Charcandrick West and impressive rookie Kareem Hunt, who averaged 4.3 yards per carry filling in after Ware was hurt. But Ware’s strength was his versatility as a runner and pass catcher out of the backfield. Ware rushed for 921 yards and had another 447 yards receiving last season for the Chiefs.

“Kareem got good work last week and he learned how fast this thing can change where all of a sudden you become that starter and in a position to do that,” Reid said.

Ware’s injury was part of a lackluster effort form Kansas City’s offense. Smith was 7 of 17 for just 44 yards although there were a handful of drops. The Chiefs had just 102 total yards in the first half against Seattle’s starters and Kansas City’s only touchdown came on a 95-yard kickoff return from De’Anthony Thomas .

Wilson’s stellar preseason continued , playing the entire first half and one drive of the second half. He threw a 2-yard touchdown to Tre Madden and led Seattle on four scoring drives, including three field goals by Blair Walsh. In parts of three preseason games, Wilson is 29 of 41 for 447 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

“Everything he has done looks like it is culminating in really good, solid decision making, really clear thinking, very decisive, quick with the football,” Carroll said.

The biggest area of concern for Seattle coming into the week was how the offensive line would respond to the loss of Fant. His replacement, Rees Odhiambo, went mostly unnoticed with the exception of one play early in the third quarter. Chris Jones, in his preseason debut following offseason knee surgery, made Odhiambo whiff and engulfed Wilson for the only sack allowed by the Seahawks starters.

“Everything was pretty good for the most part,” Odhiambo said. “A few things we’ve got to clean up a little bit but for the most part I felt like we did a really good job.”

MAHOMES MADNESS: Kansas City rookie Patrick Mahomes wasn’t quite as impressive as the first two weeks of the preseason. Mahomes was 8 of 15 for 70 yards passing and led one scoring drive — a 32-yard field goal by Sam Ficken — in four possessions.

BACKUP BATTLE: The backup QB role in Seattle could be back open after Trevone Boykin had a miserable night and Austin Davis was solid. Boykin missed on all six attempts with an interception, while Davis was 5-of 5 for 64 yards and a 28-yard TD pass to Tanner McEvoy in the fourth quarter.

Carroll said the offense was so out of rhythm that he doesn’t read much into Boykin’s performance.

BENNETT SITS: Seahawks DE Michael Bennett continued to sit on the Seattle bench during the national anthem. For the second straight week, teammate Justin Britt stood next to Bennett with his right hand on Bennett’s shoulder. Cliff Avril stood for most of the anthem before sitting next to Bennett at the end.

SITTING OUT: Chiefs DE Justin Houston was expected to make his debut but was scratched due to illness. Safety Eric Berry and outside linebacker Tamba Hali were also among the veterans that rested.

Seattle wide receiver Tyler Lockett went through full pregame warmups but did not play as he continues to recover from a broken leg suffered late last season. Also sitting out was running backs Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise, and linebacker Michael Wilhoite.

Worry sets in as Patriots fear Julian Edelman tore his ACL

The Patriots won first preseason game Friday night, a 30-28 decision to the Lions at Ford Field, but the team is dealing with a potential huge loss.

Top receiver Julian Edelman suffered a right knee injury on the fifth play of New England’s initial drive of the game. Coach Bill Belichick had no update on Edelman after the game, but according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who was at the game, the Patriots fear Edelman tore his ACL and he’s scheduled to have an MRI on Saturday.

Edelman took a quick pass from Tom Brady and started weaving through the Lions defense. He planted his right foot and his leg bent awkwardly at the end of the 18-yard gain. He appeared to be wincing and grabbing behind his knee as he hit the turf.

He limped to the sideline and went to the medical tent. After Brady hit Chris Hogan for a 7-yard touchdown to cap the drive, the quarterback sped to the tent to check on Edelman.

“I was just checking on him. We’ll see what the extent of it is. We’re all hoping for the best,’’ said Brady. “It’s tough anytime a teammate goes down . . . He’s just an incredible teammate and player, so like I said, we’re just hoping for the best.’’

After a short stay, Edelman was carted to the locker room, his head hanging down.

Edelman, who had three catches for 52 yards on the drive, was the Patriots’ leading receiver last season, catching 98 passes for 1,106 yards.

The nine-year veteran is the premier slot receiver in the league and a prolonged absence would create a huge void in an offense that relies on his quickness and consistency.

Edelman is a master at getting open quickly and is always on the same page with Brady.

New England has a deep receiving corps and while veterans Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks have slot experience neither are as accomplished in that role as Edelman. Undrafted rookie Austin Carr was an exceptional slot receiver at Northwestern and has had a solid camp. He could get a long look this week.

“You never want to see a guy go down, especially a guy like Julian with how hard he works,’’ said Rob Gronkowski. “I don’t know what’s going on with him but hoping for the best.’’

Here are some observations from New England’s first win of the preseason, which wraps up Thursday when they host the Giants.

■ Brady was in command. Playing six series, he led the Patriots to scores on their first four drives. He hit on 12 of 15 passes for 174 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Hogan. It felt like he could have carved up the Lions all night as the Patriots raced to a 24-0 lead.

His second scoring strike was a beautifully timed 32-yard sideline toss that came one play after a Patriots fumble recovery. He did have a bitter ending as his last pass of the first half was intercepted in the end zone on what appeared to be a miscommunication with Hogan.

■ Hogan was uncoverable. The Lions had no answer for the slippery speedster, who consistently got behind the defenders on go routes and crosses. He had four catches for 70 yards and his importance to this offense is now magnified by Edelman’s injury.

■ Yet another running back emerges. Mike Gillislee became the latest rusher to have a strong preseason performance. Seeing his first action of the preseason after being limited by a hamstring injury, Gillislee ran for 38 yards on eight carries, including a 27-yard run. He had a 1-yard touchdown run and a 2-point conversion rush.

Gillislee follows in the footsteps of Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, Brandon Bolden, and D.J. Foster, all of whom have shone at times in early going.

■ Don’t sleep on James White. The Super Bowl hero did some tough runninghimself, collecting 25 yards on four rushes. The Patriots showed the pony backfield a couple of times with White and Lewis flanking Brady in the shotgun.

■ James Develin’s contributions can’t be overlooked. The rugged fullback played a ton of first-half snaps and was a bear. His best block came on Gillislee’s 27-yard run when he flattened linebacker Jarrad Davis to create a lane.

“We ran that play earlier in the game and I didn’t do the right thing so we came back to it and I was able to make the right read and Mike just sprang it,’’ said Develin. “It was really a well executed play by everyone.’’

■ The offense struggled when Brady and Co. exited. Jimmy Garoppolo couldn’t get anything going with the second team as the line didn’t give him a lot of time and couldn’t get a consistent push for Foster until their final possessions.

The penultimate drive was a 13-play, 68-yard that led to a short Stephen Gostkowski field goal that trimmed Detroit’s lead to 28-27. The last drive led to Gostkowski’s winning 45-yarder.

■ Kony Ealy again battled inconsistency. On a day when NFL Media reported he was being shopped by the Patriots, the defensive end never looked comfortable and was late on several plays.

Prior to the game, Belichick had said Ealy had been on the “upswing” but that trend didn’t continue against the Lions.

■ The secondary had a mixed night. Eric Rowe’s interception of a deflected ball was the best play. The toughest was Malcolm Butler getting beaten down the right sideline for a 23-yard Matthew Stafford to Marvin Jones TD.

■ Jordan Richards gets a new role. The third-year safety, who has struggled in coverage the last two weeks, played closer to the box and on the edge. He was active and physical at the point of attack but did miss a tackle on Dwayne Washington’s touchdown catch.

England claim 19 wickets in single day to crush woeful West Indies and claim first Test victory

It was a historic day for Stuart Broad who surpassed Sir Ian Botham to take second place behind James Anderson in the national all-time list of Test wicket-takers Getty
The cliché of choice for England cricketers is that Test cricket is titled as such because it is a test. Well, this innings and 209-run demolition of a feeble West Indies inside three days was anything but.

Joe Root’s team will take the plaudits – and the 1-0 lead in this three-match series – for finishing off their opponents in ruthless fashion.

However, the fact 19 West Indian wickets fell on this third and final day is a damning indictment on a once proud cricketing nation.

Sport is all about the thrill of competition, the uncertainty of results in closely-fought encounters. This mismatch, though, was about as competitive as a Formula One car racing a horse and trap.

Amid the carnage, there was a slice of history for Stuart Broad, whose five wickets in this match saw him overtake Sir Ian Botham to move into second place on England’s all-time list of Test wicket-takers.

Only James Anderson, whose overall tally now stands at 492 after he also picked up five in this match, is ahead of Broad.

England appeal successfully for the wicket of Shane Dowrich (Getty)
The Nottinghamshire bowler, who now has 384 wickets in the oldest form of the game, took three for four in 11 balls under the Edgbaston floodlights to hasten his team to victory.

But in terms of drama, this first day-night Test in the UK was a huge disappointment.

Not much was expected of West Indies given they had lost their past five series in this country.

You do have to wonder, though, how suitable this kind of non-event is for England in terms of preparation for this winter’s Ashes.

Starting the day on 44-1 in their first innings, West Indies begun their second barely a session later after being skittled out for 168. In all their final nine first-innings wickets fell for 124 in 31 overs. Only Jermaine Blackwood, left stranded on 79 not out, showed any fight.

With a lead of 346, there was no doubt Root would enforce the follow-on.

And the faith in his bowlers was fully justified as they ran through their opponents again, dismissing them for 137 in just 45.4 overs.

By the time England had made their opponents bat again, the fans inside a packed-out Edgbaston had already seemingly lost interest in this match as a contest.

Kemar Roach is bowled by Stuart Broad (Getty)
Indeed, as the West Indies openers sought to see off the new ball in their second innings, those inside the boisterous Hollies Stand were more enthralled by a contest of their own – getting their inflatable ball back from the stewards. One by one the punters ran to the corner of the stand – a group of sheep was followed by scores of chickens, some Mexican banditos and whatever the collective noun for Fred Flintstones is.

They got it back, too, after a few minutes of chanting their demands, the rest of the 6,000-capacity Stand joining in to offer their support.

However, as the floodlights kicked in, Anderson soon diverted their attentions back to the field as he dismissed Kieran Powell with a delivery that nipped away, took the edge and flew into Alastair Cook’s hands at first slip.

West Indies were now 15 for one in their second innings, still needing to see off another 60 overs to take this match into a fourth day. By tea, with the tourists 76 for four, those chances looked remote.

Toby Roland-Jones, weighing in with his third wicket of the day, dismissed Kyle Hope lbw before Ben Stokes extinguished West Indies’ last Hope – Shai – thanks to a smart catch from Root that left the tourists on 60-3.

Toby Roland-Jones celebrates after bowling Shai Hope (Getty)
Moeen Ali removed Brathwaite lbw on review for 40 with the final ball before tea. He then ensured Blackwood would only add 12 second-innings runs to his fine effort in the first dig, having the Jamaican stumped by Jonny Bairstow shortly after the interval, West Indies now 102 for five.

Just two more runs were added to that total before Broad struck in successive deliveries, Roston Chase trapped lbw and Jason Holder caught superbly by Cook, to draw level with Botham on the all-time list.

Those wickets also gave Broad the chance to register his third Test hat-trick, a feat no bowler has ever achieved. However, Kemar Roach’s solid forward defensive put paid to those hopes.

Yet Broad, now in one of those irresistible spells, soon overtook Botham by bowling Shane Dowrich, West Indies now 115 for eight.

Anderson pushed the tourists further towards the brink with a fine delivery that bowled Roach.

And victory was sealed in the very next over, Roland-Jones having Alzarri Joseph caught by Stokes to put the West Indies out of their misery.

Anderson had set the tone in the first over of the day when his short ball had Kyle Hope caught at gully in the very first over.

West Indies captain Jason Holder leaves the field after being dismissed by Stuart Broad (Getty)
He then ran out Powell and bowled Chase via an inside edge for an 11-ball duck to reduce West Indies to 47 for four in their first innings.

There was to prove little respite for the tourists even if Blackwood and Shai Hope put on a spirited stand of 42 to temporarily stem the flow of wickets.

That resistance was ended, though, by Roland-Jones, who first bowled Hope and then trapped Dowrich lbw to reduce West Indies to 101 for six.

Blackwood was still showing fight and the Jamaican reached his tenth Test half-century in 49 balls.

He was running out of partners, though, and lost two more before lunch, his captain Holder falling for 11 on review after edging Moeen behind and Roach bowled by Broad.

The tourists went into the interval on 145 for eight and were all out for 168 half an hour into the second session, Broad dismissing Joseph lbw and Tom Westley running out last man Miguel Cummins to leave Blackwood stranded 21 runs short of a second Test century

History maker Stuart Broad has no plans to hang up his England spikes as he sets sights on 2019 Ashes

Stuart Broad has no intention of hanging up his spikes just yet AFP
Stuart Broad has stated his commitment to carrying on playing until at least the 2019 home Ashes series after moving ahead of Sir Ian Botham into second place on England’s all-time list of Test wicket-takers.

In terms of Englishmen, only James Anderson, with 492, now has more Test scalps than Broad’s 384 after the 31-year-old took five wickets during the three-day rout of West Indies at Edgbaston.

Both will be crucial to their country’s Ashes chances in Australia this winter, a campaign that promises to offer a rather more formidable challenge than the one West Indies presented during their innings-and-209 run defeat in the first day-night Test in this country.

That Broad is aiming to face Australia again on home soil in 2019 should come as no surprise.

But, after Anderson, 35, stated earlier this summer his determination to carry on until that series, the prospect of having their two most prolific bowlers in history available for another two years will delight England.

“I’m 31 now and still feel like I have quite a bit of cricket left in me,” said Broad. “I’m loving the energy around this team, I’m loving being part of it. I’ve hopefully, touch wood, got a few more miles in the tank.”

Asked whether that meant he would be around for 2019, Broad answered: “Oh God, yes, I hope so. I’ll be just turned 33. Jimmy is 35 so I’d certainly hope my performances will keep improving to be a part of that Ashes for sure.

Broad excelled as England demolished the West Indies inside three days (Getty)
“I’m not someone who looks too far ahead because I think it slows you down as a performer. This winter is a hugely exciting one because I think that series is going to be a belter with two teams that look really similar. But obviously I have hunger to go further than that.”

Despite his advancing years, Anderson’s form this summer has been stunning, following up his 20 wickets at 14.10 during England’s 3-1 series win against South Africa with another five at Edgbaston.

“To be fair, Jimmy is bowling as well as I’ve seen him bowl,” said Broad. “He’s turned 35 but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him challenge both sides of the bat as consistently as he has done this summer. “Fielding at mid-on and mid-off to him, I feel like he is in the game all the time. He’s not bowling bad balls, he looks in a rhythm that’s awesome. Long may that continue.

“Look, he’s going to be crucial for our chances this winter, for sure, and hopefully he can keep that rhythm going because he is picking up wickets at a huge speed at the moment and, not only will he be looking at 500 wickets, he’ll be looking way past that the way he is going.”

Broad moved to second in the all-time list of England wicket-takers (AFP)
Broad and Anderson now have 876 Test wickets between them, with the combined target of 1,000 now in reach if both do carry on for a couple more years.

There are certainly plenty more to come in the final two Tests against a febrile West Indies, with England naming an unchanged squad for next match at Headingley starting on Friday.

However, does Broad see himself still playing for England at the age of 35 like his good friend and new-ball partner?

“You don’t know if you’ll have the luck with injuries, you don’t know how the body will feel,” he says. “I play cricket for the competitive side of it. I love that feeling of being in a battle, I love that competitive spirit and that’s the reason I play. I’ll play as long as that competitive spirit and drive is there because that’s what gets me up in the morning. That desire and competitive spirit certainly is still within me now. I’ve always been honest with myself – as soon as that goes, I’ll know that I’m gone.”

Broad moved ahead of Sir Ian Botham in the all-time list (Getty)
That competitive spirit was certainly fired by surpassing a man in Botham who he dreamed of emulating as a child and who presented him with his Test cap on debut against Sri Lanka in Colombo a decade ago.

Broad, whose father Chris was part of England’s 1986-87 Ashes-winning team in Australia along with Botham, said: “Beefy is someone who has been a big influence on me. Obviously, playing with my dad and watching some of his performances against Australia, he is a huge legend of English cricket but someone who has given a lot back to this team, actually.

“I was very fortunate to get my Test cap off him back in 2007. He is someone who in the past couple of years has spent more and more time in the changing room and the guys really listen to him. He is someone who has an influence on us the way he performed against Australia. Any performances against Australia are held in such high regard and he has been an influence on me wanting to perform against them.”

Botham has five Ashes series wins, but England will hope Broad, who already has four, will now be inspired to surpass him once again come 2019

England can’t ignore the role English authorities played in killing Test cricket’s competitiveness

West Indies captain Jason Holder leaves the field after being dismissed by Stuart Broad Getty
And so it begins, again: the existential fears for Test cricket so beloved of its fans. The West Indies’ desultory performance at Edgbaston, losing 19 wickets in a single day, combined with Sri Lanka being eviscerated 3-0 by India at home, has provoked a new bout of angst about the state of the Test game.

In a format so small – only 10 nations have ever played, though that will soon increase to 12 when Afghanistan and Ireland play their first Tests – Test cricket cannot afford to lose teams. This century, it has effectively lost both Zimbabwe – who once beat Pakistan and India in consecutive Test series – and the West Indies, who have won 16 and lost 89 of their 146 matches against other top eight teams since June 2000, as competitive sides.

The West Indies’ complicity in their own downfall – the endless petty politicking, the stubbornness, the squabbling between islands – is well-known. Yet England should not feel entitled to any sanctimony. The West Indies are also the victims of a broken structure in international cricket – one that England, the second wealthiest cricket nation, did a great deal to build.

If countries like the West Indies get the message that they aren’t cared for in Test cricket, they could hardly be blamed. From 2011-15, four of England’s five major home series were against Australia or India – not because of the quality of the contests, but because those matches were the most lucrative.

West Indies, it is true, have hardly made a compelling case for more fixtures. But consider the case of New Zealand. In 2013-15, they went seven series undefeated, toppling India at home and being thrilling tourists to England in their two-Test drawn series in 2015. At the time, Mike Hesson, New Zealand’s coach, said his side had “earned the right” to play longer Test series.

But to get bilateral fixtures what matters is not the quality of cricket. Instead fixtures are determined by a combination of short-term alliances and politicking – Sri Lanka are touring India for another three Tests later this year, and it may or may not be coincidence that they joined India in opposing ICC reforms earlier this year – and the size of a country’s GDP, which is where New Zealand fall short. Although they are still competitive, they have trimmed their forthcoming summer to just four Tests, with a gaping three months in the middle of the summer with no Tests at all. Senior players are frustrated, but the board can hardly be blamed: unless it is against England or India, hosting a Test typically loses the home board around $500,000.

Unlike most sports leagues, there is no central dividing up of TV rights. But then Test cricket has never really been a league at all; instead, its quaint structure of bilateral matches, meandering on without any final, is out of kilter with all other sports.

That bodes ill for the West Indies who, as a small and relatively penurious nation, will never – even with the best administration in the world – be able to generate anything like enough to prevent leading talents from playing in T20 leagues instead. The West Indies earn around £12m a year for their domestic TV rights; England’s new broadcasting deal is worth £220m a year. Given this disparity, it is curious how England, even after agreeing to a substantial reduction in their ICC funding in June, can justify receiving over £1m more than the West Indies from the ICC a year. In England that money will do little more than swell the ECB’s £35m reserves; in the West Indies it could improve facilities in the region – most territories lack decent indoor training centres – and salaries for playing regional and international cricket.

Root and Cook dominated against a weak bowling line-up (Getty Images)

Enriching the English game – through the ICC, and through not pooling TV rights – has actually helped deprive Test fans at home of competitive cricket. A lack of cash for their board means that leading West Indies players in all three formats can earn $225,000 a year, according to a FICA report last year – or they can earn in the region of $1m playing in T20 leagues. England’s clout is even hollowing out South Africa who, after losing Kyle Abbott to a Kolpak deal, as well as a raft of fringe players, now face Morne Morkel retiring too.

Ironically, the largest nations do recognise the need for financial equality. That’s why, both the Big Bash, Indian Premier League have salary caps designed to ensure competitive balance on the pitch; the new English T20 competition will do the same. Yet this logic does not apply to international cricket itself.

And then there is the structure of Test cricket: there is none. When England lost the 2013/14 Ashes 5-0, it had no impact on their their fixtures or future. Even the players barely feign to care about the world rankings, which, with no semblance of equity in the fixture list, are scarcely valid anyway. Test matches have no more consequences for success or failure than friendlies in other sports.

It was the first international day-night Test played in England (Getty Images)

There were issues with the ICC’s plans for two divisions, which was abandoned last year after the Full Member boards refused to endorse it, fearing the consequences of relegation. Yet the meritocracy and context beloved of English sports could, if implemented sensibly, have improved the spectacle of Test cricket. “It will make people look at their high-performance programmes and their systems, so the product of Test cricket will improve as well,” David White, New Zealand’s chief executive, said at the time. The nine-team league structure that the ICC hopes will be passed in October is also imperfect – series would be of different length, though count for the same number of overall points; and it remains unlikely that India would be sanctioned to play Pakistan.

But any genuine context would be better than the status quo which is, essentially, the worst of all worlds. For smaller countries, there are no real incentives to improve. Without any semblance of meritocracy, success is not rewarded; nor is failure punished. The fixture list is unfathomable. Fans have no incentive to follow games involving other nations. The empty platitudes about ‘protecting the primacy of Test cricket’ continue, along with the format’s inadequate structure. Where dynamic T20 leagues produce a clear champion, Test cricket just bumbles on.

The best that can be said is that it always has done so – and, after 140 years, Test cricket is still here. But never has it faced so many challenges – from other sports and cricket’s own shorter formats, which are not only engaging fans but also incentivising players from smaller nations to quit Tests prematurely.

Together with ensuring context, Test cricket would also do well to learn from the world’s most lucrative sports league. In 1962, the NFL’s club owners met to discuss their network television revenue. By dint of being in a far larger market, the New York Giants received five times more than the Green Bay Packers. Yet the Giants argued that “the NFL was only as strong as its weakest link, that Green Bay should receive as much money as any of the other teams,” as the NFL commissioner at the time later said. With a little of such thinking in cricket, it would be possible for the ICC to guarantee a minimum sum for each Test cricketer from the 12 nations, perhaps funded by the proceeds of a Test league, to ensure that teams from smaller economies would be able to actually pick their strongest possible side.

The alternative to radical reform, both to the fixture list and economic structure, threatens to be a further erosion of competitive balance, and an accelerating hollowing out of Test talent in smaller countries. All accompanied by more tedious laments for how the West Indies’ maroon cap has been devalued.

The sport of cricket is far richer than it’s ever been. When it’s not in players’ economic interests to play Tests, administrators have failed abjectly.

David Luiz’s midfield display rewarded Antonio Conte’s bold decision and could yet change Chelsea’s transfer business

David Luiz could prove a versatile solution to some of Chelsea’s squad holes Getty
It was only Monday morning last week, when there was already so much doubt about Chelsea’s entire season, but Antonio Conte already had a sharply clear idea in his head. He called David Luiz over and told him that, no matter what happened, he would be playing in midfield for the champions’ trip to Wembley to play Tottenham Hotspur.

There was a bit of bristling about that when the decision was finally announced around 3pm that day. The Brazilian has played there before for Chelsea but has always been a bit rough around the edges in the role in a way that seemed to reflect his entire first spell at Stamford Bridge, and the entire situation seemed to reflect the difficulty that Conte had in picking this team with so many absences and doubts after the shock 3-2 defeat to Burnley. No matter what team he could have selected, it seemed, it involved a compromise; another problem arising elsewhere in the side that was so dangerous against a team like Spurs.

Except, on the day, there was no compromise – or at least none visible. There was only conviction, especially from David Luiz. He was brilliant; “an amazing performance from David… a point of reference for the other players”, as Conte put it. The 30-year-old was the key to the manager’s solution to a tough problem, and the wonder now is whether he can also offer one solution to the club’s problems in the transfer market.

Conte still wants to bring in four players, but there have already been suggestions from inside the club that David Luiz’s performance is causing him to reconsider the targets, to go for different options that could at last unlock a few routes to business. The Italian has wanted Danny Drinkwater, but has so far found Leicester City completely unwilling to do business for anything less than £40m. It could yet see Chelsea divert that attention to Virgil van Dijk, who remains a player they like, and who could yet leave Southampton for the right money – despite their strong stance.

Given the type of fee that would involve, it would immediately see David Luiz usurped as first-choice central centre-half, but that would be no problem if his first position became midfield.

There is also a fair argument that it would suit him just as much.

Luiz last season established himself as one of Conte’s key players (Getty)

While David Luiz has occasionally been erratic in the position before, there was none of that against Spurs. He was always there obstructing their play, ensuring they could only create half-chances and flashed crosses, while generally creating trouble for them. His energy just greatly suited the role, and it’s hard not to put this down to Conte’s specific type of coaching.

The manager famously likes to literally walk – and sometimes abrasively grab – his players through shape work, and worked on that from Thursday to Saturday before the game. You could see the effects in how David Luiz moved, and how he spoke afterwards.

“My job was to run,” he said afterwards. “I was running a lot. I had to cover the space of fantastic players like [Christian] Eriksen and Dele Alli. They always play very well between the lines so I was trying to close this gap and not leave space for them to create.

David Luiz and Christian Eriksen battled all afternoon in midfield (Getty 2017)
“It was a clever game. You need to understand when you play against a very good team, sometimes you can keep more of the ball but sometimes you need to try to surprise them on the counter-attack with one touch. I think we did great in a clever way.”

It may yet prove a clever long-term solution. It is often said by those within the game that David Luiz is excellent… so long as he doesn’t have too much tactical responsibility, and this is the real effect of Conte’s approach and system. It gives him clear instructions, as well as clear back-up in a midfield that also had debutant Tiemoue Bakayoko and N’Golo Kante.

It had a big effect on Chelsea’s win over Spurs, and could yet have an effect on their transfer business