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England on verge of winning third Test in India

England on verge of victory but Ashwin frustrates tourists as India dig in

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UPDATED:

11:35 GMT, 8 December 2012

England inflicted a telling collapse on India to put themselves on the verge of victory, and an unassailable 2-1 series lead, after day four of the third Test at Eden Gardens.

The tourists took six wickets for 36 runs this afternoon but, with an innings win almost within their grasp in the final session, Ravichandran Ashwin (83 not out) prevented them finishing the job.

Number eight Ashwin even took India into a 32-run credit by stumps on 239 for nine, and forced England to take a second new ball under floodlights, as the contest somehow limped into a final day.

There was no way past Ashwin and Ishant Sharma for more than an hour in a ninth-wicket stand of 38.

Ashwin escaped a stumping chance on 22, and Sharma was dropped by wicketkeeper Matt Prior on nought – both off Monty Panesar.

Then even after Panesar at last got the number 10, toppling over to be bowled, Ashwin stayed to complete his 111-ball 50 with successive fours off Graeme Swann which also ensured England must bat again.

England just did not have the leeway they needed as Ashwin stood firm, in company with last man Pragyan Ojha.

After dominating the first three days thanks to Alastair Cook's batting and James Anderson and Panesar's bowling, the tourists first had to overcome a chastening morning before India's collapse.

England's own last four wickets could muster only 14 on the way to 523 all out and then they were unable to take any of India's before lunch.

But after Graeme Swann kickstarted the hosts' troubles by bowling Virender Sehwag with the first ball of the afternoon, the rest of the frontline batting simply folded.

Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir sowed some doubts in an opening stand of 86 in just 28 overs, during which England had a half-chance to see off each of the openers.

But Sehwag escaped on seven when Swann could not hang on to a low one-handed catch to his left at second slip off Anderson, then Gambhir pushed Panesar off the face of the bat to short-leg, where Ian Bell could not quite react in time.

Ball rolling: Graeme Swann took the first wicket of India's second innings

Ball rolling: Graeme Swann took the first wicket of India's second innings

The most worrying aspect for the tourists was the increasing ease with which Sehwag in particular was playing their spinners.

But they need not have been concerned because Swann produced the perfect off-break to draw the drive, beat the bat and hit the outside of off-stump straight after the break.

Gambhir had accepted the blame in the first innings for Sehwag's run-out, and perhaps will need to do likewise for his part in a faulty single which saw off Cheteshwar Pujara thanks to Bell's direct hit from midwicket.

Transient controversy followed when Gambhir escaped on 36, umpire Rod Tucker apparently initially satisfied he had edged to slip but unsure whether the ball had carried to a diving Jonathan Trott.

It had, but third umpire Vineet Kulkarni also seemed to convey the fact Gambhir had not got bat on ball after all.

The right decision had been reached via a grey area in the established process for series not involving DRS.

But the fact that Gambhir followed some reverse-swing from Finn (three for 37) to edge behind just four runs later relegated the discussion, and it was less relevant still when Sachin Tendulkar was next out, edging a Swann arm ball to slip.

Flying Finn: England's bowlers all chipped in to dismantle India

Flying Finn: England's bowlers all chipped in to dismantle India

Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli's attempt to stop the rot did not last long before the left-hander was bowled by one from Anderson that snaked in from round the wicket and kept low, and India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni edged the same bowler low to his opposite number Cook at slip.

Kohli edged behind flailing at some more outswing from Finn after tea, and it seemed certain England were on the home straight – until Ashwin got set.

England had arrived this morning in the hope of maximising the pressure and an hour's profitable batting would have been their first wish.

Instead, their innings was finished in under five overs.

Prior and Swann could add only a single between them to their existing seventh-wicket stand of 56.

Prior drove the first ball of the day for a single, only for Swann to then immediately become Ojha's fourth victim – edging another attempted drive to slip.

Tail end: Monty Panesar took the final wicket of the day

Tail end: Monty Panesar took the final wicket of the day

Then Prior went to cut Zaheer Khan at the other end and edged behind – England's second departure in the space of seven balls.

Finn and Anderson managed a boundary each but the introduction of Ashwin for Ojha (four for 142) brought two wickets in two balls to conclude the innings.

Ashwin had previously conceded 183 runs for his one success but, after Anderson edged to slip and Monty Panesar went lbw first ball, despite an apparent inside-edge, the off-spinner had two more at no further cost.

It seemed the mid-match momentum had perhaps switched, all the more so when Sehwag and Gambhir tried to seize the initiative too.

But it was a short-lived illusion.

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Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news
organisations.

The BCCI
has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty
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Black Caviar may be retired

Caviar may be off the menu after Aussie superstar suffers injury during Ascot triumph

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 24 June 2012

A valedictory farewell tour back home looks on the agenda for Black Caviar after she scrambled home in Saturday’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The understandable immediate disappointment at her head verdict over Moonlight Cloud, as well as relief that jockey Luke Nolen’s final furlong misjudgement did not have calamitous ramifications, prompted hints of retirement.

A run in Newmarket’s July Cup has never been a serious possibility.

Made it: Black Caviar (right) narrowly won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes

Made it: Black Caviar (right) narrowly won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes

THREE MOMENTS TO SAVOUR

Star of the show: Frankel by a mile or, to be exact, 11 lengths in the Queen Anne Stakes — his best run yet on Flat racing’s biggest stage.

Ride of the week: Kieren Fallon, who manoeuvred Most Improved into the ideal position from a poor draw in the St James’s Palace Stakes.

Jockey of the week: William Buick underlined his place at racing’s top table with five wins, including Newfangled and Fallen For You.

But, as she heads in quarantine, a likely shot the Patinack Stakes at the Melbourne Cup spring carnival in front of her adoring Australian fans, possibly preceded by a prep run in the Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valle looks the way trainer Peter Moody will steer the mare whose unbeaten sequence now stretches to 22 races.

Ratings experts Timeform have provisionally projected Black Caviar performed by 13lb below her best on Saturday.

The BHA’s head of handicapping Phil Smith more conservatively estimated the run at between 10lb to 12lb under her capabilities.

But after a 10,000 mile global trip from the southern hemisphere, Black Caviar deserves to be cut a little leeway and not be too harshly judged despite not completely living up to the pre-race publicity.

Having travelled from the Aussie winter, her coat lacked the gleam of her rivals and Smith also argued that the result also reflected national racing styles.

He said: ‘Australian racing is all about early pace. Once you’ve burnt your rivals off, they don’t come back at you. European racing is different. It is all about finishing and that is especially the case with the French, who supplied the second and third Moonlight Cloud and Resurgent.’

That mind set possibly explains why
Nolen eased off in the last half furlong. Maybe he could not believe
another rival get close as well as wishing to nurse home a mount se is
now sentimentally attached to.

But the clock make interesting
reading. Black Caviar completed the last furlong in 13.7secs – the third
slowest time in the field. But he split between the two and one furlong
pole of 10.84sec, easily the quickest in the race.

Lucky boy: Black Caviar extended her winning run to 22 races at Ascot

Lucky boy: Black Caviar extended her winning run to 22 races at Ascot

Intriguingly, on similar going, Frankel’s quickest furlong in Tuesday’s Queen Anne Stakes was 10.58secs between the three and two furlong pole.

Evidence Sir Henry Cecil’s wonder colt is better Not conclusively but an intriguing comparison.

This was racing – not a time trial even if Frankel makes it look that way. Hot favourites will get turned over at next month’s Olympics not because they lack raw talent but because on the day they could not produce their best for a variety of reasons.

Moody said: ‘I had concerns half a mile out, only her grit and ability got her home. You have probably seen the filly race at her lowest ebb for 10 or 12 starts – but fortunately she was able to get the job done. Post-race she is out on her feet.

‘I am slightly disappointed for your public that they haven’t seen how great this filly is. There will be some doubting Thomases but you don’t win 22 from 22 being a mug.

‘I saw the greatest performance I witnessed on a racecourse on Tuesday with Frankel. Had I brought this mare here last year, I probably would have said the same thing.’

Maybe, the Black Caviar has peaked as her career enters its last lap but she was put out of her comfort zone and got the job done. Many great champions from sport can’t claim that She also helped enliven one of the best ever royal meetings. Frankel, So You Think, Gold Cup winner Frankie Dettori and The Queen’s Estimate they all ignited crowds that were disappointingly down overall.

Royal occasion: The Queen congratulates the owners of Black Caviar

Royal occasion: The Queen congratulates the owners of Black Caviar

But Black Caviar’s presence, with her army of pink and back, green and gold occasionally raucous flag waving fans, brought an added dimension to the five-days.

The nearest thing I have witnessed was Zenyatta’s agonising defeat to Blame in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic when jockey Mike Smith broke down in tears after giving American racing’s darling too much to do and she lost her unblemished record on her 20th and final start.

Nolen’s great escape meant he did not have to shed tears. ‘It’s not the bloody story,’ he implored under a barrage of questions about his near disastrous mistake.

It was 10 minutes after the race but in 10 months and 10 years, the story that will be that Black Caviar put her record and neck on the line and succeeded.

As the crowd waited for her return to the winner’s enclosure, a small lady dressed in green stood patiently waiting. Her gloved hand eventually patted the mare’s nose.

It was as if the Queen of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth had been granted an audience with the Queen of the racecourse. Her majesty, so atuned to racing, appreciated more than most that it was mission accomplished.

Meanwhile, Faarh, the Goldolphin-owned colt who stepped up from handicap company to finish third to So You Think in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, appears to be heading for a re-match in the Coral Eclipse.

TrainerAlan McCabe says his German 2,000 Guineas winner Caspar Netscher could be aimed at clash with Frankel in Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes if all goes well in next weekend’s Prix Jean Prat.

Graeme Swann hits out at Andrew Strauss "witch-hunt"

Swann hits out at 'witch-hunt' over captain Strauss' batting form

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 4 April 2012

Graeme Swann hit out at the ‘witch-hunt’ he believes has been unfairly waged against England captain Andrew Strauss, who made 61 on Wednesday against Sri Lanka in Colombo.

‘Everyone was rooting for Straussy because he’s come under what I consider very unfair criticism,’ said England’s off-spinner.

Showing his class: Andrew Strauss was back in the runs with his 61

Showing his class: Andrew Strauss was back in the runs with his 61

‘He hasn’t shown any signs of being under any pressure. We only realised he was under scrutiny because some of us can read.

‘It’s obvious there’s been what I see as a little bit of a witch-hunt towards him, that I think is unjustified. But you wouldn’t ever tell from the way he carries himself, the way he talks and the way he captains.

Backing his captain: Graeme Swann says all the England players are fully behind Andrew Strauss

Backing his captain: Graeme Swann says all the England players are fully behind Andrew Strauss

‘He’s the best captain in world cricket and a world-class opening batsman.He should be afforded leeway for what he’s achieved in the last two to three years.’

Arsene Wenger plans Arsenal clearout to fund summer spree

EXCLUSIVE: Wenger plans mass clearout to fund spending spree

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 27 March 2012

Arsenal want to clear out fringe players currently costing the club 23million a year in wages as Arsene Wenger prepares for a summer spending splurge.

Wenger wants to add at least two big-name signings to his squad and reward a clutch of players – chiefly Robin van Persie – with improved contracts.

Key man: Arsenal are prepared to break the bank to keep Van Persie

Key man: Arsenal are prepared to break the bank to keep Van Persie

The Gunners will embark on a summer cull designed to give Wenger as much leeway as possible with regards to offering competitive salaries.

And some of the club's biggest earners will be put up for sale as Arsenal look to utilise their wage budget more effectively.

Andrey Arshavin, who earns 75,000 per week, Marouane Chamakh, who gets 60,000 per week, and Sebastien Squillaci, Nicklas Bendtner, Denilson and Carlos Vela, who are paid 50,000 per week, can all leave.

Exit: Chamakh is one of the big earners set to leave in the summer

Exit: Chamakh is one of the big earners set to leave in the summer

Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, who is on 60,000 per week, will definitely go in the summer when his deal expires.

Recent club accounts have shown the wage bill has increased by 20m – despite the sales of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy.

And freeing up the budget for wages is a top priority this summer, though the club may encounter difficulties in shifting the aforementioned players, given their hefty salaries.

Getting talisman Van Persie to sign a new long-term deal is top of the club's summer to-do list, with Arsenal willing to burst through their wage ceiling to offer the striker 120,000 per week.

End of the road: Arshavin, on loan at Zenit, has one year to run on his Arsenal deal

End of the road: Arshavin, on loan at Zenit, has one year to run on his Arsenal deal

And Sportsmail can reveal Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also in line for a new and improved contract, despite only joining from Southampton last summer.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, 18, earns in the region of 20,000 per week but Arsenal will look to reward him with a pay rise this summer following his promising first season.

New deal: Wenger is keen to reward Oxlade-Chamberlain

New deal: Wenger is keen to reward Oxlade-Chamberlain

Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday that influential midfielder Alex Song is also in line for a pay hike that would take his earnings to around 75,000 per week, while talks over a new deal for England forward Theo Walcott are ongoing, despite uncertainty over his future.

In addition to tying down the club's existing stars, Wenger is eager to add new faces as he plots a title tilt next season.

Lille forward Eden Hazard, Rennes midfielder Yann M'Vila and Borussia Dortmund starlet Mario Gotze – who extended his contract to 2016 yesterday – are all targets.

Chelsea forward Daniel Sturridge and Blackburn midfielder Steven Nzonzi have also been mentioned by Wenger.

Trimming the club's wage bill will give Arsenal the best chance possible to put together competitive pay-packages and lure their top targets.

Player cull

Player cull

Rangers" Lee McCulloch free to face Celtic and Motherwell

Ibrox leeway as McCulloch is free to face Bhoys and Motherwell

Lee McCulloch”s appeal against his Christmas Eve red card will not be heard until January 5 – leaving him free to feature in Wednesday”s Old Firm showdown and the New Year visit from Motherwell.

The Ibrox club confirmed they would challenge the decision of referee Steve McLean to dismiss McCulloch for an alleged elbow on St Mirren”s Graham Carey during the champions” 2-1 defeat in Paisley.

Flashpoint: McCulloch is red-carded by referee Steve McLean against St Mirren

Flashpoint: McCulloch is red-carded by referee Steve McLean against St Mirren

And they will benefit from the wording of the SFA”s new disciplinary protocol, which state that three “working days” must be allowed for the process of evidence-gathering and submissions before a Judicial Panel can sit to decide on an appeal.

Christmas and New Year holidays mean, therefore, that there can be no resolution until January 5 at the earliest.

The loophole could well work in favour of Ally McCoist”s men as they prepare to try to defend their leadership of the SPL at Parkhead before hosting third-placed Motherwell on January 2.

Yet there is a risk attached to the move.

McCulloch could have his ban extended from two to three games if the panel ultimately decides it was a “frivolous” appeal.

Dorin Goian was also ordered off against St Mirren, but cannot contest his dismissal as it was for two yellow cards.

And the Romanian defender believes Rangers are committing “hara-kiri” with their title ambitions after the costly defeat.

Goian admits the mood within the Ibrox squad has suffered as Celtic have rapidly closed the gap to a single point, but is refusing to write off his team-mates as they prepare for Parkhead.

“We didn”t expect to lose against St Mirren, but you know how we are, we have a gift of committing hara-kiri when nobody expects it,” said Goian.

“It was hard to resist being a man down from the 20th minute, especially as they came at us following the sending-off.

“Then, of course, came my own sending off, but the fate of the game was already decided.

“I”m sorry I”ll be missing the derby against Celtic. But in a derby like this anything can happen, even if the atmosphere at the club is not the best right now.”

Kyle Bartley seems the most likely candidate to take over from Goian at the heart of the Rangers defence alongside Carlos Bocanegra, who has warned against too much being read into the outcome of Wednesday”s derby.

“What happens this week will decide nothing,” the American international told the official club website.