Under-pressure Amla leads South Africa fightback against England

first_imgCAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP):South Africa showed some fight in the second Test yesterday, with Hashim Amla’s 157 not out helping cut England’s lead to 276 as the home team reached 353-3 at stumps on the third day.Amla, the South Africa captain, eased the pressure on himself and his top-ranked team with his 24th Test century and first since December 2014.He shared partnerships of 183 with A.B. de Villiers (88) and an unbroken 85 with Faf du Plessis. South Africa lost just one wicket for 212 runs on the day.England, after a huge first-innings total of 629-6 declared, were finding it tough to take wickets on a serene batting pitch at Newlands, which has been so good for the batsmen that 982 runs were scored over three days.”Tricky day for us,” England fast bowler Steven Finn said. “One wicket in a day is obviously not ideal for what we wanted from this day … but we’re still a long way ahead in the game.”England also already lead the four-match series 1-0, leaving South Africa effectively batting to stay alive in the contest.”We were behind the eight ball on day one,” Du Plessis said. “England played really well and we needed a really resilient performance to get back in the Test match and that’s what we did.”England’s lone breakthrough came just before tea when De Villiers, looking to push on, mistimed a pull shot off Finn. The ball flew to James Anderson, who knocked it up in the air at midwicket and completed the catch.Frustratingly for England, both Amla and De Villiers should have been out much earlier but for dropped catches. Joe Root put De Villiers down at slip off the bowling of Anderson late on the second day and very early in De Villiers’ knock. In a twist of irony, Anderson dropped Amla off Root’s bowling when the South African skipper was on 76. Amla was dropped again on 120 by Nick Compton.”Obviously we’re disappointed to not take them but no one means to drop catches,” Finn said.De Villiers hit 12 fours and a six, while Amla returned to form with a big century, hitting 21 fours.With South Africa in a slump, Amla’s lack of form and captaincy had come under scrutiny. When he passed 50, it was for the first time since the New Year test in Cape Town a year ago, ending a drought of 11 innings without a meaningful score.last_img read more

Ernesto Valverde’s FC Barcelona playing slow but effective football

first_imgBarcelona are going about their usual business in La Liga, leading the Spanish league table by five points and their star Lionel Messi shining as ever.On Sunday, Barcelona scrapped through a 2-0 win over Villarreal with Messi and Luis Suarez getting on the scoresheet and kept their lead and hold at the La Liga.Even though the victories after victories that Barcelona have been racking, the new Barcelona of Ernesto Valverde looks far fetched and very different from what they were last year.Luis Enrique played a Barcelona that was almost counter-attacking and Valverde has got the team back to ball possession.Although the former Athletic Bilbao coach has chosen to change from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2, adding a man in midfield to increase ball possession, this Barcelona are also far cry from Pep Guardiola’s passing demons from 2008-12.With electric winger Neymar leaving for Paris St Germain, Barcelona lost their most creative player behind Lionel Messi and it has had positive and negative effects on the team.Although Ousmane Dembele was signed to replace the Brazilian, his injury has resulted in Valverde using Paulinho as an extra midfielder.With four central midfielders on the pitch, even with two of them moving into wider positions, Barcelona are much harder to break down, playing pragmatic but slow football.The Catalans have conceded only seven goals in La Liga, joint fewer than any other side with Atletico Madrid, who are renowned for their rock-solid defence.In attack, however, it means they are reliant on the quality of Messi and Luis Suarez, meaning if defences can keep the striking duo shackled, Barcelona have trouble finding a way through.advertisementThat was the case at Estadio de la Ceramica, with Villarreal keeping the door shut until midfielder Daniel Raba was sent off for a foolish lunge at Sergio Busquets.When the hosts were reduced to 10 men it was far easier for the Catalans to unpick them, with Suarez and Messi scoring.”The first half was very even but after the red card we had more chances on goal to win the game,” Suarez said. “The red card hurt them but Paco Alcacer coming on also helped the team.”With Barcelona in need of a goal, Valverde hauled off midfielder Denis Suarez, who was standing in for injured captain Andres Iniesta, and his replacement Alcacer teed up Suarez.Now boasting an extra forward, Barcelona looked more dangerous but also started allowing chances to the hosts, although goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen stopped anything which came his way.When Dembele returns from injury in January it will give Valverde the chance to bring the thrill and excitement back to Barcelona’s game, but the coach might be reluctant to change a winning, albeit at times dull, formula.(With inputs from Reuters)last_img read more