Tuesday, July 5, 2022

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Alex Lees epitomises what is different about England’s batting in new era | Andy Bull

Alex Lees epitomises what is different about England’s batting in new eraOpener struggled for form in the West Indies but a change in approach and mindset has brought runs and boundaries Mid-March, England were playing West Indies at Bridgetown, and Alex Lees was batting. Lees had made four and six on his debut the previous week and here his partner, Zak Crawley, had just been caught behind for a duck. Kemar Roach was bowling. Roach tried a wide one outside off, inviting Lees to drive. He left it. Roach followed with two more in the same sort of place, and again, Lees refused to play at them. So Roach switched around the wicket, tried bowling straighter, twice, and Lees blocked both deliveries, Roach tried to slide one across him, tempt him again, with a final wide ball, and Lees left it.Lees ended up batting for three hours and 11 minutes in that innings, and made 30 runs. A week later in Grenada he batted for two hours and 25 minutes, and made 31, and then another three hours and 41 minutes on top of that, for 31 more, while the team collapsed to 120 all out around him. They ended up losing the game by 10 wickets. By the time he had finished his first Test tour, Lees had faced 460 balls, hit exactly 12 of them for four. It felt like an approximation of what he imagined, or had maybe even been told, was the right and proper way for a good Yorkshire-born opener to play.Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow have England dreaming of record run-chaseRead moreLees didn’t use to bat like that. When he was younger, his heroes were Marcus Trescothick and Matthew Hayden; “powerful left-handed batters who took the game to bowling attacks”. In his early years at Yorkshire he was so aggressive that his coach, Jason Gillespie, even gave him Hayden’s nickname, Haydos. In those days, Lees has said, he had one gear: “attack, attack, attack”. And it worked for him. By the time he was 21, he had been a key part of the team that won the county championship, become the youngest man ever to score a double century for Yorkshire and had made his debut for England Lions. And then he started to fail.Caution overcame Lees the same way conservatism does a middle-aged liberal. And for similar reasons, too. He had more to lose. Lees had to rebuild his career at Durham after his form fell apart at Yorkshire. By the time he was finally picked in the rickety Test squad England sent to the West Indies, he had become so hidebound that he seemed scared to play those shots that used to come so easily to him. Now he finally had his chance, he wasn’t going to blow it by doing something daft, like trying to cut the ball before June.Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes’ great trick seems to have been to persuade Lees to forget most of what he imagines he knows about the way he ought to play in Test cricket and get back to batting something more like the way he did back when he first fell in love with the game. Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root have carried England’s batting into this new era, but it’s Lees, their old Yorkshire teammate, who best epitomises what’s different about it. You got the first hint of the change in him at Lord’s in the first Test against New Zealand when, in the second innings, he punched his second ball from Tim Southee through cover for four.He only made 20 that day. But it was conspicuous that Stokes singled him out for praise that evening, and said it was the best he had seen him play. At Trent Bridge Lees was better again. He rattled off 67 in the first innings, and 44 in the second, when he hit three fours off Southee in the very first over of the innings and set the tempo for another famous English fourth innings run-chase. India, though, are a different proposition. You could spend a decade on the county circuit and never come up against a bowler like Jasprit Bumrah; in fact. Lees has done exactly that.The lessons of 145 years of English Test match batting, passed down from Jack Hobbs to Herbert Sutcliffe to Leonard Hutton to Geoffrey Boycott to Graham Gooch to Mike Atherton to Alastair Cook, dictate that what Lees ought to do at the beginning of this fourth innings is try to survive the opening spell. See off the better bowlers, wait for the ball to get soft, make it easier for the men in the middle order. Whatever you do, lad, don’t let it be something daft. So third ball Lees steps out of his crease and slaps Shami through midwicket for four.Between them, Lees and Crawley did see off India’s opening bowlers, just not in the way the phrase would lead you to expect. Bumrah ended up stepping back from the attack after his first four overs cost 22, Shami was pulled after his first five went for 21. Ravindra Jadeja came on first change, and Lees charged his first ball and drove it for four through long-off, dropped to one knee and reverse swept him to third man, dropped to the other and slog swept him to midwicket. Mohammed Siraj came on as second change, Lees uppercutted him over the slips, then drilled him through the covers, to bring up his fifty. It took him 44 balls.TopicsEngland v India 2021SportblogEngland cricket teamIndia cricket teamCricketfeaturesReuse this content

Wimbledon 2022: Nick Kyrgios beats Brandon Nakashima at All England Club

Venue: All England Club Dates: 27 June-10 JulyCoverage: Live across BBC TV, radio and online with extensive coverage on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, Connected TVs and mobile app.Nick Kyrgios says "so many people will be upset" he has reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals, but says it is a "good feeling" to silence his critics.Kyrgios' entertaining SW19 run continued as he shrugged off a shoulder injury to beat American Brandon Nakashima and reach his first major quarter-final in seven years.Kyrgios was more subdued than in his fiery match against Stefanos Tsitsipas, staying largely quiet in a 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-2 win which set up a meeting with Chile's Cristian Garin.The 27-year-old Australian maintained his focus in a disciplined display and put his success at the All England Club down to improving his habits off the court."There was a time where I was having to be forced out of a pub at 4am to play [Rafael] Nadal," said Kyrgios, who is ranked 40th in the world."My agent had to come get me out before I played my match on Centre Court [at] Wimbledon. I've come a long way, that's for sure."Unseeded Garin, 26, prevented an all-Australian encounter by fighting back from two sets down - and saving two match points in the fifth - to beat 19th seed Alex de Minaur. The world number 43, more of a clay-court specialist, reached his first major quarter-final with a 2-6 5-7 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 7-6 (10-6) victory.Kyrgios eyes glass of wine after demanding winAll eyes were back on Kyrgios following his explosive third-round match against Greek fourth seed Tsitsipas, which became one of the biggest talking points of this year's championships after containing so much drama.While the match against Nakashima on Centre Court lacked the fireworks of Saturday night on Court One, it was an absorbing slow burner.Break opportunities were rare as the pair dominated their service games, with Kyrgios' injury issue further making a match with fluctuating swings difficult to call.After securing a hard-fought win with his first match point, he said: "I need a large glass of wine tonight for sure."On how he managed to battle past 20-year-old Nakashima, he added: "It wasn't anywhere near my best performance level-wise but I'm super happy to get through and I fought really hard."I've played a lot of tennis in the past month and a half and I'm proud of the way I steadied the ship."Kyrgios reached his first Wimbledon quarter-final since 2014 when, as a 19-year-old wildcard, he stunned then world number one Rafael Nadal.Another run to the Australian Open last eight followed in 2015, but he has been unable to reach the same stage again until now."To sit here in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, feeling good, feeling composed, feeling mature, having good people around me, I'm extremely blessed," said Kyrgios."I feel like I'm just comfortable in my own skin."He said he "doesn't care" about the criticism he received after the Tsitsipas match - an encounter which resulted in both players being fined for their conduct - and that he just laughs about it."I have a massive chip on my shoulder. Like I sit here now in quarter-finals Wimbledon again, and I just know there's so many people that are so upset," he said with a smile. Kyrgios now able to 'mentally deal' with nigglesWhile people regularly discuss his mentality when debating why a player of such talent has not won more titles, injuries are another factor in what have stalled Kyrgios' progress over recent years.Physical problems came to the fore again for the Australian, who pulled out of the Mallorca Open last month with an abdominal injury, at the end of the first set against Nakashima."I woke up after playing Tsitsipas and had some shoulder pain," he said."I almost knew that it was time for my body to start feeling some niggles. I think that's normal. At this time in the event I don't think anyone is feeling 100%.In an even opener, neither player made an impression on the other's serve until Kyrgios, looking impaired by the problem, suddenly struggled with his returns and the American pinched the advantage.At the start of the second set he continued to grimace and tried to loosen the affected shoulder between points.Nevertheless he broke in the third game, helped by a double fault and shank by Nakashima, before calling for the physio at the changeover.After taking painkillers and receiving regular treatment, he managed to move into a two-sets-to-one lead as the match progressed at a rapid pace. Another twist came when Kyrgios lost his way in the fourth set - which he said was a "complete rope-a-dope tactic".Kyrgios tanked the final game as he casually returned - and even served underarm on Nakashima's first set point, which he still won - but composed himself to run away with the decider."I just threw away that service game. I knew he was in a rhythm. He was starting to get on top of me," said Kyrgios."I wanted to throw him off a little bit. It worked."

Wimbledon: Kyrgios v Tsitsipas continues on social media, giant water bottles and Djokovic Jr takes to the court

Venue: All England Club Dates: 27 June-10 JulyCoverage: Live across BBC TV, radio and online with extensive coverage on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, Connected TVs and mobile app.Cameron Norrie ensured British representation in the quarter-finals but a number of big names were dumped out of Wimbledon in the fourth round.But away from the headline results there are several things you might have missed - both on and off the court.BBC Sport rounds up an alternative look at some of the moments of the fourth round.Tsitsipas throws shade at KyrgiosNick Kyrgios is through to the quarter-finals but the chaos of his second-round win against Stefanos Tsitsipas is still a hot topic of conversation.The Australian is sporting a new tattoo at Wimbledon this year, the words 'Give a man a mask and he will become his true self' inscribed on his leg, leaving us with the conundrum of which of his personas is the true Kyrgios.Greece's Tsitsipas, no doubt still hurting from Saturday night and with a wallet a touch lighter after his fine for unsportsmanlike conduct, appeared to poke fun at Kyrgios' ink on social media after his exit from the tournament.Ice, ice babyFrom two players who probably won't be catching up any time soon, to two who plan to "fight for the best tournaments in the world" together.Jannik Sinner beat Carlos Alcaraz in a scintillating four-set match on Centre Court on Sunday, as they cemented their place as future stars of the sport at just 20 and 19 respectively.In his post-match media conference, Sinner revealed the pair had shared an ice bath after their third-round wins, but there will be no frostiness between them after their on-court meeting."We have a good relationship," said Spanish fifth seed Alcaraz. "I hope to have a good rivalry with him. We hope to fight for the best tournaments in the world and the best moment in the world together."Thirsty workWe all know the importance of staying hydrated, but this is taking it to the extreme.Marie Bouzkova's beast of a water bottle has become a bit of a superstition for the Czech, having committed to it now for more than a decade."We bought it from a girl in Florida. I used the original one for three years," said Bouzkova who buys a new one every so often."In fact, I can't even imagine playing without one now."The bottle, featuring a sticker saying 'From Prague to Florida...to a court near you', will be with her when she takes on world number two Ons Jabeur in the women's quarter-finals on Tuesday. It's not her only superstition though. She and her team have strawberries and cream after every Wimbledon win, while she plays the board game of Sequence with her Dad before going on court, among many others.Oh to be a fly on the wallLucky punters had the best ticket on town on Sunday as Wimbledon celebrated 100 years of Centre Court with a parade of champions.The likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray were joined by the likes of Venus Williams, Billie Jean King, Rod Laver and Pat Cash on court to mark the centenary.But before they were brought into the public view, in order of their Wimbledon wins, legends past-and-present gathered behind the scenes of Centre Court.Imagine being in that room...Like father, like sonThe year is 2042. A 27-year-old Stefan Djokovic is on his way to winning ANOTHER Grand Slam title. His coach and father, Novak, watches on proudly from the players' box.But seriously...how good are these photos of Djokovic Jr. enjoying a hit with his Dad on the practice courts at Wimbledon?A star in the making, no doubt.And finally...Check out this fan's jacket, made out of Wimbledon towels. Get that on sale in the shop.

Premier League player arrested on suspicion of rape in north London

A Premier League and international footballer has been arrested in north London on suspicion of rape.The Metropolitan Police told BBC Sport: "On 4 July, an allegation of rape of a woman in her 20s was reported to police."It was reported the alleged rape happened in June 2022."The statement added: "On 4 July, a 29-year-old man was arrested at an address in Barnet on suspicion of rape and taken into custody where he remains."Enquiries into the circumstances are ongoing."

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