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Root’s landmark day flays Australia

England 333-5 (Root 178*, Bell 74) and 361 lead Australia 128 by 566 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Joe Root acknowledges his first half-century of the series, England v Australia, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 3rd day, July 20, 2013

Joe Root bided his time in the afternoon before moving to 178 after tea, showing all of his ability © Getty Images
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Joe Root has shown an ability to adapt to any given match situation in his brief international career. The brief for England on a Lord’s Saturday was to take the heat out of the game and bat Australia into oblivion. And so Root did. Around the time that Australia were conscious only of the fact that there was no hope, he raised his bat to celebrate a maiden Test hundred as an England opener.

“Grind them down, Joe” would have been the message and so Joe did. If an occasional back-foot drive was reminiscent of Michael Vaughan, in the first two sessions there was a touch of Geoffrey Boycott in his fastidiousness.

The benefits then accrued in a rush as England, who made 141 off 58 overs in the first two sessions, piled up a further 162 in 32 overs after tea. Root’s well-structured 97 blossomed into an unbeaten 178 which left his quality incontestable. England closed the third day with a lead of 566. No side has chased that to win in the fourth innings in the history of first-class cricket. Australia were not thinking about it. They were just thinking about bed.

Root took five-and-three-quarter hours for his hundred, poring over it so intently that he might have replaced his helmet with gown and mortar board. He, too, has been in his year of graduation, and now he has emerged with honours, stilling the discussion surrounding his supplanting of Nick Compton as opener at the start of the Investec Ashes series.

If he had been caught on Friday evening on 8, when wicketkeeper, Brad Haddin, and first slip Michael Clarke left the catch to each other, life might have felt different. Instead, once his hundred had been achieved and with England looking for impetus in the final session, he gambolled along, his inventiveness at its height, particularly against the left-arm spin of Ashton Agar.

Australia’s quicks had shouldered a heavy workload over the past 11 days and, with Root’s hundred settled eight balls after the new ball was available, Clarke chose not to take it to spare his quicks further punishment. It became an increasingly perplexing call. Root and Ian Bell became increasingly carefree until a stand of 153 came to grief when Bell, on 74, hauled a long hop from Steve Smith to midwicket.

Australia were aggrieved that Bell, when only 3, had not fallen to a catch by Smith at gully when Ryan Harris forced the edge. The umpires handed it to the TV umpire, Tony Hill, to determine if the ball had carried. It was a tough decision, as there was the vaguest suspicion that the ball might have burst through Smith’s hands, but the foreshortening of a TV lens notoriously can make good catches seem illegal and it was probably out.

If Clarke was to bowl spinners so avidly, he could have done with a proven one. As Agar and Smith bowled in tandem, it felt like an educative process, the teaming up of a fledgling slow left-armer and a legspinner who has largely shelved the craft while putting more emphasis on his batting. There is nothing wrong with education. It just felt odd that it should be taking place in the middle of an Ashes series.

Australia’s three-wicket burst at the close of the second day had lifted heartbeats, but as the match progressed past its mid-point, they were searching for a pulse. In the first two sessions, they took only one wicket, that of the nightwatchman, Tim Bresnan, who flat-batted a pull against James Pattinson to midwicket, a reward for Pattinson, who had made the previous ball rear awkwardly.

Bresnan’s batting and bowling statistics have declined markedly since his elbow operation, but he is having a decent Test. Two successive boundaries against Siddle possessed some fortune – an edge in front of Phil Hughes at third slip and a leg-side clip – but Australia were unable to maintain the threat.

Australia’s collapse to 128 all out on the second day had been inexplicable, but the quick loss of three England wickets to the new ball had left the slightest unease. The ball was turning, and would turn more, and there was occasional uneven bounce, but nothing untoward. Root’s response was faultless.

Only in the final session as the pace of the pitch lessened and the bounce of the ball became more erratic did it become a more challenging surface for batting and by then England’s batsman were in the mood to disregard it.

England’s nightwatchman tactics do not please everybody, but twice in this Test their logic has been hard to fault. In the first innings, the use of James Anderson as a nightwatchman to protect Stuart Broad, a No . 9, was felt by some to be risible, but Broad and Graeme Swann embarked upon a crowd-pleasing last-wicket stand which lifted England’s mood.

As Root walked onto the Lord’s outfield on Saturday morning, it seemed shrewd that this time the nightwatchman should be Bresnan, a fellow Yorkshireman able to offer a few words of counsel if his mood ran away itself, and with enough credentials with the bat to have the chance of making a contribution of his own.

England settled carefully. It was six overs before Root risked a cover drive against James Pattinson, not entirely securely. Pattinson, who has struggled to settle to the vagaries of the Lord’s slope, had a much more solid day. But Root met everything judiciously. Australia, recognising his strength on the back foot, sought to draw him forward, but two easeful straight drives against Siddle had suggested by lunch that his weaknesses are merely comparative.

In the afternoon, he batted time. But he is a calculating batsman behind that smile and he would have liked his hundred before tea. Clarke challenged him to do just that in the last over before the break when he introduced the legspin of Smith. A cut boundary took him to 96, Agar dived at extra cover to prevent another boundary and he could only hack a full toss to mid-off. There had been no over with such incident all day.

Back out again he came after tea, on 97. Shane Watson made one leap, Agar made one creep out of the footholds. Smith made a great diving stop at gully. Root grinned at the fun of it all. Then he cut Agar to reach his hundred. Immediately, the shackles were off and a quietly appreciative crowd sensed that things had become more frolicsome. In the penultimate over, he rounded things off by twice heaving Smith over midwicket for six, any inhibitions of the morning long since cast aside.

Soon after his hundred, a member of the MCC groundstaff brought him a drink. It was his brother, Billy, not a bad player himself apparently. They shook hands formally and then broke into a quick hug. Life is going your way when the family can stroll on to congratulate you during a Lord’s Test match Saturday.

Moves for Bale or Ronaldo ‘not ruled out’ after Man Utd defeat

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BEATEN in Bangkok in his first game in charge of Manchester United, David Moyes has “refused to rule out moves” for either Gareth Bale or Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Premier League champs suffered a humiliating 1-0 defeat to the cabaret-sounding Singha All-Stars at the weekend, and according to the Metro the reverse could spur Moyes into swooping on a star of his own.

Though Real Madrid have insisted Ronaldo is not for sale, it’s believed the Spanish giants would part with the Portuguese preener for an offer in excess of £75m. Similarly, Spurs remain adamant that it would need a bid of silly proportions for Bale to be on his way.

But addressing the press after the balls-up in Bangkok, Moyes hinted that the United board will give him what he wants in his first season in charge: “Isn’t it great that the club says, ‘There’s no budget here, you go get who you want to get, just go and do it’.” Pressed on whether Ronaldo and Bale were in his sights, the Scot replied: “I will not name anybody but certainly we are always looking at the best players.”

Meanwhile United have lost out in the race to sign Thiago Alcantara after the Barcelona playmaker agreed terms with Bayern Munich. The Daily Mail reports that Tiago has signed a four-year deal with Bayern and that Barcelona received £22m in return.

In other news, the Daily Star claims that Arsenal are torn between signing Tim Krul and Julio Cesar. The Gunners were in the running for QPR’s Cesar but reports from Italy suggest the 33-year-old could be on the brink of signing for Napoli.

If that’s the case then the Star says that Arsenal will move for Newcastle gloveman Krul as manager Arsene Wenger looks to spice up the competition for the No 1 shirt with the Polish pair Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski. It’s said that Arsenal are lining up a £6m bid for the 25-year-old Krul with the Dutch international allegedly champing at the bit to move south to the Emirates.

One man likely to be on his way out of the Emirates before the summer’s out is Gervinho. The Mirror says that the Ivory Coast international “will sort out his future in the next fortnight” but is predicted to leave London. Gervinho is absent from Arsenal’s two-week tour of Asia because of illness and it’s claimed he’ll use the time to examine proposals from Roma, Juventus, Lyon and Marseille.

Since moving to Arsenal from Lille in 2011, the frontman has flattered to deceive and the Star says the Gunners will accept a bid of £8m, even though that’s three million less than they paid for him two years ago.

It wasn’t so long ago that Arsenal were linked with a move for Stevan Jovetic but The Sun says that the 23-year-old striker is soon to be unveiled as Manchester City’s latest signing. The Fiorentina ace has agreed in principal to join the Sky Blues and “only personal terms have to be finalised”.

Once they have been hammered out, the Montenegro star will sign a five-year deal that will net him £120,000 a week at the Etihad. To prove its case, the Sun quotes a Jovetic insider whispering in its ear: “It’s pretty much sorted he’ll go to City. They just have to sort his contract. It shouldn’t be a big problem.” ·

David Moyes says Manchester United have money to spend.

Having succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, Moyes has been released from the transfer shackles which occasionally left him frustrated at Everton.

There is no bottomless pit of cash at United, but the Scot claims to have been informed that there are no budget constraints.

“Isn’t it great that the club says, ‘There’s no budget here, you go get who you want to get, just go and do it’.”
David Moyes

That has given him the freedom to chase any target he likes, with United reported to still be mulling over approaches for Tottenham Hotspur forward Gareth Bale and former fans’ favourite Cristiano Ronaldo – who remains on the books at Real Madrid.

Moyes is reluctant to divulge the identity of those on his summer shopping list, but expects to be backed by his board in any decisions he takes.

After seeing his first game at the United helm end in a 1-0 defeat to the Singha All Star XI on Saturday, Moyes said: “Isn’t it great that the club says, ‘There’s no budget here, you go get who you want to get, just go and do it’.

“We are looking at the best players. I do think it’s important that we show people we are carrying on the traditions and trying to take the club forward.

“I will not name anybody, but certainly we are always looking at the best players. I think we are trying to strengthen in a couple of areas. We are short in midfield.

“We are also a club which tends to invest in the youth side, so you can expect us to go for players in that age group.

“We are working hard to make sure the first signing is the right one. I have been left a really good team and I want to add to it sensibly.”

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Transfer news: Bayern Munich confirm the signing of Thiago Alcantara

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Bayern Munich have confirmed a deal to sign Spain international Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona.

A fee of £21.6million has been agreed between the two clubs for the services of the 22-year-old midfielder and he will sign a four-year deal once a medical has been completed.

Thiago had reportedly been a target for Manchester United but has elected to team up with former Barca coach Pep Guardiola at the current champions of Europe.

Guardiola had made the acquisition one of his priorities this summer as he looks to build ahead of his debut season in charge of the Bavarian giants.

The transfer agreement also includes a commitment to hold a friendly game between the two clubs at some point by 2017.

A short statement from Barcelona read: “FC Barcelona and FC Bayern Munich have reached an agreement over the transfer of the player Thiago Alcantara to the German club for a total of 25 million (euros).

“This agreement also includes holding a friendly match between the two teams, which will be played in the next four years.”

United close on Thiago

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Sources close to the Spanish Under-21 midfielder say a five-year deal worth an initial £17.5 million are ‘well advanced’ and that “only little details remain to close the operation”.

A few days ago Thiago was included in a new picture modelling the new Barca home and away kits.

But last night he’d been quietly cropped from the shot suggesting his days in La Liga are over.

And his father Mazinho, a World Cup winner with Brazil in 1994, has put his Barcelona restaurant ‘Campechano’ on the market, ahead of an imminent move to England.

New United boss David Moyes has been reluctant to admit Thiago is on his way to Old Trafford.

But it seems the move could be confirmed this week after reports from Spain suggested the 22-year-old has opted to quit the Nou Camp, to maximise his chances of making Spain’s World Cup squad next summer.

Thiago wants to play more often, having Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Xavi extremely difficult to shift from the Barcelona line-up.

Bayern Munich, managed by former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, are also interested but the source added: “Thiago is very excited about the chance to play in the Premier League.

“He’s always loved it.”

Morning Paper Talk Follow the rumour mill with the latest transfer rumours, gossip and speculation from the newspapers.

Morning Paper Talk Follow the rumour mill with the latest transfer rumours, gossip and speculation from the newspapers..

SPL: Celtic boss Neil Lennon concedes striker Gary Hooper is set to leave.

SPL: Celtic boss Neil Lennon concedes striker Gary Hooper is set to leave..

Premier League: Leroy Fer becomes Norwich City’s sixth summer signing

Premier League: Leroy Fer becomes Norwich City’s sixth summer signing.