No retirement for Cook

Alastair Cook has endured a torrid time at the crease so far in this series. (Reuters)
Updated 12 December 2017
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No retirement for Cook

LONDON: Alastair Cook has hit for six the rumors he is ready to hang up his bat and gloves to retire, insisting he is only focused on beating Australia in his 150th Test.
Cook, England’s most prolific Test run scorer, has made just 62 runs in four innings as the tourists have gone 2-0 down in the five-match series and some former players-turned-pundits have suggested he might be about to call time on his impressive career.
“I haven’t made any decision on anything. All my focus is on this game, the biggest of our lives coming up,” Cook said ahead of the third Ashes Test starting tomorrow.
Cook captained England on their last Ashes tour Down Under when spinner Graeme Swann retired mid-series with the tourists 3-0 down and headed for a 5-0 whitewash.
Former Australian paceman Mitchell Johnson and England batsman Kevin Pietersen have suggested that Cook had the look of a man who might be ready to hang up his bat.
“For the people who are saying that, they’ve had no contact time with me,” Cook, who is 33 later this month, said. “They wouldn’t know the extra nets I’ve been doing behind closed doors.
“I was with (my batting coach) yesterday for an hour-and-a-half in the morning, desperate to keep working on my game. That’s probably not a guy who’s given in. To be honest with you, I have no idea (when I’ll retire). And I’ve said that since I gave up the captaincy.”
The opener said retirement might not end up being his own choice if he continued to fail to make runs and said becoming the first England player to play 150 Tests was “quite special,” especially as the last 147 have been consecutive.
Cook has enjoyed an Ashes triumph in Australia in 2010-11 as well as the 2013-14 debacle and said the current party would not fail for want of trying.
“I will say this about this England side, I’ve never seen a side a work as hard as this side,” he said.
“Win, lose or draw, whether we play well or we play rubbish, the effort from the guys is unbelievable. There’s a group of men in there, 16 or 17 of them, desperate to do well.”


'We want to make Saudi Arabia proud': Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

Updated 46 min 55 sec ago
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'We want to make Saudi Arabia proud': Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

  • Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday
  • Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious

ROSTOV-ON-DON: “Keeping possession of the ball seems to be the absolute and most important thing, but then when you sometimes find issues in getting the ball into your opponent’s half, you have to find other movements and ways of doing that,” said Oscar Tabarez after watching his lackluster Uruguay rely on a solitary Luis Suarez goal to eliminate Saudi Arabia from the World Cup. 
Tabarez was talking about his own team’s struggles, yet the assessment is considerably more applicable to the Green Falcons, who dominated possession and retained the ball with ease in midfield, yet for the second match running looked absolutely bereft of ideas in the final third. With Uruguay and Russia now on six points, Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday.
The Green Falcons coach Juan Antonio Pizzi confirmed he intends to stay at the helm of the side for the long-haul, yet is only too aware that the potential of this team is being hamstrung by its inability to score. He called it “our weakness”, adding that his side enjoyed “good ball possession, but no effectiveness”. They, he said, did not have the sufficient “weapons or tools” to equalize.
Pizzi’s side have found the net now just twice in their past five games and against Uruguay managed only three shots on target in 90 minutes — two of which came in added time and were so tame they would hardly have troubled the opposition goalkeeper Fernando Muslera had he been relaxing at his far post sipping a drink. In the 5-0 defeat to Russia last week, they failed to muster a single shot on target. 
Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious. One passage of play in the opening exchanges saw Saudi Arabia complete 16 passes untroubled without the ball entering the opposition penalty box. When Uruguay finally won possession, they required only four quick exchanges to find Edinson Cavani on the left wing drilling the ball across the front of goal. 
“I don’t share that assessment,” said Pizzi, when it was put to him that his team was too slow to attack. “We played at the speed that was necessary. We need to be accurate, but if you step up the speed you lose accuracy with your passes. We had control of the game and that was why.”
Striker Mohammed Al-Sahlawi had been the focal point of much criticism from Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of Saudi’s General Sports Authority, after the Russia “fiasco” and was dropped from the side against Uruguay. So too was goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, another who Al-Sheikh name-checked as having been at fault.
Pizzi, asked whether the scathing assessment from his bosses had forced his hand when it came to team selection, calmly dismissed the suggestion. He also ruled out the notion that administrative issues between the players and the country’s football federation had caused unrest in his squad.
“I have a list of 23 players here and they are all available to play. We are here together and pushing in the same direction. 
“I wanted — and still want — to make the Saudi Arabian people feel proud of our energy and the desire we show in matches. Unfortunately we were unable to do that against Russia and will be playing our next match without any hope of progressing. I hope now they will feel a little more proud even though we are out of the World Cup,” he said.