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The Ashes: Jos Buttler says England will embrace ‘hostile’ MCG as they look to keep series alive | Cricket News



England will show a ‘backs against the wall’ attitude in Melbourne, says Jos Buttler; England looking to keep Ashes series alive and avoid record-equalling ninth Test defeat in 2021; captain Joe Root needs 159 runs to set new record for most Test runs by a batter in a calendar year

Last Updated: 25/12/21 9:04am

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England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler says they are ‘excited’ to play in the ‘hostile’ atmosphere of the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the Boxing Day Test against Australia

England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler says they are ‘excited’ to play in the ‘hostile’ atmosphere of the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the Boxing Day Test against Australia

Jos Buttler says England will relish the “hostile” atmosphere of a rocking MCG as they look to keep alive their slender hopes of regaining The Ashes.

England are 2-0 down with three Tests to play after suffering a nine-wicket defeat in the series opener at The Gabba in Brisbane and then a 275-run loss in the pink-ball second Test at Adelaide Oval.

The tourists – who have made four changes for the Boxing Day Test with Rory Burns, Ollie Pope, Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad replaced by Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Jack Leach – must now record victories in Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart to win back the urn.

Fast bowler Mark Wood returns to the England side in one of four changes for the Boxing Day Test

Fast bowler Mark Wood returns to the England side in one of four changes for the Boxing Day Test

Buttler, who gave England faint hope of a draw on the fifth and final day in Adelaide before his epic rearguard of 26 from 207 balls ended when he trod on his stumps, said: “We’re certainly not here to just take part and let 70,000 people enjoy another Australian victory.

“We have to fight back. We want to win the series and we want to win this Test match. We’ll take that ‘backs against the wall’ attitude because that’s what we need to have.

Buttler's epic rearguard came in vain on the final day in Adelaide as England lost the second Test by 275 runs

Buttler’s epic rearguard came in vain on the final day in Adelaide as England lost the second Test by 275 runs

“I’m sure it will be a hostile environment here but that’s to be embraced and enjoyed – everyone is excited to be here. We know we need to bring our best cricket.

“We haven’t done that so far and that’s disappointing. With the situation we’re in, we need to get there fast. This is why you play the game, because you want to be part of big occasions.

“It isn’t always going to be easy, but you need to turn up in tough situations and play well when it’s hard.”

England captain Joe Root said his bowlers were too short and not “brave enough” with the ball when assessing his side’s heavy defeat in Adelaide straight after the game.

Former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting said he “nearly fell off his seat” after hearing Root’s criticism of his seamers’ lengths and said the England captain should have been firmer with his attack if he wanted them to pitch the ball up fuller.

Sky Sports pundit Nasser Hussain has backed Joe Root after Ricky Ponting criticised the England captain's leadership qualities

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Sky Sports pundit Nasser Hussain has backed Joe Root after Ricky Ponting criticised the England captain’s leadership qualities

Sky Sports pundit Nasser Hussain has backed Joe Root after Ricky Ponting criticised the England captain’s leadership qualities

Sky Sports Cricket pundit and former England captain Nasser Hussain said: “I think Ponting’s point is a very valid one.

“It’s your job [as captain] to make sure your bowlers bowl fuller or take them off and get someone else on.

“The one thing I will say to back up Root is that one of the real ticks for him is that he has been the captain that has got James Anderson and Stuart Broad to bowl fuller in Test cricket – (Sir Andrew) Strauss couldn’t do it, (Sir Alastair) Cook couldn’t do it.

“The results have been there for everyone to see. Broad, in particular, has got wickets by bowling fuller. In Adelaide they didn’t do it but in the long term has Root got England’s seamers bowling a bit fuller? He sure has.”

Root says England must deliver in the Melbourne and expects his side to put in an improved performance

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Root says England must deliver in the Melbourne and expects his side to put in an improved performance

Root says England must deliver in the Melbourne and expects his side to put in an improved performance

Root has been the leading light for England’s Test team with the bat in 2021, with his tally of 1,630 runs – a number no one in world cricket can top this year – a whopping 1,100 more than the next Englishman on the list in Burns, who has struck 530 runs.

Root needs 159 runs in Melbourne to trump former Pakistan batter Mohammad Yousuf’s record of 1,788 runs in a calendar year, which he set back in 2006.

England will be hoping to avoid another record, though, as if they lose at the MCG they will match Bangladesh’s tally of nine Test defeats in a calendar year, which the Tigers suffered in 2003.

Root said: “It’s been very enjoyable personally, in terms of batting, spending time out there making some big scores, but nothing compares to winning.

“If I perform well in the last three Tests here, it gives us a good chance of getting the scores on the board to win games.”

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Chelsea and Liverpool prove Premier League excitement, even if title is a foregone conclusion



LONDON — Manchester City have shown themselves to be in a league of their own, so the Premier League should be thankful that Chelsea and Liverpool are still able to keep us all entertained. Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge helped neither team and only consolidated City’s vice-like grip on the top spot, but football is about jeopardy, risk and overcoming flaws, and when it all comes together, you get an unforgettable game like this one.

Even before City moved 11 points clear at the top of table with a 2-1 win at Arsenal on Saturday, this second-versus-third clash was always a case of both sides needing to win to maintain faint hopes of catching Pep Guardiola’s winning machine. City’s win at the Emirates was their 11th successive Premier League victory and they have all been won with such monotonous ease, scoring 33 goals and conceding just seven, that every three points is now met with little more than a shrug of inevitability.

Barring an unlikely collapse in the second half of the season, City will win a fourth league title in five years and you will struggle to count on the fingers of one hand the times they have had to dig deep into their reserves to overcome adversity during that period. Guardiola has built one of the all-time great teams in English football history during his six years at the Etihad, but they may simply be too good to contribute to games like this one.

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Chelsea and Liverpool gave us such a pulsating encounter because they both have weaknesses that can be exploited by their opponents. And as a result, they both had to take risks in an attempt to secure a crucial victory.

And they also had to go into the game with unwanted distractions hovering over both clubs.

Chelsea, with three wins from their past eight in the league, were without £97.5 million striker Romelu Lukaku, dropped by coach Thomas Tuchel because of an outspoken interview about his failure to impress so far at Stamford Bridge since returning to the club from Internazionale in the summer. And Liverpool were without manager Jurgen Klopp, goalkeeper Alisson, defender Joel Matip and forward Roberto Firmino — all isolating because of COVID-19.

City, in contrast, have enjoyed a remarkably serene run of successes since losing to Crystal Palace in October, which is why they are free-rolling to another title. But the Premier League is regarded as the most exciting in world football because of games like this, and teams like Chelsea and Liverpool and the drama they create.

From the first minute, when Sadio Mane was fortunate to escape a red card for appearing to strike Cesar Azpilicueta in the face with an elbow after just 14 seconds, the game was incident-packed. Azpilicueta later said it was a “clear red card” when interviewed after the game.

Christian Pulisic, playing centrally in the absence of Lukaku, wasted a golden chance to open the scoring on seven minutes when, with only stand-in keeper Caoimhin Kelleher to beat, he was indecisive and allowed the youngster to smother the ball. It proved a costly miss when, two minutes later, Mane took advantage of his lucky escape from a sending off by pouncing on a mistake by Trevoh Chalobah to score.

Chelsea were in disarray and Liverpool looked like the team that won the title in 2019. When Mohamed Salah made it 2-0 on 26 minutes with a stunning near-post finish after gliding past Marcos Alonso, it seemed as though Liverpool were about to give Chelsea the kind of hammering they inflicted on Manchester United during a 5-0 rout at Old Trafford earlier this season.

Liverpool were unable to score a third, though, and two Chelsea goals in the space of three minutes at the end of the first half turned the game on its head.

When Kelleher punched Alonso’s in-swinging free kick clear on 42 minutes, the keeper looked to have done well to deny the Chelsea defender. But the ball dropped the Mateo Kovacic on the edge of the penalty area and, as he was backpedaling, the midfielder somehow guided a volley beyond Kelleher and into the net. It was a spectacular display of technique by the former Real Madrid player and it gave Chelsea a foothold back into the game.

And it took them just three minutes to score the equaliser when Pulisic atoned for his earlier miss by latching onto N’Golo Kante‘s pass before beating Kelleher with a precise left-foot shot past the Republic of Ireland international. As the chaos continued on the pitch, Mason Mount almost put Chelsea 3-2 up in first-half stoppage time with a scuffed volley that bounced just wide of the post.

When a game is so eventful in the first half, it rarely delivers a second half of the same quality because of coaches plugging the holes that had led to the earlier excitement. But while the goals stopped flowing, the entertainment didn’t.

Salah forced a crucial save from Edouard Mendy with a 25-yard lob on 57 minutes and Mane was also denied by the Chelsea keeper. Kelleher, not to be outdone, then produced a stunning save to prevent Pulisic from scoring his second of the game.

In total, there were 25 chances over the 90 minutes, with both sides registering six on target. Neither could find a winner, though.

“For the outside world it was quite a good game to watch, but we came here for three points and didn’t get them,” Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk said.

Even if one team had done enough to claim all three points, it’s difficult to imagine they would have been able to close the gap on City, who are destined for another title. And the challenge facing both chasing clubs only grows more daunting in the next month, with Salah (Egypt), Mendy and Mane (both Senegal) now heading off to the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

But the Premier League still knows how to excite, even if the title is already a foregone conclusion.

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Michael Scudamore has Do Your Job in mind for Doncaster | Racing News



Doncaster’s Lightning Novices’ Chase could be next on the agenda for Do Your Job following his creditable effort in defeat at Kempton over the festive period.

Runner-up to My Drogo and Belfast Banter in Grade Two and Grade One novice hurdles in the spring, Michael Scudamore’s stable star made a successful start to his chasing career at Warwick in November.

The eight-year-old fell at the eighth fence when stepped up in class for the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown, but bounced back to finish second to Edwardstone in the Wayward Lad last week.

With Scudamore keen to avoid a rematch with the winner, who is seemingly bound for the Kingmaker at Warwick, Do Your Job could instead bid for Grade Two honours at Doncaster on January 29.

Reflecting on his Kempton performance, the trainer said: “I was very pleased. He jumped well and travelled well and did everything right, he was just beaten by a better horse on the day.

“The main objective was a clear round really and maybe if we hadn’t fallen at Sandown we might have pressed on a bit more and made it more of a staying race.

“The most important thing was to get a clear round under his belt and get some more experience over fences for him.

“I think we’ll stick to novice races while we can and we might look to the race at Doncaster. That is what we have pencilled in at the moment, anyway.

“It would certainly be Plan A to try and avoid Edwardstone and I was very pleased to read he was going to go for the Kingmaker. Hopefully they stick to that plan!”

While Do Your Job looks set to remain in novice company on his next start, Scudamore admitted is considering a step into the handicap arena for the Grand Annual at Cheltenham – a race he won with Next Sensation in 2015.

He added: “I’m sure he’ll have an entry in that. He also ran very well at Aintree last year, so there’s that to consider as well.

“He looks like a horse that could have the right sort of profile for a Grand Annual and we’ll see nearer the time.

“In some ways it might make more sense to go for a handicap now, but as we saw at Kempton some of these novice events don’t have a lot of runners in them and there’s some decent prize-money on offer, so it seems silly to pass them over when you’ve only got one chance to run in them really.”

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Adiwang hopes to fight Saruta next



Lito Adiwang was booted out of ONE Championship strawweight rankings after coming up short against Jarred Brooks. ‘The Thunder Kid’ is already itching to step back inside the cage and hopes to fight a ranked fighter next.

Of the fighters in the ONE Championship strawweight division rankings, the 28-year-old Filipino seeks to score a date with No.2-ranked Yosuke Saruta.

“I want a big comeback. I still want a big name. I want to challenge Yosuke Saruta. Maybe if ONE allows it, and he wants it, then I’ll take it. Saruta is someone who I really want to test myself against,” said Adiwang in an interview with ONE Championship.

The 28-year-old admits it is a dangerous fight and a huge risk to take. The high-risk, high-reward scenario is something that Adiwang would like to take as he seeks to put his name back in the rankings again by beating a former champion.

“It’s a big risk for me because I’m coming off a loss, but I want a great comeback and a big name in my return so I don’t fall far off from the rankings.”

Lito Adiwang seeking for a better year in 2022 at ONE Championship

Adiwang now holds a professional record of 13-4 and has been competing in ONE Championship since October 2018. He won his first five fights before receiving his first loss against Koha Minowa via a split decision two years later.

The Benguet-based fighter had three fights in 2021. However, he also suffered his second loss in ONE Championship against Jarred Brooks.

Still in his prime, Adiwang goes back to the drawing board and seeks to polish his MMA skills in 2022.

“I have to check my mistakes inside the Circle, but I also have to check my mistakes outside the Circle. It has to be a balance. Sometimes, I forget other personal obligations and those are the things that I have to work on. I have to balance things out based on last year. I have to correct this in 2022.”

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