Time for star to shine

Alastair Cook
Updated 12 December 2017
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Time for star to shine

LONDON: When Alastair Cook does well England tend to do well. He scored 766 runs when the tourists trounced Australia 3-1 in 2010/11. Four years later he managed a mere 246 runs when England were humbled by the hosts 5-0. So to say the opener is vital to any hopes they have of somehow getting back into this series is a bit of an understatement, and it is no surprise that during the two defeats so far he has scored just 62 runs.
Cook needs to find form and fast.
The sight of one of the all-time greats setting his stall at the top of the order and getting in the runs, as he has done so often in the past, is just what Joe Root and the England side want and need.
If he can do that it will take a lot of pressure off both Root — England’s other key batsman — and the brittle, inexperienced middle order.
Perth may no longer be the quickest pitch in the world, but it is still a fast track. Which is no bad thing considering Cook so far this series has looked fine against the Australian pace attack. It is against Nathan Lyon that he has seemed ill at ease. The off-spinner took his wicket twice in Adelaide and is likely to be the main threat again in Perth.
Should Cook be able to nullify him and stay in for more than two sessions then suddenly England can start thinking about posting a score of over 350 — the very least they need to score to have a chance of victory.
Even with more than 10,000 Test runs Cook is perhaps as under-appreciated as he is inelegant at the crease. But now more than ever all talk of his retirement should be hit to the boundary.


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

Updated 22 June 2018
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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.