England unfazed by Australian banter ahead of Ashes opener

Joe Root (Reuters)
Updated 14 November 2017
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England unfazed by Australian banter ahead of Ashes opener

SYDNEY: England cricket captain Joe Root has dismissed suggestions his team “feared” Australia’s fast bowlers, saying his players were fully prepared for a hostile Ashes series.
Root said some English players had been taken aback by the level of aggression shown by their hosts when they lost 5-0 on their last tour of Australia four years ago, but insisted they were ready this time.
“Last time that caught us out, but we are a bit wiser this time,” Root said Tuesday on the eve of England’s third and last warm-up match for the first test in Brisbane.
“It’s making sure we are absolutely prepared for any scenario and absolutely ready for that first game, whatever they do throw at us,” Root said. “We expect it to be hostile. We expect it to be a very loud and rowdy atmosphere at the Gabba.
“We are in a good place and ready for that. We have got our heads around what to expect.”
Root also brushed off suggestions the Australians planned to specifically target him after he managed just one half-century and averaged less than 28 with the bat on his previous tour of Australia in 2013-14.
In 2015, Root made amends with two centuries and an average of more than 57 as England bounced back on home soil to regain the Ashes.
“I’ve heard a lot of chat about targeting me, in particular,” Root said. “From our point of view, we’ll be targeting every single one of them — we won’t be singling any one out. But you want that competitive element to it, and those little in-house rivalries.”
England is unbeaten in its two warm-up matches so far in Australia and aiming to continue its bright start during the four-day game against a Cricket Australia XI, starting in Townsville on Wednesday.
With the first test starting on Nov. 23, the tourists have made no secret of their plans, sticking with the same top six batsmen they used in the previous game. Mark Stoneman will again open with Alastair Cook, with James Vince batting at three ahead of Root.
Dawid Malan comes in at five with wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow at six. Allrounder Moeen Ali returns at seven.
Cricket Australia on Tuesday said it would announce a squad for the first two tests on Friday, amid growing speculation about the makeup of the team.
Several positions appear undecided with most questions surrounding who will open the batting with Dave Warner, who will bat at No. 6 and who will be picked as wicketkeeper.
Matt Renshaw is the incumbent opener but has been struggling for runs recently while Cameron Bancroft, his main rival for the job, enhanced his credentials with a double century on Tuesday.
The No. 6 slot is shaping as a choice between the hard-hitting Glenn Maxwell and Hilton Cartwright, while Matthew Wade and Peter Nevilleare are vying for the wicketkeeping duties.


‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

Updated 20 June 2018
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‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

  • A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half gave Uruguay a 1-0 win
  • Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance

ROSTOV-ON-DON: Good, but not good enough.
That was what Juan Antonio Pizzi stated as he declared himself pleased with his team’s performance in the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday night.
But he lamented his side’s lack of firepower as they exited the World Cup after just two matches.
Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance in Rostov-on-Don after losing their opening game 5-0 to hosts Russia in Moscow last week.
The Argentine got his wish with a display that saw the Green Falcons fight throughout and edge possession against a Uruguay side ranked 14th in the world.
A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half after poor goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais, however, was enough to hand the Green Falcons a 12th successive World Cup defeat.
The result means that even with a win against Egypt on Monday, the Green Falcons are no longer capable of progressing to the knock-out stages from Group A.
“We had a lot of ball possession and were able to impose our style of play and distribution,” said Pizzi. “We conceded a goal from a random play and didn’t have the weapons or tools to try to equalize. We kept the ball well and weren’t really troubled defensively, but lacked that ability to score.”
Indeed, for all their possession, Saudi Arabia have managed just three shots on target in 180 minutes of football. Against Russia, they failed to muster a single effort on target and the managed just three against Uruguay, two of which came in the final minutes when they knew they had to score or face elimination. None of the three shots came from a striker.
“This is our weakness. We have good ball possession, but no effectiveness. We lack the depth and skill required to win these games,” Pizzi added. “We have that deficiency and have looked for solutions, but we haven’t quite come up with one yet. But that is one of the reasons great forward are in high demand and are the elite players in world football.”
Pizzi had made four changes ahead of the match, dropping goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf in favor of Al-Owais and introducing Ali Al-Bulayhi at the heart of the defense alongside Osama Hawsawi. Further upfield, Hattan Bahberi came in for Yahya Al-Shehri and Fahad Al-Muwallad replaced Mohammed Al-Sahlawi. The changes, particularly the inclusion of Bahberi, seemed to give the side more impetus in midfield.
“The difference between the performance in the first game and this game is enormous,” Pizzi said. “The only way to compete at this level is to play at the level we did here. And even then it was not enough even to get a draw. Undoubtedly there were other factors aside from the pressure of playing in the opening game that made a difference, but it’s true that the difference was enormous.”
Many critics had predicted a deluge of goals from the likes of Suarez and Cavani, yet both were kept at bay. Save for a couple of half-chances early on, neither came close to scoring until the 23rd minute.
A corner from Carlos Sanchez sailed into the area and when Al-Owais came for it but failed to connect with his punch, Barcelona forward Suaréz was left with the simplest of tap-ins. He was so caught off-guard, he actually looked surprised as he reeled away in celebration.
“I believe you cannot be relaxed in any match,” Suarez said when asked by a Uruguayan journalist whether he had taken it easy against the Saudis.
“We wanted to win and to progress to the knock-out stage and this game simply showed how difficult it is. That’s the World Cup for you though and we are obviously delighted with how we have performed so far to progress.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez did not share his striker’s sentiments.
“Saudi Arabia wanted to excel and give a better account of themselves after losing to Russia,” he said.
“They did that very well and we have to respect them. But what surprised me the most is how we played. We underperformed.”