Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Who will finish in top four in Premier League? Who has the best run-in?


With just nine points separating second from seventh in the Premier League, the race for the top four looks set to go down to the wire.

Will Arsenal qualify for the Champions League for the 20th successive season? Or will Everton finish in the top four for the first time since 2004/05?

We analyse the run-ins facing each of the top seven sides...

Premier League table and results against rivals
Games played Points Goal difference Record against top seven Pts/game against top seven Chelsea 28 69 +38 P9 W5 D1 L3 1.8 Tottenham 28 59 +34 P10 W3 D4 L3 1.3 Man City 28 57 +24 P9 W2 D3 L4 1.0 Liverpool 29 56 +25 P11 W6 D5 L0 2.1 Man Utd 27 52 +19 P7 W1 D4 L2 1.0 Arsenal 27 50 +22 P8 W1 D2 L5 0.6 Everton 29 50 +21 P8 W2 D3 L3 1.1
Chelsea

With a 10-point lead at the top of the table, Chelsea are strong favourites to win the league, having adapted to life under Antonio Conte quicker than many expected.

Of their remaining 10 fixtures, they have to face three teams in the top seven - Manchester City (H), Manchester United (A) and Everton (A).

They finish the season with home matches against Middlesbrough and Sunderland - both in the relegation zone - either side of a trip to West Brom. Seven wins from their ten remaining fixtures guarantees Chelsea a second title in three seasons.

The Blues could, though, be without Eden Hazard for their next match as he has suffered a calf injury.

Remaining fixtures: Crystal Palace (H), Manchester City (H), Bournemouth (A), Manchester United (A), Southampton (H), Everton (A), Middlesbrough (H), West Brom (A), Sunderland (H), Watford (H - date TBC).

Tottenham

Even though top scorer Harry Kane is out injured, Spurs should be able to cement their place in the top four when they return from the international break ,as their next five matches are all against sides in the bottom half of the table.

As well as facing Burnley (A), Swansea (A), Watford (H), Bournemouth (H) and Crystal Palace (A), there's also a trip to Leicester which has yet to be scheduled.

Mauricio Pochettino's side have not fared well against direct rivals this season, but they only have two games left against teams in the top seven, and both are at home.

They host Arsenal live on Sky Sports on Sunday, April 30 and then entertain Manchester United in what could be their final match in their current home.

Remaining fixtures: Burnley (A), Swansea (A), Watford (H), Bournemouth (H), Crystal Palace (A), Arsenal (H), West Ham (A), Manchester United (H), Hull (A), Leicester (A - date TBC).

Manchester City

Having drawn against Liverpool on Sunday, it doesn't get any easier for City after the international break as they travel to Arsenal, live on Sky Sports, and then go to Chelsea a few days later.

They also face a home match against Manchester United on Thursday, April 27, on Sky Sports.
However, if Pep Guardiola's side come through that tricky run unscathed then they appear to face an easier finish to the season.
Their final four games are all against teams in the bottom seven, and they also have a home match against West Brom that is not yet scheduled.

Remaining fixtures: Arsenal (A), Chelsea (A), Hull (H), Southampton (A), Manchester United (H), Middlesbrough (A), Crystal Palace (H), Leicester (H), Watford (A), West Brom (H - date TBC).

Liverpool

Liverpool and Everton are the only two sides in the top seven who have played 29 games. However, after the Merseyside derby on Sky Sports on April 1, the Reds do not play another top-four rival this season.

That might not necessarily be a positive as they have taken 20 points in 10 games against the top six, but just 19 points in 10 games against the bottom six.

Liverpool face Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Middlesbrough at Anfield.

Remaining fixtures: Everton (H), Bournemouth (H), Stoke (A), West Brom (A), Crystal Palace (H), Watford (A), Southampton (H), West Ham (A), Middlesbrough (H).

Manchester United

United finally moved out of sixth place and up to fifth with their 3-1 win over Middlesbrough before the international break.

But although they have at least one game in hand on all the teams above them, they also face a congested fixture list due to their involvement in the Europa League.

United also still have to play five teams in the top seven - Everton (H), Chelsea (H), Man City (A), Arsenal (A), Spurs (A) - and go to Burnley, who have only lost three times at home in the league this season.

The date for their trip to Southampton is yet to be confirmed.

Remaining fixtures: West Brom (H), Everton (H), Sunderland (A), Chelsea (H), Burnley (A), Manchester City (A), Swansea (H), Arsenal (A), Tottenham (A), Crystal Palace (H), Southampton (A - date TBC).

Arsenal

Could this be the year that Arsenal miss out on the top four for the first time since 1995/96?

The Gunners have slipped down the table after four defeats in their last five league matches and have some tricky matches remaining, although they have at least one game in hand on all their rivals aside from Manchester United.

The final month could be crucial for the Arsene Wenger as they face trips to Spurs and Stoke and home fixtures against United and Everton.

They also have two matches to be arranged - Sunderland (H) and Southampton (A). Remaining fixtures: Manchester City (H), West Ham (H), Crystal Palace (A), Middlesbrough (A), Leicester (H), Tottenham (A), Manchester United (H), Stoke (A), Everton (H), Sunderland (H - date TBC), Southampton (A - date TBC).

Everton

The Toffees have won six of their last nine matches to boost their chances of a top-four finish, but their aspirations will be put to the test immediately after the international break as they go to Liverpool and then Manchester United in the space of four days.

"We have the chance to make the next step and be closer to the teams above in the table," said manager Ronald Koeman. Home matches against Leicester and Burnley follow, while Everton also have to host Chelsea and then finish the season with a trip to Arsenal.

Remaining fixtures: Liverpool (A), Manchester United (A), Leicester (H), Burnley (H), West Ham (A), Chelsea (H), Swansea (A), Watford (H), Arsenal (A).

Conclusion

While Chelsea seem on course for title glory, Spurs are strong contenders for another top four finish given their form and remaining fixtures.

Trips to Arsenal and Chelsea after the international break could be crucial for Man City, while Liverpool will need to improve their results against the teams in the bottom half of the table.

Liverpool average 2.1 points-per-game against the top seven this season but 1.9 against the bottom six Manchester United face arguably the most difficult run-in but have the chance to take points from five of their six direct rivals.

Arsenal need to return to form quickly if they are to make the top four, starting with their next match against City.

And Everton? Do they have too much to do? Positive results against Liverpool and United after the international break would keep them in
News Source:www.skysports.com/football/news

FA reject Hull City's appeal over Tom Huddlestone's red card against Everton


The Football Association have rejected Hull City's appeal over Tom Huddlestone's red card against Everton.

Huddlestone, who has featured in 27 of Hull's 29 league matches this season will miss fixtures against West Ham, Middlesbrough and Manchester City.

The 30-year-old was dismissed after 73 minutes at Goodison Park when referee Paul Tierney ruled he had fouled Idrissa Gueye; the hosts, 1-0 up at the time, went on to score three and wrap up the points after the red card.

Hull boss Marco Silva said the decision changed the game and that neither the midfielder nor the other Tigers players deserved the sending off.

He said: "It was one game until 70 minutes and then another game. Surely we didn't deserve the decision," he said. "After that [starting the half well] came one decision that I really don't understand and changed all of the game. Our team, our players, didn't deserve this decision."

The club sit 18th in the standings, three points from safety.
News Source:www.skysports.com/football/news

Handscomb, Marsh pull off great escape


Australia 451 (Smith 178*, Maxwell 104, Jadeja 5-124) and 204 for 6 (Handscomb 72*, Marsh 53, Jadeja 4-54) drew with India 603 for 9 declared (Pujara 202, Saha 117, Vijay 82, Cummins 4-106)

Thirty minutes before lunch, Peter Handscomb joined Shaun Marsh amid a Ranchi tumult. Their captain Steven Smith had just shouldered arms to let Ravindra Jadeja bowl him, symptomatic of a tired mind, the over after Matt Renshaw had also fallen. Australia were still 89 runs short of making India bat again; the hosts were circling hungrily.


Five hours later, Handscomb was still there and Marsh not long departed. The Test match was drawn, and the Border-Gavaskar Trophy bout remained locked at 1-1. Through batting of commendable calm and sure-footed technique, the Australian duo had thwarted India in a manner that will be a source of enormous satisfaction to the tourists. By getting out of a predicament few expected them to survive, they took the series to its final match.

Equally, India will be left to ponder why they were unable to close out this match in the manner of others during this elongated home season after the sublime innings by Cheteshwar Pujara. Certainly the Ranchi pitch stayed playable, but R Ashwin was unable to find a way through the Australian batsmen to provide the counterpoint to Jadeja's danger. Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav both bowled useful spells, but could not follow up Renshaw's wicket.

Ultimately, Australia's selection of a sixth batsman in place of the injured Mitchell Marsh gave them the batting depth they needed, not only to make a decent first-innings total but also to wriggle out of trouble on the final day. Before this match the visitors had gone 38 Test innings without a fifth-wicket stand worth 100 or more. In Ranchi, they managed to do it twice. Marsh and Handscomb's stand was worth 124, soaking up 62 priceless overs.

Smith and Renshaw had begun simply trying to bat for as long as possible, taking occasional scoring opportunities but stripping their games of risk. India's captain Virat Kohli began with Jadeja at one end and Yadav at the other, not calling on the offbreak's of the world's No. 1 ranked bowler Ashwin until the ball had lost much of its earlier hardness.

The plan to Smith appeared to be bowling wide of the stumps while trying to test the Australian captain's patience. He was comfortable in leaving plenty of balls alone while scoring from the occasional ball that strayed onto the stumps. Renshaw had a few awkward moments against Jadeja but overall held his shape well in dealing with the left-armer's variation between sharp turn and skidding straight balls.

Kohli replaced Yadav with Ishant, and he found a hint of movement from around the wicket. Renshaw's decision to pull away from the first ball of the 29th over of the innings seemed to raise Ishant's ire, and he hurled down a pair of bouncers in the same over to push the opener back, before thudding one into his front shin for the lbw verdict.

Smith had been safe in padding away anything Jadeja served up from over the wicket, but next over he failed to get his front leg far enough down the pitch or in line and heard the sickening noise of the off stump tumbling over. That error put Cheteshwar Pujara's enormous concentration in perspective, and left Marsh and Handscomb with much to do.

There were plenty of reasons for Marsh and Handscomb to feel overwhelmed when the afternoon session began, but neither was in the mood to give anything away. Their methods offered a contrast of left and right, plus Handscomb's penchant for getting down the pitch versus Marsh's long stride down the wicket and outside off stump.

A key over arrived midway through the session when Handscomb took 13 from an Ashwin over, compelling Kohli to take him out of the attack and switch Jadeja away from the end from which he had found spiteful turn to defeat David Warner and Nathan Lyon on the penultimate evening.

Handscomb and Marsh continued to accumulate either side of the interval, neither batsman doing anything outlandish but simply showing strong concentration and tight technique to frustrate the hosts, who had seemed so confident of victory little more than two hours before.

A pair of lbw appeals were referred by India but the day was going with Australia: Handscomb was struck on the back foot but the ball was not striking enough of the bails to avoid being deemed too high, and Marsh's miss of a flatter Ashwin delivery was not fatal because the ball had not quite straightened enough to strike leg stump squarely.

Both batsmen went on to half centuries and negotiated the early passages with the second new ball - India's last real hope of securing the rush of wickets they needed. Finally, Jadeja added a fourth victim when Marsh bunted a catch to short leg, and Glenn Maxwell soon squeezed Ashwin to silly point. But by then the match had all but petered out.

Kohli kept his men going beyond a point that others might not have, perhaps still believing in a miracle. Handscomb, though, was unperturbed, leaving Kohli to finally seek his hand in a gesture of concession and so send these sides to Dharamsala for the decider.
News Source: www.espncricinfo.com

Jadeja pips Ashwin to No.1, Pujara climbs to second in ICC rankings



Ravindra Jadeja has overtaken R Ashwin at the top of the ICC Test rankings for bowlers, after taking nine wickets against Australia in the third Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Cheteshwar Pujara was also a major gainer as his 202 off 525 balls propelled him above Virat Kohli to become the top-ranked India batsman in Tests. He was at No. 2, behind Australia captain Steven Smith.

Although the Ranchi Test was drawn, at the end of the fourth day, the hosts had seemed in quite a dominant position thanks to these two players. Pujara, by facing more balls than any other Indian (where data is available) in Tests, secured a whopping 152-run lead though Australia had put up 451. It was the third double-century of his career, second against Australia, and it helped him continue a rich vein of form in the 2016-17 home season - 1259 runs at 66.26 with four hundreds and seven fifties.

Jadeja, meanwhile, has outbowled his closest competitor Ashwin in the first innings this season - a sign that he was becoming a threat even without the pitch helping him too much. In all, Jadeja has taken 67 wickets at 22.98 with four five-wicket hauls in 24 innings. The changes he has made to his bowling, namely the ability to draw batsmen forward with flighted deliveries, as opposed to his usual method of bowling darts to get bowleds and lbws have made a strong impact. Kohli, at the end of the Ranchi Test, singled out Jadeja as "standing apart" from the rest of his bowlers.

Smith consolidated his place at the top of the rankings with scores of 178* and 21 in Ranchi. Smith has 941 rating points is now joint-fifth highest ever with Peter May. Only Don Bradman (961), Len Hutton (945), Jack Hobbs and Ricky Ponting (942) have ever got more.

India will hold on to their position at the top of the rankings at the April 1 deadline for a cash award of $1 million. Australia and South Africa, on the other hand, have a chance to take over the second position. If Smith's men at least draw the upcoming Dharamsala Test, they will finish at No. 2. South Africa can take over if Australia lose, and they either draw or win the Hamilton Test against New Zealand. The team that finishes second will be awarded $500,000 and the third-placed team will get $200,000.
News Source: www.espncricinfo.com

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Jadeja leads India's charge after Pujara 202




Cheteshwar Pujara secured the longest occupation ever by an Indian batsman in a Test match as he and Wriddhiman Saha ground Australia into the Ranchi dust on the fourth day. The tourists were unable to maintain their shackles on the middle-order pair after a pair of close calls went against them in the morning, leaving India as the only side who can win this match.

That fact was underlined by the final eight overs of the day, in which Ravindra Jadeja bowled David Warner through the gate and then followed up by skidding through the nightwatchman Nathan Lyon with the day's last delivery. Jadeja's accuracy and variation of spin loom as the gravest threats to Steven Smith's bedraggled team on day five.

Full report to follow

Innings India 603 for 9 dec (Pujara 202, Saha 117, Vijay 82, Rahul 67, Cummins 4-103) lead Australia 451 (Smith 178*, Jadeja 5-124) by 152 runs

Cheteshwar Pujara secured the longest occupation ever by an Indian batsman as he and Wriddhiman Saha ground Australia's bowlers into the Ranchi dust on the fourth day. The tourists were unable to maintain their shackles on the middle-order pair after a pair of close calls went against them in the morning, leaving India as the only side who can win this match.

In all, their stand was worth 199, denying Australia of a wicket until the evening session when both batsmen fell in pursuit of quick runs to increase India's lead. Ravindra Jadeja (54 off 55 balls) prolonged the punishment, and the tourists were left with eight overs to survive before the close, and been maneuvered into a position from which India have already won Test matches at home this season.

Patience has always been a strength of Pujara's, and by surpassing Rahul Dravid as the Indian batsman to spend the longest time batting in a Test he showed fortitude of a truly rare kind. Saha offered excellent support, opening his shoulders to play attractively against a tiring Australian attack and completed a deserved century.

Pat Cummins, who again bowled with great quality for the tourists, had Saha given out lbw with his first ball of the day, but the wicketkeeper's referral showed the ball to be missing leg stump by millimetres.

Closer to lunch Pujara was given out lbw to a delivery that Nathan Lyon straightened down the line of the stumps from around the wicket, but his review showed the ball to be spinning too much and also sliding past leg stump. Steve O'Keefe also came close to a breakthrough when Saha edged a cut shot attempt but the chance was dropped by Matthew Wade.

Chances dried up almost entirely in the afternoon as Pujara and Saha went on to a partnership that has redefined the match and possibly the series. Not least by placing a considerable physical strain on Australia's four-man bowling attack - Glenn Maxwell's off breaks have been used only sparingly.

Pujara's performance has effectively cancelled out the big hundred made by Australia's captain Steven Smith, and put India in position to pressure the tourists on the final day. Saha's assistance was also vital in frustrating a touring team that had started the day with hopes of quickly rolling up the India tail and setting a fourth innings target.

Cummins had briefly enjoyed the sensation of claiming a fifth wicket of the innings in his return to Test cricket, nearly six years after his storied debut against South Africa in Johannesburg. Saha was nowhere near a ball angled into him, and there was some discussion with Pujara before he reviewed. The Australians were floored when ball-tracking showed the ball to be missing leg stump.

From there Pujara and Saha accumulated slowly, against bowling that remained disciplined under an overcast sky that compelled the umpires to turn on the stadium floodlights. Pujara's 202 was a marker of his concentration and temperament against bowling that rarely lapsed into looseness.

Lyon was not used until midway through the session, and from around the stumps he appeared to have found a way to winkle out Pujara when the umpire Ian Gould raised his finger in response to the lbw appeal. However HawkEye again went the way of India.

Wade's drop of Saha from O'Keefe on 51 drew an apology from gloveman to bowler, then shortly before the interval Lyon again appealed and then referred, this time for caught behind when Saha essayed a sweep shot. But replays found no evidence of contact and left the Australians having made no progress for their morning's efforts.

Smith took the third new ball soon after play resumed, and once again Cummins produced a series of testing deliveries but was unable to claim the wicket Australia so dearly needed. Instead the hosts forged into the lead while the visitors used up their two decision referrals with a pair of overly optimistic appeals.

Pujara's long-batting milestone was followed by Saha's approach to within one run of his century. The stand was worth an unbeaten 175 at the break, with two sessions now elapsing without a single wicket. Another 24 runs accrued after tea at an increasing rate, including Saha's century, before Pujara popped a catch to midwicket to hand Lyon his first wicket since day one of the Bengaluru Test.

Saha fell in a similar manner, but Jadeja was more successful in taking the attack to the visitors. O'Keefe's 77 overs were the sixth-most ever by an Australian bowler in a Test innings, a tally not surpassed since Jim Higgs against England in 1979.

Tamim 82 seals Bangladesh's landmark win in 100th Test




A win on foreign soil against a strong home side was Bangladesh's dream for a long time. Bangladesh achieved it in their 100th Test by beating Sri Lanka by four wickets - their first Test win against the hosts - in a performance that saw them dominate large periods of the game.

They had plenty of nervy moments though, especially after Shakib Al Hasan was dismissed with 29 still required in the 191-run chase. Soon after, umpire S Ravi adjudged Mushfiqur Rahim lbw, which was overturned on review. In the next over, Herath couldn't hold on to a return catch offered by a powerful Mosaddek Hossain drive.

Mosaddek went after Herath again, skewing a drive over cover for four. Two more fours brought the target down to six runs. Mosaddek was then caught behind with two runs to get. Mehedi Hasan hit the winning runs, sparking wild celebrations in the Bangladesh camp.

Bangladesh, coming into this game on the back of a timid performance in Galle, the messy axing of Mahmudullah and the late injury to Liton Das, found the focus they needed to level the series.

Set 191 to win in the fourth innings, a commonly tough terrain for Bangladesh, Tamim Iqbal was initially focused on conserving his wicket in the face of sharp attack from Herath and Dilruwan. His first boundary came off the 42nd delivery he faced. Along with Sabbir, they found several boundaries that carried Bangladesh from a vulnerable position to one they could dominate from.


Inside-out hits, crunching drives and reverse sweeps got Tamim and Sabbir going as they didn't allow the Sri Lankan bowlers to find their groove after lunch. Tamim reached his fifty off 87 balls, and then launched Herath through extra cover for four and a six over long-on that landed on the second floor.

But on 82, he skied Dilruwan Perera towards Dinesh Chandimal at mid-on, who ran back to complete a sharp catch at mid-on. He had struck seven fours and the six in his 125-ball knock. Sabbir fell on 41 after Sri Lanka had asked for the DRS, replays suggesting that Dilruwan's delivery from around the wicket would have hit his leg stump.

Herath had earlier dismissed Soumya Sarkar and Imrul Kayes off consecutive deliveries in the ninth over. Soumya holed out to an unnecessary shot which was caught at long-off, before Imrul edged to slip next ball. The home side was on top at that point, having extended their overnight score of 268 for 8, to be bowled for 319 after the first hour. Dilruwan and Suranga Lakmal added 80 runs for the ninth wicket. Both fell within five balls of each other; Lakmal made 42 off 48 balls while Dilruwan's vigil of 174 balls produced 50 runs.