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England U21 v Austria U21 live from Amex Stadium

LIVE: England U21 v Austria… follow all the action from the Amex Stadium

By
Charlie Skillen

PUBLISHED:

19:15 GMT, 25 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

19:44 GMT, 25 March 2013

Follow Sportsmail's coverage of England U21's clash with Austria at Brighton's Amex Stadium, with kick-off at 7.45.

Having wrapped up a record eighth win on the bounce – every one a clean sheet – with a comfortable 3-0 win over Romania on Thursday night, Stuart Pearce's men are going for cloud nine tonight.

It's the final chance for England's young lions to impress in a bid to make this summer's European championships in Israel.

Join the debate by Tweeting @charlieskillen or you can email me your views at [email protected]

19:43 …and here's God Save the Queen.

19:41 Kick-off is in about five minutes, we're just hearing the Austrian national anthem…

19:39 Stuart Pearce just spoke to ESPN before the game about the side's lead-up to the match and the make-up of tonight's team:

'We've had a brilliant week,' said Pearce.

'After Thursday, the way the players have been in training has been outstanding.

'We need to top off the week with a good result and a good performance here.'

On not selecting usual captain Jordan Henderson for tonight's starting line-up:

'I know what Jordan can do. He's an outstanding player and leader of men at this level and I'm not sure how much I would learn from playing him here.

'It was more important to keep Nathaniel Chalobah in the side after what he did on Thursday.'

That seems like Henderson is a certainty to be part of a growing Liverpool contingent in Pearce's squad.

19:26 And let's not forget – victory here will be Stuart Pearce's side's ninth on the spin. Friday's triumph over Romania sealed a record eighth win, and the young Lions have achieved that without conceding a single goal. More of the same tonight, please…

19:25 The action for England U21s this summer in Israel kicks off on June 5 when they face Italy, before playing Norway on June 8 and facing the hosts June 11. Performances in this game will be key to making up the squad that travels to the tournament.

19:18 So Wilfried Zaha is not in the squad tonight – but he's a dead cert for the European Championships squad. He's returned to Crystal Palace for dental work. This gives a chance for the more borderline players to make an impact before Stuart Pearce names his squad for the summer tournament in Israel.

19.15 Evening everyone, and welcome to Sportsmail's live coverage of England U21s clash with Austria.

Kick-off is in about half an hour, but let's start with tonight's line-up:

England Jason Steele, Andre Wisdom, Danny Rose, Jason Lowe, Tom Lees, Craig Dawson (capt), Andros Townsend, Nathaniel Chalobah, Connor Wickham, Jonjo Shelvey, Raheem Sterling.

Subs Adam Smith, Jack Butland, Jack Robinson, Nathaniel Clyne, Michael Keane, Jordan Henderson, Josh McEachran, Nathan Delfouneso, Marvin Sordell, Tom Carroll.

Romania Richard Strebinger, Florian Neuhold, Kevin Wimmer, Tobias Kainz, Michael Sabitzer, Raphael Holzhauser (capt) Robert Zulj, Patrick Farkas, Simon Piesinger, Lukas Spendlhofer

Subs Christoph Riegler, Christian Schilling, Martin Ziegl, Daniel Offenbacher, Michael Grogoritsch, Mattias Maak, Dominik Starkl.

Young gun: Nathaniel Chalobah is making his second start for the U21s

Young gun: Nathaniel Chalobah is making his second start for the U21s

Michael van Gerwen beats James Wade to book place in World Darts final

Mighty Mike hits maximum on the way to booking final place after seeing off Wade

PUBLISHED:

22:36 GMT, 30 December 2012

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UPDATED:

22:36 GMT, 30 December 2012

Michael van Gerwen tonight reached the Ladbrokes World Championship final and went agonisingly close to historic back-to-back nine-dart finishes in his semi-final win over James Wade.

Van Gerwen was leading three sets to one but trailing 2-0 in the fifth set when he produced a perfect leg, matching the achievement of Dean Winstanley earlier in the tournament.

The Dutchman hit a maximum 180, 177 and then finished 144 on double 12 to send the Alexandra Palace crowd wild.

Cloud nine: Michael van Gerwen hit a perfect nine dart finish on the way to booking his place in the final

Cloud nine: Michael van Gerwen hit a perfect nine dart finish on the way to booking his place in the final

And the fans were still on their feet moments later when the speedy right-hander hit two more maximums to start the next leg and narrowly missed double 12 for a checkout on 141.

Remarkably, Van Gerwen did not even win the set, with Englishman Wade holding his nerve to win the fifth leg and reduce his deficit.

The left-hander won the next set as well to make it 3-3, but Van Gerwen regained his composure to open up a 5-3 lead and looked set to seal the win when he needed 52 to win the ninth set.

In top form: Van Gerwen has looked at his very best in the World Championships

In top form: Van Gerwen has looked at his very best in the World Championships

However, he hit single five instead of 12 and ended up missing his only dart at double 20, allowing Wade in to make it 5-4.

Wade was unable to take further advantage though, Van Gerwen racing through the next set 3-0 to complete a hard-fought 6-4 victory.

On the money: Van Gerwen celebrates his perfect leg

On the money: Van Gerwen celebrates his perfect leg

'It was unbelievable,' Van Gerwen said. 'It was a very difficult game for me because Wade is a very slow player and I had not beaten him on TV, but it was a nice one to win.”

Asked about attempting to hit his second nine-dart finish, Van Gerwen added on Sky Sports 1: 'I was very concentrated, thinking 'Just carry on' because I was 2-1 down in the set and I still lost it, but it's not about nine-dart finishes, it's about winning games.

'It's nice to be in the final of the World Championships.'

Beaten man: James Wade looks dejected after losing the semi final

Beaten man: James Wade looks dejected after losing the semi final

Christmas gift ideas for sports fans

Still not started your Christmas shopping Let us help with our selection of perfect gift ideas for the sports fans in your life

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UPDATED:

14:51 GMT, 14 December 2012

We're half way through December, what do you mean you haven't started your Christmas shopping

It would be pretty shoddy if there weren't millions of us in the same situation. But don't worry, help is at hand.

Sportsmail has picked out a selection of gift ideas for the sports fan in your life and there's just enough time to visit the High Street or get your order in before the big day.

FOR THE DAREDEVIL

iON Air Pro Wi-Fi Camera

There are few things better than the adrenaline rush of tearing down the ski slopes – but this is no place for expensive camera equipment if you want to record the memories.

However, the new iON Air Pro Wi-Fi camera is lightweight and compact enough to capture every hair-raising moment.

Capturing the action: The compact and lightweight iON Air Pro Wi-Fi Camera is designed for use on the ski slopes

Capturing the action: The compact and lightweight iON Air Pro Wi-Fi Camera is designed for use on the ski slopes

Weighing just 130g, its wide angle lens can record video in High Definition 1080p resolution and take high quality 5 mega pixel stills.

The manufacturers say it can be attached to a ski helmet, while other daredevils can use it on their bike handlebars or a snowboard.

High adrenaline: The camera can be attached to a ski helmet, snowboard or the handlebar of a mountain bike

High adrenaline: The camera can be attached to a ski helmet, snowboard or the handlebar of a mountain bike

And it also comes into its own in this socially connected world by allowing instant upload of pics and video to Facebook and Twitter through the iON CLOUD, which offers 8GB of free storage.

299 – Available from Selfridges (London and Manchester), Comet, Amazon.co.uk, Tesco.com and iontheaction.co.uk. The free smart phone App for wireless uploading of footage to social media sites can be downloaded from iTunes

FOR THE ARMCHAIR SPORTS FAN

LG 55-inch OLED TV

True armchair sports fans shouldn't settle for second best when it comes to watching the big match action – it needs to be live, loud and in high definition pixel-popping glory. With an increasing number of matches now in 3D, it must be able to handle that too.

And LG claim their 55-inch OLED TV is the best on the market right now, offering an immersive experience for watching sport.

Slimline: The LG 55-inch OLED is a market-leader in offering an immersive 3D sports watching experience

Slimline: The LG 55-inch OLED is a market-leader in offering an immersive 3D sports watching experience – and it's just 44m thick

Remarkably, it's just 4mm thick and weighs 10kg. But inside this lightweight frame is the latest 3D cinema technology and full compatibility for all the latest Smart TV offerings such as on demand services like BBC iPlayer and LOVEFiLM via wireless internet.

It comes with seven pairs of 3D glasses so everyone can come round to watch the big sporting occasions.

Currently 2,299 at Currys

FOR THE MAN WHO LIKES TO LOOK HIS BEST

it’s always important to look your best and that means keeping on top of that facial hair before it becomes wild and unsightly. Luckily, there are a couple of new products that are just the job.

Braun Series 5

Nobody wants to spend any longer than necessary shaving in the morning and so the new Braun shaver is perfect for men in a hurry. Its flexible head goes easier on the skin, causing less irritation, while the powerful motor masters even tricky flat-lying hairs.

The mid-range 5040s can also be used in the shower with foams and gels. The products come with a Clean&Charge Station which both lubricates and charges the shaver at the touch of a button.

RRP 159.99-199.99 – Boots are running a third-off these prices in a promotion on the Braun range until December 31st

Braun Series 5 shaver

Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler

Close shave: The Braun Series 5 shaver (left) and the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler are the must have grooming accessories this Christmas

Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler

Particularly useful if you’re going for a certain look, Gillette’s first three-in-one grooming tool allows accurate trimming and precision edging. It combines Braun engineering and a selection of razor heads depending on your preference, all with lubricated strips to reduce irritation.

20 – All leading electrical retailers

FOR THE GAMERS

FIFA 13 Bonus Edition

It's a testament to the enduring popularity of the FIFA series that 4.5m copies of the latest edition flew off the shelves in the first five days after launch.

A must-have for the gamer in the family, FIFA 13 comes with the usual raft of innovations, which have revolutionised dribbling, ball control and physical battles.

The result is a simulation more realistic than ever, capturing all the drama and unpredictability of the real game.

The all-new Bonus Edition comes with 2200 FIFA points, enough to buy up to 22 gold packs in FIFA Ultimate Team.

47.99 from Game

fifa 13

EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13

Top games: The EA Sports titles, FIFA 13 (left) and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 are a must for every sports fan

Tiger
Woods PGA Tour 13

Another must-have game title which continues to get better year-after-year, the 2013 instalment of EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour allows players to take full control over their swing.

All-new tempo, swing plane and shot power controls, as well as an adjustable shot setup, allow infinite shot types with just one club.

Golf fans will be immersed in faithful reproductions of some of the world's best courses and can play as any one of 22 PGA Tour golfers, including Tiger and Rory McIlroy.

From 15.99 at Game

Madden NFL 13

Madden NFL 13

Completing out hat-trick of must-own games in Madden 13, which
once again pushes the boundaries of what NFL fans expect from their gaming
experience.

The passing system has been completely stripped down and
redesigned, while the all-new read and react defensive system offers
intelligent and realistic defense.

EA's 'Physics You Can Feel' Infinity engine accurately portrays
player collisions to ensure no two plays ever look the same.

And to top it all, Madden NFL 13 Ultimate Team provides a
free-to-play game mode that perfectly combines Madden NFL Football, fantasy
football, and player trading cards.

37.99 at Game

FOR THE GOLFER

Dunlop NZ9 Driver

The Dunlop NZ9 Driver has a 460cc full titanium constructed head, a white anti-glare finish which helps alignment for straighter, more accurate shots and a 'Gecko-Tac' grip for a superb amount of grip no matter what the weather conditions.

It also features Aeroskin technology which reduces drag and increases distance.

From 54.99 – Sports Direct and sportsdirect.com

Dunlop NZ9 Driver

Dunlop Tour Elite 1 putter

Better game: Dunlop's NZ9 Driver (left) and Tour Elite 1 Putter (right) will be gratefully received by any golfer

Dunlop Tour Elite 1
Putter

The stainless steel
Dunlop Tour Elite Putter also features a white anti-glare finish to ensure you
are not distracted whilst taking your putt.

It also features a
polymer face insert for a soft, controlled strike, alignment markings and a
'Gecko-Tac' grip for a soft and comfortable feel.

From 19.99 – Sports
Direct and sportsdirect.com

Dunlop Tour Elite Cart Bag

With a 14-way divider and eight zipped pockets, this bag
is the ideal way for keeping your clubs and accessories organised.

Other features include umbrella storage, touch and close
glove holder, padded shoulder strap and grab handles for ease of
transportation.

From 32 – Sports Direct and sportsdirect.com

Celtic
Manor gift vouchers

The world class resort and golf course are offering a new set of gift vouchers for 2013, ranging from 18 holes on the championship course which hosted the 2010 Ryder Cup to a romantic weekend break. They include:

– Winter Golf Experience (39) – Enjoy a warming breakfast of tea, coffee and a bacon roll before heading out to play 18 holes. Top it all off with a hearty two course meal in the Lodge Brasserie.

– PGA Professional Video Golf Tuition (45) – Perfect for everyone, from absolute beginners to those hoping to improve their game, with the help of the latest technology and expert tuition from PGA professionals.

– Overnight stay for two at The Newbridge on Usk (100) – Enjoy a night of luxury at this intimate country inn nestled in the heart of the picturesque village of Tredunnock. Oh, and a few rounds of golf.

More details here.

Beautiful: Golfers of all abilities can enjoy a round at Celtic Manor for an affordable price next year

Beautiful: Golfers of all abilities can enjoy a round at Celtic Manor for an affordable price, while your other half can relax in the resort's pool and spa (below)

Celtic Manor pool and spa

Slazenger AERO V98 Tour Racket

FOR TENNIS PLAYERS

Slazenger AERO V98 Tour Racket (for men)

Pictured right

This racket is perfect for those who enjoy a casual Sunday morning knockabout to the more serious climbing a club ladder.

Its aerodynamic head enables a faster swing speed and greater manoeuvrability, while the unique 'Squoval' frame allows you to generate phenomenal amounts of spin.

Current ATP Tour players Jamie Murray and Ross Hutchins both use the AERO V98 Tour racket whilst British Legend and Slazenger ambassador, Tim Henman, joins the doubles experts in endorsing the new Slazenger AERO racket range.

From 109.99 – available at store.slazenger.com

Slazenger AERO V100 Team (for men and women)

This light weight racket is designed for intermediate to advanced players with medium swing speeds. This racket offers bags of power and access to spin through an ultra-aerodynamic headshape which allows it to slice through the air with the minimum of effort. The Penta X-Section in the throat of the racket adds extra control and stability.

Available at store.slazenger.com

FOR CRICKETERS

Slazenger V200 Elite Cricket Bat

Endorsed by pros Jacques Kallis and Tim Bresnan, the V200 Elite offers the perfect balance between power and control.

Its 'lowered middle' is brilliant for batsmen who like to play attacking strokes.

From 150.00 – available at store.slazenger.com

Slazenger Elite Batting Pads

Slazenger say this is the ultimate pad to help protect you at the crease – its lightweight and agile, and yet doesn't compromise on protection.

It also comes with quick release pads in case you're promoted up the order or there's an unfortunate batting collapse.

From 52.99 – available at store.slazenger.com

Slazenger Ultimate V180 Holdall

Again recommended by the professionals, this wheeled and reinforced cricket bag allows you to carry all your equipment in comfort and style.

The Ultimate V180 comes with three main compartments for playing equipment, after-match clothing and another with room for three bats in a padded storage section.

From 60.00 – available at store.slazenger.com

Plenty of room: The Slazenger Ultimate V180 Holdall comes with three compartments - for bats, whites and other equipment

Plenty of room: The Slazenger Ultimate V180 Holdall comes with three compartments – for bats, whites and other equipment

FOR FOOTBALLERS

Adidas Predator LZ TRX Boots

As worn by dozens of Premier League footballers, including Steven Gerrard and Robin Van Persie, the Predator boot remains up there among the best on the market.

The latest offering is the LZ TRX, which comes with a super-soft upper bringing together the benefits of leather and synthetic materials.

Its technology has five 'lethal zones' to ensure the ball never slips away from your touch.

Top of the range RRP is 160 but cheaper versions are available – SportsDirect.com

Adidas Predators

Adidas Predators

Market leader: The latest Adidas Predator is worn by Steven Gerrard and Robin Van Persie, among others

Bit of a Blur: Under Armour's new boots

Under Armour Blur II Boots

They're a relative newcomer to the boots market but Under Armour have been bold in their first designs.

The Blur (pictured, right), an explosion of black, yellow and blue, is a prime example and they claim the moulded 4D foam technology provides the snuggest fit ever.

80 from Under Armour

Sondico Legend Pro Roll Spiral Goalkeeping Gloves

Sondico has used all its nous from years of supplying the likes of Peter Shilton and Neville Southall with top quality gloves to design the Legend Pro Roll Spiral.

It features an elasticated wrist cuff for comfortable fit, and 'Superior Regenerating Grip' technology for a firm grip in all weather conditions.

From 35.00 – available at sportsdirect.com

Adidas Sequencials Adiviz Half-zip Long sleeve sweatshirt

FOR LOVERS OF THE GREAT OUTDOORS/THOSE ON NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS

Adidas Sequencials Adiviz Half-zip Long sleeve sweatshirt

Perfect for runners of all levels, this sweatshirt features the Adidas patented FORMOTION design to allow freedom of movement and CLIMALITE fabric for wicking sweat out of your way.

Until the nights pull out, it's high-visibility reflective details and glow-in-the-dark piping allow you to be seen and safe.

40 – www.adidas.com/running

Adidas TERREX Fast R MID Gore-Tex mountaineering boot

Despite being supremely comfortable and lightweight, the TERREX boot still provides the necessary grip on both wet and dry surfaces thanks to its Continental rubber compound sole.

In the heel, the FORMOTION system comprises of two overlapping plates which can slide forward, back and to the side depending on ground conditions to reduce strain on the joints.

The MID version is ideal for fast day tours. There's a choice of colours and designs too.

140 – www.adidas.com/outdoor

Great outdoors: For single-day fast mountain runs, Adidas offer the TERREX Fast R MID Gore-Tex boot at 140

Great outdoors: For single-day fast mountain runs, Adidas offer the TERREX Fast R MID Gore-Tex boot at 140

FOR THE URBAN CYCLIST

Kansi

With congestion charges and rising rail fares, there's never been a better time to invest in a fold-up bike for the daily commute.

And the Kansi is one of the best options out there. The mechanism is so lithe it can be folded up in under 10 seconds and when on the road, it offers identical steering and handling to a normal road bike.

The Kansi can be customised with coloured stickers to make it something absolutely unique and personal.

Prices range from 525-875 – www.kansi.co.uk

The new commute: The Kansi bike can be folded up in under 10 seconds and still maintains the stability of a standard road bike

The new commute: The Kansi bike can be folded up in under 10 seconds and still maintains the stability of a standard road bike

Union34 luggage and clothing

Designed with the urban cyclist in mind, Union34's range of versatile bags can be used equally comfortably on or off the bike.

The UK-designed range offers three different types – a rucksack pannier, shoulder pannier and a traditional rucksack.

The latter is designed to fit onto a bike using a unique quick-release fixing bracket.

Available from Amazon

Luggage: Union34 have designed a selection of bags for the urban cyclist

Luggage: Union34 have designed a selection of bags for the urban cyclist

German FA get tough on crowd trouble and BAN Dynamo Dresden from DFB-Pokal cup

German FA get tough on crowd trouble and BAN Dresden from cup (… and isn't it time the FA followed suit)

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UPDATED:

17:02 GMT, 11 December 2012

If the FA are searching for some guidance on the way to deal with the violence, racism and sickening chanting blighting English football grounds, then they need look no further than their German counterparts.

The German Football Association (DFB) have excluded second division club Dynamo Dresden from the German equivalent of the FA Cup for one season as a punishment for persistent crowd disturbances at matches.

Dynamo Dresden will not be permitted to compete in the DFB-Pokal next season after their supporters set off flares and caused damages in the second round clash against Hannover at the Nierdersachsenstadion in October.

Dead serious: Dynamo Dresden fans demonstrate against the DFB measures

Dead serious: Dynamo Dresden fans demonstrate against the DFB measures

'The punishment for Dresden boils down to the many previous incidents and the extent of the disturbances at the cup game in Hannover,' said the DFB's sports court judge Hans E. Lorenz.

'Such attacks on stadia are attacks on football in general which require consequential action.

'Last year, we warned them explicitly that they risked being excluded from the competition after incidents in Dortmund.'

At Dortmund last year, a 200-strong mob of Dresden fans invaded the pitch after their team lost a penalty shootout, while a series of clashes took place between the rival fans outside of the stadium.

And the Germans have had enough. So they have acted to prevent any repeat.

FA must follow German lead and stamp out this cancer

The German FA's action against Dynamo Dresden is a powerful stance. And one which sends out a message to say that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

On a weekend that saw shame’s dark
cloud once again inhabit English football at the Etihad Stadium, is it
time that the English FA followed the stance taken by their German
friends and took a decidedly stronger position against such shameful
actions

During Sunday’s Manchester derby
alone, Manchester City fans launched blue flares onto the pitch, and
hurled coins at Manchester United players, one of which struck near Rio
Ferdinand’s eye.

If such thuggery was not already
damaging enough to the image of our national game, a 15-year-old boy has
also been arrested for allegedly sending racist tweets to Ferdinand.

Bloody mess: Rio Ferdinand after the shameful conclusion to the Manchester derby

Bloody mess: Rio Ferdinand was cut during the shameful conclusion to the Manchester derby

On the pitch, the players are hardly
setting the tone for better behaviour from the fans, with Gareth Barry
today charged by the FA for verbally abusing an official at the
Manchester derby.

It is not only Manchester City fans
and players at fault. All Premier League teams have those players who
scowl and swear viciously at referees, turning the television air blue
by mouthing expletives.

John Obi Mikel storming into Mark
Clattenburg’s changing room to confront the referee in the aftermath of
Chelsea’s 3-2 defeat in October merited more than the three-game
suspension that he received from the FA, regardless of any conviction he
may have held that he had been racially abused.

In the stands this season, Liverpool
fans have booed Patrice Evra, purely because he was the victim of racial
abuse at the hands of Luis Suarez, while Chelsea fans taunted Rio
Ferdinand because he is the brother of Anton, who suffered racial abuse dished out by John Terry.

Elsewhere, at Old Trafford, a
minority of Manchester United fans have sung about the Hillsborough
disaster and shamefully taunted Arsene Wenger, while a
section of West Ham fans informed Tottenham supporters that 'Adolf Hitler is
coming to get you…' in anti-Semitic chants last month.

The punishments have been timid to
non-existent. Referees continue to allow players to escape without
punishment for using offensive and abusive language, while the FA rarely
tackle the issue retrospectively.

Manchester United were not even
charged for the disgusting chants comparing Wenger to Jimmy
Savile while the FA are still yet to deliver a verdict on the
chants sung by West Ham.

It is not good enough. There are too
many honest fans who are passionate but law-abiding citizens,
whose good names are being besmirched by a minority of out-of-control
scum.

Perhaps it is time that the FA follow
the lead of the Germans and start to deal more convincingly with the
cancer poisoning English football.

Adam Crafton

Kevin Pietersen saga – the end for Andy Flower?

Pietersen comeback edges closer – but will saga spell the end for Flower

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UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 30 September 2012

Kevin Pietersen begins life as a free agent in a Colombo TV studio on Monday with his future still hanging like a dark cloud over all that England do.

It is still expected that as soon as England return home from the World Twenty20 they will announce that Pietersen has signed a new central contract to replace the one that expired on Sunday night.

But even that would be far from the end of this sorry story. In fact, it could be just the beginning.

Crabby: Pietersen posted a picture of himself on Twitter on Sunday enjoying a meal and he is expected to be back in the England fold soon

Crabby: Pietersen posted a picture of himself on Twitter on Sunday enjoying a meal and he is expected to be back in the England fold soon

So deep is the rift between Pietersen and some key figures in the England set-up that his re-integration into the team could be a long and painful process, whether it starts for the one-day series in India in the new year or, more likely, the full tour of New Zealand that begins in February.

Talks here in Sri Lanka between Pietersen and senior ECB figures, with the baton being passed from Hugh Morris to board chairman Giles Clarke last week, appear to have been largely productive – but it is what happens next that is key.

The ‘provocative’ text messages Pietersen sent to South African players during last summer’s Test series are still the biggest obstacle to him being fully welcomed back by coach Andy Flower and senior England players.

The whole saga seems to have weighed particularly heavily on Flower’s shoulders and his attitude towards having Pietersen back will be integral to any contractual resolution and a successful return to the team.

End of the road Flower has suffered from the saga

End of the road Flower has suffered from the saga

More to do: Pietersen's future is not yet resolved

More to do: Pietersen's future is not yet resolved

The biggest worry for the ECB is that Flower might have become so wearied by the shadow this crisis has cast over England that it will hasten the exit of the most successful and highly regarded coach they have ever had.

Then there is the matter of Alastair Cook being keen to appoint an official vice-captain ahead of England’s Test tour to India, a move that could have implications for the peace process because it is likely to be one of the senior players who are least inclined to want Pietersen back.

The players, of course, will just have to get on with it if they are told that Pietersen is to return. But every aspect of their attitude towards their erstwhile team-mate, and his to them, will be under scrutiny from the moment he sets foot in an England environment.

It will be the biggest examination yet of the team spirit and respect that Flower holds so dear.

On the surface there really should not be too much delaying a resolution now. Pietersen has apologised to Andrew Strauss for the messages and has insisted to England that he is committed to all forms of cricket.

But any announcement from Clarke over the next few days will be merely another chapter in a drama that will run and run.

England v South Africa: Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn restrict hosts

South Africa bite back as Morkel and Co restrict England on day two at The Oval

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UPDATED:

21:04 GMT, 20 July 2012

This was more like it, much more like the shootout between the world's best teams that we had been so looking forward to. If the first day of the battle to be ranked No 1 belonged to Alastair Cook and England, then on the second South Africa emphatically stood up to be counted.

The tourists, so disappointing at the start of this first Test when they looked undercooked and almost lethargic, were a totally different proposition on Friday, taking advantage of cloud cover and muggy conditions to strike back aggressively.

Suddenly, from 267 for three, England looked likely to crash to nearer 300 at The Kia Oval rather than the expected 500 as Dale Steyn relocated his mojo to once again, for five overs at least, look like the best bowler in the world.

Four of the best: Morkel was the pick of the South African bowlers - taking key wickets

Four of the best: Morkel was the pick of the South African bowlers – taking key wickets

England v South Africa

Click here full scoreboard

If it were not for a brilliant
counter-attack from Matt Prior, with support from Stuart Broad and
Graeme Swann, England would have squandered the excellence of Cook, who
could add just one to his 114 before being undone by Steyn.

As it was, Cook was the first of
seven England wickets to tumble yesterday while they were adding just
118, 60 of them to Prior who overcame a shaky start to take the attack
to South Africa and lead Andrew Strauss's side to 385.

It looked as if that would still be a
formidable score when Jimmy Anderson, as important to England as Steyn
is to South Africa, found swing from the off to trap Alviro Petersen in
front of his stumps. Yet, with England confident of making further
inroads, one of the many showers that had somehow been bypassing this
famous old ground hit The Oval and sent the players off for almost two
hours.

Early bath: Cook didn't last long after his century heroics on day one

Early bath: Cook didn't last long after his century heroics on day one

Early bath: Cook didn't last long after his century heroics on day one

When they returned the sting, and the
swing, seemed to have been taken out of the England attack. Graeme
Smith, who had endured a frustrating start to his 100th Test, averages
72 in England and again he proved his class as the hosts struggled to
maintain the bowlers' firm grip on the day as South Africa reached the
closed on 86 for one.

Hashim Amla is still there too, after
surviving a sharp chance to Strauss at slip off Ravi Bopara and his
side are now very much back in the opening salvo of this Investec
series. With the sun expected to shine for the rest of the match, they
will now be looking to at least reach first-innings parity with England.
Game very much on.

Earlier Allan Donald, South Africa's
bowling coach, had called for more aggression from his charges and
Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander responded. The tourists are
adamant that Steyn, complete with bandaged ankle and elbow, is fully fit
and, as the world's No 1 bowler came charging in to take the wickets of
Cook and Bopara in seven balls for no runs, it was easy to believe
them.

The 29-year-old, always happier
bowling against right-handers, had tried to replicate Morkel in a
roundthe- wicket attack on Cook on Thursday but he was much more potent
switching to over, swinging the ball late into the left-hander and
inducing an inside edge that clattered into his stumps.

And the rapid departure of Bopara
which followed was a huge personal setback for a batsman seemingly
destined to always be on trial. He came into the side on the back of an
excellent one-day series against Australia with the time having arrived
for him finally to dispel any lingering doubts about his temperament at
the highest level.

On fire: Kallis and Steyn were both in the wickets as the Proteas impressed with the ball on day two

On fire: Kallis and Steyn were both in the wickets as the Proteas impressed with the ball on day two

On fire: Kallis and Steyn were both in the wickets as the Proteas impressed with the ball on day two

Yet still they persist. Bopara
rightly survived a huge shout for lbw before he had scored but, far from
cashing in, his brain seemed scrambled as he pulled halfheartedly at
the very next ball from Steyn, tried to withdraw his bat but succeeded
only in edging through to AB de Villiers.

The pressure will be immense when
Bopara next bats. From total calm England seemed in a state of panic,
best summed up by Prior setting off for an impossible single which would
have led to the running out of Ian Bell had Petersen not rushed his
throw.

England seemed to have weathered the
storm when Steyn was withdrawn but where South Africa have a big
advantage over England is in the shape of Jacques Kallis. Arguably the
greatest all-rounder ever, Kallis showed his immense worth to Smith by
cranking up the pressure with four successive maidens and bowling Bell
with an in-ducker that trimmed the off bail.

England would surely have capitulated
had Jacques Rudolph held on to a low catch at gully offered by Prior on
17, but once Tim Bresnan had dragged on an Imran Tahir long-hop the
wicketkeeper switched from defence to attack.

Gloomy view: A heavy band of rain swept in mid-afternoon to curtail the action

Gloomy view: A heavy band of rain swept in mid-afternoon to curtail the action

Gloomy view: A heavy band of rain swept in mid-afternoon to curtail the action

Runs flowed after lunch as Steyn
disappeared for 29 in just four overs during a second spell in total
contrast to his first, his only encouragement coming when Swann was
struck on the helmet and deflected the ball for four leg-byes.

It needed Morkel to crush the
resistance by dismissing Prior and Anderson to end with four for 72,
Philander being rewarded for some smart bowling with another
bail-trimming dismissal, this time of Broad.

This slow and dry pitch can only
offer more turn as the Test goes on and England will want to make sure
it is the tourists who bat last.

Prior said: 'It's very easy to think
this was South Africa's day, but it was very attritional cricket and
they've only scored at two an over.

'If we can get two or three early
wickets, we'll be back in a strong position – 350 is a par score on that
wicket, so we're still in a very good position and there are some
encouraging signs for Swanny.'

Mixed bag: Anderson took Petersen's wicket early - but captain Smith looked in fine nick

Mixed bag: Anderson took Petersen's wicket early – but captain Smith looked in fine nick

Mixed bag: Anderson took Petersen's wicket early - but captain Smith looked in fine nick

Mixed bag: Anderson took Petersen's wicket early – but captain Smith looked in fine nick

Kallis masterclass

Frankie Dettori in danger of missing Epsom Derby

Dettori in danger of missing Derby as Barzalona is handed Mandaean ride for Dante Stakes

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UPDATED:

13:05 GMT, 15 May 2012

Frankie Dettori, the nation’s favourite Flat jockey, could be struggling for mounts in both the Investec Oaks and Derby, after his French colleague Mikael Barzalona was handed the ride for Godolphin’s No 1 Derby hope Mandaean in Thursday’s Dante Stakes at York.

Godolphin’s racing manager Simon Crisford insisted nothing should be read into the booking but Barzalona was also the man on board Goldolphin’s main Oaks hope Kailani when she won the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket’s Guineas meeting.

The booking will focus extra scrutiny on the jockey arrangements at Godolphin where long-serving Dettori now shares the mounts with Barzalona, who landed last year’s Derby on Fabre’s Pour Moi as a 19-year-old, plus Silvestre De Sousa.

In danger: Dettori has only missed one Derby in the last 20 years

In danger: Dettori has only missed one Derby in the last 20 years

Dettori, successful in the 2007 Derby with Authorized, has ridden in 19 Derbys and since his 1992 debut in the race only missed out on a ride once in 2000.

If twice-raced Mandaean, now trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni but who won the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud last year when with Andre Fabre, runs a sound Derby trial in the Dante, Barzalona, as the might in possession of the ride, would be expected to retain the mount, as he would be with Kailani.

Crisford said: ‘Sheik Mohammed wanted Mickael to ride Mandaean. There is no reason other than that.’

Dettori’s Epsom options are starting to look limited and opposition to Aidan O’Brien’s hot favourite Camelot equally thin on the ground.

Crisford confirmed that that two other Godolphin hopes prominent in the ante-post betting for the Derby – Encke and Swedish Sailor – miss the race leaving Mariner’s Cross as the stable’s only other possible Derby runner.

Happy memories: Barzalona rides Pur Moi to victory in last year's Derby

Happy memories: Barzalona rides Pur Moi to victory in last year's Derby

Mariner’s Cross won the Wood Ditton Stakes on his debut in April before being beaten a quarter of a length by Frankel’s brother Noble Mission in the Newmarket Stakes.

With trainer Sir Henry Cecil not declaring Noble Mission for the Dante, the focus in the last major Derby trial will be on Andrew Balding’s Bonfire, who was group one placed as a two-year-old, and John Gosden’s 2,000 Guineas sixth Fencing.

The seven-horse line-up also includes Camelot’s stablemate Ernest Hemingway plus Roger Varian’s Ektihaam, who is not entered in the Derby and will be ridden by Tadhg O’Shea in the absence of suspended Paul Hanagan.

The three-day York fixture opens on Tuesday when the focus is on the fillies in the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes.

Six contenders line-up with the focus on O’Brien’s group three-placed Twirl and, particularly, John Gosden-trained The Fugue.

The latter, who was a staying-on fourth in the 1,000 Guineas, runs in the colours of composer and impresario Lord Lloyd-Webber.

Papiss Cisse determined to fire Newcastle into the Champions League and provide for his family

Cisse aims to fire Newcastle into the Champions League… but says main aim is providing for his 70 family members

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UPDATED:

10:47 GMT, 22 April 2012

Papiss Cisse says he is focused on firing Newcastle into the Champions League but says his main goal in life is supporting his 70 family members in Senegal.

Cisse helped Newcastle to a win over Stoke on Saturday and as a result saw his side move into the top four.

But he admits his main aim in life is to provide for his family.

Revelation: Newcastle's Papiss Cisse was on target again against Stoke

Revelation: Newcastle's Papiss Cisse was on target again against Stoke

He told The Sun: ‘Football is everything to me and I don’t know what I would do without it. I am thankful to God for all he has given me and the luck I have had in fulfilling my dreams.

'I am very religious and I praise God for giving me the talent in football because without it my family may not have survived.

'Football was the light at the end of a tunnel that has allowed me to support them and give them a good life.

Toon time: The Newcastle players gather round Cisse after his goal

Toon time: The Newcastle players gather round Cisse after his goal

'I am from a large family. I was playing football in the streets from an early age with all my friends.

'I went to a good school but my family were not rich. I had to wait until I joined the local football academy before I owned my first pair of football boots.

'I’ve never forgotten where I came from and I am proud to help my family. I’m the only one who has the chance to help them financially.

'I have 65-70 relatives in Casamance in south Senegal. What should I do

Cloud nine: Cisse has had no problem adapting to the famous No 9 shirt at Newcastle

Cloud nine: Cisse has had no problem adapting to the famous No 9 shirt at Newcastle

'I’ve learnt to play football, so I can help now. I built the family a large house, I support the purchase of food and electricity and especially help out when someone is sick.’

Cisse who wears the famous Newcastle No 9 shirt believes that the club can qualify for Europe and become a force once again.

Cisse has scored 10 goals in just eight league starts for Newcastle and been one of the main reasons for their good form in recent weeks.

He added: ‘To wear the No 9 at any club is a challenge and a greater demand because the shirt is always associated with great stars.

'I know Shearer was a No 9 and a great forward. It is emotional to know I’m wearing such a famous shirt and because of that I want to succeed even more.

'We can finish in the top four in the league.

'The club deserves to be playing in Europe but the Champions League is one better than that and it is what we must aim for.’

Chris Cairns awarded 90k in damages after false match-fixing allegations

Ex-New Zealand skipper Cairns awarded 90k after false allegations of match-fixing

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UPDATED:

10:43 GMT, 26 March 2012

Damages: Cairns has been awarded 90,000

Damages: Cairns has been awarded 90,000

Former New Zealand cricket captain Chris Cairns has won 90,000 in libel damages over an accusation of match-fixing which he said turned his achievements to 'dust'.

The 41-year-old, who notched up the rare double of 200 wickets and 3,000 runs in his 62 Tests, had sued Lalit Modi, ex-chairman of Twenty20 franchise the Indian Premier League (IPL), over an 'unequivocal allegation' on Twitter in January 2010.

He was not at London's High Court for the ruling by Mr Justice Bean, who heard the case without a jury.

The
judge said that Modi had 'singularly failed' to provide any reliable
evidence that Cairns was involved in match-fixing or spot-fixing, or
even that there were strong grounds for suspicion that he was.

He said: 'It is obvious that an allegation that a professional cricketer is a match-fixer goes to the core attributes of his personality and, if true, entirely destroys his reputation for integrity.

Allegation: Cairns was accused of match-fixing

Allegation: Cairns was accused of match-fixing

'The allegation is not as serious as one of involvement in terrorism or sexual offences (to take two examples from recent cases). But it is otherwise as serious an allegation as anyone could make against a professional sportsman.'

Cairns said in a statement: 'Today's
verdict lifts a dark cloud that has been over me for the past two years.
I feel mixed emotions.

'Firstly, sadness that I should ever
have had to put myself, my friends and my family through this because of
one man's misdirected allegations.

'But I also feel great joy because my
past career has come through unscathed and remains intact and because I
had the courage to stand up in the highest court to defend my name.'

He added: 'Lastly, I feel great relief that I am able to walk into any cricket ground in the world with my head held high.'

The judge granted Modi permission to
appeal over the amount of damages but refused permission on the
question of liability, although Modi's lawyers are set to pursue that
application with the Court of Appeal direct.

He also ordered Modi to pay 400,000 on account of costs to Cairns' solicitors within 28 days.

The judge heard that Modi's tweet was picked up by cricket website Cricinfo. When Cairns complained, Cricinfo withdrew its report, paid damages and apologised – but Modi declined to apologise and pleaded justification, maintaining that the charge was true.

Cairns's case was that it was 'wholly untrue' and a very grave libel which could destroy all he had achieved over a distinguished 20-year career.

In evidence, he said: 'The defendant's allegations have also had a profound effect on my personal and private life.

'It put a strain on my marriage. It hurts that my wife may think that I am not the man she thought I was.

'It hurts me too that friends, many of whom are former cricketing foes, will question my integrity as a man and a sportsman and that all I achieved in the great game of cricket is dust.'

In 2007 and 2008, Cairns captained the Chandigarh Lions in three competitions in the Indian Cricket League (ICL), which flourished briefly before the ascendancy of the IPL.

The allegation made by Modi related to the second and third of these competitions, between March and April 2008 and October and November that year.

Chris Riley: Warrington helped me overcome grief

Warrington are helping me to deal with my grief, says Riley

Chris Riley has opened his heart about the personal anguish which has tormented him over the last year.

The Warrington winger was left devastated by the death of his mother, Amanda, ahead of the 2010 season.

But he says the full grief only caught up with him last summer, forcing a heart-to-heart with coach Tony Smith that reignited his love of rugby.

Opening up: Riley has revealed his grief and how his club helped him

Opening up: Riley has revealed his grief and how his club helped him

Riley, 24, told Sportsmail: 'I lost my mum in the off-season, and had a child soon after that. It was a tough year but it wasn't showing on the field.

'Not being able to show my little one to my mum was difficult, but Warrington's a great place to be and they gave me the time and space that I needed.

'But when it came to last season, I just didn't hit my straps. I went into a hole, and what had happened in 2010 probably caught up with me.'

Riley finished that season as an ever-present with 25 tries to his name, but was loaned out to Harlequins last year as he struggled to regain his form.

'I didn't know how to deal with it, but when I sat down and spoke with Tony he said I could come to him about anything, not just rugby league.

'I've made more of an effort with that this year. I now speak to him as a coach and a friend.

'Tony wants me to become more of a talker and a bit of a role model for the young lads coming through. I think I can do that and step my game up. I was in a hole last year and didn't know how to get out of it, but at the moment I'm on cloud nine.'

The flame-haired flyer looks certain to start against Bradford in Saturday's Stobart Super League clash, and added: 'I'm starting to believe a lot more in my ability. I'm laughing in training, there's a feel-good factor there and I just want to keep that going.'

Warrington are without influential hooker Michael Monaghan, but are still favourites to inflict a third successive home defeat on the inconsistent Bulls.