Tag Archives: pitches

Gareth Bale has banana thrown at him during Tottenham v Arsenal

Bale strikes back after Arsenal fan throws banana at him in north London derby

By
Rik Sharma

PUBLISHED:

17:09 GMT, 3 March 2013

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UPDATED:

17:09 GMT, 3 March 2013

Gareth Bale had a banana thrown at him by an Arsenal fan as he went to take a corner in Sunday's north London derby.

The linesman removed it from the pitch and no further action was taken after the incident.

Bale got his own back soon after, being
played in by Gylfi Sigurdsson and prodding the ball past Wojciech
Szczesny to open the scoring for Spurs against their arch-rivals at White Hate Lane.

Incident: The linesman holds the banana thrown at Gareth Bale as he went to take the corner

Incident: The linesman holds the banana thrown at Gareth Bale as he went to take the corner

When bananas are thrown on to football pitches they are usually in incidents with a racial connotation.

Inter Milan fans recently racially abused AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli by bringing inflatable bananas to the San Siro for their recent derby.

Nasser Hussain: Cook comes nicely to the boil in Mumbai

Captain Cook comes nicely to the boil in Mumbai

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UPDATED:

19:58 GMT, 23 November 2012

Give Alastair Cook a job to do and he learns on his feet very quickly. We have seen it with his batting and on Friday we saw it with his captaincy.

The difference between Cook's leadership in the first Test and here was marked. England picked the right side in Mumbai and then Cook turned to Monty Panesar early when he could have been stubborn and bowled Graeme Swann ahead of him.

Good day: Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar

In control: Alastair Cook

Cook employed attacking fields with men round the bat and realised how important a position gully was on a pitch that turned and bounced.

It was all going well for England until Cheteshwar Pujara spoiled their day and I genuinely don't know what I would do to get him out at the moment. I think we are going to be seeing a lot more of him in the next few years.

Picture dispute

We are unable to carry live pictures from the Second Test in Mumbai due to a dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news organisations.

The BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies.

MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.

Perhaps Cook could have been a bit more ruthless with Stuart Broad and left him stewing at long leg because he leaked runs whenever he bowled and, in a relatively low-scoring game, those runs could be vital come Monday or Tuesday.

Sometimes you have to be unpopular with a player as a captain and, even if it had meant bowling Panesar and Swann into the ground, Cook should not have turned to Broad as much as he did because it was clearly not his day.

It is difficult to put your finger on what's wrong with Broad but these pitches have been unresponsive for seamers.

In the summer it seemed his pace was down but he blamed the speed gun and then England said he had reduced his pace deliberately to concentrate on accuracy. He bowled very well in subcontinental conditions last winter, and it would have been harsh to leave him out here after one bad game (batsmen get several chances), but he is clearly going through one of those difficult spells.

England paceman Steven Finn ruled out of first Test in India

England set to turn to Bresnan after Finn ruled out of first Test in India

PUBLISHED:

07:08 GMT, 14 November 2012

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UPDATED:

08:03 GMT, 14 November 2012

Steven Finn has been ruled out of England's first Test against India by a thigh strain.

England captain Alastair Cook confirmed that Finn would miss out in a press conference in Ahmedabad.

'Steven will not be available for tomorrow's Test', said Cook. 'It would be too big a risk.'

Sit this one out: England are unwilling to risk aggravating Steven Finn's injury

Sit this one out: England are unwilling to risk aggravating Steven Finn's injury

England are already contemplating a gamble on Stuart Broad's fitness as he has been troubled by a bruised heel.

Cook did not confirm who would replace Finn at the Sarwar Patel Stadium but seamer Tim Bresnan is the favourite to get the nod.

Fellow seamer Graham Onions and spinner Monty Panesar would be alternatives to Bresnan.

One bowler England will have available to them is Graeme Swann, with the off-spinner back in India following an emergency dash home to tend to his ill baby daughter.

Swann returned home last week after his daughter Charlotte was taken into hospital, but he has now rejoined the team ahead of the four-Test series.

In his column in the Sun, Swann wrote: 'I am now totally focused on the first Test after flying home because our little baby was unwell.

Face fits: Tim Bresnan shows off his own take on Movember

Face fits: Tim Bresnan with his own take on Movember

'Two long-haul
flights in the space of five days is not ideal preparation for the
opening match of a huge series for England – but some things are more
important than cricket.'

Although Swann missed several days of practice, the spinner insisted he feels ready to go.

'I had sleep flying back to India and any jet-lag has gone. I'm fresh
and the ball has been coming out well in practice,' he wrote.

'I am now concentrating on the Test. I love it when I know I'll have a
lot of work to do. The conditions will be hot, the pitches dry and spin
will be a big factor in the four-Test series.

'I genuinely believe we can win but we must play better against spin
than we did in the three Tests against Pakistan earlier this year.

'We need to get back to playing the same brand of smart, aggressive
cricket we did when winning The Ashes a couple of winters ago.'

Much of the focus in the build-up to the Test has surrounded Kevin
Pietersen's return to the team for the first time since he was dropped
for sending 'provocative' text messages to members of the South Africa
team.
Swann has welcomed Pietersen back to the fold and believes he can make a big difference in India.

'I hope we'll play sensible but aggressive cricket,' he said.

Ready for action: Spinner Graeme Swann

Ready for action: Spinner Graeme Swann

'Nobody can be more destructive, of course, than Kevin Pietersen and his return to the dressing room has been very smooth.

'I think that was always going to be the case after those meetings with
him in Oxford before the tour. That effectively killed off anything that
happened during the summer and it's been the normal mickey-taking and
banter with Kevin.

'In any dressing room, there are always leg-pulling comments. Although I
must be honest and say Kevin is not the butt of most of the jokes
because there are one or two players specially reserved for that!

'Now we want the cricket to do the talking. And I'm sure Kevin feels the same way.'

England captain Cook would not be drawn on his plans to replace Finn in the bowling line-up, and resented the accusation that he was picking from the also-rans.

He told Sky Sports News: 'I wouldn't call them back-up bowlers, they're all vying for a place to play in this XI, to be lucky enough to play for England.

'They've all worked hard to get used to these conditions and as selectors we've got a tough decision to make.'

Cook admitted he had not been out to check on the condition of the wicket at Ahmedabad since yesterday morning.

'Wickets change a lot in 24 hours,' he added. 'Yesterday it looked quite a dry wicket and I think it's been relaid so not much first-class cricket has been played on it.'

Steve Finn injured his thigh playing for England against India A

England wait on Finn injury as bowler injures his thigh in warm-up game

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UPDATED:

23:42 GMT, 30 October 2012

Steven Finn had a scan on his right thigh on Tuesday night as England suffered an early injury scare on their tour of India.

The Middlesex fast bowler completed only four overs on the first morning of England’s tour opener against India A in Mumbai before indicating he felt unable to continue because of a niggle picked up in the field.

Finn, an integral part of England’s plans to hit India hard on their docile pitches, left the

Brabourne Stadium before the end of play to go back to the team hotel for the scan, the results of which were last night being examined in England.

Concern: Finn pulled up with a thigh injury

Concern: Finn pulled up with a thigh injury

‘We’re disappointed one of our fast bowlers had to go off,’ said Tim Bresnan, Finn’s main rival for a Test place who ended up bowling 20 overs on a hot day in the field.

‘It’s one of those things where you just have to step up a bit, and each of you has to take on his responsibility. We don’t know much about his injury. All we know is, it’s hurting.’

Taking a break: Steven Finn has a drink during the first days play

Taking a break: Steven Finn has a drink during the first days play

The International Cricket Council has given the go-ahead for teams to stage Test cricket under floodlights, pending the agreement of both competing nations on the hours of play and the brand of ball to be used.

The game’s governing body are concerned that cricket’s longest format is losing out to the more spectator-friendly Twenty20, but the England and Wales Cricket Board are lukewarm about the proposal. England is rare in packing out home matches, with more than 1.65million spectators attending games across the three formats in the past two summers.

There are also concerns about the effects of the British climate on day-night Test matches.

Brian Clough is still a son of Middlesbrough but Don Revie is forgotten

Clough is still a son of Boro… Revie is forgotten

By
Michael Walker

PUBLISHED:

21:30 GMT, 16 September 2012

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 16 September 2012

One o'clock, Friday, and at the cafe in Middlesbrough's Albert Park about 20 men have gathered for an afternoon stroll. But this is one with an enjoyable, educational difference.

It begins nearby, outside No 11 Valley Road. This is the house in which Brian Clough was born and raised. There is a green plaque notifying the proud fact.

The route then returns to Albert Park to take in the engaging statue of the young Clough there, boots over his shoulder, on the way to work.

Home favourite: Clough was born and raised in Middlesbrough

Home favourite: Clough was born and raised in Middlesbrough

Across the road from the park, where there is now an estate agents and a pawnbroker, there used to be Rea's cafe, where Clough met one of the great loves of his life, his wife Barbara, and where he talked intently with another, Peter Taylor.

From there it is the length of two pitches to where the old Ayresome Park stood. Clough scored 197 goals in 213 League games for Middlesbrough.

Tarnished figure: Most people didn't realise Revie was from Middlesbrough

Tarnished figure: Most people didn't realise Revie was from Middlesbrough

The treasured ground disappeared in 1997. There are still cobbles on Warwick Street. Down at the bottom of Ayresome Street, the walk then turns.

In the space of around a mile, we have reached a different part of Middlesbrough and soon there is Bell Street, quiet, modest and usually bypassed.

There is no plaque on this street, not even outside pebble- dashed No 20. But there should be. Because here, so close to where Brian Clough grew up and matured as a footballer, is where Don Revie was born.

In 1969, aged 41, Revie led Leeds United to the first league title in the club's history. In 1972, aged 37, Clough led Derby County to their first league title in the club's history.

In 1974, Revie led Leeds to the title again. In 1978, Clough led Nottingham Forest to the club's one and only league title in their history. In between, before and after, there was plenty more.

By the way…

Another Middlesbrough man was Harold Shepherdson, Alf Ramsey's assistant with England in 1966. Harold also has a street named after him: Shepherdson Way leads to the Riverside.

Not least was that Revie became manager of England – successor to Sir Alf Ramsey – at a time when the man who thought he should have that job, who always thought he should have that job, was Brian Clough.

A couple of reasons for Clough's self-confidence came in the shape of Forest's two European Cups, in 1979 and 1980. Clough did not get the England job, but Leeds needed a manager after Revie. They chose – for 44 infamous days – Clough.

That two of the greatest English managers of the 20th century should come from opposite sides of Ayresome Park makes this an exceptional slice of the landscape. That they were opposites in other ways – first rivals, then harsh enemies – is fascinating.

As is the fact that their home town celebrates only one of them. Clough has a plaque, a statue and a street named after him. Don Revie Most people in Middlesbrough don't even know Revie came from Middlesbrough.

In part it is because Revie left for Leicester City at 17 having never played for Boro. But as Roger Hermiston, author of Clough and Revie, explained: 'Not playing for Boro meant no legacy, but also Revie rarely mentioned Middlesbrough. That's understandable.

'Sometimes people put their past behind them. From the town, Revie became a somewhat tarnished figure, the way the England job ended. And they were different characters. As Austin Mitchell said, Clough was like JFK, Revie was like Richard Nixon.'

Hermiston was our guide on Friday, along with Rob Nichols, as part of 'Discover Middlesbrough'. 'But I have great admiration for Revie,' added Hermiston.

Don's mother died when he was 11. Pausing beside a remaining workhouse wall at the Holgate End of Ayresome Park, Hermiston added that 'the fear of ending up here was real for Revie and his father. Revie was two when Wall Street crashed and started the Depression. Fear of unemployment was always on the Revie shoulder. Maybe that explains his later obsession with money.'

Clough, too, liked money. But the walk emphasised his childhood happiness. He wanted to be Wilf Mannion and if not, then Len Hutton. Revie, it seems, wanted away. So many other names and facts stepped forward – in May 1940, Middlesbrough was the first English town to be bombed by the Germans. Living history – so engrossing it was an afterthought that neither Clough nor Revie ever managed Boro.

A club built on localism

York-born Steve McClaren is another Middlesbrough-England managerial connection. In his last league game as Boro boss, at Fulham in May 2006, McClaren named an all-English starting XI. Ross Turnbull, Andrew Davies, Matthew Bates, David Wheater, Andrew Taylor, James Morrison, Jason Kennedy, Lee Cattermole, Malcolm Christie, Danny Graham, Adam Johnson.

They lost 1-0 and none are at the club today. On Saturday Boro beat Ipswich 2-0. Nine of Tony Mowbray's starting XI were English, five of them were born in the north-east. As was Mowbray. Localism.

Nasser Hussain: Strauss goes with pride, on his own terms

Nasser Hussain: Strauss goes with pride, on his own terms

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UPDATED:

23:02 GMT, 29 August 2012

If Andrew Strauss’s experience of resigning as England captain was anything like mine, he’ll currently be going through a range of emotions, both high and low.

A lot of what he said in the press conference resonated with me. You just know when you are mentally finished at the top level, and Strauss said he had run his race. That’s exactly the way that I felt. No matter what other people say, you — and you alone — know when it’s someone else’s turn at the captaincy.

Above all he’ll be feeling a sense of relief. All cricketers know how lucky they are to be playing sport for a living, but sometimes people don’t quite realise how all-consuming it is — not just leading England, which is tiring enough, but to be a professional cricketer full stop. It takes over your whole life and there is this tremendous feeling of release when you pack it all in.

Relaxed mood: Andrew Strauss spoke with his usual poise

Relaxed mood: Andrew Strauss spoke with his usual poise

He’ll no longer have to wake up and think, ‘How am I going to cope with Morne Morkel from round the wicket’ or ‘How am I going to help England deal with their problems on Asian pitches’

Resigning as captain of England means you can finally begin to feel like a normal human being again. You can start to deal with the normal things in life, and spend some overdue time with your family. It’s priceless, really.

Having said that, the change can hit you hard because the brutal fact of the matter is that you are no longer ‘Andrew Strauss, captain of England’. I remember when the crowd started singing ‘Michael Vaughan’s Barmy Army’ after I stepped down in 2003 — and it hurt.

That sounds silly, but it’s all part of the realisation that this incredible job, the job of leading your country in a sport you love and that has been your whole life, now belongs to someone else. That feeling may not properly dawn on Strauss until he sees Alastair Cook leading the Test team out at Ahmedabad on November 15. But when it does, it will affect him. He’s only human.

Ashes glory: England celebrate winning Down Under in 2011

Ashes glory: Andrew Strauss celebrates winning Down Under in 2011 as he became the first England captain in 25 years to retain the Ashes

The most important part of resigning is that you do so on your own terms. I was always quite clear about not wanting to leave the game with any regrets, and I was lucky to be able to sign off from Test cricket with a hundred — on Strauss’s debut against New Zealand — even though I’d given up the captaincy a year earlier.

The sense I get is that Strauss has done just that. He’s not the sort to be jealous of team-mates, or look enviously at someone else’s IPL contract, or wonder what might have been. He’s played 100 Tests, for goodness’ sake, and captained England in 50 of them. He’s squeezed every bit of ability out of himself to score more than 7,000 Test runs and average 40.

Like me, he’s had to spend a lot of time working on a fragile technique and tinkering with his game. He knows he’s worked as hard as he could have done. There’ll be no bitterness — and that’s crucial for your wellbeing and state of mind.

I quit: Hussain with chairman of selectors David Graveney in 2003

I quit: Hussain with chairman of
selectors David Graveney in 2003

People will inevitably confuse the issue of Strauss’s resignation with what’s been going on with Kevin Pietersen, but this isn’t about KP. This was all about Strauss. He’s too strong-minded to let other distractions influence his decision.

Above all, Strauss knows that playing cricket is not the be all and end all. I probably needed to quit the game to realise this, but it’s a helpful thought — whenever it occurs to you. Because he’s such a well-rounded bloke, with a life outside the sport, you can tell he’ll be OK. I wish him luck. He deserves it.

Retaining the World Twenty20 crown will be harder without Kevin Pietersen: Paul Newman

Hales looks the part but can he turn it on against spin kings

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UPDATED:

21:43 GMT, 22 August 2012

Let us get one thing straight. It will be a lot harder for England to defend their World Twenty20 crown without Kevin Pietersen in Sri Lanka next month. There is no point us dwelling on that, should things start going wrong.

The dispute that threatens his international future is bigger than that, so we will just have to get along without him.

Alex Hales may have scored 99 in Pietersen’s place in a Twenty20 international against West Indies, and remains an excellent alternative, but it’s a different kettle of fish entirely trying to do what he did at his home Trent Bridge ground on slow sub-continental pitches against top class spinners.

Stepping in: England's Alex Hales hits out

Stepping in: England's Alex Hales hits out

An indication of how tough life will be for England, without their one batsmen who has shown he can be dominant in alien conditions, perhaps came when Hales and Notts came up against Abdur Rehman, one of England’s winter tormentors, playing for Somerset in a CB40 match.

Hales was out lbw for seven to the Pakistan slow left-armer, who went on to take six for 16.

Talking of left-armers, there will be another absentee in Sri Lanka who could prove as sorely missed as Pietersen.

The pinnacle of Ryan Sidebottom’s career was his starring role in England’s World Twenty20 triumph in Barbados two years ago and left-arm seamers in general have been mightily effective in short-form cricket.

Reece Topley showed again that he is very much a left-arm seamer for the near future with his outstanding performances in an otherwise undistinguished England Under 19 World Cup campaign in Australia, but he is not ready yet. The absence of anyone like him or Sidebottom could be costly in Sri Lanka.

Happier days: Kevin Pietersen celebrates after England won the World Twenty20 in 2010

Happier days: Kevin Pietersen celebrates after England won the World Twenty20 in 2010

As for the batting, England have some good options, but there are two omissions that stand out.

More from Paul Newman…

Paul Newman: Flawed KP not the only one at fault, but faces long road back
15/08/12

Paul Newman: No 1 priority for Strauss must be his own future
08/08/12

Paul Newman: Smash-hit Styris can't hide need for overhaul of county T20 game
25/07/12

Paul Newman: Let's enjoy Pietersen. We'll miss him when he's gone
18/07/12

Paul Newman: Smith looking vulnerable as Boucher era comes to end
11/07/12

Paul Newman: Tremlett is back and ready to hit the heights once more
04/07/12

Paul Newman: It's hardly the Ashes but Aussie duels will set hearts racing…
27/06/12

Paul Newman: Rotation is right way to protect England's top players
20/06/12

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It remains a mystery why Matt Prior cannot be a success in limited-overs cricket and there must have been a temptation to include him, however impressive Craig Kieswetter has been with the bat.

And I thought England would take Alastair Cook as their spare opener, because he has shown in 50-over cricket that he can respond to the different challenges the limited-overs game can throw up.

Cook can succeed in Twenty20, no doubt about that, but England clearly do not want to over-burden a man who will, sooner or later, become their Test captain, too.

None of this is to dismiss England’s chances but it is going to be a very tough assignment. They only need to defeat Afghanistan in one of their two group matches to virtually guarantee progress to the Super Eights, but even they can be dangerous opposition, especially as the shorter game encourages upsets.

Before then England will take on South Africa in five 50-over matches and three Twenty20s to conclude the international season, starting in Cardiff tomorrow, and have another world No 1 ranking to defend.

England have won their last 10 ODIs and will be looking to equal their best ever winning run in Wales.

If they do so they will at least bring a turbulent week to a happy end.

KP makes attempt to put things right

It was Kevin Pietersen who contacted Andrew Strauss late on Monday to ask when they could meet to try to thrash out their problems rather than the other way round.

A small difference, perhaps, but Pietersen at least seems genuinely contrite now and wants to take the initiative on mending the broken relationship that most blocks his England return.

Time to put things right: Kevin Pietersen must apologies to Andrew Strauss

Time to put things right: Kevin Pietersen must apologies to Andrew Strauss

Strauss told him he was going to Spain for a few days and will play for Middlesex at Worcester next Tuesday so any window of opportunity before then will be a small one.

They may meet on Sunday or Monday but it is not certain. When they eventually do, KP has to be totally open about his ‘provocative’ texts and show regret together with a vow that he will change.

Only then will there be any chance of a way back for him.

Tourist misinformation

South Africa may have been brilliant on the pitch to defeat England 2-0, but they have not been so good off it. From the moment Sportsmail revealed the existence of the texts that may cost Pietersen his England career, the South Africans, in the form of manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee, have been disingenuous about the affair.

Firstly Moosajee said the texts were ‘merely banter’ when we knew they were more than that. Then he said that England had not contacted the tourists to ask for help in identifying what was in them when we reported that they had.

Keeping to their side of the story: South Africa team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee said the text messages were 'banter'

Keeping to their side of the story: South Africa team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee said the text messages were 'banter'

Andy Flower confirmed on Tuesday that the ECB had indeed sought the tourists’ assistance. And the good doctor said that the texts were not sent to Dale Steyn and AB De Villiers. A question of semantics, perhaps, but they were.

Thank heavens Moosajee doesn’t work for the ECB.

What with all the kerfuffle going on with KP, which has dominated everything, we’ve forgotten all about Jonny Bairstow.

The lad was absolutely brilliant at Lord’s. What an examination of his character! He came through it with flying colours.

Bumble's final word

We now know that this is a fantastic South African attack and if he can come through against them he can play against anything. England may have lost the series but they’ve found a real truly English player here. No doubt about it.

Stuart Broad: This will be as big a Test as I can remember

This will be as big a Test as I can remember

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UPDATED:

21:50 GMT, 1 August 2012

No excuses

We play in a no-excuses environment, so we were very honest with each other after our heavy defeat in the first Test. We talked at The Oval at the end of the game about what had just happened before we all went our separate ways and now we've had time to properly reflect on it all before trying to put things right at Headingley.

We can't dwell on it now because these things, and these kind of Tests, can happen and it is how we respond now that counts. We are not over-reacting and we are not too concerned. Our confidence hasn't been affected. It's just a question of thinking about all the things we need to do better and moving on.

If we have a good week in Leeds, then we will have put a bad week in London to bed.

Destructive: Hashim Amla scored a triple century in first Test

Destructive: Hashim Amla scored a triple century in first Test

What went wrong

As a bowling unit we have adapted to all sorts of conditions in the past and proved we can bowl on unresponsive pitches, but we all walked off after that match saying, 'I don't think there was anything else we could have done'.

We saw some magnificent batting from South Africa, Hashim Amla in particular, in absolutely perfect conditions for batting. Credit where it is due. There was no real swing apart from on the second morning when we were batting and once the rain had come the whole atmosphere changed and the ball did absolutely nothing on a pitch that surprised us all.

We normally back ourselves to get reverse swing but the outfield was damp and the ball went soft. I don't think there was anything wrong with our bowling plans, but as there was no pace in the pitch we were reduced to almost waiting for a mistake from the batsmen.

It was one of those freak occurences. Having said that, we should have been capable of batting that match out for a draw but, as a team, we played too many bad shots. Ian Bell showed the patience required on the final day but it needed three or four more of us to play like that.

Big chance: England's James Taylor

Big chance: England's James Taylor

Setting the pace

There has been talk about the pace I bowled at The Oval and it was even suggested I might be carrying an injury.

Well, I can categorically say that I have no niggles or anything like that. And I am not sure about the accuracy of some of the readings from the speed gun that Sky use. I think they can be affected by the elements.

I'm much more convinced about the accuracy of the Hawk-Eye estimates of pace that are shown to the team.

I think my first spell was around 84-85 miles per hour, but after that I accept it was down because there wasn't much value in bowling quick on that pitch. It was bouncing twice before it reached the keeper at times.

I was just trying to wobble the seam and get a bit of movement but there was nothing there. A lot of my success in the last year or so has come without express pace, but it was just not to be this time.

There has been a suggestion that we might have been as under-cooked as South Africa after a long spell without first-class cricket, but what can you do If you don't do well after a break it is said you're under-cooked, but if you don't do well after a busy time it's because you've played too much cricket and you're overcooked.

Yes, practice has been affected by the weather this summer but there was nothing wrong with our preparations. I am hoping for much better at Headingley.

So, what next

Headingley is a good place to come in many ways after a setback like that because things can happen very quickly.

But they tend to happen because of what is going on 'upstairs' in the sky rather than anything to do with the pitch and cloud cover will play a big part in what will happen.

I remember against South Africa here four years ago we were bowled out cheaply, but then the sun shone and South Africa scored 500 because it can be another batter's paradise if it doesn't swing.

What we would really like this year is a pitch with a bit more pace and bounce because we haven't had one this season.

If we get that I'm confident we can make inroads into the South African batting. The plans we have had for Graeme Smith, Amla and Jacques Kallis have worked in the past and I'm sure they can work again for us. The captain who wins the toss faces a huge call because you can never be quite sure what the best thing to do here is.

Challenge: Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad

Challenge: Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad

Taylor made

None of us saw Ravi Bopara's withdrawal coming and it's obviously a great shame he's had to pull out of this Test. We don't know the reasons for it but we wish him well. What it has done is provide a great opportunity for James Taylor and I'm sure it's one he will take. 'Titch' is a real fighter with a good head on his shoulders, which is important as so much of this game is mental.

He played very well in getting a big hundred for Notts against Sussex last week, too. He has followed an identical path as me from Leicestershire to Trent Bridge and now England and this is an exciting time for him.

Time to hit back

it can be an exciting time for all of us. This will be my 48th cap for England, which makes me Nottinghamshire's most-capped player, overtaking Derek Randall's tally of 47, an honour that I hope will be remembered as a productive occasion.

This will be as big a Test as I can remember in this country and one in which we must come out firing on all cylinders.

We must make sure we leave absolutely nothing in the dressing room at the end of this Test. We're not thinking about our No 1 status being on the line here because it hasn't been good for us in the past to look too far ahead.

All we need to do now is think about what we have to do to win at Headingley and stay in this Investec series.

The biggest thing now is how we start this game. Then we will take it from there.

Euro 2012: Poland is haunted by its ugly past

Poland 2012: A land haunted by its ugly past

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UPDATED:

21:32 GMT, 13 June 2012

The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there. So said author LP Hartley. He cannot have been to Poland.

The unavoidable evidence of the first six days of this entertaining, high-energy European Championship is that the past, particularly the ugly parts we thought were left behind, is not foreign or so different. It is here and it is now.

Six days in and we have had racism, homophobia and shocking hooliganism in Warsaw. Rubber bullets have been fired. That’s a term to take you back. Football is in the dock again: Euro 2012 is accused of feeling like Euro 1980.

Throwback: The violence we have seen is reminiscent of bad times gone by

Throwback: The violence we have seen is reminiscent of bad times gone by

And, in some ways it is. The tournament, while an absorbing spectacle on the pitches of Ukraine and Poland, is being confronted with attitudes on race and nationalism that rise like a tsunami above football. Cultural tensions, historic hatreds, old scores, they also have found a venue at Euro 2012.

The frightening and depressing scenes involving Poles and Russians in Warsaw on Tuesday, when there were more than 180 arrests and 24 people were ‘wounded’, threaten to drag football into an area beyond its core responsibility, which is to the game, of course.

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Thankfully, on Wednesday, Uefa fought back, standing up for themselves and the power of football.

In threatening to deduct six points from Russia in the qualifying campaign for Euro 2016, Uefa sent out a strong and welcome message that Russian fans and would-be hooligans need to step back from their aggressive tone. Uefa have fought menace with menace. It is a loud warning and all countries, including England, should hear it.

The test will be if, when the time comes, Uefa carry through with their threat. But having previously been chivvied along by fans and reporters about racist incidents in Wroclaw and Gdansk and having isolated a player such as Mario Balotelli, Uefa have upped the stakes. Whether this restores calm and alters supporter behaviour remains to be seen.

All out attack: Fans scrap in Warsaw

All out attack: Fans scrap in Warsaw

Italy play Croatia in Poznan this evening. There has already been trouble involving Croatia and Irish fans in the city.

On Thursday, Balotelli, described by Slaven Bilic as someone who treads ‘a line between genius and weirdness’, will again be in focus. Balotelli felt exposed by Michel Platini’s statement that players who left the pitch due to racial abuse would be booked.

It is three months since Uefa chose to fine Manchester City more for turning out a minute late for the second half in Porto in a Europa League game than Porto for their fans’ racial abuse of Balotelli.

But Italy-Croatia may remind other countries that Uefa have precedence in points deductions. Croatia’s Balkan neighbours Serbia met Italy in qualification. The game in Genoa in October 2010 was abandoned after six minutes due to violence by Serbian fans.

Street fighting: Fans clash on Russia Day

Street fighting: Fans clash on Russia Day

Italy were awarded a 3-0 victory and three points. Serbia felt the punishment strongly because they missed out on second place by one point. The sanction made a difference. Estonia went into the play-offs instead and lost to the Republic of Ireland.

Serbia will feel they could have been here instead of Giovanni Trapattoni’s team. They could have been playing Croatia — which is all Uefa would have needed! The cocktail of nationalities is already potent. As we have seen, the past is not a foreign country in Poland. It is everywhere. Poland have played Russia. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said yesterday that Tuesday’s hooliganism was not an extension of historic grievances, but it seemed like it.

Now there is a chance Germany could play Russia or Poland next Friday in Gdansk. That’s Germany v Russia in the Polish city where the first shots of World War II were fired. In a corner of Gdansk, ground has been cleared for the construction of a World War II museum. There is a desire in some quarters to overlook such history but can football come to such places and walk on by

In full force: Russian fans are escorted by Polish riot police

In full force: Russian fans are escorted by Polish riot police

Like it or not, football is too important for that. It may not be football’s job to educate and police but the reality is that it has become part of its role. Even taking this tournament to Ukraine and Poland – for which Uefa deserve praise – was an act of inclusion and the joy on the face of Andriy Shevchenko on Monday made it worth it. His pride was his national pride and how good it was to witness Ukrainian happiness.

The jubilant atmosphere across Poland has also made it worth it. Towns have been painted red; there has been an outpouring of non-aggressive pride.

The tournament is too good to be overshadowed by hooligans, chants or careless remarks.

Six days in and, for drama, Euro 2012 could go down in history.

Stuart Broad: I don"t need a rest from the world"s best attack

I don't need a rest from the world's best attack

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 29 May 2012

There is talk about England bringing in a rotation policy and resting a bowler or maybe two now we have won our series against West Indies but I have to say I don’t personally feel in need of a break.

I will obviously respect whatever the hierarchy decide is the best way forward in next week’s third Investec Test at Edgbaston, but I feel in good form, good rhythm and totally fresh after playing just two Test matches and two first-class games this season.

I actually believe I’m in the best nick of my life, so when you feel that way you want to carry on and it’s worth remembering that I missed the Colombo Test against Sri Lanka through injury, so I haven’t had a massive workload in the last few months.

In good spirits: Stuart Broad says he is in the form of his life and wants to play at Edgbaston

In good spirits: Stuart Broad says he is in the form of his life and wants to play at Edgbaston

I know that, with the cricket that is going to be played this winter, rest will be important somewhere down the line, but the schedule this summer isn’t too bad with there being a gap between each of the Tests against South Africa in July and August.

There is not a single player in the England side who would say they want to miss a Test if they are asked ahead of Edgbaston, so if the powers that be do want any of us to sit it out I’m sure we will have to be told rather than volunteer.

But it’s their prerogative.

The bowling unit are certainly delighted with how things have gone for us in this series so far as we have managed to take 20 wickets at both Lord’s and Trent Bridge on low, slow pitches.

Nottingham was a surprise, actually, because the wicket at my home ground is normally very much in our favour, but this time it was more like Trinidad than Trent Bridge!

There was no pace in it and I can’t remember a ball deviating off the straight so we had to work very hard for our success in the second Test.

Broad's Test record: M 47; Inns 86; Runs 4,899; Wkts 161; Ave 30.42

Broad's Test record: M 47; Inns 86; Runs 4,899; Wkts 161; Ave 30.42

Add the fact that there was no real conventional swing this time either — I think we can blame overhead conditions for that — and the bowlers were very proud of what we managed to achieve.

The pitch was so slow in the second innings that we even said to Andrew Strauss that there didn’t seem much point in having too many slips because the ball just didn’t look like going there.

The nice thing is that we haven’t seemed to need conditions in our favour for the bowling unit to thrive and we all offer something a little bit different.

Jimmy Anderson is a world-class swing bowler while I’m a bit taller and hit the deck and Tim Bresnan both swings and seams it.

Then we have a world-class spinner in Graeme Swann who can just as effectively take wickets in the first innings as the second.

Let me tell you a bit more about them…

Jimmy Anderson's Test record: M 70; Inns 130; Runs 8,025; Wkts 267; Ave 30.05

Jimmy Anderson's Test record: M 70; Inns 130; Runs 8,025; Wkts 267; Ave 30.05

Jimmy Anderson

The leader of our attack as the oldest and the one who has been around the longest.

Jimmy talks about his development taking shape around 2008 when the likes of Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and then Andrew Flintoff weren’t around any more and Jimmy was given extra responsibility.

He is so disciplined and where once he could be expensive he now almost never goes for more than two or three an over.

We like to build pressure and Jimmy makes sure that, even if we are in the field for 100 overs, the opposition are unlikely to have scored more than 300.

He’s a grumpy northerner who probably says a bit more to the batsmen than the rest of us on the field, but he’s clever with his verbals and only targets people who he wants to get out of their bubble.

Tim Bresnan's Test record: M 13; Inns 25; Runs 1,324; Wkts 52; Ave 25.46

Tim Bresnan's Test record: M 13; Inns 25; Runs 1,324; Wkts 52; Ave 25.46

Tim Bresnan

Fantastic bloke to have on your side whose batting ability brings a really good balance.

When you get opponents seven wickets down you generally feel you are almost through them, but in our team people like Tim can come in late and still build an innings. Then he creates pressure on opponents with the ball and is capable of bowling a ‘heavy’ delivery.

He actually varies his pace which can keep the batsmen guessing. Bressie has a good bouncer, too, which really worries people and as he has now been in a winning side in all of his 13 Tests we want him to stick around as long as possible!

It will probably mean we are still winning.

Graeme Swann's Test record: M 43; Inns 79; Runs 5,288; Wkts 188; Ave 28.12

Graeme Swann's Test record: M 43; Inns 79; Runs 5,288; Wkts 188; Ave 28.12

Graeme Swann

His record against left-handers is frightening and he is the sort of spinner that England have long been looking for.

Swanny can attack and contain in equal measure and is integral to us being able to field an attack of four specialist bowlers. Can bat as low as number 10, too, which just shows how far down we bat.

And me….

Things have gone really well for me since I found that slightly fuller length last summer and I feel I can both challenge the stumps and bring edges into the equation.

I feel really good at the moment and bowling is as much about confidence and the odd bit of luck as anything else. The new wobble seam delivery has added an extra dimension to my game, too, because it means that I and others can get a bit of seam movement where otherwise there would be none.

I’m in a good place but I know that I have to keep on working really hard to stay there.

In a good place: Broad is congratulated after having Shivnarine Chanderpaul caught

In a good place: Broad is congratulated after having Shivnarine Chanderpaul caught

And off the field…

Well, Jimmy is probably the best dressed among us, but that’s only because he has the shape and size for everything to fit him, whereas Bressie is short and wide and all trousers look too short on me and Steven Finn who, by the way, is easily a Test quality bowler but who is having to wait his turn at the moment.

Swanny dresses like a member of Oasis and is still waiting for the call-up should they ever reform — and he is the one who is most into his music, too. He and Jimmy love all that guitar stuff and have even got a radio show now with the DJ Greg James while Finny reckons himself as something of a ‘gangsta’.

The big lad is by far the worst dresser. Finny thinks he looks good with chinos rolled up showing off his shins…

Losing the sartorial stakes: Steven Finn's wardrobe is something to behold

Losing the sartorial stakes: Steven Finn's wardrobe is something to behold