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India v England: Kevin Pietersen, Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar pictured arriving at Heathrow

Flower sees India triumph as turning point for England as Cook, KP and Co arrive back at Heathrow after momentous victory

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UPDATED:

12:51 GMT, 18 December 2012

Andy Flower senses England’s Test team may have reached a turning point with their historic series victory in India.

The triumphant England players arrived at Heathrow today, as Kevin Pietersen, Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar were greeted warmly after touching down in London.

Pietersen, who successfully reintegrated into the squad this series after being selected by Flower, was snapped as he pushed his trolley through the airport.

Triumphant: Monty Panesar and Alastair Cook

Welcome back: Kevin Pietersen is pictured arriving at Heathrow Airport this morning

Triumphant: Monty Panesar (left) and Alastair Cook were at Heathrow along with Kevin Pietersen (right)

Cook and Panesar walked alongside each other through Terminal 3 after yesterday's draw in Nagpur.

Cook’s tourists defied the pessimistic expectations of many by recovering from a nine-wicket drubbing in the first Test in Ahmedabad to win successive matches in Mumbai and Kolkata and then clinch the series with yesterday’s draw.

In doing so, they finished a tough year on a significant high.

Under Cook’s predecessor Andrew Strauss, a dual Ashes-winning captain, England fell from grace in 2012 with series defeats against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates last winter and then at home to South Africa.

Their hard-earned world No 1 Test status was a thing of the past by the time Strauss retired four months ago – and even after their 2-1 victory here, a first in India for almost 28 years, they have lost seven of 15 matches this year.

Good show: Cook and Panesar were greeted warmly at Terminal 3 at Heathrow

Good show: Cook and Panesar were greeted warmly at Terminal 3 at Heathrow

All smiles: Cook was accompanied by his wife Alice as he pushed his trolley through the terminal

All smiles: Cook was accompanied by his wife Alice as he pushed his trolley through the terminal

Coach Flower believes, however, there is no reason why the future cannot be a bright one for Cook’s team.

Asked if the fightback in India – completed thanks to centuries by Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell yesterday – could be a turning point, he said: 'I think it is.

'We had a tough time in the UAE against Pakistan at the start of the year, and one of the most satisfying things at the minute – certainly for me, and I’m sure for the players – is that they’ve shown they can score runs.

'Even some of the older guys, that have been around and have excellent Test career achievements, have still adapted their game and shown their game can improve.

'They’ve done that in conditions where English teams don’t historically do very well.

'I think everyone is very proud of that.'

Say cheese: The pair smiled for the cameras after touching down in the capital

Say cheese: The pair smiled for the cameras after touching down in the capital

Spinning to victory: This picture of Graeme Swann (right) and Monty Panesar (left) was tweeted by fellow bowler James Anderson

Spinning to victory: This picture of Graeme Swann (right) and Monty Panesar (left) was tweeted by fellow bowler James Anderson

Generations of England batsmen, in particular, have been found wanting in India since David Gower’s 1984-85 tourists also prevailed by a 2-1 margin.

'It’s very satisfying for that group of 30 blokes to have come out here and adapted to these conditions and overcome the opposition,' added Flower.

'It’s taken a lot of hard work, a lot of thought and a lot of skill out there in the middle – and they should be very proud of themselves.'

Flower paid tribute to his players’ character after they adapted brilliantly to the conditions.

He told Radio 5 Live: 'After the losses in the UAE we put some training regimes in place to help the players with their knowledge of how to play spin and score runs in these conditions.

Captain fantastic: Alastair Cook ensured that the tourists ended 2012 on a high

Captain fantastic: Alastair Cook ensured that the tourists ended 2012 on a high

'The players have put hours and hours of work into improving themselves. Their improvement against spin is great testament to their character.

'I think it has been a great year for English cricket. To win here for the first time in (almost) 28 years is an historic achievement. There is plenty for us to be proud of us in this last year.'

Flower also had words of praise for Kevin Pietersen, who finished a turbulent year personally on a high, the highlight a magnificent 186 in Mumbai.

He said: 'That innings in Mumbai was outstanding. He showed incredible skill and for him to turn the game around for us in partnership with Alastair Cook was a pivotal moment in the series.'

Andy Murray on his own in British tennis

In a world of one: Brit pack failing to close gap on trailblazer Murray

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 12 September 2012

While Britain’s No 1 male tennis player walked through Heathrow to spontaneous applause on Wednesday, the national No 2 was at a small tournament in a small town in Luxembourg.

The worlds of US Open champion Andy Murray and Josh Goodall, the world No 200, are further apart than ever now, with the latter in the second round of a 50,000 Challenger event taking place in Petange, calling itself the Roller Open.

Murray flew in overnight from New York and will not have been displeased with the relative lack of clamour at Heathrow, where his walk through the arrivals hall to a waiting car met with spontaneous applause from onlookers.

The champions returns: US Open winner Andy Murray and his girlfriend Kim Sears (right) arrive back at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport on Wednesday

The champions returns: US Open winner Andy Murray and his girlfriend Kim Sears (right) arrive back at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport on Wednesday

Before that he stood, unmolested, by the carousel waiting for luggage, chatting happily with a couple of us doing the same thing. As ever in these situations he was friendly to all-comers and keen to catch up on the latest sports gossip, intrigued by football results and the rumpus surrounding Rory McIlroy’s Olympic representation.

All appeared reassuringly un-life-changing, as he hoped it would, although he will see what impact he has made if he attends Glasgow’s Olympic parade on Friday, which he still plans to do.

Goodall, by contrast, is an anonymous foot soldier, the 26-year-old from Basingstoke continuing his struggle to break through to the big leagues with a second-round defeat in Luxembourg, where Jamie Murray is playing doubles.

Jamie Baker, the national No 3, lost in the first round there, and the fact is the men’s rankings still make alarming reading for British tennis, with only four players in the top 300.

Lagging behind: No 2 Josh Goodall is ranked someway below Murray

Lagging behind: No 2 Josh Goodall is ranked someway below Murray

Among those charged with changing that is Leon Smith, the coach who guided Murray’s junior career, including the junior US Open junior win.

He was, he admits, ‘very emotional’ watching Monday’s final at home, although his focus now as Davis Cup captain and head of national training at the Lawn Tennis Association is on developing talent to support Murray.

After two years and four months in the post he is confident it will not be too long before his former charge is not in such glorious isolation as a star of the world game.

‘Andy is a one-off, no country can just produce players like him and, coming through the juniors from 11 to 17, he hit all the benchmarks that predicted future success,’ said Smith. ‘What we are starting to do is put through good development plans for our younger players. While there is a lot more to do we are starting to see the fruits of some of the things going on.’

Talking a good game: Murray talks to the Press as he arrives back at Heathrow

Talking a good game: Murray talks to the Press as he arrives back at Heathrow

Smith is referring to the age group hitting their late teens, a few of whom offer hope of making decent careers for themselves.

Last year three British boys reached the US Open semi-finals, with Twickenham’s Oliver Golding winning the title. Shortly after Great Britain won the junior equivalent of the Davis Cup, spearheaded by Yorkshire’s Kyle Edmund, and on Sunday Stockport’s Liam Broady reached the junior final at Flushing Meadows.

Greg Rusedski, Britain’s last New York finalist before Murray, is being used to help that generation.

‘Greg’s one of the good coaches we have got working with them,’ said Smith. ‘The focus is on preparing them, then sending them away on five- or six-week trips to tough environments where they will really learn. Places like Spain and the clay, and South America.

Tough task: Greg Rusedski is coaching the tennis stars of tomorrow

Tough task: Greg Rusedski is coaching the tennis stars of tomorrow

‘The thing you are seeing is that you have got to move well to make it, so putting in the physical work to do that is a big part.’

As for the twentysomethings like Goodall, Baker and the injured James Ward, they are being kept going with a new bonus scheme that gives financial support related to results.

But Smith conceded the emerging juniors are ‘not a massive group’. The real challenge is broadening the playing base.

Until it is made easier for talented children and supportive parents to find ways to the top, we will rely on mavericks like Andy and Judy Murray.

Ben Gordon absent from Team GB basketball squad

Gordon absence fails to dampen Team GB's basketball optimism as they return home

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UPDATED:

16:35 GMT, 1 July 2012

The absence of Ben Gordon did little to put a dampener on Great Britain's return home as they arrived in London to begin their final preparations for the Olympics on Sunday.

The team flew back from a two-week training camp in Houston and were greeted by cheering fans at Heathrow's Terminal 5.

Hoop dreams: Team GB Basketball team at Heathrow Airport

Hoop dreams: Team GB Basketball team at Heathrow Airport

But there was no Gordon in the squad, with GB Basketball finally admitting defeat in their efforts to get the NBA star on board, having held a spot open for him until the last minute despite his failure to report to camp.

The London-born Gordon, who has never yet played for Britain despite being included in squads since 2008, was traded by the Detroit Pistons to the Charlotte Bobcats earlier this week, and that seems to have been a key factor in his decision to stay away this time.

Staying at home: Ben Gordon

Staying at home: Ben Gordon

GB Basketball performance director Chris Spice said: 'We always thought that it would go long so we kept the door open as long as we could.

'We knew he might be traded and that it would impact on us, so we always said to him just join us as soon as you can before the end of the month, before we left Houston and before we had to get the team into the Olympic association which we did yesterday.

'We had been in correspondence with his people, and one day he was in, one day he was out. In the end it was a very difficult decision, but he felt he couldn't commit. We are where we are and now we focus on the guys we have here.'

The players who were on board last night's flight were taken aback by the welcome they got as young fans turned up to play a pick-up game in a specially constructed court outside the terminal building.

'We weren't expecting to see all of this when we came out,' said forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu.

'I think it helps us as a team to know that we have the country behind us.'

Captain Drew Sullivan and Kieron Achara both took to twitter to express their delight at the welcome home.

'Thanks to all the @gbbasketball fans that made the trip to Heathrow this morning to welcome us back home. It was sincerely appreciated,' Sullivan wrote.

Achara added: 'Great welcome home surprise for us today at Heathrow. Thanks for all the fans that showed up 2 welcome the team back.'

/07/01/article-2167270-13E07EEC000005DC-172_634x502.jpg” width=”634″ height=”502″ alt=”At least we've got the best girls: Spirit Dance Team Cheerleaders dance as the Great Britain basketball team arrive at Heathrow” class=”blkBorder” />

At least we've got the best girls: Spirit Dance Team Cheerleaders dance as the Great Britain basketball team arrive at Heathrow

But GB Basketball were making no apologies for trying to secure a player who would have provided a huge upgrade at their weakest position.

'Obviously it's really disappointing as he's a world-class player who would have made a huge difference to our team,' Spice added.

'But we're still going to put our strongest ever team out there, and Ben coming over was always going to be a bonus. We're confident in the guys that we have.'

Gordon is the second NBA player Britain have missed out on this summer as last week fellow Bobcat /07/01/article-2167270-13E07B80000005DC-365_634x419.jpg” width=”634″ height=”419″ alt=”Great welcome: GB's Joel Freeland with children from the Kingston Wildcats at Heathrow” class=”blkBorder” />

Great welcome: GB's Joel Freeland with children from the Kingston Wildcats at Heathrow

Britain lost all of their warm-up games, against Nigeria, Lithuania and Russia, while in the United States, but are in optimistic mood as they prepare for games in France and Spain next week before playing in front of their own fans with warm-up games scheduled in Sheffield and Manchester before the Games.

'Today was a great boost for the squad,' head coach Chris Finch said. 'The atmosphere as we came through arrivals was fantastic and a very special moment for the players to feel the support from the public for GB this year.

'We are very focused on the rest of our preparations and excited to play some games at home in Sheffield and Manchester.'