England ‘still massively’ in Ashes fight, says Root

The Australia team celebrate the wicket of Jonny Bairstow at the Adelaide Oval yesterday (AP)
Updated 07 December 2017
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England ‘still massively’ in Ashes fight, says Root

ADELAIDE: Captain Joe Root says England are “still massively” in the Ashes series after a second heavy Test defeat to Australia yesterday left his side facing a last stand in the third Test.
The Australians sealed a 120-run victory in the second Adelaide Test after a crushing 10-wicket triumph in the Brisbane opener, putting England’s hopes of retaining the Ashes on the line in Perth next week.
Compounding England’s task is the fact that the tourists have not beaten Australia at Perth’s WACA Ground since 1978. But Root put on a bold face after defeat Wednesday and said there was belief in the England camp that they can turn things around in the five-Test series and not head in the same direction as the 5-0 whitewash on the last tour to Australia in 2013-14.
“The way we batted in that second innings proved to everyone we are still massively in this series, simple as that,” Root told reporters.
“We’ve shown throughout the two Tests in periods we can out-perform Australia, but just not over five days.
“If we can perform to our ability for longer periods of time we’ll win games. The belief in dressing room is definitely there.”
Root said he “strongly disagreed” with the notion that his team are heading for the same fate as Alastair Cook’s tourists four years ago.
“I don’t think we’re in the same situation, we’re much better than that. We’re in a much better place,” he said.
Root said he was disappointed in himself for not leading the way on the final day after getting dismissed by Josh Hazelwood on his overnight score of 67 in the day’s third over. “In big series senior players have to step up and lead from the front and I tried to do that last night, but unfortunately this morning I couldn’t carry that on,” he lamented.
“That’s really disappointing as someone who wants to lead from the front and show the guys to lead the way. That hurts me a lot personally.”
Steve Smith revealed he took a sleeping pill to help him through a “tough 24 hours” before Australia sealed an ultimately comfortable win. Smith was a man under pressure heading into the final day, with questions over his decision not to enforce the follow-on while holding a 215-run first innings lead which allowed England back into the contest.
“I had to have a sleeping pill,” he said, “It has been a pretty tough 24 hours if I’m being honest. It’s all part of being captain of your country. You have to make difficult decisions and sometimes you’re going to make the wrong decision. It’s all part of the learning experience and hopefully I can learn something from this game.”
But Smith was adamant he had made the right call not to put England back into bat in bowling-friendly conditions with the moving pink ball under the Adelaide Oval lights.
“I guess my rationale behind the decision was that we were a long way in front of the game,” he said.
“If we bat reasonably well — I thought we batted pretty poorly to be honest to get to 350 — we should be getting up over 400. We didn’t do that but we were still a long way in front of the game and still confident. I would say that over the last day or two I have had a few different thoughts. I’ve read a lot of things. In the end, we’ve won the game, so it’s all irrelevant.”


Van Dijk backs Salah to shine in Kiev showpiece

Updated 26 May 2018
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Van Dijk backs Salah to shine in Kiev showpiece

  • Virgil van Dijk: He (Mohamed Salah) is a nightmare for defenders, creating and scoring goals.”
  • Van Dijk: “To be calm, that is sometimes a very good thing to have, but personally sometimes I have to learn, too.”

LIVERPOOL: As Mohamed Salah prepares for a career-defining period, Virgil van Dijk is confident his Liverpool teammate’s star will only shine brighter on football’s biggest stages.
The Liverpool frontman will face-off with Ballon d’Or rival Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid tonight in the Champions League final before heading off to a debut World Cup with Egypt.
And having witnessed an incredible season that has brought 44 goals — a record 32 in the Premier League ­— for the Egyptian star, Reds defender van Dijk says he has the all-round ability to strike fear into the reigning European champions and international sides.
“He is a nightmare for defenders, creating and scoring goals,” said the Dutchman of the 25-year-old Salah. “It’s complete for him.
“He’s like everyone in our squad, laidback, calm, no big personalities and egos. We work hard for each other and just want to be better.
“I think he can definitely be the best in Europe, but there are two other players who are pretty good at the moment as well (in Ronaldo and Lionel Messi). I hope for Mo it happens because he deserves it. He is that kind of player to light up a World Cup as well.”
While all eyes will be on Salah and Ronaldo as potential match-winners in Kiev, van Dijk, 26, will have a major role on the defensive front.
The game will offer the center-back the chance to prove he was worth the £75 million ($100 million) it cost to sign him from Southampton in January.
“Any player who arrived at this club, they want to play in these games, they want to be under this kind of pressure, they want to get trophies,” he said.
“I don’t think I have been bought to win the Champions League final. I have been bought to hopefully get the best out of myself and the best out of the team with the help of everyone else.
“To be calm, that is sometimes a very good thing to have, but personally sometimes I have to learn, too.
“Against Manchester City in the away game (of the quarter final) I was a little bit too calm in the beginning, for example. That is something I have to learn as well. To be in the final right now, it has been a crazy journey.”
Watching last season’s final between Real and Juventus, van Dijk realized just how much he wanted to be a part of the competition — and why Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool were the club for him, despite interest from City.
“I never really go to big games to watch as a fan, but I was in Cardiff,” he recalled. “The sponsors (Sony) hooked us up with two fantastic seats and it was two hours from where I used to live, so we thought, ‘let’s go.’
“From the moment I got there a lot of people in hospitality were Liverpool fans and they were saying, ‘join, please join.’