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.


Ahmed Barman out to toast Al-Ain success in FIFA Club World Cup

Updated 11 December 2018
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Ahmed Barman out to toast Al-Ain success in FIFA Club World Cup

  • Tournament gets under way on Wednesday when Al-Ain take on Team Wellington at home.
  • UAE midfielder sure his side can cause a few shocks.

LONDON: While he is only too aware of the quality opposition they have to face, Al-Ain midfielder Ahmed Barman is backing “The Boss” to scare a few teams in the FIFA Club World Cup.
The tournament gets under way when the UAE outfit face Team Wellington on their home ground in the opener today. Last year saw fellow Arabian Gulf League side Al-Jazira reach the semifinal where they gave Real Madrid a huge fright before narrowly losing 2-1. And inspired by that march to the last four, Barman is looking for Al-Ain to go one better and become the first Emirati side to make the final.
“The FIFA Club World Cup is a global competition coveted by every club,” Barman said. “Al-Ahli, Al-Jazira and Al-Wahda participated in this tournament before and did their part, putting the UAE on the world map. We at Al-Ain hope to reach the semi-final, as Al-Jazira did, or do even better.”
Before any tournament it is only natural to dream of glory and lifting the trophy in front of adoring fans. But the midfielder is not getting too cocky, revealing that despite having home advantage Al-Ain are taking absolutely nothing for granted, starting with Wednesday’s clash against the Kiwis.
“There’s no doubt that we’re aiming to reach the final and face a giant like Real Madrid, but first we have to focus on our opening match against Team Wellington,” the 24-year-old said.
“We need to win to progress from this round and play the subsequent games until we reach the final against Real Madrid and show a standard of play the UAE can be proud of.”
Barman is not anticipating an easy opener.
“Team Wellington are a very good team with considerable ability. They won their local league and the OFC Champions League, which proves they’re powerful.
“So, all our focus is on this opening match. We’re annualizing our opponents to understand their capabilities as we prepare to perform well on the pitch and get positive result.”
The UAE champions did not have the best preparation for their stab at Club World Cup glory, losing 5-2 to Al-Wasl in the UAE President’s Cup at the weekend.
That result, while clearly not ideal, has not bothered the side’s coach.
“We cannot win every game, what is gone is gone, it’s full concentration on the match ahead,” Zoran Mamic said.
“There are no rules that Al-Ain cannot lose games, that’s why I don’t make any drama.”
But while Barman was keen to invoke the memory of Al-Jazira’s march to the last four, his boss was less so, telling his team to focus on the match at hand before getting ahead of themselves.
“We are not here to talk about last year, just as we are not here to talk about the future,” the Croatian said. “We are here to represent the club in the best possible way. We focus on the match at hand and everything will take care of itself.”
Of today’s opponents he added: “We have watched all their games, we know their strengths and where they are not so strong. They are particularly good offensively, they play with fast wingers and a striker who is a good scorer, they play a system that is unusual to us because no teams in the Emirates play with three in the last line. If we do our job we will (have) a good match.”