Tag Archives: glimmer

Shane Warne fit for Ashes for Australia against England

WARNEING: I'm fit for Ashes! Shane, 43, is in the shape of his life and ready to save Australia

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UPDATED:

22:48 GMT, 4 December 2012

Just when it seemed we could bid an
emotional farewell to the last of Australia's true greats with Ricky
Ponting's tearful retirement, up pops Shane Warne to flex his spinning
finger and tease us all over a possible Ashes comeback.

Warne chose the week of his latest
return to action in the Australian Big Bash Twenty20 competition with
the Melbourne Stars to say that he had 'absolutely no doubt' he could
bowl at Test level again.

The ball, it seems, is in his close
friend Michael Clarke's court and fizzing like a classic Warne
leg-break. Can he really be serious

Ashes to Ashes! Warne is willing to come out of retirement to face England once again

Ashes to Ashes! Warne is willing to come out of retirement to face England once again

Final Warne-ing: Would Shane's other half put a block on him playing England again

Final Warne-ing: Would Shane's other half put a block on him playing England again

Well, perhaps the greatest bowler
of them all, and almost as great a showman, has talked of comebacks
before but there has always been more than a hint of publicity stunt
about it.

Now, in the aftermath of Australia's crushing defeat by South
Africa in Perth, he again chose to provide a glimmer of hope to a
slightly desperate nation.

If the Australian captain gives him a call,
Warne insists he will respond. 'If your best friend says, “Mate, I want
you to seriously consider making a commitment to Australian cricket by
coming out of retirement”, that's a different scenario,' said Warne.

'Especially with back-to-back Ashes series coming up next year. It could
be a 12-month thing where you take three spinners with you and say,
“Righto, work with these spinners and see how you go”. That's a
different kettle of fish.'

Nemesis: Warne took great delight in bowling England over time and again

Nemesis: Warne took great delight in bowling England over time and again

Nemesis: Warne took great delight in bowling England over time and again

Ball of the century: Mike Gatting was bowled all ends up in 1993

Ball of the century: Mike Gatting was bowled all ends up in 1993

So is this what you might call a
'come-and-get-me plea' 'I'm definitely not asking for Michael Clarke to
come out and say that,' conceded Warne.

'You asked me if I felt I could
still play international cricket, if I wanted to just turn up, do my
bowling and if the first Test was in three weeks, do you think I could
play

'I'd have no hesitation in saying yes. And I think I'd do pretty
well.'

It does, of course, feel like madness. Warne, after all, is 43
and has not played Test cricket for almost six years.

He may be able to
turn his arm over in a domestic Twenty20 league but could he really
return to what remains the biggest battle in world cricket

It is not as
if he needs to. Warne is busy and in successful postretirement and,
since he met Elizabeth Hurley, has found contentment in what has often
been a rocky personal life.

Surely he would not risk his considerable
reputation by putting his neck on the line again

And yet. Warne is
probably in the best physical shape of his life, has never been close to
being replaced in the Australian team and could bowl off a couple of
paces and resume his old position at slip, as long as his eyes haven't
gone, without too much fuss.

It couldn't happen, could it 'From purely a bowling perspective I don't think my form would be a concern,'
said Warne.

'It's just the time and actually making a commitment again.
'My kids are turning 16, 14 and 12 next year and we're juggling two
continents with my work commitments and Elizabeth's.

'There's travel, sponsors, businesses, so much stuff that I'd have to put
on hold to come back to international cricket. That's the reason I
haven't said for a while that I'm going to make a comeback.'

Oh Shane,
don't spoil it. His comments, made in Adelaide, have guaranteed
publicity so we might as well dream of what it might be like.

Shane's world: Warne retired in 2007 and soon took up commentary duties

Shane's world: Warne retired in 2007 and soon took up commentary duties

The
thought of Warne in another Ashes series is like a huge dollop of
stardust that will be missing in the contests in England and the return
in Australia as a result of Ponting's absence.

'For me it's not a
question of whether I could do it,' said Warne. 'I have no doubt that if
I wanted to commit I could do it.

'I watched the Perth Test and I felt
like jumping off the couch and grabbing the ball. I really felt for
Michael Clarke from a captaincy point of view.'

Nathan Lyon, the latest Australian spinner faced with the thankless task of stepping into
Warne's shoes, should look away now.

'When you've got international
bowlers bowling one or two full tosses and half-volleys an over I felt
for Pup (Clarke), I really did. I think I'm bowling as well as I have
for a long time. The best since I retired from international cricket. My
body's fresh and strong and fit. My mind's fresh from it all and off
the field I'm very happy, content and looking forward to playing.'

Oh,
go on Pup, give him a call. You know you want to. We all certainly want
you to. That really would light up the Ashes.

Andrew Flintoff has
improved his fitness levels so much in his boxing training that he may
play Twenty20 cricket again, says his father, Colin.

The only people cheering Warne's return would be England's batsmen

The only surprise about Shane Warne's latest dalliance with the idea of unretiring and playing Test cricket once more is that it's been a while since he's aired the possibility.

Barely a week went by during the 2010-11 Ashes when Warne wasn't asked whether he fancied helping out his struggling former team-mates. And, being a straight-talking kind of guy – and one with an eye for a PR stunt – he was damned if he was going to dismiss the prospect without giving it at least some room to breathe.

Now, he's done it again, saying he has 'absolutely no doubt' he could hack it at Test level and leaving a nation to dream of the good old days, when the thought of Australia failing to take six South African wickets in an entire day to win a match – as Michael Clarke's team contrived to do recently in Adelaide – would scarcely have occurred.

No one can question Warne's self-belief. It was part of the package that made him the most compelling spin bowler in the history of the game. His capacity to wring so many front-foot lbws out of impressionable umpires was a wonder to behold.

His aura might still earn him the odd wicket, and he could doubtless summon up the old magic to produce the occasional rip-snorter. Hell, it would be fun to watch.

But Test cricket is a gruelling business. And in a shade over six months next year spilling over into 2014, Australia will play ten straight matches against England, away and home. Warne will turn 44 between the two series. A return to Test cricket Really

If the headlines ever descended from the realms of Cloud Cuckoo Land, the only people cheering once the initial excitement had worn off would be England's batsmen.

Sportsmail cricketer writer and editor of Wisden – LAWRENCE BOOTH

VIDEO: Ball of the century which heralded Warne's arrival on Ashes scene…

Tim Howard wants revenge on Liverpool after FA Cup semi-final defeat

'Liverpool broke my heart… revenge would be sweet', says Everton keeper Howard after Wembley pain

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UPDATED:

08:39 GMT, 27 October 2012

It only takes a couple of minutes in Tim Howard’s company to appreciate he is one of life’s happier souls.

An infectious and bubbly character, the universal popularity he enjoys within Everton’s dressing room is matched by the respect the goalkeeper is afforded by the Goodison Park crowd.

Take Howard back to the events of April 14, 2012, however, and there is a sudden change in that sunny demeanour. The build-up to a Merseyside derby is invariably dominated by talk of past skirmishes but Howard, like all Evertonians, finds it a struggle to pore over the most recent battle.

All smiles: Tim Howard is happy with Everton's start to the season

All smiles: Tim Howard is happy with Everton's start to the season

That was the day Everton allowed an FA Cup final place to squirm from their grasp, when mistakes turned a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 defeat. They went on to finish above Liverpool in the Barclays Premier League but, after Wembley, the achievement felt hollow.

‘Look, it was a big occasion,’ Howard sighs, shaking his head wearily. ‘It was one we felt we were right for. We felt it was our moment. Not because of destiny or anything like that. We felt we were playing better, which we were. Our form was excellent.

‘For us to lose like we did having played better in large parts of the game — that is my view, they will have theirs — was just so … look, they just shone when it was time and we didn’t. We were on the cusp of a final and then we weren’t. It was just heartbreaking.

‘Finishing above them last season was the least we could do, to be honest. We lost twice to them in the league, then lost the heartbreaker. It really felt dreary, as far as we were concerned. The only glimmer of hope we had was to finish above them to say, “You know what We got one over them”.’ He pauses after that answer.

Day to forget: Howard is beaten by Luis Suarez (centre) as Liverpool defeat Everton in the FA Cup semi-final

Day to forget: Howard is beaten by Luis Suarez (centre) as Liverpool defeat Everton in the FA Cup semi-final

HOWARD’S PICKS

Top five strikers I have played against

1. Didier Drogba
2. Thierry Henry
3. Wayne Rooney
4. Fernando Torres (when he was at Liverpool)
5. Cristiano Ronaldo.
Drogba was the hardest one. He was so powerful. He could strike a ball left foot, right foot, it didn’t matter.

The five best goalkeepers I’ve seen

1. Iker Casillas
2. Gianluigi Buffon
3. Edwin van der Sar
4. Petr Cech
5. Pepe Reina
I think Reina is brilliant, I have such admiration for him. I also have to add Joe Hart. Joe Hart is going to be the best in the world in two years.

My pre-match routine

Lots of sleep, lots of rest. I eat at the same time, all the time. I drive the same way to the ground every week. I leave my house at the same time.

Howard, who would have pursued a career as an executive in an American sporting franchise had he not become a footballer, gives a lot of thought to what he says and the fact he calls the semi-final defeat a ‘heartbreaker’ is not aimed at securing an easy headline.

Losing to their oldest and bitterest rivals on such a stage was so big a blow it could easily have been fatal for their ambitions, and many were left wondering whether it would mark the beginning of the end for Everton, after several years punching above their weight.

If anything, the opposite has been true. A week after the demoralisation at Wembley, they salvaged an improbable 4-4 draw against Manchester United and, from there, a new Everton has emerged.

The encouraging start they have enjoyed has provided one of the more intriguing plotlines to the new campaign and David Moyes’ team head into the 219th Merseyside derby as favourites in many quarters. The mood around the club has been transformed. So what has changed

‘When you are winning, everyone feels amazing,’ says Howard, who provides Everton’s pre-match soundtrack with the music of New York’s DJ Chachi. ‘You lose, it’s doom and gloom. That, unfortunately, is how football is.

‘The football we are playing has been so expansive and progressive that it has been different from years past. We had success before from getting up behind the ball, rolling our sleeves up, digging in and grinding out results, which is much different to what we have found this year.

Top save: Howard makes a save during Everton's draw with QPR

Top save: Howard makes a save during Everton's draw with QPR

‘We are bossing games now. We are having the lion’s share of possession and we are creating chances. In one game against Southampton, we created 30 chances or something stupid like that. That has been our transformation, in a way.

‘The chairman (Bill Kenwright) has given the manager everything he possibly can to be successful. And the manager in turn has taken this club forward. He has built methodically. No snap judgements, always with a plan and a vision to go forward.’

Moyes is now in his 11th year at Goodison but for a period in the summer there were fears he would end up at Tottenham when they dispensed with Harry Redknapp. Howard, 33, watched events unfold from across the Atlantic with a mixture of apprehension and acceptance.

Doing it Stateside: Howard and forward Clint Dempsey celebrate USA's 3-1 win over Guatemala earlier this month

Doing it Stateside: Howard and forward Clint Dempsey celebrate USA's 3-1 win over Guatemala earlier this month

‘I think I know the way football works,’ says Howard, who holds the Premier League’s longest ongoing sequence of consecutive appearances — Sunday will be his 193rd. ‘I didn’t want him to leave, for the sake of our football club and everyone involved.

‘I thought it would be very difficult to replace him if it came to that. It is important that we have him in place. He is the figurehead of this club. He makes everyone fall into line and be successful.

‘He is cut from the mould of what I like. He will tell you how it is; some days you will like, other days you won’t but you always know exactly where you stand with him.’

If there has been an alteration to Everton’s style, thanks to the nimble, fleet-footed movement of creative sparks Kevin Mirallas, Steven Pienaar and Nikica Jelavic, there has also been a change in Moyes. Ask the Scot what it is and he will say that he has mellowed.

Playing for pride and points: Howard knows the importance of the derby game

Playing for pride and points: Howard knows the importance of the derby game

‘He’s a liar!’ says Howard, laughing. ‘And you can tell him I said so! He might have mellowed in front of you but there are two lots of 15 minutes — once in the middle of a game, the other at the end of the game — when he just ain’t calm!

‘Seriously, though, he has been brilliant. He has realised if you stand still, you move backwards. He is always trying to get better and that is very hard for a stubborn Scotsman. But he continues to listen to the good people around him. It isn’t easy but he is always willing to try new things.’

Such as giving his squad an unexpected five-day break in the middle of their pre-season schedule.

‘That would have been so hard for him, for sure,’ Howard agreed. ‘But you realise he is trying to be progressive. The timing was impeccable. We are very simplistic us human beings, especially us footballers. You give us that little bit of incentive, we work hard and come back stronger.’

Which is precisely what Everton have done since that wretched day in April. It may be two years since they last won a derby but they head into this tussle brimming with confidence and harbouring dreams they will be playing European football in 12 months.

‘I won my first derby 3-0 and thought, “This is what it is always going to be like”. Obviously it hasn’t,’ said Howard, who joined Everton from Manchester United in the summer of 2006.

‘But the more I become part of the fabric of this club, the more it means to me.
‘It is going to be an exciting game, an emotional game. To get where we want to, one of us is going to have to pip the other. A bunch of other teams will be there too. But, yes, I would be lying if I didn’t say it would be sweeter doing it to them than anyone else.’

With that, he is smiling again.

Tim Howard attended a celebration event to mark five years of Kickz, a social inclusion football programme delivered by Everton in the Community, Liverpool FC and Merseyside Police

Ian Poulter: The US wanted to shut me up and after we"d won they wouldn"t even have a beer with us

We were four points down but when I walked into the locker room everyone was singing… One Ian Poulter, there's only one Ian Poulter

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UPDATED:

21:29 GMT, 6 October 2012

When a weary but elated Ian Poulter walked into the Medinah Country Club locker room with playing partner Rory McIlroy at the end of a Saturday that left Europe’s Ryder Cup hopes in shreds, he was greeted by the most unexpected sound. As a man, the European team were singing: ‘One Ian Poulter, there’s only one Ian Poulter’.

And it was in that sublime moment that Poulter says he realised that, even with the Americans taking a 10-6 lead into the final day, Europe’s hopes of clinging on to the famous old trophy were far from over.

Poulter’s birdie on the 18th hole had claimed a precious point for a team that had been staring into the abyss for almost two days. More than that, though, the way he had strung together five successive birdies — casting his partner, the world No 1 golfer, into the shade — had given the Europeans the self-belief they needed to go out the next day and complete one of sport’s greatest comebacks.

‘We were four points behind but it didn’t feel like that,’ said Poulter last week as he looked back at the Miracle of Medinah. ‘The atmosphere within the team had been turned on its head. For two days, it had felt like a morgue, but now we had a glimmer of hope.’

Champagne moment: Ian Poulter,back at his Florida home, toasts Europe's Ryder Cup victory

Champagne moment: Ian Poulter,back at his Florida home, toasts Europe's Ryder Cup victory

/10/06/article-0-1549429F000005DC-258_634x424.jpg” width=”634″ height=”424″ alt=”Cheerleader: Poulter leads the celebrations after a remarkable turnaround at Medinah” class=”blkBorder” />

Cheerleader: Poulter leads the celebrations after a remarkable turnaround at Medinah

‘I knew going into the Ryder Cup that they wanted to shut me up. They don’t like my outlandish behaviour, my fist-pumping. But you know what It’s the Ryder Cup and that’s the passion I have seen from the competition over the years. I have the right to do my job and I’ll do it to the best of my ability. Sure as hell, I’m going to celebrate a putt. I’m sorry, but that’s me enjoying the moment, enjoying the atmosphere.

‘I have massive respect for all their players; these are guys I play against week in, week out and they’re among the best in the world. But in Ryder Cup week I don’t want to talk to them. It means too much.

‘There’s no malice in anything I have ever done in the Ryder Cup. I’ve done nothing that I feel guilty about. I have simply gone out there and played my heart out. I’ve won my matches and I have a fantastic record that I’m damn proud of. And if they don’t like me for that, well, I’ll still sleep pretty good tonight.’

Poulter’s passion for the Ryder Cup was matched by the emotional side of Jose Maria Olazabal’s captaincy, which brought with it the echoes of his great friend, the late Seve Ballesteros.

‘Jose spoke to us for about 15 minutes at our hotel on the Wednesday about what it would mean to him to take home — he used that word — the Ryder Cup,’ recalled Poulter. ‘/10/06/article-0-154C3CA5000005DC-913_634x426.jpg” width=”634″ height=”426″ alt=”Team effort: Europe's golfers and skipper Jose Maria Olazabal pose after one of sport's great comebacks” class=”blkBorder” />

Team effort: Europe's golfers and skipper Jose Maria Olazabal pose after one of sport's great comebacks

‘He reminded us what it would mean to Seve and that we should play with pride and try to put our hands back on the trophy. At the end, we were going to the gala dinner by coach and Jose asked if we would like him to put on a video of past Ryder Cups for the journey. Paul Lawrie suddenly spoke out, “God damn, man, I’m 43 and I can’t cope with this. I need some tissues…”

‘It was one of those defining moments, everyone started laughing. It was so funny for Paul, who’s such a quiet man, to say that. But it was what everyone was feeling. Everyone needed to catch their breath. But we knew then that we really had to do it for Jose.’

And so they did, making the scoreboard a sea of blue on the final day as American expectations of a rout were turned on their head. Poulter reveals that, when it was all over and the ritual handshakes had been observed, the two teams went their separate ways without sharing a traditional beer on Sunday night. It was, apparently, the decision of the Americans not to socialise.

‘Obviously, one side is elated and the other is completely depressed,’ he said. ‘We normally get together for a drink afterwards. But it didn’t happen, which was a shame. We played incredible golf against one another, some of the best I have ever seen. We were outplayed for two days, but we played them off the park on Sunday. The Americans were very upset, very emotional on the back of the 18th green. There weren’t many who had a dry eye.’

US captain Davis Love III did venture into the European team room to congratulate Olazabal and his players, as did a number of the team’s wives. But the American players kept their distance.

On the charge: Poulter tees off on the 18th before beating Webb Simpson in the singles

On the charge: Poulter tees off on the 18th before beating Webb Simpson in the singles

Poulter appreciates how they must have felt. Although he has now been on three victorious Ryder Cup teams, winning 12 matches and losing just three, he was a member of the only European team that has lost this century, at Valhalla, in 2008. ‘It hurts to lose,’ he said. ‘I know how badly they have taken this defeat and it’s going to stay with them for a while.’

Had any of the American players been here on Thursday morning, they would have seen an altogether different Poulter from the one who has become their Ryder Cup nemesis. Poulter and his wife, Katie, who have four children, were guests as the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, performed the dedication ceremony at the new, $400million Nemours Children’s Hospital, close to their home. Poulter raised $104,000 by hosting a charity golf day, and a fourth-floor waiting room area there has been named in honour of ‘Ian and Katie and the Poulter Family’.

Katie was a nurse before having their children, Aimee-Leigh, now 10, eight-year-old Luke, three-year-old Lilly, and baby Joshua, just eight months old. ‘We have four healthy children, so if it’s possible to do anything for poorly kids then you are going to do it,’ said Poulter. ‘We’ll run the charity day next year.’

Poulter first bought a property in Florida four years ago but he had rented one for nine years before that. ‘I like the lifestyle, I have great practice facilities at Lake Nona and it’s almost always sunny!’ he said.

He has worked hard for all he has achieved. He recalls how, as a penniless assistant golf professional in Hertfordshire, he stayed in a tent with two friends in a field two miles from The Belfry to watch the 1993 Ryder Cup.

‘We were eating tinned food and a little old lady used to let us go and wash at her house each night,’ he said. ‘She felt sorry for us and gave us a bottle of wine as well.

Passion: Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose lead the fans in chorus

Passion: Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose lead the fans in chorus

‘The atmosphere was electric. I was hooked from the start. I watched Davis Love play Colin Montgomerie, but it was too dark for them to finish, so they walked in after the 17th. I ran under the ropes and rushed up to Monty, and said, “Colin, can I have your golf ball, please” I was a cheeky 17-year-old!’

The ball he begged from Montgomerie is displayed at his home alongside his trophies and other memorabilia, including his hotel key from his first Ryder Cup, in 2004. ‘From staying in a tent to nicking my room key, I think you can safely say I’m addicted to the Ryder Cup,’ he said, smiling. ‘I keep absolutely everything. This is my story, this is my life.’

If one moment encapsulated Poulter’s willingness to play the Americans at their own game, it was his behaviour on the first tee last Saturday, when he followed Watson’s lead in orchestrating the crowd into a frenzy. Predictably, the crowd bayed at Poulter like a mob. Poulter turned to his playing partner Justin Rose and said: ‘Sorry, mate, but I had to do it.’

Poulter chuckled at the memory. ‘Justin usually controls himself really well, but he looked at me, sighed and said, “I don’t know what your heart-rate was like, but mine was going mad”. Actually, my heart was thumping so much I could hear it. But it was the only way, it had to be done.’

One by one, Donald, McIlroy, Lawrie, Westwood and others brought home points until Martin Kaymer holed the putt that retained the Ryder Cup, and Francesco Molinari claimed a half with Tiger Woods that won the trophy outright.

‘Winning it for the team, for Jose, for Europe meant absolutely everything,’ said Poulter. ‘I still can’t properly comprehend what we did.’

Pertinently, nor can the American team who failed to silence him, or beat him, over three truly memorable days at Medinah.

Ryder Cup king

French Open 2012: Andy Murray beaten by David Ferrer

Damp squib for Murray in Paris drizzle as Ferrer sends Scot crashing out in quarters

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UPDATED:

19:07 GMT, 6 June 2012

Andy Murray slumped out of the French Open on Wednesday evening with a 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 6-2 defeat by David Ferrer in the quarter-finals.

Murray had never beaten the wall-like Spaniard in three previous meetings on clay and simply made too many errors to change that statistic in cool and wet conditions at Roland Garros.

There was a glimmer of hope when he took the second set but a rain break seemed to knock the Scot out of his rhythm and when he did move ahead he could not make it count, breaking serve five times in the match and giving it straight back on every occasion.

Pain: Andy Murray played within himself as he stumbled against David Ferrer

Pain: Andy Murray played within himself as he stumbled against David Ferrer

Fist pump: David Ferrer celebrates his quarter-final victory

Fist pump: David Ferrer celebrates his quarter-final victory

The world number four looked sharp at
the start and twice had the chance to break in the third game but he
could not take either, and Ferrer took full advantage in the next game,
breaking for 3-1 when Murray again netted a backhand.

The Scot was grimacing a little,
perhaps feeling his troublesome back, but he certainly had his
opportunities to retrieve the break, four of them in the seventh game
that all went begging.

Murray screamed in frustration, but he did at least manage to save a set point on his own serve with a fine forehand.

Shake on it: Murray has found it hard going before against his opponent

Shake on it: Murray has found it hard going before against his opponent

Ascendant: Ferrer was controlled and took the third and fourth sets comfortably

Ascendant: Ferrer was controlled and took the third and fourth sets comfortably

And that became very important when he brought up two more break points at 5-3, this time the Spaniard sending a forehand long.

He was still not out of the woods,
though, and, after Murray clawed his way back from 0-30, Ferrer created
another set point, which he took when the fourth seed netted a forehand.

There was no doubt Murray was not
moving particularly well, especially when pulled out wide on his
forehand, but he made the perfect start to the second set with an
immediate break.

Again he could not cement it, though, Ferrer getting a little lucky with a shot that clipped the top of the net on break point.

Moments later it began to rain and there was a brief delay before the match resumed.

The pattern stayed the same, though,
as Murray tried in vain to break down the rock-solid sixth seed, whose
nickname of the Little Beast is entirely apt.

Unforced errors: Murray - as well as Ferrer - made several mistakes

Unforced errors: Murray – as well as Ferrer – made several mistakes

The Scot's serve got him out of
trouble in the sixth game, and with Ferrer serving next he came alive
with a series of fine groundstrokes to break once more.

But history repeated itself, with Murray surrendering his own serve immediately for the third time in the match.

He held on for a tie-break and then
stepped up his game just at the right time, winning five points in a row
from 1-0 down and eventually taking it 7-3.

Roar: Murray's frustration with his own display was obvious

Roar: Murray's frustration with his own display was obvious

Murray held serve in the opening game
of the third set and then the rain really began to come down, forcing a
proper delay – although only for around half an hour.

The break certainly helped Ferrer more
than Murray, and at the end of a very long game at 1-1, the Spaniard
broke serve for a fifth time in the match when his opponent netted a
backhand.

Murray was grumbling to himself but he
rediscovered his form and focus to break back for 3-3 with a series of
excellent groundstrokes, ending with a thumping forehand winner.

With a certain inevitability, though,
once more the 25-year-old could not hold onto his own serve, and in his
next service game Ferrer brought up three set points.

Struggle: Murray never looked like hitting top form

Struggle: Murray never looked like hitting top form

Murray saved two with a big forehand
and then a good serve, but on the third he blazed a forehand over the
baseline to hand Ferrer a two sets to one lead.

It was groundhog day at the start of
the fourth set as Murray played a terrific defensive point to break
Ferrer only to surrender his serve immediately for the fifth time, this
time sending a forehand just wide.

He had two chances to move ahead again
but could not take either, and the end looked nigh when he lost a third
successive game with another wayward forehand.

Safe passage: Ferrer finds himself facing Rafael Nadal in the semi-final

Safe passage: Ferrer finds himself facing Rafael Nadal in the semi-final

Murray was certainly trying hard but
he could not find the consistency to match a player of Ferrer's
relentless hitting and intensity.

He had two more break points in the
seventh game but he curled a forehand wide on the first and had no
answer to more ferocious play from his opponent on the second.

Ferrer sensed his moment, and he
brought up two match points in the next game. Murray saved one but not
the second, and it was the Spaniard who deservedly moved through to his
first French Open semi-final, where he will meet Rafael Nadal.

Kenny Miller embarrassed by Scotland defeat

That hurt! Miller declares Scots were an 'embarrassment'
after humiliating USA thrashing

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UPDATED:

22:29 GMT, 27 May 2012

Kenny Miller admitted Scotland’s 5-1 thrashing to the United States was an ‘embarrassment’ after the national team crashed to their heaviest defeat under Craig Levein.

The skipper cut a crestfallen figure after emerging from a draining 90 minutes and confessed that Levein’s men were second best throughout the friendly.

Two goals down in 12 minutes, Miller’s downward header was knocked into the net by American defender Geoff Cameron to offer a shaft of hope.

Agony: Kenny Miller was embarrassed by Scotland's defeat to the USA

Agony: Kenny Miller was embarrassed by Scotland's defeat to the USA

As Landon Donovan claimed his hat-trick with 20 minutes remaining, however, the Scots suffered a dismal end to the season in the blistering heat of the EverBank Field in Jacksonville

‘Of course it hurts. It’s an embarrassment, to be honest,’ said Cardiff City striker Miller. ‘If you lose 5-1 at any level of football, there’s an element of embarrassment.

‘We were trying to stem the flow in the first half and got a goal back. At 2-1 we were fortunate but the goals we lost in the second half were terrible.
‘It is a friendly but we’re still disappointed. We have made progress with performances in recent times, but this is a hard one and it still hurts.’

Glimmer of hope: Miller celebrates after scoring with the help of a deflection

Glimmer of hope: Miller celebrates after scoring with the help of a deflection

Admitting the result offered a wake-up call before Serbia visit Glasgow in the opening qualifier of the forthcoming World Cup campaign in September, Miller promised there would be a review of what went wrong.

‘Everyone is proud to be here and disappointed with the result,’ he said. ‘It won’t be brushed off and we will look at this and make sure the openness that was evident in our play in the second half doesn’t get repeated.

‘We’ve played Italy, France and Spain in recent times and have not been carved open like that. It shouldn’t happen with us against any nation.’

The result turns up the heat on Levein ahead of the World Cup qualifiers, for which this match had been billed as a dress rehearsal. Lamenting the loss of several key players for the match, he admitted his team had not been as focused as Jurgen Klinsmann’s side.

Inquest: Questions are asked between Gary Caldwell and Steven Whittaker

Inquest: Questions are asked between Gary Caldwell and Steven Whittaker

And he sought to reassure Tartan Army followers — worried that the players had looked to be in end-of-season holiday mode in Florida — that his team will improve on their next friendly outing, against Australia at Easter Road in August, before the qualifiers begin in earnest the following month.

‘I think focus is the most important word,’ said Levein. ‘We weren’t as focused as the USA. Our team have been excellent recently, with some great results, and it was most unlike them.

‘With it being the end of the season, the players were tired. It was evident there was only one team who were focused.’

Darren Bravo belts it like Brian Lara but can"t beat England on his own

Bravo belts it like Lara (but the West Indies lookalike can't beat England on his own)

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UPDATED:

22:49 GMT, 15 May 2012

There will be more than a few double takes in the Lord's crowd when Darren Bravo starts batting for West Indies in Thursday's first Test. It will be as if one of the greatest of them all has made a comeback.

How West Indies would love to be able to call on Brian Lara when their callow batting line-up faces the fiercest of examinations at the hands of England's attack in miserable early summer conditions.

Yet, at least they can boast the next best thing. For Bravo, half-brother of Dwayne and a cousin of the great Lara himself, is like a clone of his illustrious relative. It is just like watching Lara. It is no coincidence.

A good start: Darren Bravo is the spitting image of his cousin, Brian Lara, at the crease

A good start: Darren Bravo is the spitting image of his cousin, Brian Lara, at the crease

Warming up: Darren Bravo at Lord's

Warming up: Darren Bravo at Lord's

Bravo, 23, grew up in the same Santa Cruz village in Trinidad as Lara and has modelled his game on his cousin to such a degree that he even had an identical record to the great man after each had played 12 Tests.

Now, after 16, Bravo is averaging just under 50 and represents a glimmer of hope for a West Indies side seemingly destined to struggle over the next month. There is, of course, only one Brian Charles Lara. But even he can see that his left-handed double has arrived on the scene.

'Yes, there are great similarities between us,' said Lara ahead of the three-Test series. 'It's something we smile about whenever we speak. But Darren is a bit more powerful than I was at a similar age!

'He can stand in the crease and toss the spinners over mid-on and off for six. The fact that we have a close relationship means he seeks me out if he needs any advice. It's something I enjoy.'

Lara is one of the greatest of them all so the similarities can only stretch so far, but the younger Bravo is clearly a batsman of considerable pedigree in his own right.

'He has the potential to go the whole way,' said Lara. 'He has the ability, but he also has the desire and right mental approach, which is far more important. I have no doubt he will become a world-class player.'

Relaxed: West Indies captain Darren Sammy gets strapped up before indoor nets

Relaxed: West Indies captain Darren Sammy gets strapped up before indoor nets

Lara has played his part in Bravo's development. 'When Darren was young I would drive through Santa Cruz and see him playing cricket.

'He would be standing there with one hand holding up his shorts and the other with a bat in it. A lot of older people would bowl at him – as I have done, too. We are all really happy to see him doing well and carrying on the family legacy in the village.'

All smiles: Jonny Bairstow in training at Lord's ahead of his expected debut on Thursday

All smiles: Jonny Bairstow in training at Lord's ahead of his expected debut on Thursday

This series, though, will be the toughest test yet of Bravo's credentials as a world-class batsman in the making and Lara knows it. One of the many West Indian greats on the outside looking in with considerable concern at how the Caribbean game has imploded, he feels that West Indies are not exactly helping themselves.

Take Shivnarine Chanderpaul's place in the batting order. The veteran rose to the top of the ICC world rankings but he will bat at No 5 in England, not only behind Bravo but also a top three inexperienced in English conditions.

'It beats me,' said Lara. 'It is not something I have talked about before but I would question why he is at five. If he can be so consistent why wouldn't he say, “Let me bat with more experienced players up the order rather than the tail”.

England calls: England batsman Kevin Pietersen looks on from the dressing room balcony at Lord's

England calls: England batsman Kevin Pietersen looks on from the dressing room balcony at Lord's

'It would not only benefit Shiv but it would benefit the team, too. Your best batsman should be at three, laying the foundations for winning a match. I can't see the logic of him being at five trying to repair damage.'

A man who now spends most of his time in an ambassadorial role for Trinidad and Tobago rather than working in cricket offers a realistic assessment of West Indies hopes. 'This team are full of talent but this tour will be tough for them, particularly with the weather and the lack of preparation,' said Lara. 'But they will be fighting.' That especially applies to the man who tries to be Lara. [email protected] l Saturday is Day of Destiny on Sky Sports, featuring more than 48 hours of live sport in one day, including England v West Indies.

Birmingham 2 Blackpool 2 (agg 2-3)

Birmingham 2 Blackpool 2 (agg 2-3) Blues fall just short as Seasiders earn final spot

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UPDATED:

21:01 GMT, 9 May 2012

Blackpool sealed a showdown with West Ham in the npower Championship play-off final after an absorbing semi-final second leg with Birmingham at St Andrew's.

Leading 1-0 from Friday night's first leg, the Seasiders took firm control of the tie with two goals minutes either side of half-time from Stephen Dobbie and Matt Phillips.

Nikola Zigic gave Blues a glimmer of hope before skipper Curtis Davies headed the equaliser on the night – but the hosts could not find a crucial winner which would have levelled the tie on aggregate and taken the contest into extra-time, so their 62nd match of a long season proved the last.

Off and running: Blackpool's Stephen Dobbie (left) celebrates scoring his side's opening goal

Off and running: Blackpool's Stephen Dobbie (left) celebrates scoring his side's opening goal

MATCH FACTS

Birmingham: Doyle, Ramage, Davies, Ibanez, Murphy, Burke, Spector (N'Daw 45), Mutch, Townsend (Redmond 62), King, Zigic.

Subs not used: Butland, Elliott, Rooney.

Goals: Zigic 64, Davies 73.

Booked: Zigic, Redmond

Blackpool:
Gilks, Eardley, Baptiste, Evatt, Crainey, Matt Phillips (Kevin Phillips
85), Ferguson, Angel, Ince (Southern 69), Dobbie (Dicko 76),
Taylor-Fletcher.

Subs not used: Halstead, Cathcart.

Goals: Dobbie 45, Matt Phillips 48.

Booked: Eardley, Taylor-Fletcher

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)

Att: 28,483

Blackpool will now meet the Hammers at Wembley on May 19, with the most lucrative match in world football guaranteeing the winners an immediate return to the Barclays Premier League.

Both Blackpool and Birmingham, and respective managers Ian Holloway and Chris Hughton, had performed superbly in reaching the play-offs having rebuilt their ranks following relegation from the top flight 12 months ago.

But additional credit must now go to Holloway for guiding his side to the showpiece final for the second time in three seasons, although his side will have to improve upon 4-0 and 4-1 defeats to West Ham during the regular league season.

Holloway unsurprisingly kept faith with an unchanged XI from the first leg while counterpart Hughton made three changes – Zigic, Andros Townsend and Jonathan Spector coming in.

And the initial stages set the tone for a blistering encounter, with Blues having two sights of goal well blocked before Tom Ince forced Colin Doyle to save low at the other end.

Ince, man of the match at Bloomfield Road five days ago, soon found himself clean through again on the right but, with David Murphy pulling at his shoulder, the tricky winger was denied by Doyle.

Double trouble: Matt Phillips celebrates after scoring Blackpool's second goal at Birmingham

Double trouble: Matt Phillips celebrates after scoring Blackpool's second goal at Birmingham

Chris Burke whistled an effort narrowly wide before Marlon King, who twice hit the woodwork in the first leg, made it an unwanted hat-trick when he side-footed Murphy's excellent delivery into the ground and on to the top of the crossbar.

The game continued at a frenetic pace on a slick surface, Zigic testing Matt Gilks.

But just when it appeared as though it would remain goalless going into half-time, Blackpool doubled their aggregate advantage.

Down: Marlon King and Nikola Zigic (left) stand dejected after conceding their first goal

Down: Marlon King and Nikola Zigic (left) stand dejected after conceding their first goal

Ince's corner was only half headed out by Davies, who managed to block Alex Baptiste's subsequent overhead but the ball broke for Dobbie and his low shot agonisingly squirmed under Doyle at his near post.

Within three second-half minutes, the tie appeared all but over.

Phillips timed his burst to perfection to run off the shoulder of Murphy and bring down Stephen Crainey's long ball, with a trickling neat finish beating Doyle and crossing the line off the far post.

Back in it: Nikola Zigic scored to reduce Birmingham's arrears

Back in it: Nikola Zigic scored to reduce Birmingham's arrears

But Zigic gave Birmingham hope in the 64th minute with a well-taken finish having been put through by Burke.

King wasted a great chance to level things on the night having directed substitute Nathan Redmond's cross straight at Gilks.

But Davies succeeded where King failed soon after, heading home Jordon Mutch's corner.

Level pegging: Curtis Davies scores the equaliser for Birmingham against Blackpool

Level pegging: Curtis Davies scores the equaliser for Birmingham against Blackpool

The centre-back wasted a similar chance in the 78th minute as City pressed for a goal to level the tie.

But, despite five minutes of injury time, it failed to arrive and Blackpool were left celebrating while Blues fans chanted 'there's only one Chris Hughton', with speculation linking their manager to the vacancy at West Brom.

Not enough: Davies celebrates his goal but Birmingham failed to score a winner

Not enough: Davies celebrates his goal but Birmingham failed to score a winner

Barcelona join Arsenal in Matias Suarez fight

Barcelona move to scupper Arsenal's 10m deal for striker Suarez

Barcelona's hold over Arsenal in the transfer market is set to rear its head once again with the Spanish club fighting the Gunners for highly-rated Argentine striker Matias Suarez.

Arsene Wenger has long been on the trail of the the Anderlecht hitman and came close to securing his services in January after talks with his agent.

However it seems a simple conclusion of business in the summer is unlikely with the defending European champions now in the hunt for the 23-year-old.

In demand: Anderlecht's Matias Suarez is wanted by a host of European clubs

In demand: Anderlecht's Matias Suarez is wanted by a host of European clubs

Arsenal – who, according to Metro, have twice sent cheif scout Steve Rowley to watch the player this year – have enjoyed a strong relationship with the Belgian club in the past and will hope that will give them the upper hand.

Concerns remain over Suarez's work permit should a 10million fee be agreed, and it is that glimmer of hope which has encouraged Barcelona.

Pep Guardiola's side are keen to strengthen in forward areas having seen their form suffer since striker David Villa was ruled out for six month with a broken leg.

Suarez was unable to prevent his side reaching the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday night, yet still managed to impress in front of Barca scouts as they crashed out to AZ Alkmaar.

Everton are also interested.

David Warner batting puts Australia on brink of India Test series win in Perth

Warner's breathless batting has Aussies on brink of series win over India in Perth

Australia were in touching distance of a series-clinching win over India after just two days of the third Test in Perth.

Opener David Warner's breathless 180 paved the way for a 208-run first-innings lead that appeared decisive after India limped to 88 for four in their second innings.

It was a familiar top-order failing for India on this tour as they immediately undid any ground made up after their pacemen, led by Umesh Yadav's maiden five-wicket haul, restricted Australia to 369.

Hitting out: Australia opener David Warner was in breathless form with the bat before being dismissed for 180

Hitting out: Australia opener David Warner was in breathless form with the bat before being dismissed for 180

The hosts had looked on course for far more after Warner, who blazed the fourth-quickest Test century last night, and Ed Cowan built on their quick-fire start this morning in a 214-run stand for the opening wicket.

PERTH SCOREBOARD

Click here to read the full scorecard

Australia faded thereafter, however, as India took 10 for 155 after Yadav eventually ended the opening stand by bowling Cowan for 74 – the highest score of his young Test career.

Any glimmer of hope India had was quickly extinguished though as their cast of veterans in the top order again folded to tumble towards a defeat as fast-paced as the WACA wicket they have looked all at sea on.

At one stage defeat inside two days looked a possibility, as they slumped to 51 for four.

Openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag were both undone by the pace and bounce, caught behind the wicket off Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle, in consecutive overs.

Consolation: Indian fast bowler Ishant Sharma (L) celebrates the wicket Warner

Consolation: Indian fast bowler Ishant Sharma (L) celebrates the wicket Warner

Starc then grabbed the biggest scalp of his three-Test career when he trapped Sachin Tendulkar lbw before the out-of-sorts VVS Laxman offered yet another edge, this time off Ben Hilfenhaus, to Shaun Marsh without scoring.

Rahul Dravid and Virat Kohli held out against the enthused Australian attack for the final hour of the day, although with their side still trailing by 120 runs they faced an uphill task to avoid defeat early on the third day.

Warner fell short of a memorable double century after reaching 180 from just 159 balls in a stunning innings that included 20 fours and five sixes.

The left-hander was unable to reproduce his onslaught from the opening day, when he reached triple figures in 69 balls, with a blow to his elbow restricting his normal flow.

He did offer glimpses of his hard hitting, smashing Ishant Sharma back over his head for six, and while he was dropped by Kohli at first slip on 126 he batted through the opening hour with Cowan to seemingly set Australia for a full day's batting.

Trapped: Sachin Tendulkar leaves the crease after being given out for eight runs

In with a shout: Mitchell Starc celebrates after taking the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar

Write caption here

Those plans were put on hold when Yadav, in his fifth Test, made a triple strike during an impressive spell in the second hour of the day.

Yadav finally ended the opening stand when he squeezed a delivery through Cowan, before quickly sending Marsh and Ricky Ponting on their way.

Top Spin

The 24-year-old found impressive movement off the pitch highlighted by a searing off-cutter that uprooted Ponting's middle stump.

Warner remained through the session and looked intent on reaching a double century after lunch until he attempted a lusty blow over mid-on and, for the first time in his innings, failed to get enough bat on it and was caught in the deep off Sharma.

It prompted a run of wickets as India earned reward for their persistence in a afternoon session in which that battled back with seven dismissals.

On top: Peter Siddle (2nd R) Virender Sehwag's departure from the crease

On top: Peter Siddle (2nd R) Virender Sehwag's departure from the crease

Zaheer Khan deservedly found the edges of Australia skipper Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin who, after claiming India were mentally weak in the lead-up to the Test, departed to scenes of Zaheer blowing him kisses after he failed to score.

Debutant Vinay Kumar then picked up his first Test scalp when Michael Hussey cut straight to gully, before Yadav completed his five-wicket haul by bowling Siddle and having Ryan Harris caught lobbing up an attempted pull shot.

Manchester United reluctant to buy in January

Fergie wary of splashing out in January despite growing turmoil at United

Sir Alex Ferguson is reluctant to make a rare foray into the mid-season transfer market despite Manchester United”s growing injury list and shattering Champions League exit.

Ferguson has signed players in January before, including Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, who were both recruited shortly after they were last turfed out of UEFA”s No 1 club competition at the group stage.

But it is not a policy he is entirely comfortable with.

Troubled times: Sir Alex Ferguson watched his side lose to Basle

Troubled times: Sir Alex Ferguson watched his side lose to Basle

And, despite many United fans harbouring fears about the depth of talent in Ferguson”s squad and Vidicbeing ruled out for up to a year after rupturing cruciate knee ligaments in Basle on Wednesday, Ferguson seems set to rely on the players already at his disposal.

“It is not easy to get players in January,” he said.

“I am not quite sure if you went for a player if he could play in the Europa League. There is criteria there in the sense of playing in the Champions League and whether they could play in the Europa League.

“There are a lot of issues there but there is nothing in my mind at the moment.”

Blow: Nemanja Vidic faces a year out

Blow: Nemanja Vidic faces a year out

There is one glimmer of good news, with Ferguson confirming to MUTV that Tom Cleverley may be able to resume light training next week in the next stage of his recovery from an ankle injury.

However, Ferguson is having to cope with the increased scrutiny that has followed demotion to the Europa League.

Formerskipper Roy Keane led the condemnation and others have followed suit, with Ferguson accepting it is now open season for those he feels want United to fail.

“No one relishes seeing criticism of themselves,” he said.

“But I”ve said it time and time again, you only need to lose two games here and the hounds are out.

“It [the criticism] is something I don”t really follow to be honest.

“I know the work we”re doing here is the right work. The players we have here are the right players.

“We always want to be better, we want to be perfect, but you never can be perfect.

“Perseverance is necessary to try and achieve it and that”s what this club is good at.”