England lock Charlie Ewels has been given a three-match ban for the red card he received early on against Ireland last weekend.

The 26-year-old was dismissed just 82 seconds into Saturday's 32-15 defeat at Twickenham after clashing heads with opposite number James Ryan.

That red card was the earliest ever in the Six Nations, with each of the three quickest in the competition's history each coming in the last two editions.

Ewels will now miss England's final game of this year's tournament against France in Paris, as well as Bath's Premiership fixtures against Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors.

However, he can undertake a Coaching Intervention Programme to have that suspension reduced to two matches, meaning he will be available to face Worcester on March 30.

Ewels was facing a possible ban of up to six weeks, but that was halved due to mitigating factors such as an early acceptance of the red and his remorse.

 

England's defeat to Ireland means they cannot finish any higher than third in this year's tournament.

Next opponents France are two points better off than Ireland, who host Scotland in the final round of fixtures, and are one win away from a first title and Grand Slam since 2010.

Two of France's three previous Grand Slams have been completed with a win over England in the final round, in 2004 and 2010.

England head to Paris aiming to avoid losing three games in a single edition of the competition for a third time under Eddie Jones, previously doing so in 2018 and 2021.

West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite hopes to see a more efficient performance from the bowling line-up as the team eyes pulling ahead of England when the three-match Test series resumes on Monday.

In the opening match, a total of 1,182 runs were scored over five days in a stern examination of bowlers from both teams.  Things did not start out that way, however, as the Windies took four wickets at the top of the first innings only for Jonny Bairstow to lead England’s recovery in the middle overs.

“I think we just have to be a bit more disciplined in the middle periods, probably a little tighter, under three runs an over, I think.  Creating that pressure will help to get more wickets in the middle overs,” Brathwaite told members of the media on Tuesday.

The West Indies will have fond recent memories of facing the English in Barbados having secured a massive 381 run win when the teams last met at the venue in 2019.  Brathwaite was quick to point out, however, that the team would not be preoccupied with history.

 “I think it’s history, to be honest, and we really have to look more to the future and be more disciplined.  I think we can draw from some things we did well, so of the players for sure, but I think we have to buckle down and start fresh.”

Saqib Mahmood will make his Test debut in England's only change for their second match against West Indies, starting on Wednesday at Kensington Oval.

The Lancashire seamer is a like-for-like replacement for the injured Mark Wood, who has been ruled out due to an elbow problem sustained in the first Test.

Joe Root's side played out a draw in that opening contest against Kraigg Brathwaite's hosts in Antigua and have moved on to Barbados for the second of three tussles for the Richards-Botham Trophy.

Centuries for captain Root, Jonny Bairstow and Zak Crawley were stymied by a superb display from Nkrumah Bonner and Wood's injury, on the back of Ollie Robinson being ruled out for the opener.

Root admitted that while Durham bowler Wood would be a loss, he had little doubts about 25-year-old Mahmood's potential.

"He's very mature for a guy who hasn't played a huge amount of international cricket, and he has an understanding of how he wants to operate," Root said.

"He's been very impressive. He's got a slightly different trajectory and will give us a point of difference. He has done that when he's played in other formats.

"Clearly he has good control, especially if the ball moves with reverse swing."

West Indies batsman Bonner, whose recent emergence as a Test player has followed a false start in international cricket in the T20I format 10 years ago, is relishing another battle after his man-of-the-match performance.

"During that 10-year period when I was out, there was a lot of work I put in mentally, physically and technically, and I'm really happy to be reaping the rewards now," Bonner said, quoted by BBC Sport.

"I'm more experienced now, I understand my game a lot better. I always had that belief I could play international cricket.

"Obviously sometimes the belief goes down a little bit, but I kept working and I'm really happy to have come back."

Stokes closes in on select England landmark

England all-rounder Ben Stokes has been relatively quiet with bat and ball since returning to the international fold, but he could reach a notable landmark this week.

He needs 84 more to reach 5,000 runs in Test cricket for England; in doing so, he would become just the 23rd player to achieve this feat for the team.

West Indies are one of the three teams against whom he has scored over 1,000 runs.

Roach poised to move up WI rankings

Kemar Roach needs only one more wicket to become the outright seventh-highest wicket taker for West Indies in men's Test cricket.

Roach is level with Garry Sobers on 235 wickets, and the paceman has more wickets against England (54) than against any other team in this format.

Once he moves ahead, he will have sixth-placed Michael Holding in his sights, with 249.

Kensington Oval is expected to be a hive of activity for the second Apex Test match, as the historic venue will now be able to operate at full capacity when West Indies host England from March 16-20.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) has announced that the venue will be allowed to return to 100 per cent capacity for fully vaccinated fans, following a decision taken on Monday by the Barbados Government.

Additionally, it was also announced that fans in the ‘Banks Party Stand’, presented by ‘Power By Four’, will no longer be required to take rapid antigen tests to enter, with all fans now just needing to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and be able to present their vaccination documentation.

“We are very happy that there is the potential for more West Indies and travelling England fans to attend the 2nd Apex Test match at Kensington Oval. We were almost sold out for the first two days before the decision by the Government of Barbados, which everyone welcomes," said Dominic Warne, WI’s Commercial and Marketing Director.

"Additionally, this will make it a much smoother experience for Banks Party Stand ticket holders, of which there will be more than 1000 per day, following the removal of rapid antigen testing requirements. We’re expecting another dramatic Test match against England and we want as many West Indies fans as possible rallying behind the #MeninMaroon.”

 The three-match Apex Test Series is still level following the draw in the first Apex Test at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua.

 

 

 

England cannot settle for "small incremental changes to make the difference" to their men's cricket setup if they want to compete, according to interim manager director Andrew Strauss.

Strauss left his role at the top of English cricket in 2018 but returned in a temporary role following the 4-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia.

The first of former England captain Strauss' changes saw head coach Chris Silverwood dismissed, with Paul Collingwood stepping up in the interim for the tour of the West Indies.

Joe Root's much-changed tourists, without star bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad, shared the spoils in an uneventful first Test with Kraigg Brathwaite's West Indies side in Antigua, but Strauss is aware that success will not arrive "overnight" for a struggling England side.

"The results do not lie," former opener Strauss, whose managing director role started to be advertised for a long-term successor on Monday, told the BBC.

"We have been number one in the world in Test cricket for 12 months in the last 42 years. Small incremental change isn't going to make the difference we need.

"We need to be bold and ambitious."

Strauss headed the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) committee that called for a full independent review into English cricket's domestic setup, and he appreciates that "time is ticking" to find a solution in appointing a managing director, who will find the next head coach of the men's team.

"There is a slight ticking clock in terms of the start of the international summer at the beginning of June and we want to get that person in position," he continued.

"It will be their decision around the coach and/or coaches as well, which hopefully will also be in position by the start of the summer, but there is a bit of time pressure for us to make that happen.

"It's going to be his [the new managing director's] team and so he has to look at how he wants to structure the England high-performance department.

"Whether he goes down the single coach or two coach model, he has to have the people that he feels can work with him and has a similar philosophy."

South African Gary Kirsten has been floated as Silverwood's red-ball successor, but Strauss believes whoever the next managing director and head coach are, England have to compete in all formats.

Questioned on who the new managing director may be, and whether they would have to be English, Strauss responded: "I've always been uneasy in saying overseas candidates cannot do the role.

"But what a time to get involved. It is very rare you get the opportunity to start with a blank piece of paper and this person is going to have that.

"Despite the doom and gloom around English cricket, there are a lot of good players out there. We are not going to become brilliant overnight but I think we have a lot of the raw ingredients in place.

"While a lot of the focus post-Ashes has been on red-ball cricket and the domestic structure, our project is broader than that.

"Our ambition has to be for us to be the best team in all formats. We have the ability to do that, and in order for that to happen, we have to look at the whole system.

"We have to accept we have never had a system that has produced that.

"Whatever your focus on red-ball cricket, it's like a Rubik's Cube and it affects white-ball cricket. You cannot look at them in isolation, you have to look at them together.

"The game around us has been moving very quickly. Not just our international players, but our domestic players are playing a lot of cricket abroad in the winter and it's time to ask what our role is in all of this.

"How do we protect our own system but also enhance that system?"

England head coach Eddie Jones insists questions surrounding his future are "part of the job" after defeat to Ireland at Twickenham in the Six Nations last Saturday.

The 32-15 loss means England can no longer win this year's tournament and could even finish in fifth place again if they are beaten by leaders France in Paris in their final match this weekend.

It was announced on Monday that Jack Willis has been included in the squad for the first time in over a year for Saturday's clash.

The flanker suffered a serious knee injury against Italy in February last year and only returned to action for Wasps last month.

Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live, Jones said his nationality may not help matters, but that questions of his suitability are part of the role.

"I took on the job of England and I knew this was going to be the case," he said. "I don't think it helps being an Australian but that's part of the deal. When I decided to do another [World Cup] cycle, I knew that would be more intense.

"The longer you're in the job, the more people probably don't want you to be in the job. It's all part of the job that we have."

Jones took the job in 2015 and has enjoyed success, winning three Six Nations titles and reaching the 2019 World Cup final, ultimately losing to South Africa in Japan.

The team's form has dipped since then, finishing fifth in last year's Six Nations and potentially doing the same this time.

However, Jones believes his side is developing, adding: "It's for other people to judge whether we're growing as a team.

"I've got my own internal assessment and I like what I see. I like to see the growing spirit of this team. We're moving in the right direction but I'm sure other people have their own judgement."

Jack Willis has been included in England's squad for the first time in over a year for Saturday's Six Nations clash with France.

The flanker suffered a serious knee injury against Italy in February last year and only returned to action for Wasps last month.

With Tom Curry ruled out of the contest at Stade de France with a hamstring problem sustained in the 32-15 defeat to Ireland, Willis has a chance of featuring.

Kyle Sinckler was also part of the 34-player squad named by Eddie Jones on Monday and will follow return-to-play protocols after being concussed against Ireland.

England are out of contention for the Six Nations title ahead of their final match of this year's tournament after winning two and losing two of their first four games.

Opponents France are top of the standings as they seek a first title and first Grand Slam since 2010.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) Men’s Selection Panel has named an unchanged squad for the second Apex Test match against England. The match will be played at Kensington Oval from March 16-20.

The three-match Apex Series is level 0-0 following a draw in the first Apex Test match, which was played at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua.

Nkrumah Bonner was named Player-of-the-Match. He scored a career-best 123 in the first innings and 38 not out in the second innings on the final day.

“It was a hard-fought first match in Antigua and we decided to stick with the same 13 players for the second match in Barbados,” said lead selector Desmond Haynes in explaining the decision not to make any changes ahead of the second Test.

“Bonner demonstrated the way you should play, and we were very pleased with the way he played in the first innings and again in the second innings. It was hard work for all the bowlers, and we were very happy with the way they stuck to the task.”

WEST INDIES TEST SQUAD: Kraigg Brathwaite (Captain), Jermaine Blackwood (Vice-Captain), Nkrumah Bonner, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Joshua Da Silva, Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Veerasammy Permaul, Anderson Phillip, Kemar Roach and Jayden Seales.

Joe Root praised his England team for their performance in a first Test draw with West Indies following a "difficult year".

Captain Root has led England into this series alongside stand-in coach Paul Collingwood after the ECB made widespread changes in response to a dismal Ashes tour.

England had issues throughout their line-up in Australia, and the decision to respond by leaving both Stuart Broad and James Anderson at home for this series was not a popular one.

Fellow bowler Mark Wood was lost to an injury for which he is being assessed in the first Test, too, but England remained the most likely winners in Antigua.

Helped by Root's 109 in a second-innings 349-6 declared, England gave themselves two sessions to bowl out West Indies and threatened to do so when Jack Leach took three wickets in a strong spell.

It was not to be, as West Indies finished on 147-4 – some way short of a target of 286 but not at real risk of defeat.

The post-match outlook from Root was a positive one, however.

"I'm really pleased with the way we played, especially given the position we were in after that first hour," said Root, referring to an alarming first day when England slumped to 48-4 prior to Jonny Bairstow's vital 140.

"The guys stayed calm and showed great maturity to get us to a total, especially off the back of a difficult winter and a difficult year where we've not scored anywhere near enough runs."

Lauding his bowlers, too, Root added: "The way the guys stuck at it, especially having one bowler down as well, showed a huge amount of character and it was a huge step forward in many respects.

"No-one stopped believing or gave up all day. We really did give ourselves the best chance of winning this game."

West Indies great Carlos Brathwaite was not happy with England's tactics after Joe Root waited until there were just five balls remaining before conceding the draw.

After falling to 67-4, West Indies duo Nkrumah Bonner and Jason Holder shut up shop, surviving for a combined 239 deliveries as Jack Leach (3-57) and Ben Stokes (1-24) searched for a miracle.

As the day's remaining overs dwindled, England showed no desire to call it early, drawing criticism from Brathwaite as he spoke about the lack of respect shown by the visitors.

"In my opinion [the match] did [go too long]," Brathwaite told BT Sport. 

"If I were Kraigg Brathwaite, or any of the senior players in our dressing room, I would have found it a bit disrespectful that in the last hour.

"With two set batsmen batting the way that they were, the pitch offering nothing, that England still felt as though they could get six wickets in 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four [overs]... up until five balls left."

Braithwaite went on to say that he feels England would not have handled the situation the same way against more high-profile Test outfits.

"If you want to become a top team, you have to think like a top team," he added. "West Indies may not be there yet, but the mentality has to be. 

"Would England have done that if it were an Ashes Test? Would they have done that against New Zealand, India, Pakistan? I think the answer is no. So why have they done it against us?

"If [West Indies] need any sort of steely determination added, I think that passage of play should have given them it. We are a better team than we're given credit for – this passage of play proves it, and now we have two Test matches to prove we are better than England think we are."

 

 

 

Defiant second innings batting from man-of-the-match Nkrumah Bonner and Jason Holder helped the West Indies salvage a draw on day five of the first Apex Test match against England at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Saturday.

England’s unbeaten pair of captain Joe Root (84) and Zak Crawley (117) started the day attempting to add on to England’s overnight 217-1 and eventually got to 225 before Crawley became the first scalp of the day, falling to Holder for 121.

Root carried on and brought up his 24th Test match hundred, the second-most by an Englishman only behind former skipper Alastair Cook’s 33.

Dan Lawrence, who joined Root after Crawley’s dismissal, made a breezy 37 before he was removed by Alzarri Joseph to leave England 295-3 off 78.3 overs.

With a declaration looming, England’s batsmen tried to step up their scoring rate but kept losing wickets quickly, including Root for 109 and Ben Stokes for 13.

Joseph finished with 3-78 off 23.2 overs while Kemar Roach picked up 2-53 off 19 overs.

They eventually declared on 349-6, leaving the West Indies needing 286 for victory.

The West Indies started their pursuit just before lunch, eventually reaching 4-0 at the break.

After lunch, Captain Kraigg Brathwaite and John Campbell continued their fruitful partnership at the top of the order with a second 50 partnership of the match.

They got to 59-0 before Brathwaite was trapped in front by Stokes for 33. Campbell was then dismissed in the next over by Jack Leach for 22 to leave the hosts in a spot of bother at 59-2.

Shamarh Brooks (5) and Jermaine Blackwood (2) then quickly became Leach’s next two victims to leave the West Indies struggling at 67-4 in the 35th over.

Thankfully for the West Indies, Bonner (38) and Holder (37) safely negotiated the final 36.3 overs to lead the West Indies to 147-4 off 70.1 overs.

Jack Leach was the pick of the England bowlers with 3-57 off 30.1 overs.

Final Scores: England 311 and 349-6 declared, West Indies 375 and 147-4.

The second test gets underway on March 16th in Barbados.

 

 

England players described their pride even in defeat to Ireland on Saturday after playing more than 78 minutes of the Six Nations match with 14 men.

The Red Rose's championship hopes were ended by the 32-15 reverse at Twickenham – their heaviest ever home Test loss to Ireland – but few fans had any issues with the team's fight and desire.

Charlie Ewels was shown a red card after just a minute and 22 seconds for his dangerous tackle on James Ryan – the earliest dismissal in a Six Nations match – giving England a huge uphill battle.

Eddie Jones' men still might have upset title-chasing Ireland, who were all square at 15-15 heading into the closing stages before taking the match away from their hosts.

Rather than rue their failure to take their championship challenge to Grand Slam candidates France for their fifth and final game, England's battlers preferred to reflect upon a heroic effort.

Hooker Jamie George said: "Right up to that last try, I genuinely had belief, and I think that says a huge amount about the character we have in the squad.

"This sounds ridiculous but it's one of the proudest days I've had in an England shirt. I genuinely feel that. I feel quite emotional from this game and the feedback we had from the crowd.

"Playing a team like Ireland, they're respected as one of the best teams in the world. To play like that with 14 men for 78 minutes takes some doing, and I'm proud to be part of the group."

Full-back Freddie Steward suggested this performance should set the standard for England sides moving forward.

"You come into a game, and you never expect that to happen," he told BBC Radio 5 Live. "The boys responded really well.

"It would have been easy for us to lose a man and for heads to drop and them to walk all over us. I think that shows the spirit of this team. We fought, we dug in, the boys gave it everything. There's a lot to learn from that."

Steward added: "We sat in at half-time and we had a genuine belief that we could go and win the game. The boys came out in that second half and wanted to do it, we wanted to do it.

"Unfortunately, on 60, 70 minutes, we ran out of steam at the end there.

"But I think this team is one that is not going to give up. We're not going to not fight, and we went to the trenches for each other today."

Ireland coach Andy Farrell was all smiles after his side came through a testing Six Nations encounter with 14-man England thanks to a late show at Twickenham.

A bonus-point 32-15 win saw Ireland pull to within two points on France at the top of the standings, keeping their championship hopes alive ahead of the final round of matches.

England were always on the back foot after a red card for Charlie Ewels after just 82 seconds, but they pulled the contest back to 15-15 in the 60th minute after opening the second half with consecutive penalties.

A heroic victory proved beyond the home side, however, as Ireland scored 17 unanswered points – including 14 in the final 10 minutes.

Despite a perhaps lacklustre performance with a man advantage, the barnstorming finish had Farrell chipper when speaking with the media post-match.

"It was never in doubt, was it?" he joked to RTE.

"At 15-all, the game's in the balance there. When you have 15 against 14, I thought the boys have done really well in some really tough situations.

"They dug deep for one another and came out with what we know is unbelievably hard to do – coming here and getting a bonus point.

"Rolling onto next week with something to play for is what we came to do, and we managed to do that.

Charlie Ewels was sent off after only 82 seconds as Ireland secured a 32-15 bonus-point victory at Twickenham to stay in the hunt to win the Six Nations and end heroic England's hopes of claiming the title.

Ewels was shown the earliest red card in championship history for a dangerous tackle on James Ryan and it looked like the Red Rose would be in for a painful evening when James Lowe crossed early on.

Yet Eddie Jones' side, roared on by a raucous crowd, produced an inspired display despite being a man down, only trailing 15-9 at half-time in an absorbing contest following three Marcus Smith penalties and a Hugo Keenan try for the visitors.

Smith's fourth and fifth penalties brought a spirited England level, but a Johnny Sexton penalty 15 minutes from time put Ireland back in front before late tries from Jack Conan and Finlay Bealham sealed a victory that moved Andy Farrell's men two points adrift of leaders France.

Ireland are at home to Scotland in their last match of the tournament next Saturday and will be hoping for a favour from England when they do battle with Les Bleus in Paris. 

Ewels' participation was over soon after it started, with referee Mathieu Raynal giving the lock his marching orders after he clashed heads with Ryan attempting a tackle.

With a dazed Ryan unable to continue, Sexton slotted over the resulting penalty and Lowe raced down the left to score the opening try in a dramatic start after taking a pass from Josh van der Flier.

Caelan Doris had a try ruled out due to a Garry Ringrose knock-on and Tom Curry limped off before England started to dictate the game despite being a man down, Smith reducing the deficit with two penalties and also missing one.

The Red Rose pack dominated – wing Jack Nowell playing his part in the scrum – but Jamison Gibson-Park's quick free-kick opened the door for Keenan to crash over before Smith's third penalty on the stroke of half-time made it 15-9.

There was another blow for England when Kyle Sinckler failed a head injury assessment at half-time, Will Stuart replacing him, but another Smith penalty left them only three points down.

Fly-half Smith brought them level midway through the second half with another penalty won in a ferocious scrum, but Sexton booted Ireland back into the lead and converted after Conan crashed over from close range after 71 minutes.

Bealham added insult to injury as the pressure told on weary England late on, barging over in the corner and Sexton took his points tally with the boot to 12 by adding the extras.

Ewels gives England a mountain to climb

After a huge build-up to what Eddie Jones had billed as a semi-final, losing Ewels right at the start meant England were always going to be up against it.

Although there was no malice in his tackle on Ryan, French official Raynal felt he had no option but to dismiss the England man. The Red Rose, driven on by a powerful pack, showed great character to make a brilliant game of it and the scoreline did not tell the full story.

Gibson-Park makes Ireland tick

This was certainly not a vintage Ireland performance as they made far too many errors and showed indiscipline, but they looked dangerous every time they attacked and were ruthless as England tired.

Gibson-Park made them tick and has been a revelation at scrum-half, making 59 passes and setting up a try for Keenan that came at an important time late in the first half.

What's next?

Ireland take on Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in the second game of the final weekend before England do battle with Les Bleus in a decisive last match in Paris.

Zak Crawley and Joe Root put on a 193-run stand for the second wicket in England's second innings to boost their hopes of victory in the first Test against West Indies – at least until the weather intervened.

Day four could have been a tricky one for the tourists in Antigua, with any rush of early wickets potentially handing West Indies a clear sight of an opening win.

After Jack Leach concluded the hosts' innings on 375 by taking the wicket of Jayden Seales with the third ball of the day, Crawley, who went on to reach 117 not out, required a review in the first over to overturn an lbw decision.

Fellow opener Alex Lees was not so fortunate, departing for six to Kemar Roach to reduce England to 24-1, still 40 runs behind their opponents.

Yet that brought Root out alongside Crawley, and the captain made an unbeaten 84 in an outstanding partnership that altered England's outlook considerably.

A short rain delay with Crawley on 49 might have ramped up the nerves, but he returned to pass 50 and continue on into three figures, scoring his second Test century.

Root was well on course to follow Crawley when the weather halted England again, with play eventually abandoned for the day after discussions between the umpires and the captains.

Root willing to take a risk?

England are 153 runs ahead on 217-1, in a great position to accelerate their scoring and attempt to win this match rather than settle for a draw. But the early finish on Friday meant their lead was not larger, making any call to go on the offensive a gamble as West Indies could yet themselves excel with the bat.

In the first match of the series, skipper Root may well take the more measured approach – particularly with his bowlers toiling in the first innings.

Crawley knock critical

That Root might have such a dilemma owes a great deal to Crawley, who put a disappointing first-innings score of eight behind him in some style. Had he departed early again, as he might have when a review was required, England would likely have faced a long day looking to protect hopes of a draw.

Crawley's unbeaten 200-ball knock, his score boosted by 16 fours, instead gave the tourists hope of a first away victory in nine Tests.

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