India vs India ODI; India edge out tourists in a classic to win series

England ended their one day series with India with a narrow seven run defeat to lose the three match series 2-1. In a common theme in the series hosts India were put into bat and unlike the previous two matches were 65-0 after 10 overs, their highest score in the series in the opening power play .

In fact India’s opening pair put on 103 for the first wicket for the first time in the series too. Adil Rashid threatened to derail the hosts innings as the Yorkshire spinner got Rohit Sharma (37) and Shikar Dhawan out in quick succession.

To add to that, was the quick dismissals off Captain Virat Kohli (7) and centurion of the last game KL Rahul (also 7). At 157-4 Kohli’s men were in serious danger of throwing away a good position.

Rishabh Pant (78) and Hardik Pandya (64) put on 99 for the 5th wicket to help the home side regain some initiative. Both men would fall in quick succession and India were on severe danger of getting a below par total on a track that was ideal for batting.

A 47 run stand between Shardul Thakur (30) and Krunal Pandya (25) helped India get above the magic 300. Three quick wickets would fall at the end of the innings as the Indians were all out before all their overs were completed.

England were set a very achievable 330 to win and considering they chased 337 in the last game at a canter, in theory The Three Lions wouldn’t have had a problem chasing this total.

After performing brilliantly throughout the series, Jason Roy (14) and Jonny Bairstow (1) were both dismissed cheaply. Ben Stokes (35) and Dawid Malan (50) combined to put on 40 for the third wicket.

In what was a common theme of the England innings, the tourists struggled to put up a partnership of real significance. The scoreboard showed this as Sam Curran (95 not out) was the only player to go 50 and beyond .

The series defeat all be it in agonising circumstances, was harsh on Sam Curran who scored his maiden half-century in this game and was unlucky to be in the losing side.

This series against the number two ranked side in the world India, was good preparation for the upcoming T20 In India in October.

Curran’s innings and temperament was a great example of the Surrey all-rounders undoubted ability. Some of the more experienced players could take note, yes I am referring to you Moeen Ali.

It was all Whyte on the night

Dillian Whyte produced a classy performance to clinically defeat Russia’s Alexander Povetkin with a fourth round knockout in their Heavyweight clash in Gibraltar. The Jamaican born Whyte, whose sole professional defeat in the heavyweight division was to old foe Anthony Joshua before the defeat to Povetkin, knew a win would only do here.

In the first fight between the two men, the 32-year old might have been a little complacent, but the interim WBC Heavyweight Champion was determined to right the wrong in Gibraltar. From the off the Britain Whyte was smart in his timing and a fourth round attack proved to be the defining moments of the contest.

A good win for Dillian Whyte in this contest in Gibraltar as the 32-year old reignited his world title shot hopes. As for Povetkin, the 39-year old before this one had only lost to Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko in 39 fights.

A third defeat for the Russian, is arguably put an end to any lingering world title shot hopes. As for Whyte, although it will be difficult for the Jamaican born fighter to get an immediate title shot, especially with Joshua, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder dictating the running order in the division currently – at least Whyte can be involved in this conversation somewhere down the line.

After the match Dillian Whyte in a moment of real class offered Alexander Povetkin a stool to sit on. As much as the 32-year old won the hearts of many with an accomplished display of boxing in the ring, it was his actions outside the ring that was a knockout punch.

Messers Joshua, Fury and Wilder don’t forget about Dillian Whyte he’s not done in the Heavyweight division yet!

India vs England second ODI; brilliant England level series

After being comprehensively beaten in the first game, England’s cricketers impressively levelled the three-game series 1-1 with India by winning by six wickets in Pune. Just like in the first game, it was hosts India who batted first and just like in the first game were able to post an impressive score above 300 (336). Key to this impressive score was Kings XI Punjab captain KL Rahul’s century (108).

Wicket-keeper batsmen Rishabh Pant, was an able ally for Rahul as the Delhi Capital’s player weighed in with a thoroughly entertaining 77. Captain Virat Kohli (66) and Hardik Pandya too made telling contributions for the Indians, which helped the hosts set a target that seemed to be above par. As for England, after initially keeping India quiet in the middle over through spin twins Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, just like in the first game lost their discipline in the final 10 overs as Kohli’s side scored more than 100 in the final 10 overs, for the second game running.

Both Tom Curran (1-83) and Ben Stokes (1-42 off five overs) were on the receiving end of some brutal Rishabh Pant six-hitting. There was one positive for England on the bowling front as tall left-arm seamer Reece Topley made just his second ODI appearance in as many years after hopefully fully overcoming back injuries that have plagued the Surrey fast-bowler. Where pretty much all the England quicks were subject to brutal hitting off their bowling, Topley was able to return decent figures (considering his lengthy absence from the International game) of 2-50 from eight overs.

Tourists England who were left with a daunting run chase in the first game where they were chasing 317 to win, were left with an even bigger total (337) to win this one and level the three-match series. Just like in the first game both Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy seemed in control as the openers again compiled yet another century opening partnership. Unlike the first game, England were arguably a bit more circumspect, but not too circumspect.

After racing to 135-1 in 11.1 overs in the first game, England were scoring at a run a ball and were well in control of the run chase. Not playing overly rash and aggressive shots, India weren’t given a look into the English middle order early on. After settling into their innings nicely, it was of great surprise when Jason Roy was run out for 55. The loss of the opening wicket in the first game, allowed India to wrestle the initiative back from England and win comprehensively in the end.

In this game, Virat’s men were not given the chance as Jonny Bairstow (124) and Ben Stokes (99) played brilliantly and were calculatingly aggressive against the India attack. When both Stokes, Bairstow and even stand-in captain Jos Buttler (0) departed in quick session, less than 100 was needed and there was still 13.2 overs left. Any chance of India winning this one, after they seemed certain, were extinguished as Liam Livingstone (27) and Dawid Malan (16) guided the tourists comfortably home.

Sports and COVID-19

For the past year, it’s dominated our lives and it’s dominated the news headlines too. I am not referring to Brexit, which in amongst itself has been a constant topic on everyone’s lips, I am indeed talking about the Coronavirus (Covid19). What started in December 2019 it’s believed (hence the name) has been a topic and an issue that’s still just as prevalent as it was over 12 months ago.

The virus has affected all aspects of life. From work, to shopping, to getting  a haircut and sports athletes too.  Supermarkets were rationing, which in turn lead to a Royal Rumble in its own right. In England and the rest of the UK is in yet another lockdown, where barber shops are closed and a lot of shops- recognised shops from the high street are closed. Here, I want to talk about the Coronavirus from more of the sporting side of things.

As mentioned, sports stars/athletes have been affected by Covid19 with many of these sports stars we adore and idolise suffering from Covid. So sports has been carrying on, but not with some of the worlds best and most known athletes. Football matches have been cancelled and rearranged and sports like snooker are just competing in one arena.

This year’s snooker masters tournament, just like with the other snooker tournaments that have been in a bubble environment. Cricket has been the same too, but in this article I want to talk about sports and is sports setting a bad example during covid?

Well, yes sport is but at the same time, I feel sport is unfairly targeted. Problems in the world, such as racism .. it seems like sport is solely responsible to sort the problems of society on the whole. The other side of this topic is, there’s been moments like football players clearly breaching lockdown guidelines, but at the same time the nations Prime Minister has fallen foul of the rules too. 

Now if our leader isn’t following the rules, then how can we single out sports stars? There has been incidents such as India’s cricketers being seen at a Melbourne restaurant. Or the fact the Milijovic and Mitrovic been seen together. 

But the one case which really took the biscuit was Manchester United’s women taking a trip to Dubai. This has caused a knock on affect in this current time for the women’s game. Sport has been seen by many as being some form of antidote to those who have mental vulnerabilities during this lockdown.

A match made in heaven

Love, is a very special thing when you are able to feel it in its entirety. Whether it be the appreciation, or the support, love is a magical thing. Premier League giants Manchester City were too in love. They though were yearning for love. 

That love and support was what they craved so dearly, in the form of a reliable centre back. They went through a lot of ‘relationships’ (central defenders). When long term lover Vincent Kompany left for another woman (Anderlecht), City had to do the thing that no one likes doing … moving on and finding a new partner.

City and Kompany had so many memories together, they seemed inseparable, but this is life – nothing lasts forever. The Cityzens began the unenviable task of trying to find a new love. Elaquim Mangala, was a relationship that never worked and the French defender was dumped by City even before they could truly go public as couple. 

Nico Ottamendi, Nathan Ake are a string of other defenders that Man City tried to settle down with, but it just didn’t seem natural. Emerick Laporte had been a reliable centre-back and still is, but he didn’t count on John Stones’ resurgence. 

Former Everton defender Stones, looks like a player reborn ,but to keep with this analogy City needed a stable relationship .Manchester City spent money, gave them gifts, but these centre-backs couldn’t find a way into City’s heart of hearts. 

Then came Ruben Dias, a signing from Benfica. The 23-year old Dias seems to have been the wish to all of City’s prayers and already seems to be the dream partner to have in a relationship. AKe, Ottamendi (who joined Benfica as part of the Dias deal) and Mangala are to name some expensive relationships that haven’t worked and ended with them splitting up from each other. 

Here’s to hoping that Dias and Man City, remain the happy couple that they are. I don’t think City could handle the end of another relationship. 

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James Anderson, the man who can do it on a cold night in Stoke

In cricketing terms, he should have retired a while ago, he’s arguably outstayed his welcome, but England fast bowler James Anderson is like fine wine, as they say, he gets better with age.

There are not many other sportsmen that this could be said about, giving this some thought and I would say Juventus forward Christiano Ronaldo is the only man who you can say this about. Jimmy is the other.

Born in Burnley, Jimmy Anderson has turned from a spiky-haired youngster who would have issues with injuries and his action, to a world-beater with the ball. Our Jimmy is no mug with the bat either.

Starring in an Ashes test with folk legend Monty Panesar in a stubborn last-wicket stand to thwart old enemy Australia and save the game on that occasion. An 81 against India, his highest in first-class cricket left the cricketing fraternity pondering on the thought of England having a new all-rounder in the making.

As the Burnley Brian Lara got older, and more greys appeared on the head, what else came abundantly clear was Jimmy was getting smarter with the way he bowled. In his heyday, he could run in at close to 90 mph more consistently. These days towards the mid-eighties is the norm.

Anderson has now almost turned wizard-like with ball. When Ronaldo takes a free-kick in football, no one else can make the football talk like he does. In cricket, the same can almost be said of James Anderson.

Reverse-swing and making the old ball talk was only a skill that many thought Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis could do, but Anderson has mastered the reverse-swing art too. It must be a Lancashire bowler thing.

As impressive as that is for the now 38-year old Lancastrian, the challenge is if he can do it on a dry spinning pitch? The football equivalent of doing it on a cold night in Stoke. With 600 wickets to his name (the most by any fast bowler in world cricket), one would come to a resounding conclusion, yes he can!

In fact, in the ongoing series with India, James Anderson now holds more records. In the previous test series against Sri Lanka, the 38-year old became the oldest man to take a five-wicket haul and has the distinct record of being the man who has taken the most wickets in test cricket after reaching 30.

For a player who changed and remodelled his action, only to go back to it in the process, this is some achievement. James Anderson, you are a legend of the English game, no the world game.

There won’t be a fast bowler who can quite do it in all conditions as you have. World cricket salutes you, it won’t be long till her Majesty will be calling for a Royal Visit. Sir James Michael Anderson arise!

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My thoughts on WWE

They say it’s fake, it’s not real, but the risks are real. World Wrestling Entertainment or WWE for short is a sport which despite its longevity still catches the public imagination. 

If you ask Elias, WWE stands for! *chants in a passionate tone* “walk with Elias”. The storylines, subplots, daring moves and overall energy has made the WWE the pinnacle for any pro wrestler. 

When we were kids, I don’t know anyone who would say they didn’t do any wrestling moves on their siblings, brother Malik and sister Malik’s teddy bear felt the full brunt of The Stone Cold Stunner. 

I will not confirm or deny, I gave the last ride to my brother, an Attitude Adjustment, or did the five knuckle shuffle on both my niece and nephew, but the springs on a few beds were stretched let’s just say. 

Let’s change the subject and talk about the pros who do this for the day job. WWE, despite the competition or rival AEW, amongst others have posed a viable threat. 

The way WWE markets the brand and the fact that they have years upon years of more experience is a massive advantage. 

In Shahid Khan, owner of AEW, they have a billionaire who will be able to help bankroll some top wrestling stars, Messers Ambrose and Jericho come to mind. 

A fierce rival isn’t something new, in the 90’s WCW was arguably a more desirable brand than WWE, but wrestling fans remember how that ended. 

Stone Cold Steve Austin, Booker T, the aforementioned Chris Jericho and Goldberg are just some of the wrestlers that comes to mind. 

In my humble opinion, WWE it fluctuates, with how good the storylines are. 

Sometimes the storylines are brilliant, others the storylines are a lot to be desired. . 

Of course all wrestling circuits have the same issue, but WWE is the most established of all wrestling circuits out there. 

I want to talk about some of the storylines at the moment and give my humble opinion on them. 

The storyline between Reigns and Owens is a good one, but really creative WWE, putting the belt on him again? Why don’t you just rename his character to John Anoai Cena? Letting Rusev go, in my opinion, wasn’t the best decision either. 

Love or loathe him, his Bulgarian Brute character suited him perfectly. To put him in these love story storylines, just wasted an undoubted talent, let’s hope AEW utilise his skills properly. 

A storyline which I like is Seamus and Drew McIntyre, at least it’s not the usual Roman Reigns drivel. 

The force-feeding of Reigns is frustrating. If you want to use The Big Dog, then the need to use to utilize him without gold around him is a must. 

The Rock, Stone Cold and most recently The Fiend are still very able performers and they don’t need a title on him to be relevant, Roman’s character doesn’t seem to allow that. 

I do like The Miz with The Money In The Bank briefcase. Not sounding like Michael Cole of old, I am a Miz fan. 

Very good on the mic, good in a tag team even in a stable too, Michael Miznan is a WWE treasure. 

I am merely just a fan, but us fans have our opinions too. Triple H, yeah my number ends in 455, and don’t forget the +44 dialling code, thank you! 

Here at the-sports-buff.com , there will be plenty more wrestling articles. See you at the next one!

The over 40’s club

With Pakistan being neighbours to them, many won’t be able to resist the comparisons between Pakistan Super League and the Indian Premier League.

This year’s PSL tournament is an example that the youngsters won’t be solely dominating the Super League team sheets, several veterans are blessing the PSL.

West Indian legend Chris Gayle (Quetta Gladiators), Mohammed Hafeez (Lahore Qalandars) and Shahid Afridi (Multan Sultans)  are all members of the 40-year old club. The four, might not want to scream that from the rooftops, but fans will be screaming and shouting about how Messers Gayle, Hafeez and Afridi have made solid contributions. 

Former Pakistan captain Afridi has impressed with the ball, in particular, the first game as the veteran all-rounder Afridi finished with 2-24 off four overs against Islamabad United in the first game.

As for the other three, they have made some good contributions with the bat. Gayle scored a solid 39 and a streaky half-century (68) in two games. The fifty that The Big Boss scored did offer a couple of big changes to the Lahore Qalanders, but the Qalanders fielders shelled those chances. Those drops didn’t prove costly as fellow veteran Mohammed Hafeez clubbed an unbeaten 73 off just 33 balls, which helped Lahore win and chase down a potentially tricky target at a canter. 

For the cricket purists amongst you, I know you will be thinking why hasn’t Kamran Akmal been mentioned? I must admit as I drafted this up, I was thinking the same thing too, but then after some research realised he’s a spring chicken at 39. Just like Akmal,  Shoaib Malik is a youthful 39.

As I was compiling this blog, there was some drafting and re-drafting, my criterion is strict, this blog is a shout-out to the 40’s club. Messers Malik and Akmal wishing them good health will be in the club next year! It’s brilliant to see the veterans we mentioned doing so well. Sohail Tanveer, Mohammed Irfan, Sarfraz Ahmed are arguably in the veteran category too but are a bit more youthful than Gayle, Hafeez and Afridi.

The youngsters in the tournament and the emerging players too is clear evidence that the PSL is making huge strides on the T20 cricketing world map. Not bad for a tournament that’s 10 years behind the IPL and the other leagues around the world.

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Broad and Anderson the ultimate bromance

Sports like football and cricket, are beautiful sports for several reasons. Games can be decided and won through good teamwork or individual brilliance, yes that knock by Ben Stokes in the Ashes at Headingley comes to mind. 

As important as those factors are for winning games, I want to talk about the need to build good partnerships in a duo, the bromance or the Romeo and Juliet pairings if you will. Let me elaborate. 

Football fans, do you remember the Chris Sutton and Alan Shearer partnership for Blackburn Rovers, which helped the Lancashire side win the Premier League title in 1995.

Or what about the Teddy Sheringham and Alan Shearer partnership for England, or even the legendary pairings that both included Andy Cole, it’s fair to say someone is loved. First Cole and Peter Beardsley in the early ’90s, who combined to score more than 60 goals. If combining with Beardsley and scoring a sack load of goals wasn’t enough, it was when Andy Cole teamed up with Dwight Yorke at Manchester United that did an ultimate bromance develop. 

In that 1998-99 season, as brilliant as Beckham and Giggs were, it was the deadly two upfront.

From the telepathic linkup play in the game against Barcelona or the semi-final win against Juventus in the 2nd leg, Cole and Yorke were brilliant, in fact so brilliant that then Blackburn manager Graeme Souness reunited the duo at Rovers. 

In this blog, what I want to talk about are some of cricket’s deadly duo’s. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, Alan Donald and Sean Pollock or Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee. In terms of the latter two players, they sound more like a solicitors firm rather than a potent Australian bowling attack.

In the example of every duo, that I have listed, one player seems to compliment the other, which I think can be said of the example I want to use now, the example of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. 

With 1100 wickets between them, it’s obvious to see that despite Joffra Archer, Olly Stone, Sam and Tom Curran at their disposal and many more bowlers in the production line, England will revert to type and go to their two premier bowlers at any given opportunities, it’s with good reason. 

Despite Broad being 34 and Anderson 38 respectively, these two are the men who seem most likely to answer the call of need for England.

The ongoing test between India and England seems to be proving my theory. This may be a bit harsh, but at the time of writing Archer and Ben Stokes combined have bowled eight overs between them and have conceded 43 runs. 

Yes, the West Indies born pacer does have a wicket in the India innings, but compare that to the legendary duo of Anderson and Broad, they two have conceded just 31 runs in 15 overs. Both Stuart Broad and Anderson have been able to produce bits of brilliance on several occasions in their brilliant careers.

To be fair, the supporting cast have produced at times, but there’s an over-reliance on Broad and Anderson. With 1100 wickets between them, this thinking is natural. Until England area able to find this formula of winning games without Anderson (easier said than done) then England will remain stuck in the past. 

India (Bumrah), South Africa (Rabada), Pakistan (Shaheen Afridi), New Zealand (Trent Boult) and Australia (Pat Cummins) have younger main strike bowlers than England. All I will say is, I don’t envy Joe Root’s dilemma, but until they find a formula I think England will be stuck in the past.

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