Rare drought fails to dampen James Anderson’s spirits as England veteran vows to soldier on

Murmurs of an impending retirement were gradually building on Monday as James Anderson prepared to address the media, but those were quickly put to bed as the England veteran vowed to carry on.

Having just turned 38 two weeks ago, Anderson is no longer the spring chicken he once was in his prime. Hence, talks of an irreversible decline were accelerated after his listless showing in the recently concluded Manchester Test against Pakistan.

Playing on his home turf at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground, the Lancashire man picked up just the solitary wicket across the two innings. It was quite the comedown for a bowler who has become synonymous for tormenting opposition batsmen under the rain clouds of England’s summer.

It has been a lean summer by Anderson’s high standards with the stalwart picking up a total of six wickets in as many innings against the West Indies and Pakistan. For a man who kicked off 2020 with a seven-wicket haul against South Africa in Newlands, the recent displays might represent cause for alarm.

The veteran has failed to grab any wickets in the second innings for three Tests and running now. These diminishing returns do raise questions about Anderson’s fitness levels in particular and whether he can maintain the intensity over the course of five days.

Although the concerns are valid, it is too hasty to suggest that the seamer has lost his golden touch. He beat the bat on several occasions in Manchester against Pakistan and even saw a catch put down off his bowling. The veteran vented his ire by kicking the ground in frustration, as Ben Stokes looked on apologetically as the guilty fielder in the slip cordon.

“It’s been a frustrating week for me personally,” Anderson said on Monday as quoted by the ICC.

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Manchester salvos come at just the right time for unlikely heroes Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes

A bold counter-attack from Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler saw England get away with daylight robbery in Manchester, as the hosts returned from the jaws of defeat to snatch victory over a spirited Pakistan.

Being notoriously slow starters in a Test series is a reputation which has stuck with England in the recent past, but they took it to a completely new level at Old Trafford before scripting a sensational fourth innings run chase.

Having been completely outplayed by the visitors for the best part of three days, Joe Root’s side will count themselves lucky to have sneaked a victory in an enthralling finish on Saturday. At the forefront of their thrilling win in the opening Test were two of the most unlikely heroes in Woakes and Buttler.

Going from villain to hero over the course of four days, Buttler produced a batting performance that might have just saved his England Test career. His diminishing returns with the bat over the past two years had already been under the microscope, and question marks over his place in the side were only raised further after a poor wicketkeeping display in the recent series win over the West Indies.

His multiple dropped catches in Manchester could have proved costly for him and England, with a CricViz analysis showing that those lapses had cost the team as many as 84 runs. Hence, the pressure on his shoulders was immense when he came out to bat at 106-4 on Day Four.

He could only watch from the other end when a Shaheen Afridi delivery absolutely took off from a length to hit Ollie Pope’s gloves. In the same phase of play, Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah was starting to torment the batsmen by making excellent use of the big rough on a deteriorating pitch.


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Man City highlights gulf in class over Real Madrid and strong claim for Champions League glory

The point has often been made this season that La Liga’s giants have shrunk in stature. Neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona have been anywhere near their best this term.

Indeed, Los Blancos’ mere cohesion as a more stable unit in the second half of the season, rather than convincing superiority, earned them the league title over their dysfunctional rivals.

Despite a commendable resurgence to be crowned Spanish champions, Real Madrid are well short of the standard required to rule Europe and on Friday night Manchester City proved as much.

The La Liga outfit’s 2-1 defeat at the Etihad – 4-2 on aggregate – ended their Champions League run in the round of 16 with Zinedine Zidane tasting his first elimination from the competition in his fourth managerial campaign.

It was hardly the most emphatic scoreline and the fact that Raphael Varane’s errors contributed to both goals made the contest seem closer that it was, as did the defender’s admission of guilt in a remorseful post-match interview. The Frenchman is an easy target and an obvious scapegoat after two poor back passes resulted in goals for the opposition. However, to suggest that Madrid were masters of their own downfall would be doing City a disservice.

In reality, Zidane’s men were technically and tactically out-classed.

Pep Guardiola adopted a system that the opposition couldn’t get to grips with. Gabriel Jesus played off the left flank with Phil Foden operating as a false nine, regularly dropping into far deeper roles unmarked while Raheem Sterling would push forward and inside. Right-back Kyle Walker spent much of his time in central midfield where he helped control play as the extra man and City’s front three pressed Madrid’s back-line relentlessly.

And what made this performance all the more impressive was the threat the opposition posed as

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