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Blackwood stars as West Indies beat England by four wickets

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SOUTHAMPTON, United Kingdom, Jul 12Jermaine Blackwood made a superb 95 as the West Indies beat England by four wickets in the first Test at Southampton on Sunday.

The West Indies, set 200 to win on the last day, were reeling at 27-3 after England fast bowler Jofra Archer’s early double strike.

Blackwood, however, held firm until, in sight of just his second Test century, he drove England stand-in captain Ben Stokes to James Anderson at mid-off, with the visitors needing just 11 more runs to win.

But John Campbell, forced to retire hurt on one after being struck on the toe by Archer, returned to hit the winning runs.

West Indies captain Jason Holder, the world’s top-ranked Test all-rounder ahead of Stokes, was 14 not out.

The match was a personal and tactical triumph for Holder, who took a Test-best 6-42 in England’s lowly first innings 204 after Stokes, leading the side in the absence of Joe Root, won the toss and batted.

Although they hold the Wisden Trophy, the West Indies have not won a Test series in England for 32 years.

But this victory put them 1-0 up with two to play in a behind closed doors series ahead of next week’s second Test at Old Trafford.

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It was a thoroughly deserved success for the West Indies, who went ahead with their tour despite more than 44,000 deaths in Britain from the coronavirus during the pandemic.

“It is right up there with the best victories we’ve had as a group,” Holder told Sky Sports.

Holder sparked a collapse that saw England lose five wickets for 30 runs late Saturday when he dismissed Stokes.

– ‘Best day I’ve had in Tests’ –

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Congratulations: England’s Ben Stokes congratulates West Indies’ Jason Holder © POOL/AFP / Mike Hewitt

“To me, yesterday was probably the best day I’ve had in Test cricket,” said Holder.

“It was a hard, long toil and the bowlers really put it in. Every time I asked a bowler to come up and give a spell, they came up and gave a massive effort.”

Stokes, while relieved to be back in action, said England’s first innings had been the key to the game.

“First and foremost it is great that we’ve been able to get back onto the park and play some international cricket,” he said. “It was a bit strange.

“Ideally we would have liked to have got a lot more runs in the first innings.

“We got ourselves into some great positions at times with the bat and unfortunately we weren’t ruthless enough to make our innings count.”

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Windies spearhead fast bowler Shannon Gabriel was named man-of-the-match following combined figures of 9-137, including 5-75 in the second innings.

“I’m still a bit stiff but thankfully there is a couple of days to recover before the next Test match,” said Gabriel.

“Coming here, the guys were confident after playing them back in the Caribbean. We knew we could get the job done.”

But it might have been a different story for England on Sunday had they not given Blackwood several reprieves.

The 28-year-old Jamaican had made just five when he edged off-spinner Dom Bess only for Stokes, moving at slip, to drop the chance.

And he had moved on to 20 when wicketkeeper Jos Buttler floored a one-handed catch off Stokes.

Leg-byes were signalled but Blackwood would have been out on review had Buttler held on.

England then squandered a possible run-out chance when Zak Crawley fumbled.

But with West Indies needing exactly 100 more for victory, Barbados-born quick Archer defied a docile pitch to produce a rearing 90 mph delivery that Roston Chase, on 37, could only divert to Buttler via his glove and helmet.

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It was the end of a valuable stand of 73.

The diminutive Blackwood pressed on, cover-driving both Bess and Anderson, England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker, for two of his dozen boundaries in a 154-ball innings.

Archer had earlier made a useful 23 before he was last man out in England’s second innings 313.

He then reduced West Indies to 7-2, having gone wicketless in the first innings after being selected ahead of dropped veteran Stuart Broad.

Archer got Kraigg Brathwaite to play on and had Shamarh Brooks lbw for a duck.

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Europe beckons for South African rugby after Kiwi snub

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 20World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits believes the future of South African rugby lies in Europe after New Zealand said there was no room for sides from the republic in Super Rugby.

“All of this jet lag and flying across different time zones just does not work,” said the hooker who retired after the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.

“We have got so many South Africans playing in Europe and it would be awesome to see them in action here for European clubs.”

With New Zealand favouring a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux will address the media Tuesday about the way forward.

There has been no rugby in South Africa since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed 5,033 lives by late Sunday, the most in an African country.

Here, AFP Sport looks at the possibilities for the world champions Springboks and Super Rugby teams the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.

Rugby Championship

There has been speculation that the six-round annual tournament will be cut to four matches with New Zealand and Australia playing in South Africa only every second year.

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That would be a huge blow for SA Rugby coffers as the century-old rivalry with the All Blacks makes them a huge drawcard.

South Africa might consider abandoning the Championship and pursuing a suggestion by former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson for three-Test tours between the great rivals.

“British and Irish Lions tours are so successful because we look forward to them,” noted another ex-All Black, John Kirwan. The same could be said of an All Blacks-Springboks series.

‘Seven Nations’

Should South African franchises move north, would the Springboks follow suit and apply to join England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a ‘Seven Nations’ championship?

Having the world champions on board would surely excite the organisers and costs would be greatly reduced if the Springboks played their three away matches on consecutive weekends.

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England, Ireland, France and Wales, in particular, would bring freshness for rugby followers, who have not rushed to the turnstiles for Championship visits by Australia and Argentina.

Ask the SA Rugby treasurer for his ‘dream’ line-up and he would surely say a multi-Test tour by the All Blacks and participation in the ‘Seven Nations’.

Super Rugby

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Although not official yet, the reality is that New Zealand want to play some Australian sides and the Pacific Islands in a new competition while excluding South Africa and Argentina.

The original version, a Super 10 between 1993 and 1995, was a superb competition, but constant tinkering and expansion has led to waning interest in a difficult-to-follow event.

Even those supporting the Golden Lions of South Africa could not have derived too much satisfaction from a 94-7 thrashing of Japanese visitors the Sunwolves three years ago.

South Africa sides often battled with time differences in Australasia — New Zealand is 11 hours ahead of the republic — and were weary after four-match tours.

‘Pro16’

Pro14 chief executive Martin Anayi says he would welcome Super Rugby ‘rejects’ the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers into an expanded edition.

“The tournament works well but could be even better if we added some South African teams,” he said, referring to a competition that also includes Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.

But there may be no room for the two current South African Pro14 participants, the Cheetahs and Kings, who have experienced very different fortunes.

While the Cheetahs have been competitive, the Kings won just four of 55 matches in three seasons with some of the losing margins embarrassing.

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Currie Cup

The domestic competition has survived constant format changes to remain the vital ‘nursery’ from which Springboks emerge.

First staged in 1892, it was the bedrock of South African rugby until the dawn of professionalism after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

As Test and Super Rugby fixtures took up an increasing amount of the season, the Currie Cup often battled for calendar space.

But it survived and this year could feature the four Super Rugby sides plus the Cheetahs, Kings, Griquas and Pumas, if play is possible amid the coronavirus.

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya’s coronavirus cases rise to 13,771 after 418 more infections

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By NATION REPORTER

Kenya on Monday reported 418 more Covid-19 infections, raising the country’s tally to 13,771 since the virus was first confirmed on March 13.

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Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman also reported four more deaths, raising the toll to 238. He rectified an earlier report about 19 deaths in a single day, which would have been the highest number ever recorded in Kenya.

The 418 new patients were found following the testing of 2,474 samples in the last 24 hours.

Four hundred and eight of them were Kenyans and 10 foreigners while male patients numbered 263 and female patients 155.

Dr Aman also announced that 494 patients had been discharged, raising the country’s total number of recoveries to 5,616.

Of the recovered patients, 465 were under home care and the rest in hospitals.

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