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Compelling summer in a bio-secure bubble

England lost only one of the six series they have played this summerTwelve months on from Stokes, Smith, super overs and Headingley, the most contrasting men’s international summer comes to a close.Delirious fans replaced by empty seats, those lucky enough to be in attendance cocooned in the bio-secure bubble.Given the circumstances, it is remarkable England…

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Compelling summer in a bio-secure bubble

England lost only one of the six series they have played this summerTwelve months on from Stokes, Smith, super overs and Headingley, the most contrasting men’s international summer comes to a close.Delirious fans replaced by empty seats, those lucky enough to be in attendance cocooned in the bio-secure bubble.Given the circumstances, it is remarkable England have managed to complete their intended schedule, and the cricket played has been compelling.There is still more to look forward to – England women’s series against West Indies, the conclusion of the Bob Willis Trophy, the T20 Blast and the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.For now, though, let us celebrate what England, West Indies, Ireland, Pakistan and Australia have served up.Morgan reflects on ‘amazing’ summerMaxwell and Carey star in thrilling win for touristsEngland women name 16-player squad for T20 seriesMan of the summerStuart Broad took his 500th wicket in the third Test against West IndiesDuring the first Test against West Indies, Stuart Broad may have wondered if the days of his stellar career were numbered.Left out of the England team, the pace bowler vented his feelings in an interview with Sky. When he returned for the second Test, he set about showing what he is still capable of.The result was 29 wickets – including his 500th in Test cricket – at 13.41. He also averaged 41.33 with the bat.His brilliance complicates England’s succession planning, but if he produces something similar over the next year or so, Broad can be a real asset on the Ashes tour of 2021-22.Honourable mentions go to the rejuvenated Jos Buttler, dependable Chris Woakes, near-infallible umpire Michael Gough and Steve Elworthy, the man who delivered the bio-secure bubble that made it all possible.Zak Crawley, who struck a majestic 267 in the third Test against Pakistan, was England’s find of the summer.Broad – the premature baby who reached 500 Test wicketsMoment of the summerThere were times when you could only imagine what the atmosphere would have been like had a crowd been present.Buttler and Ben Stokes striding out to open the batting on the fourth evening of the second Test against West Indies, Woakes completing an unlikely run chase in the first Test against Pakistan and the final two one-day internationals against Australia are all occasions when Emirates Old Trafford would have been bouncing.James Anderson reached 600 wickets on the final day of the Test summerThey would have all been topped, however, by James Anderson becoming the first fast bowler to reach 600 Test wickets.After a poor summer, Anderson had been forced to dismiss any suggestion of retirement before the final Test against Pakistan; then the Southampton rain threatened to leave him stranded on 599 with no clue when he might next get an opportunity to take one more.An empty stadium would not have been the preferred setting for his latest moment of history, but that is to take nothing away from Anderson’s mammoth achievement, one built on skill, desire and longevity.Greg James pays tribute to fellow Tailender AndersonWe should also remember Ireland’s magnificent chase of 329 to win the third ODI and the powerful sight of all the England and West Indies players and staff taking a knee as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.Not only was it a symbol of support for the protests taking place across the globe in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, but also a show of unity between two teams who had somehow made it on to the field to compete in the midst of a global pandemic.English cricket owes a debt of gratitude to each of Ireland, Pakistan and Australia, but special thanks must go to West Indies. Their men were first to arrive and they have subsequently rescued the women’s summer.Planning awardWhen first floated, the idea of international cricket taking place inside a bio-secure bubble, with teams staying, training and playing in the same place, seemed fanciful at best.And yet the England and Wales Cricket Board has pulled it off, showing the rest of the world a way cricket can continue in the new normal.No stone has been left unturned. Visiting teams arrived on charter flights and entered quarantine upon arrival. All inside the bubble have been swabbed, tested and had their movements tracked. The rules have been the same for everyone, from journalists to players, as Jofra Archer found out to his cost.The audacious plan to get international cricket on has been a complete success and saved the game vast sums of money.Still, there is a realism about the challenges yet to come, especially following Tuesday’s announcement that the ECB is set to cut 62 jobs.Most time running the drinksWhile it’s right to acknowledge there are greater hardships than being asked to stay in nice hotels and play cricket for your country, it is also fair to say this has been a tough summer for the players.For some, the reward has been wickets and runs, the thrill of taking part in international sport.Others, like Jack Leach, did little more than move between the hotel and the pavilion, with the occasional trip to the nets.From a warm-up match at the beginning of July to finally featuring for Somerset on 6 September, Leach saw no action at all, instead only being seen running drinks in a pair of blue surgical gloves.Last summer, Leach was the toast of English cricket. Since then he has suffered a bout of sepsis on tour in New Zealand, come home early from the tour of South Africa and been locked in the bubble without any cricket to show for it.The hope is that fortunes improve for one of the game’s most likable characters.Takeaway masterNot content with being England’s all-time leading run-scorer and a knight of the realm, Alastair Cook took on a new title – king of the curry.Looking for a change from hotel food, Sir Chef asked the BBC team if they would join him in enjoying a takeaway one Saturday night in Southampton.Cook delivered a banquet and also spawned a tradition that ran for the rest of the summer. Michael Vaughan went Japanese in Manchester, while Jonathan Agnew even enlisted the help of celebrity chef Tommy Banks.Not content with that, Cook would later produce brownies baked by his daughter.Cook by name…Biggest errorA few contenders here. Archer’s trip to Brighton must surely be the only time someone has missed a Test for going home, while West Indies captain Jason Holder fielded first at Old Trafford twice and lost on both occasions.However, Michael Vaughan somehow locking the keys in the boot of his own car takes some beating.What followed was two members of the Test Match Special team – Cook and Phil Tufnell – confidently claiming they could break in, only for neither to have any success.In the end, it needed the Twitter intervention of the president of the AA to get the former England skipper back on the road.Broadcasting breakthroughWhen he first joined the TMS team, Carlos Brathwaite had no idea what the Shipping Forecast was.By the third Test of the summer, the West Indies all-rounder was reading it.A little nervous before tackling the Radio 4 institution, Brathwaite rehearsed his lines and delivered word perfectly.T20 World Cup winner, voice of the Shipping Forecast. Remember the name…
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NFL game postponed over Covid-19 cases

Tennessee Titans’ long snapper Beau Brinkley (left) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (right) have been put on the reserve/Covid-19 listThe NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday has been postponed because of Covid-19 cases.The game will be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday after the outbreak among Titans players and staff.On Tuesday,…

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NFL game postponed over Covid-19 cases

Tennessee Titans’ long snapper Beau Brinkley (left) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (right) have been put on the reserve/Covid-19 listThe NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday has been postponed because of Covid-19 cases.The game will be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday after the outbreak among Titans players and staff.On Tuesday, defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, long snapper Beau Brinkley and practice squad tight end Tommy Hudson were put on the reserve/Covid-19 list.The NFL has since shut down the team facility.According to the NFL network, a fourth player also returned a positive test on Wednesday.The Titans played the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis last Sunday.The Vikings’ facility was also closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and it is unclear whether their scheduled game with the Houston Texans will take place on Sunday.
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Pliskova survives scare at French Open

Karolina Pliskova reached the Italian Open final earlier in SeptemberCzech second seed Karolina Pliskova came from a set down to avoid an upset against Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif in the French Open first round.World number four Pliskova, 28, had eight set points in the opener, before losing to Sherif – ranked 172nd in the world…

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Pliskova survives scare at French Open

Karolina Pliskova reached the Italian Open final earlier in SeptemberCzech second seed Karolina Pliskova came from a set down to avoid an upset against Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif in the French Open first round.World number four Pliskova, 28, had eight set points in the opener, before losing to Sherif – ranked 172nd in the world – in a tie-break.The 2017 semi-finalist wrapped up a quick second set against the 24-year-old after winning four games in a row.Pliskova came through a tense decider to claim a 6-7 (9-11) 6-2 6-4 victory.”It was super tough,” she said. “Especially after losing the first set after having set points.”She played a great game, especially in these conditions.”Sherif kept up an impressive level throughout and the pair exchanged breaks at the start of the second set.But Pliskova then won four games in a row, eventually holding serve to level things.The Czech was made to work much harder for the final set as she failed to convert five break points before winning the sixth to go 4-3 up.She held serve and wrapped up the match after two hours and 15 minutes with an ace down the middle.Pliskova, who has never won a Grand Slam, will face Latvian world number 43 Jelena Ostapenko in the second round.Live scores, results and order of playAlerts: Get tennis news sent to your phone
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Williams overcomes slow start to win

Serena Williams is a three-time champion at Roland Garros, having won the 2002, 2013 and 2015 titlesSerena Williams began her quest for a 24th Grand Slam title with a hard-fought win over fellow American Kristie Ahn in the French Open first round.Sixth seed Williams, who turned 39 on Saturday, overcame a rusty start to win…

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Williams overcomes slow start to win

Serena Williams is a three-time champion at Roland Garros, having won the 2002, 2013 and 2015 titlesSerena Williams began her quest for a 24th Grand Slam title with a hard-fought win over fellow American Kristie Ahn in the French Open first round.Sixth seed Williams, who turned 39 on Saturday, overcame a rusty start to win 7-6 (7-3) 6-0 in Paris.Once she came through a 74-minute opener, Williams began to play with more belief and clarity as she swept Ahn aside in a one-sided second set.Williams will play Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round.Pironkova, 33, was handed a wildcard by Roland Garros after a memorable run to the US Open quarter-finals – where she lost to Williams – in her first tournament since 2017 after giving birth.More to follow.Live scores, results and order of playAlerts: Get tennis news sent to your phone
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