Tag Archives: backside

Lauren Davis stung on the backside by wasp at Sony Open

Sting in the tail: Tennis teen Davis suffers wasp attack on the backside at Sony Open… and accidentally recreates iconic poster

By
Steven Donaldson

PUBLISHED:

10:54 GMT, 25 March 2013

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UPDATED:

16:04 GMT, 25 March 2013

This is not a recreation of Martin Elliott’s iconic tennis poster from 1976 but something altogether more painful.

When 19-year-old Lauren Davis lost her third-round match at the Sony Open, it was not just the defeat that stung.

During the gruelling defeat by world No 36 Alize Cornet under the Florida sun, the American was stung by a wasp on her backside.

Lauren Davis of the USA reacts after being stung by a wasp

Lauren Davis of the USA reacts after being stung by a wasp

Wasp attack: Lauren Davis was stung on the backside while playing Alize Cornet (or should that be hornet)

Lauren Davis of the USA reacts after being stung by a wasp

Lauren Davis of the USA reacts after being stung by a wasp

She was in obvious pain and battled on to lose 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 but she refused to blame her defeat on the wasp's sting.

The pictures of Davis resembled the iconic poster taken by photographer Elliott of a female tennis player, his girlfriend at the time, that sold more than two million copies.

Heat stroke: Cornet collapses in the Florida heat during the match

Heat stroke: Cornet collapses in the Florida heat during the match

Escape route: Cornet is escorted from the court in a wheelchair, as was her stung rival

Escape route: Cornet is escorted from the court in a wheelchair, as was her stung rival

Temperatures on court soared to well over
32C and both Davis and Cornet were left so physically exhausted by such
a long match in the humidity that both players left the court in
wheelchairs.

Martin Elliot's original image

Sharapova

Iconic: The image shot by Martin Elliot (left) has been recreated before – unintentionally by Maria Sharapova

Other posers…

Kylie Minogue (see below)

Keith Lemon

Courtney Stoddon

Laura Robson passed up the chance to become British No 1 on Friday night, beaten in three sets in the second round defeat by Cornet.

The 19-year-old started well but, in a match which lasted two hours 36 minutes but was stretched over seven hours due to rain delays and power cuts in Miami, the 32nd-seeded Frenchwoman emerged a 5-7, 7-5, 6-1 winner.

Old times: Fiona Walker, at 53, poses with a picture of herself as the 18-year-old 'Athena tennis poster girl'

Old times: Fiona Walker, at 53, poses with a picture of herself as the 18-year-old 'Athena tennis poster girl'

And who could forget…

Another version: Pop star Kylie Minogue posed for magazine GQ back in 2000

Jose Mourinho allegedly kicks fan as Ronaldo backs boss

Mourinho allegedly kicks fan up backside… hours after Ronaldo pleads with supporters to stop abusing Madrid boss

By
Andy James

PUBLISHED:

11:10 GMT, 12 January 2013

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UPDATED:

11:11 GMT, 12 January 2013

Jose Mourinho is being investigate by police after allegedly kicking a fan up the backside – but Cristiano Ronaldo has called on supporters to stop abusing the Real Madrid boss.

The Portuguese was reportedly approached for a photograph when out shopping on Thursday but responded by lashing out at the fan while his bodyguard allegedly threw the man's mobile phone to the ground.

Mourinho has denied the claims which come as he struggles at the helm of the Spanish giants.

Tough times: Jose Mourinho has come under pressure at Real Madrid

Tough times: Jose Mourinho has come under pressure at Real Madrid

Madrid are languishing 16 points behind bitter rivals Barcelona in La Liga and face Manchester United in the Champions League next month.

And the Bernabeau crowd have turned on Mourinho in recent weeks, particularly after he dropped Iker Cassilas.

But Ronaldo has pleaded with the supporters to back the boss.

Main man: Cristiano Ronaldo has called on Madrid fans to back Mourinho

Main man: Cristiano Ronaldo has called on Madrid fans to back Mourinho

'I have to ask that they stop this now,' Ronaldo told reporters after Madrid's 5-2 aggregate victory over Celta Vigo in the King's Cup .

'The boss is going to stay, we still have a lot we can win this year. He is in charge and he takes the decisions, the fans and the players should help him.

'People have shown they are unhappy but that's enough now. They have to get behind the boss and the team. It affects the players out on the pitch. If we win the Cup and the Champions League it will have been a good year.'

Liam Ridgewell pictured wiping his backside with 20 notes

Ridgewell's bum note: West Brom star apologises after being pictured wiping his backside with pile of 20 notes

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UPDATED:

10:09 GMT, 2 December 2012

West Brom defender Liam Ridgewell has apologised after an embarrassing picture emerged of him wiping his backside with a wad of 20 notes.

The former Aston Villa and Birmingham defender claims the picture was taken to wind up a friend after he won a bet and he never intended on it becoming public.

Ridgewell told The Sun: 'The photo was taken in the privacy of my home around eight months ago as a joke to wind up a mate, who I had just won a personal bet with.

Blunder: Liam Ridgewell was pictured wiping his backside with 20 notes

Blunder: Liam Ridgewell was pictured wiping his backside with 20 notes

'I only intended him to see the photo but now it’s public, I can understand how it will be viewed. I am sorry for any offence it causes.'

The picture showed the 28-year-old squatting over a toilet with nearly 1000 worth of 20 notes scattered over the floor.

Apology: Ridgewell has said sorry for any offense caused

Apology: Ridgewell has said sorry for any offense caused

The West Brom player earns around
20,000-a-week and the picture is sure to anger fans – especially as
that is the average annual salary in the West Midlands – one of the most
deprived areas in the country.

The picture was sent to the newspaper by a fan who asked not to be named, he said: 'The people of West Bromwich earn a fraction of what this idiot earns yet he makes a mockery of his good fortune like this. It makes me sick.

'We’ve always thought footballers were arrogant, overpaid buffoons and this just proves it.’

The club distanced themselves from the issue saying it was a private matter.

They told The Sun: ‘This is a private issue for Liam that has become public.

'It does not put the club in a good light and we will deal with the matter internally.

'Since Liam joined us 11 months ago, his conduct on club duty has been exemplary.'

Stuart Broad must improve, says David Saker

BROADside! Coach tells bowler to buck up and drop the defeatist attitude

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UPDATED:

19:56 GMT, 27 November 2012

Wicketless: Broad has struggled in India

Wicketless: Broad has struggled in India

England will consider leaving one of their most influential players, Stuart Broad, out of the crucial third Test after his anaemic performances in India.

The vice-captain was a bystander in the historic win here in Mumbai and it emerged on Tuesday the tourists will not hesitate to drop a bowler who has been one of their outstanding cricketers over the last four years.

The morning after an epic day dawned with Steven Finn, who was set to play an integral role in England’s attack in India before injury, beginning his attempt to prove his fitness for next week’s Kolkata Test.

Finn played for the England
Performance Programme squad who have just begun their own month-long
tour of India and took four for 60 in 16 hostile overs against a Mumbai
side to enhance his chances of returning at Eden Gardens.

If he has no reaction from the thigh
injury he suffered in the first warm-up game of the tour, he will become
a strong contender and, with England sure to retain two spinners, it is
Broad’s place that is under threat.

The choice of David Saker, the
fast-bowling coach, to face the media yesterday looked a curious one in
the aftermath of such a spin-dominated triumph until it became clear
that he seemed anxious to provide Broad with a public kick up the
backside.

Vice-captain: Broad is second in command for EnglandVice-captain: Broad is second in command for England

Vice-captain: Broad is second in command for England

Chat: David Saker talks to James Anderson (right) during a practice session

Chat: David Saker talks to James Anderson (right) during a practice session

‘He needs to front up and find out what’s the best way to go about it over here,’ said Saker.

‘He has to find ways to survive in
India. The great fast bowlers have had success here. You can’t just
think that the fast bowlers won’t have much influence. A defeatist
attitude like that is pretty much not accepted.’

Broad was the leading Test
wicket-taker in world cricket in 2012 ahead of this tour and is highly
regarded by England but has had an anonymous two matches on
spin-friendly pitches, bowling 12 wicketless overs for 60 in the first
innings here and not even being used in the second.

His unhappy tour was compounded by a
Twitter spat with Sir Ian Botham after the first Test that earned him a
rebuke from Andy Flower.

‘I just think he’s lacking a bit of
confidence and finding it really difficult to get his head around maybe
changing the way he bowls in India,’ continued Saker. ‘If you bowl wide
of the stumps here you get hurt. We did discuss that before this trip,
how bowling straight is crucial, and we watched a lot of footage of the
teams who have come here and done well.’

Broad, as Twenty20 captain, is a
member of the management committee here and, in theory, would be in on
the discussions over his own place but England are clearly preparing him
for the possibility of bad news.

Saker confirmed that Broad was unwell
ahead of the second Test, as revealed by Sportsmail last Friday,
but that he had insisted he was fit enough to take his place.

‘He had a bit of illness and he was
asked on the first morning of the Test whether he was good to go and he
said yes,’ said the Australian.

Knocking on the door: Finn plays for the Performance Squad this week

Knocking on the door: Finn plays for the Performance Squad this week

‘If the coach says, “Are you all right
to go”, and you say yes then to me you’re 100 per cent fit. If you’re
not sure, it’s a decision for the captain and coach, but he said he was
right.’

FORM GUIDE

Stuart Broad is yet to take a wicket in two Tests here but his form in 2012 has been good. He has 40 wickets, making him the leading wicket-taker in Tests until he was overtaken by Graeme Swann in Ahmedabad.

Broad did well on Asian-type pitches when he took 13 wickets in the 3-0 defeat by Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates but his best form came at home, with seven for 72 against West Indies at Lord’s and five wickets in the first innings against South Africa at Headingley.

Now Saker accepts that he must play
his part in restoring the brio that has made Broad such a confident and
successful competitor for England.

‘I’ve been blessed in that I haven’t
had to do a lot of hard yards as a bowling coach but now, with Tim
Bresnan and Stuart of late, we’ve had to have some good talks and maybe
some tinkering with actions.

‘The key is holding your length and
line. It’s an old adage but if you bowl at the stumps you’ve a chance.
Stuart probably just hasn’t played that well in these two Tests. Maybe
he’s looking for something that isn’t there. He’s asking questions that
probably don’t need to be asked.’

Saker insisted that he has every
confidence in Broad should he remain as one of only two seamers in
England’s Kolkata line-up but clearly he would like to see Finn’s extra
height and bounce added to the team.

‘Finn has been monitored the last few
days and he’s playing this game with the Lions squad so if he gets
through there’s a good chance he might play in Kolkata,’ said Saker.
‘He’s a special talent and has the pace we probably need for this place.
We’d like to get him. It will be an interesting selection call if he is
fit.’

There was a feeling of satisfaction
here among the England squad on Tuesday but there is no question that
another defeat would have led to some tough questions being asked within
the camp.

Saker added: ‘I was questioning myself as to whether we were
doing the right things, and if I’m doing that I think others in the camp
were wondering if we were going in the right direction too. But it
turned out to be as good a win as I’ve experienced with this group.’

England are considering adding
another spinner to their squad after the spectacular success of Monty
Panesar and Graeme Swann. They are concerned they have no specialist
back-up and could fly in James Tredwell or turn to Lancashire’s slow
left-armer Simon Kerrigan, who took four wickets for the Lions on
Tuesday.

Aston Villa striker Darren Bent plans showdown talks with Paul Lambert

Bent plans showdown talks with Lambert after being dropped for Villa clash with West Brom

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UPDATED:

22:32 GMT, 1 October 2012

Darren Bent plans to meet Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert after being axed for Sunday's drawn derby against West Bromwich Albion.

The 24million England striker came off the substitutes' bench to score the equaliser in a 1-1 draw.

Bent spoke to the media on Sunday, despite the club asking him not to.

Super sub: Bent scored after watching most of the game from the bench

Super sub: Bent scored after watching most of the game from the bench

‘I felt a bit disappointed I didn’t start the game,’ he said. 'It's been a crappy couple of weeks for me.

'I found out I wasn’t captain before the Swansea game and I found out before the West Brom game I wasn’t playing.

'It's frustrating and disappointing, especially after my confidence was coming back after a goal against Southampton.

'I've not spoken to the manager. He’s said nothing to me. Nothing. We’ll probably speak this week.'

Bent acknowledged being dropped could have been a kick up the backside.

We need to talk: Bent wants a word with Villa boss Lambert

We need to talk: Bent wants a word with Villa boss Lambert

He said: 'Maybe. Strikers are always judged on scoring goals and, getting the one against Southampton last week, I thought I could build on that. But it just wasn't meant to be.

'Hopefully I'll score more goals now. I'm always a confident character and, if I get the chance, I'll score the goals.'

Hodgson was at Villa Park to witness Bent's equaliser.

'I didn't know he was here but hopefully the goal will give me a boost and I'll be in his plans,' Bent said.

'I feel I'm going in the right direction as far as goals are concerned.

'I just wanted to get on the pitch and show I can score goals if given the chances.'

Ryder Cup 2012: Ian Poulter won"t make predictions at Medinah

No more predictions, I guarantee it! Poulter keeping his cards close to his chest at Medinah

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 25 September 2012

There will be no bold predictions this time. No staring into the camera and telling the millions watching that a point in the singles is guaranteed.

'I think you will find that was a one hit wonder,' said Ian Poulter, referring to his breathtaking moment of fate-tempting at Celtic Manor two years ago.

'Do that on a regular basis at the Ryder Cup and you're guaranteed to fall flat on your backside and have everyone laugh at you.'

The future's bright: But Poulter won't be making any predictions this year

The future's bright: But Poulter won't be making any predictions this year

The Ryder Cup is far too important to Poulter to have it threatened by ridicule.

The fact a man who played off a five handicap at 17 could end up winning tournaments on five different continents is one of the great sagas of modern golf.

But it pales for Poulter alongside the achievement of playing in four Ryder Cup teams, with the magnificent record to date of eight wins and three losses in 11 matches.

Sign here, please: Poulter is competing in his fourth Ryder Cup

Sign here, please: Poulter is competing in his fourth Ryder Cup

'Everyone knows I'm proud of my tour victories but to make four Ryder Cups is a bigger achievement for me,' he said.

'There's nothing in golf that gets close to the Ryder Cup. Imagine pumping your fist after holing a putt on the first hole of a strokeplay event Everyone would think you an idiot. The emotion you're feeling is such that every holed putt at the Ryder Cup is like one you hole on the back nine at a major.'

Back home in Florida, no visitor to his enormous new house is allowed to leave without seeing his Ryder Cup trophy cabinet.

'Everything's in there. I've got the crystal. I've got flags signed, golf bags signed, shoes signed, menus signed. What can I say It is a very important part of my life, and I want to share it with the people who come to my house.'

Demba Ba agent lashes out at Alan Pardew – Northern Exposure

Ba on his way out of Toon in January There's no smoke without fire…

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UPDATED:

16:45 GMT, 18 September 2012

The worry is there is no smoke without fire.

First Demba Ba has a pop, and now his agent decides to lash out because Alan Pardew has decided to leave his precious client on the bench.

When did players become automatic choices When was that written into their contract

Alan Pardew has done a pretty good job so far of picking teams. The fact that Newcastle’s worst performance under his tenure (his words, not mine) after he decided to leave Ba on the bench at Everton does give members of the Ba camp, and the player, ammunition.

Talking point: Demba Ba's agent revealed the Newcastle striker was unhappy after being named as a substitute before coming off the bench to score twice against Everton

Talking point: Demba Ba's agent revealed the Newcastle striker was unhappy after being named as a substitute before coming off the bench to score twice against Everton

But in going to Goodison, where Newcastle were easily beaten last season, and where David Moyes’s side have made a very bright start to the new season, Pardew decided, for once, to change his line-up and tactics. Ba was the sacrifice.

Quelling Leighton Baines and anchoring the midfield was made a higher priority than getting the ball near Tim Howard’s net, which was a feat Newcastle only really managed once in 45 lousy minutes with Papiss Cisse chasing lost causes.

And then Pardew changed it. His frustration at the first-half performance, his hands tied and backside fixed to the seat in the stands and his team selection exposed as a flop, the Newcastle boss made his feelings known to his players in the break.

He brought Ba on, made the tactical switch of the night swapping James Perch and Vurnon Anita, and saw a much-improved Newcastle match Everton in an enthralling second half. And Ba scored two goals. The player from the early part of last season – not the fella who couldn’t hit a barndoor for 14 games at the end of the last one – looks to be back.

He let his football and his goals do the talking, delivered the perfect riposte and reminder to his manager so he could have his little dance in the main stand. And he won Newcastle an excellent point. And until Pardew picks his team for Norwich’s visit on Sunday, when Ba will be back in the starting line-up, that should be the end of the matter.

At the double: Ba hit a brace to rescue a point for Alan Pardew's side at Goodison Park on Monday night

At the double: Ba hit a brace to rescue a point for Alan Pardew's side at Goodison Park on Monday night

More from Colin Young…

Northern Exposure: Forget Trapattoni's wrath, Twitter mischief-maker McClean must face O'Neill
12/09/12

Northern Exposure: Trapattoni ready to go against instincts and unleash McClean
05/09/12

Northern Exposure: Toon Army can look forward to more top trips around Europe
28/08/12

Northern Exposure: All eyes on the future after solid start for Newcastle
21/08/12

Northern Exposure: Promotion is a must this season for Middlesbrough
14/08/12

Northern Exposure: European adventure always welcome at St James' Park… and it is still St James' Park
07/08/12

Northern Exposure: O'Neill delves into his Clough memories in bid to lift Sunderland
31/07/12

Northern Exposure: All quiet in the north east… but things are about to get busy
24/07/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

But around the enigma of Ba, who declined the opportunity to be interviewed by the written press at Goodison, are meddlers and parties who can’t keep their mouths shut.

Brother Hamady had already had a go at Pardew – and we don’t know if his sibling was aware of his pre-match Tweet – declaring the manager 'crazy' for daring to leave Ba on the bench. The fact Cisse can play and score a bit too is irrelevant apparently.

Now, agent Alex Gontran has informed the world that his his client 'does not understand the management' of Newcastle.

'Since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations, Demba doesn't understand the management,' said Gontran.

'If he continues to be a substitute all season, we'll look at other solutions.

'How could you put your best striker with full confidence on the left wing

'The choice to put Demba on the left last season was good for the club, because Cisse scored 13 goals.

'But there was a lack of recognition for Demba. It is more difficult to play well when you don't have the confidence of your staff.

'Demba is happy at Newcastle. He is playing in the Premier League, with lot of fellow French speakers and he loves the club's supporters.

'He would like to start every game but he respects the choice of the coach, even if he does not always understand or agree.'

Presumably this is the same agent who let the world know that Ba, who Newcastle and Pardew took a risk on last season, was available if clubs were prepared to trigger a 9million release clause.

Presumably this is the same agent who might have benefitted somewhat financially if that clause had been released. It wasn't.

Presumably therefore, he still remains interested in seeing if other clubs are still interested in his client and if 'other solutions' could still give him, and others, a nice little pay day.

Ba may not be particularly happy at Newcastle the moment, and he might not be the only one.

But presumably he'd agree with me that he should let his manager do his job, and he should carry on doing his, without interference from mouthy advisers who don’t have to face Pardew or put in a shift in a black and white shirt.

Something's up with Sessegnon

Talking of unhappy players, what’s up with Stephane Sessegnon

Last season’s Sunderland player of the year is a shadow of the player who was such a livewire under Martin O’Neill in his first six months in charge.

On Saturday, in the first half against Liverpool, there was even a Sessegnon first. He lost complete control of a simple pass, allowing it to bounce of his shin as if he was a Sunday Pub League player, not one of the most skilful to come out of Africa. O’Neill was apoplectic by the dug-out.

Clearly it is a problem the Sunderland manager didn’t expect to have but the magician from Benin has become an additional problem for O’Neill to ponder as he works on the likes of Johnson, Fletcher and McClean for a sustained period.

Something's up: Stephane Sessegnon has struggled to get started so far this season at Sunderland

Something's up: Stephane Sessegnon has struggled to get started so far this season at Sunderland

He said: 'It’s just not happening for him at the moment. Some of things you can put down to lack of fitness, other things you can put down to not brilliant play, really, because some of the things that you expect of him, like being able to keep the ball not giving it away early in the game.

'It wouldn’t have anything to do with fitness, you know. So he just needs to get sharper in every aspect, sharper in fitness and sharper in the brain, because we know what he’s capable of doing. But it’s been a tough old time for him.'

Yeah, tough old time. Adored on Wearside, just signed a new contract, given the freedom of the Premier League by a manager who took to him from the day he took over and who keeps him in that difficult position to manage and defend against, behind the lone striker. The heart hardly bleeds for the lad.

Something isn’t quite right though.

I wonder if O’Neill might even be prepared to drop him – and take the wrath of brothers, wives and agents (and supporters) in the process

Tell us a story, Woody

Someone needs to have a word with Jonathan Woodgate.

The Middlesbrough defender has ruled out writing an autobiography when he finishes playing, which is a real shame.

He has undoubtedly had a colourful career on and off the pitch, and had his fair share of highs and lows.

But in an interview with the Boro matchday programme, Redsquare at the weekend, the former England international said he wouldn't be putting pen to paper.

Head boy: Middlesbrough defender Jonathan Woodgate doesn't plan to release a book when he hangs up his boots

Head boy: Middlesbrough defender Jonathan Woodgate doesn't plan to release a book when he hangs up his boots

As one of the best talkers in the game, and one of the most honest, fans will miss a treat.

When asked he had ever been tempted to write a book, he said: 'No it's not something I am tempted to do. I've enjoyed my time in football. My career has been up and down because I have had a lot of injuries but I've also had great days and great opportunities.

'I've been lucky enough to play for some of the best clubs in the world so overall I can't complain.'
If he can finish his career by helping his home-town club get back into the Premier League, maybe he will be persuaded to change his mind.

Graeme Swann says England have been poor since being World No 1

We've been dismal since we reached No 1, admits Swann

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UPDATED:

06:40 GMT, 31 July 2012

Graeme Swann admitted England have been dismal since becoming the world’s No 1 Test team — a status they could relinquish at Headingley this week.

Andrew Strauss’s team head into the second match of this Investec Series against South Africa on the back of what Swann termed a ‘public humiliation’ at The Oval, knowing that a sixth defeat in 10 outings since reaching the pinnacle 11 months ago would see them deposed. As they have discovered, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

‘I don’t think as a unit it has affected us but I can’t deny the fact that since we’ve been No 1 we’ve a dismal record,’ Swann said. ‘Whether that goes hand in hand with being No 1, I don’t really know.

Not playing well: Graeme Swann says England have not played like a No 1 team for a while

Not playing well: Graeme Swann says England have not played like a No 1 team for a while

‘You need someone more qualified with the workings of the human mind.

‘We’re not doing anything differently. Perhaps that’s it: perhaps we’re not evolving quickly enough. Maybe there’s another level after going to No 1 that we haven’t reached yet.

Perhaps teams are hunting us down more, seeing us as a real threat now rather than underestimating us.

‘We need to get to the point where no matter how plucky opponents are they’re always in a dying cause. We need to stay No 1. I’m very proud of the fact we got there.’

To do so, England need to instigate
the kind of turnaround they produced in the 2009 Ashes, when they
shrugged off a crushing innings defeat in Leeds to complete a 2-1 win.
Like back then, team director Andy Flower broke protocol last week to
call a post-match debrief in the dressing room.

Dominated: Dale Steyn celebrates and gestures after dismissing Swann for his fifth wicket

Dominated: Dale Steyn celebrates and gestures after dismissing Swann for his fifth wicket

‘Sometimes the size 10 up the backside is what you need,’ said Swann.

‘It (the first Test) was a sort of public humiliation by the end of it, fielding that long and then getting skittled afterwards.’ Swann nevertheless believes England can hit back.

‘I am an eternal optimist and we can’t
possibly play as badly again. That meeting was very good, it brought a
lot of things to the surface.’

Another
break from the usual routine saw England net yesterday afternoon, three
days out. In contrast, South Africa captain Graeme Smith landed back on
these shores from witnessing the birth of his daughter.

On
Thursday, Swann will make his 44th consecutive England appearance at a
ground upon which South Africa have triumphed on their previous two
visits. However, with a recurring elbow problem plaguing him, Swann
concedes he may have to rest at some point to avert the need for
surgery.

Need to get better: Andrew Strauss and England could lose their No 1 spot if they are beaten in the second Test

Need to get better: Andrew Strauss and England could lose their No 1 spot if they are beaten in the second Test

‘If it keeps deteriorating I will undoubtedly have to miss some cricket. But it’s not really deteriorated in the last three or four weeks,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Swann is banking on Ravi Bopara to regain his England Test place. Bopara's defection from the squad for the upcoming Test came in mysterious circumstances, with the England and Wales Cricket Board citing only unspecified 'personal reasons'.

'It is sad for Rav,' the spinner said. 'He's been in brilliant nick – stupendous form, I think, until the Test match obviously.

'I was backing him to score heavily this summer, because of the way he'd been playing in those one-dayers. He just seemed to have found something. He will be back – this won't be it, for him. I'd put my mortgage on it.'

Investec, specialist bank and asset manager, are the title sponsors of Test match cricket. Visit investec.co.uk/cricket for player analysis, stats, match info and games.

London 2012 Olympics: Yohan Blake exclusive

EXCLUSIVE: Meet The Beast, Jamaica's new kid on the blocks

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UPDATED:

01:55 GMT, 28 July 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
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MEDALS TABLE

Yohan Blake looks shorter, slighter and utterly unremarkable in some oversized white shorts worn low on his backside, non-matching brightly hooped socks, and a red and blue hoodie intermittently pulled over his head.

He sits on the edge of a bench beside a running track in Lucerne, Switzerland, facing the last rays of the dusk sun as they slip behind the mountain that itself peeps over the stadium.

He does not appear anything special among the other athletic, young black men who are finishing their work for the day.

But he is. He is the fastest man in the
world this year, the man who is focused on beating his close friend,
training partner and living legend Usain Bolt in the 100 metres final at
the Olympic Stadium on August 5.

He has come here for his final pre-Games
race. We meet on the infield as he and his group jest in their Jamaican
patois and laugh raucously. The private joke involves a mobile phone
call and the recurring refrain, ‘That’s my boy’. It is not meant for
British ears. These boys are in a zone of their own.

The Beast is loose: Yohan Blake has set the cat among the pigeons in the world of sprinting

The Beast is loose: Yohan Blake has set the cat among the pigeons in the world of sprinting

The Beast is loose: Yohan Blake has set the cat among the pigeons in the world of sprinting

An hour later, after dinner in his hotel, Blake is changed into jeans and T-shirt to sit down with the man from Sportsmail. Now he talks so softly he is barely audible from two feet away. He is reserved, perhaps shy and certainly unshowy.

It makes him something approaching the anti-Bolt. But when the subject of the 100m final comes up, he reveals his quiet intensity.

‘I eat, sleep, think, walk and pray about it. The Olympic final is the crme de la crme. Why wouldn’t it dominate my mind at every moment

‘I close my eyes and dream about it. I give it everything. That is why I am The Beast. My philosophy is: when I am working, other guys are sleeping. I never stop working. I want to be the best.’

The Beast is the name Bolt gave him after he ran the second fastest 200m time in history — 19.26sec — in Brussels last year. It completed a dazzling summer in which Blake also won the world 100m gold in Daegu, South Korea, following Bolt’s disqualification for leaving the blocks early.

Centre of attention: Blake is unbeaten in 2012 and has twice beaten Olympic champion Usain Bolt

Centre of attention: Blake is unbeaten in 2012 and has twice beaten Olympic champion Usain Bolt

Centre of attention: Blake is unbeaten in 2012 and has twice beaten Olympic champion Usain Bolt

Before that Brussels run, Bolt called him Junior, recognition of the young and determined pretender he had identified as a potential rival three years ago. Blake turned 22 last Boxing Day.

‘It means Jesus Christ is one day older than me,’ he jokes. It is not blasphemous. He is a devout Christian who begins every day with a few minutes of quiet worship.

‘My parents, my whole family are religious,’ he says. ‘That is why I am a quiet man. But on the track I am different.’

Bolt, 26 next month, is not a fervent religious observer. It is Bolt’s faith in himself – and the world’s in him – that is at the heart of the next edition of the Olympics’ shortest and most famous race.

We wonder if it was Blake’s pace that pressured Bolt, in the lane beside him and possibly knowing he needed a fast start to be sure of victory, into his error at the World Championships.

We wonder if the fact that Blake beat him at the Jamaican trials last month at both the 100m and 200m is indicative of what we can expect in London.

Can Bolt recapture the form he showed in 2008 and 2009 If so, he is surely unbeatable. But confusion surrounds the great man’s fitness after he failed to show for a public training session at their camp in Birmingham this week.

Friends... and rivals: Blake was part of Jamaica's world record breaking 4x100m team in Daegu with Bolt

Friends… and rivals: Blake was part of Jamaica's world record breaking 4x100m team in Daegu with Bolt

Blake, who won his final race in a comfortable 9.85, plays a couple of psychological hands.

‘Being unbeaten this year is an important thing,’ he says. ‘It gives me a mental edge. It will be in every athlete’s mind.’

It will get them frustrated. He is also unfazed by the new, shorter starting blocks that Bolt has complained about, saying: ‘It doesn’t bother me. When I get out of the blocks, I am OK. I am The Beast.’

He turns to Bolt admiringly.

‘I am his friend,’ he says of his fellow member of the Kingston-based Racers Track Club, the group run by the avuncular if all-powerful Glen Mills, or Coach Mills as he is universally known.

‘Usain and I have business on the track but we have chemistry. We are a team in training. We talk life. We talk about our aspirations. We talk about cricket. We talk girls. We talk man to man. He talks about keeping focus. We have dinner, everything. He offers me advice. He always has and he still does.’

Happy and glorious: Blake

Happy and glorious: Blake

Talk of a rift appears wide of the mark. The two men come from the same world — the third world of Jamaica, where rural life is a million miles from the sandy pictures in holiday brochures. Blake grew up in Bogue Hill, near Montego Bay, in Penury.

‘Nothing was easy,' he recalls. ‘It was nice but a hard, hard life and that drives me on now.’

Bolt was raised in Trelawny, where his father Gideon still sells groceries out of a hole in the wall of his little shop. Both skipped school and loved cricket.

Bolt has been known to take the wicket of star all-rounder Chris Gayle and then hit him for six at the first-class Discovery Bay ground. Blake idolised England’s James Anderson, hoping to be a bowler before realising that his extraordinary speed outstripped his ability to swing the ball.

He took up athletics at 16 and two years later joined Coach Mills’ Racers squad at Kingston’s University of the West Indies.

One question must be addressed. It was not long after moving to Racers that Blake tested positive for methylxanthine. He was cleared of wrongdoing on the not unreasonable basis that the stimulant was not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list, though it was later added.

Nonetheless, the Jamaican Anti-Doping Commission curiously banned him for three months and he missed the 2009 World Championships. Blake claims to have ingested the drug inadvertently in an energy supplement.

It was often found in products, such as nasal sprays, under a different name. Other athletes, including South African rugby players Bjorn Basson and Chiliboy Ralepelle, also tested positive at around that time. Blake has moved on but for some the suspicions will linger.

‘I keep God near to me,’ he told me. ‘He is the one who made this possible. People in Jamaica come up to talk to me. I really enjoy speaking to them. I like being able to make a difference and show them what is possible.

‘There are a lot of athletes in Jamaica who came from the sort of background I came from, and that is why they strive so hard to achieve their dreams. I want to be a role model. I want to do charity work. I want to motivate people off the track. If I can help them, why not’

First his quest for three golds in London — the 100m, 200m and 4x100m across seven races.

‘I am a man of surprises,’ he adds. ‘I surprised people in Daegu. I surprised them in Brussels. I can surprise them in London. You never know what can happen.’

So spoke the Beast who would be King.

Yohan Blake v Usain Bolt

South Africa will miss Mark Boucher: Nasser Hussain

South Africa will miss talisman Boucher… England are now favourites for series

PUBLISHED:

22:54 GMT, 10 July 2012

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UPDATED:

22:58 GMT, 10 July 2012

South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher announced his retirement from international cricket following an eye operation after he was hit by a flying bail at Taunton on Monday. The tourists have confirmed batsman AB de Villiers will take the gloves for the first Test at The Kia Oval. Former England captain Nasser Hussain remembers one of cricket’s toughest competitors…

My abiding memory of Mark Boucher will be of the incredible character he brought to the South Africa side for the best part of a decade and a half.

He was the kind of bloke you hated playing against because he could be a right pain in the backside, chirping away behind the stumps and always in your face.

But that also made him exactly the sort of player you’d want in your own side: he was feisty, up for it and extremely proud. He hated losing.

Fierce competitor: Mark Boucher voices his opinion against Nasser Hussain in Cape Town in 1999

Fierce competitor: Mark Boucher voices his opinion against Nasser Hussain in Cape Town in 1999

I played in three Test series against
him and the only time I ever remember him going quiet was when he
dropped a sitter off me at Trent Bridge in 1998.

Allan Donald had just been denied the
wicket of Mike Atherton, who had pretty obviously gloved him behind. So
when I nicked off and Boucher shelled it, Donald went berserk.

In fairness to Donald, he ran all the
way from fine leg in the next over to give his keeper a cuddle but, for
a few overs, Boucher went very quiet indeed.

Larger than life character: Boucher dives in training at the Wanderers last year

Larger than life character: Boucher dives in training at the Wanderers last year

It was moments like that which made
you realise his value to the team, because the rest of the time he was
the life and soul of any South Africa fielding effort. He’d have his big
mate Jacques Kallis to chat to in the slips and he was a source of
great advice for the captain, Graeme Smith.

In fact, I think that he and Kallis
began this tour of England as South Africa’s two hardest cricketers to
replace. It’s the pair of them who have allowed South Africa to play
four seamers — including Kallis — and six proper batsmen.

Mark Boucher: Top keeping for 15 years

In Boucher’s case, his status as a
genuine all-rounder has been invaluable. He was in the mould of a Matt
Prior or an Adam Gilchrist — not quite as destructive with the bat,
perhaps, but you always knew that, if you had South Africa 150 for five,
you still had to get past Boucher.

He loved a scrap and that’s what made him so important in England-South Africa Tests, which have traditionally been very close.

I remember the Durban Test on the 1999-2000 Tour, when I asked them to follow on. Boucher
came in as nightwatchman in their second innings and helped Gary
Kirsten save the game with a hundred. It was typical Boucher — full of
fighting spirit.

As a keeper he was good without being
spectacular, although it’s hard to argue with 555 Test catches and
stumpings, easily a world record.

He didn’t have many high-class
spinners to stand up to but he was totally reliable standing back: that
Trent Bridge drop was a real aberration.

However, the best thing I can say about him is that he’s the kind of guy whose value you really appreciate only once he’s gone.

People have forgotten the role he’s
played in keeping South African heads up over the years, in balancing
the side and in scoring crucial runs in tight games.

Along with Smith and Kallis, he’s basically run that team for the last 15 years.

I think South Africa are really going
to miss him in the weeks ahead — to the extent that I now make England
marginal favourites to win the three-Test series and stay on top of the
world rankings.