I enjoyed this format from last week so I’m going to stick with it. As with last week, I’m going to pick a few news stories and give my opinion in a more condensed fashion, rather than write an extended piece on one subject. So, let’s get into the week’s news that caught my eye.
Stuart Broad leads from the front.
England comfortably won the Third Test at Old Trafford to claim a 2-1 series victory over the West Indies to claim the Wisden trophy. Stuart Broad produced with both ball and bat, taking ten wickets in the match and scoring a half-century in England’s second innings to push the lead beyond what the Windies were going to be able to chase. In so doing he claimed his 500th Test wicket, joining a very exclusive club. Only six men have done it before him, including his strike bowling partner Jimmy Anderson. What makes his achievement even more impressive is the fact that Broad has seemingly gotten better with age. Since the start of last summer’s Ashes series, he has taken 84 wickets at an average of 23.23, the joint highest in Test cricket. Getting from 400 to 500 Test wickets, his average has been 22.7, the best 100 wicket block of his career. There has been talk surrounding the future of Broad and Anderson; the fact that they are so intertwined as a bowling partnership that they would retire together. But Broad is four years younger than Anderson, who is nearly at 600 test wickets. If Broad can keep himself fit and at the standard he has now set himself, he could even surpass his fellow seamer and become England all-time leading wicket taker, maybe even the greatest fast bowler of all time. There are only three men ahead of him, Courtney Walsh, Glenn McGrath and Jimmy Anderson. And as a good a bowler as Anderson is, he is nearing his forties. Broad still has time on his side.
After being left out of the first Test, Broad made his feelings clear in a revealing interview with Sky Sports saying the decision by the selectors had left him “angry, frustrated and gutted”. So, when he came back into the side, he needed to prove that they had made a mistake in dropping him. If he hadn’t performed, he would have left with egg on his face. Instead, he came in and made absolutely crucial breakthroughs with the ball and an extremely helpful half-century with the bat to help England on their way to two comfortable Test victories and a winning series. He backed himself and showed that when England want to win Test matches, Stuart Broad should most definitely be in the side.
Just put one on. It’s as simple as that. If you’re leaving the house, particularly if you’re going into a shop, put a mask on. What is so hard to understand about that? To prevent a second coronavirus wave that would necessitate going back into full on lockdown, wear a mask. Yes, they aren’t especially comfortable to wear, and make your face sweaty and give you spots on your chin. But this is something that can be done to help reduce the chances of a second coronavirus wave and subsequent lockdown. So many have had their lives devastated by COVID-19, a second wave of cases and another lockdown would be absolutely ruinous. We all need to do this. We need to look beyond ourselves and act together. Wearing a mask isn’t just about protecting yourself. It’s about protecting everyone.
Chelsea did not deserve to win the F.A. Cup, but were shafted by an abysmal refereeing performance.
I mean every word of that. It was always going to be a very surreal game. The F.A Cup final is the finale of the English domestic season, a staple of the footballing calendar. It’s always a great occasion. But as with all sporting events at the moment, it was held behind closed doors some three months after it was originally supposed to have taken place. Chelsea came into the game looking to top off what has been a very encouraging and successful first season in charge for Frank Lampard. He has guided the team to a top four finish, guaranteeing Champions League football for next season. The perfect way for Frank and the team to sign off for the season would have been to win Lampard his trophy as a manager. Ultimately, despite a lightning start, the players made too many individuals errors and relaxed too much. Injuries also took their toll and the players ran out of steam and out of ideas. I know there is still a Champions League game to play against Bayern Munich but with the build-up of injuries and the fact Chelsea are 3-0 down on aggregate, I would almost treat it like a training game and experiment with formations and personnel to get fixed what the team wants to do footballing wise next season.
What cannot be escaped though is that the referee and his team of officials made some appalling decisions. To me, the penalty was a legitimate foul on Aubamayang, if a bit soft. Whether it was inside the box or not is slightly more up for debate. But the amount of decisions for 50-50 tackles that went against Chelsea was absurd. Kovacic’s second yellow card was truly ridiculous, his foot was underneath Granit Xhaka’s in the challenge. That’s not even a foul, let alone a yellow card. Emiliano Martinez clearly handled the ball outside the box as well and not only did none of the officials spot it, VAR didn’t intervene either. The point of VAR is get rid of the bad decisions, the howlers. That includes the monitors pitchside. At the moment, English referees hardly ever use the pitchside monitors. If Anthony Taylor had taken the 30 seconds to check even one replay, both decisions would have been changed. There needs to be serious consideration given to how referees use VAR to make sure they take full advantage of the technology and reduce the number of mistakes being made. If the officials aren’t going to proactively use it, we may as well have a TV umpire make the decision for them.
Chelsea were behind the 8-ball when Kovacic was sent off and most likely wouldn’t have pulled it back. There was a serious lack of creativity in the midfield and the defensive vulnerabilities were clear to see. But Chelsea’s best chance at getting back into the game would have been with 11 players on the pitch. They were denied that chance by some rank amatuer refereeing.