England leave it late to beat Poland at Wembley

Harry Maguire’s  powerful drive high was the third time that the Manchester United defender has scored for England

Harry Maguire struck with five minutes of normal time remaining as England beat Poland 2-1 at Wembley to pick up a maximum nine points from three World Cup 2022 qualifiers.

Paulo Sousa’s side were a slightly more difficult side for Gareth Southgate’s men to come up against, after the Three Lions had comfortably beaten San Marino in their opening group match and edged past Albania in Tirana on Sunday afternoon.

England started the first half on the front foot and were rewarded for it in the 19th minute after Raheem Sterling was brought down in the penalty area by Poland defender, Michal Helik. Harry Kane stepped up and dispatched the ball beyond Wojciech Szczęsny in the visitors net.

Harry Kane has taken 12 penalties in an England shirt and has scored 10 of them

Southgate’s side wasted a few opportunites in this game and they were made to pay for it 13 minutes into the second half as John Stones’ error resulted in an equaliser for Poland as Jakub Moder emphatically fired the ball past Nick Pope in the hosts’ net.

Jakub Moder netted his second senior goal for Poland at an empty Wembley

In the seven appearances that Nick Pope has made for England, it was the first goal he had conceded in-between the sticks and it could have been disastrous until Stones atoned for his error by showing remarkable athleticism by heading a Phil Foden corner into the path of Harry Maguire, who powered a half-volley into the top of Szczęsny’s goal, despite the Juventus goalkeeper getting his finger tips to it.

Nick Pope to keep England place for Albania and Poland World Cup qualifiers  | Football News | Sky Sports
Pope became the first goalkeeper to keep six consecutive clean sheets in his first six games after victory against Albania on Sunday and the clean sheet record ended in his seventh game as a full England international

Match stats

  • England have now won each of their last 20 home qualifying matches for the European Championship/World Cup – a run that stretches back to October 2012.
  • Poland lost for only the third time in their last 26 qualifying matches for the Euros/World Cup (W19, D4).
  • England have only lost one of their 20 international matches against Poland (W12, D7) and are unbeaten in their last 17 against them.
  • Kane became England’s all-time leading penalty scorer, netting his 10th penalty and overtaking Frank Lampard, who scored nine.
  • Stones only registered his third assist in his 324 senior matches for club and country.
  • Kane has been directly involved in 30 goals in 21 Euros/World Cup qualifying matches (22 goals, 8 assists), scoring at least once in each of his last 12 such appearances, stretching back to October 2017.

What’s next?

England aren’t in action again until the summer as they face Austria and Romania in friendlies as they prepare for the delayed 2020 European Championships, which starts on 11 June. Whilst Poland also play friendly games in the summer, which are against Russia and Iceland as The Eagles gear up for the same tournament.

EFL makes history as Rebecca Welch is the first woman to be appointed for a League Two game

Rebecca Welch is on Uefa’s list of elite female officials and has refereed two Women’s FA Cup Finals at Wembley in 2017 and 2020 respectively

The English Football League has made history by appointing its first female referee to officiate a game.

Rebecca Welch, 37, will be in the middle for Harrogate Town’s match against Port Vale on Easter Monday.

Welch, who is the Football Association’s highest ranked female referee, has overseen a number of important women’s matches which includes the 2017 and 2020 FA Cup finals as well as several international games.

“It was a shock,” said Welsh, who hails from Washington, County Durham.

“I got a phone call from [referees chief] Mike Jones and my initial response was – ‘Oh what’ve I done?!’

“But I’m really excited and this is what I’ve been working towards. Being given this opportunity to work in the EFL is amazing for me.”

On 9 February 2010, Amy Fearn refereed the final 20 minutes of Coventry City’s fixture against Nottingham Forest after Anthony Bates, who was the original referee strained his calf. However Welch is the first woman to be appointed to a game.

Welch is one of various officials already working in the men’s game, having been added to Uefa’s elite women’s list along with Sian Massey-Ellis in the Premier League, France’s Stephanie Frappart and Germany’s Bibliana Steinhaus.

Welch, warms up with Sian Massey-Ellis, right of picture, before the last Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley, which took place in November

“I was just given the appointment and I was over the moon but when you kind of reflect on it you think you’re the first woman ever to do this, so I’m extremely proud and my family’s extremely proud as well,” Welch added.

“I do think it’s important to show that women who are in the top 1% of their category can proceed to the next level so it definitely makes others down the period look up and know that they can achieve the same.

“It shows that there is a real opportunity for young girls who are wondering if they are to take the whistle or who are already referees, that they can aspire to be an EFL referee or like Sian Massey-Ellis operating in the Premier League.

“In the last 10 years I’ve put a lot of hard work and commitment in and I’ve reaped the rewards from that by getting promoted.

“But I’d never seen myself as a trailblazer until the last year where I’ve started to accept it because I think it’s important that people who are fortunate enough to be in my position or similar can show people that this can be done.”

Manchester City: Sergio Agüero to leave The Etihad at end of season

Agüero will leave Manchester City after winning thirteen trophies during his ten-year stay at the club

Manchester City have announced that their record goalscorer Sergio Agüero will leave the club at end of the season, after ten years at the Citizens.

The 32-year-old striker’s contract reaches it conclusion at the end of the campaign and he has been told that it will not renewed for next season.

The Argentine, who joined City for £35 million from Atlético Madrid in 2011, has scored 257 goals in 384 for the club. One of which was the decisive goal against QPR in 2012, that helped Manchester City win their maiden Premier League title at the expense of rivals, Manchester United.

“With the guidance of the owners and the contributions of many players, we earned a place among the greatest of the world,” Agüero said.

Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak has revealed that a statue of the striker has been authorised to stand alongside those currently in work to honour Sergio’s former team-mates Vincent Kompany and David Silva, who left the club in 2019 and 2020 respectively. 

The trio played huge roles in City’s resurgence, with Agüero famously scoring the injury-time winner against QPR in 2012 which clinched the club’s first English title in 44 years.

Subsequently, the Argentina international has helped City win three more Premier League titles, one FA Cup and five League Cups.

“Sergio’s contribution to Manchester City over the last 10 years cannot be overstated,” City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said.

“His legend will be indelibly etched into the memories of everyone who loves the club and maybe even in those who simply love football.”

In a statement announcing his exit, Agüero said: “I will continue to give it my utmost for the rest of the season to win more titles and bring more joy to the fans.”

“Then, a new stage with new challenges will begin and I am fully ready to face them with the same passion and professionalism that I have always dedicated to continue at the highest level.”

During the current season, Agüero has made 14 appearances in all competitions (eight in the Premier League, one in the EFL Cup and five in the Champions League), scoring just three goals along the way.

The striker has been on the fringes this season, which has been down to a knee injury as well as contracting COVID, as Guardiola’s men chase a quadruple of Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup.

Aguero has been linked to several top European clubs in recent months, with his contract running down and an exit looking likely before it was confirmed on Monday.

Spanish giants Barcelona are reported to be potential admirers, with French champions Paris St-Germain, plus Italian duo Juventus and Inter Milan, also credited with interest.

Last week, Chelsea were said to be keeping an eye on Agüero’s situation  and ready to make their move if the Argentine decided to stay in the Premier League.

Agüero Stats by season

Aguero’s season-by-season stats (all competitions)
SeasonGamesMinsGoalsMins per goal
2011-12483,47730115.9
2012-13402,71117159.5
2013-14342,2892881.8
2014-15423,1983299.9
2015-16443,52029121.4
2016-17453,50033106.1
2017-18392,9343097.8
2018-19463,36832105.3
2019-20322,0912390.9
2020-21144533151

India v England: Sam Curran’s gallant effort in vain as hosts win third ODI and series

Sam Curran, who’s previous high-score in ODIs was 15, equalled the record score for an ODI batsman coming in at number eight or lower
Third one-day international, Pune
India 329 (48.2 overs): Pant 78 (62); Wood 3-34
England 322-9 (50 overs): Curran 95*(83); Thakur 4-67
India won by seven runs
Scorecard

England were beaten in an action-packed one-day series decider against India, despite Sam Curran’s valiant 95 not out.

Chasing down India’s target of 330, England looked well beaten in the 31st over as Buttler’s side slumped to 200-7. However, Curran kept the tourists in the game as he shared a 57-run partnership with Adil Rashid, as well as putting on 60 with Mark Wood.

In an unbelievable five-ball spell at the conclusion of the 48th over, Wood successfully overturned being given out LBW , whilst he and Curran were both dropped in the same period.

In the last over England needed fourteen runs to win the series. This all changed when Wood was run out by Hardik Pandya and last man, Reece Topley squeezed a single that left Curran to get 12 from the remaining four balls.

India’s left-arm seamer T Natarajan held his nerve superbly, as Curran could only find the boundary once, which left England seven runs short on 322-9, meaning that India won the series 2-1.

Wood had earlier played his part in dismissing India for 329, as the Durham fast bowler took three wickets for just six runs in two overs, as Kohli’s side lost their last four wickets for eight runs.

Mark Wood celebrates with team-mate and captain, Jos Buttler after taking the wicket of Shardul Thakur in the 46th over.

England’s strong top order failed to set alight the run chase, as the tourists fell to 95-4 against some accomplished India pace bowling.

They were brought back into the game by Dawid Malan, Liam Livingstone and Moeen Ali, prior to Curran setting up a box-office finale.

Curran moves England close to the line of victory

In his seven previous one-day international innings, Curran had only managed a high score of 15.

In Pune, he was purposeful, calm and courageous in playing one of the distinguished lower-order knocks, carrying England to the brink of a first ODI series victory in India for 36 years.

In reality, Curran should not have had the chance – he gave a simple chance to Hardik Pandya at long-on, which Pandya somehow spilled into the boundary rope.

Sam Curran smashes one of his three sixes during his innings.

Curran picked out the leg side, with his only sign of confusion coming when Wood arrived at the crease with 10 overs remaining, as the visitors still required 73 run to win. The 22-year-old did not know whether to guard Wood or allow the number 10 to face a few deliveries.

The hesitancy saw the required run rate climb to over 10 an over, only for Curran to dispatch Shardul Thakur for 18 runs in the 47th over to leave the match in the balance.

What happened next was barely imaginable. First of all, Wood overturned being given out lbw to Bhuvneshwar Kumar from the final ball of the penultimate over, then, from the next ball he faced, skied a chance to mid-wicket ,which Thakur unexplainably put down.

Unconvincingly, Curran sent the next ball high into the night sky, with a diving Natarajan dropping a very hard chance on the boundary behind the wicketkeeper, Risabh Pant.

When Wood turned for a second run at the beginning of the 50th over, he was sent back too late by Curran, as he run out by Hardik Pandya from the deep.

Topley did his bit, but there was hardly anything Curran could do whilst facing Natarajan’s yorkers. Curran managed to equal Chris Woakes’ record for the highest score by a batsman coming in at eight or lower in an ODI, which came with little consolation.

India jostle to victory

India remain the number two side in the ODI rankings,  just behind England

There was little to anticipate the drama that unfolded as India slowly took hold of a contest played on a superb pitch and in the sweltering heat.

During their innings, the hosts got rid of their measured approach and instead opted for a more aggressive one from the off. Shikhar Dhawan slashed through the off side for his 67. Rishabh Pant swiped to mid-wicket and down the ground for 78 and Hardik displayed his power in 64 from 44 balls. Pant and Pandya’s stand of 99 came in almost 12 overs.

Their total could have been much higher had it not been for two collapses. First they lost 3 wickets for 18 runs in 19 balls to the spin of Rashid and Moeen, then the late slide which left 10 deliveries to spare in their innings.

The target was less than England chased with aggression two days ago, but the tourists struggled when they were faced with the trickery of Bhuvneshwar and Thakur, leaving the middle and lower order to try and bail England out of trouble.

Malan was elegant for his 50, adding 60 with Livingstone, before Thakur removed them both in back-to-back overs. When Moeen fell for 29, it seemed to be the end of England’s chances, yet that was to discount the vibrant Curran, who almost pulled the tourists over the line to victory.

India V England: Tourists storm to victory as series goes level going into Sunday’s final one-day international

Jonny Bairstow scored his 11th one-day international century – only Trescothick, Morgan and Root have more

Second one-day international, Pune
India 336-6 (50 overs): Rahul 108 (114); Topley 2-50
England 337-4 (43.3 overs): Bairstow 124 (112); Krishna 2-55
England won by six wickets
Scorecard

Jonny Bairstow scored a spectacular century and Ben Stokes a ferocious 99 as England emphatically chased down 337 to beat India in the second one-day international in Pune.

Stokes was simply breathtaking as he smashed 10 sixes during his 52-ball stay at the crease, while the bright Bairstow made 124 from 112 deliveries.

The pair shared a second-wicket stand of 175 which came at nine runs per over, as they completely demolished the India attack.

Despite England having a mini-collapse, where three wickets fell for two runs in the space of nine balls; the chase comfortably England’s highest in India and their fifth-best of all-time – was completed with 6 and a half overs remaining.

It made India’s 336-6 – built on a steady 108 from KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant’s rip-roaring 77 – look inadequate.

The series, which is now level at 1-1, will be decided on Sunday.

England dish up a stark reminder of their prowess

This was an extraordinary reminder of the exhilarating arrogance that has made England the best one-day side in the world.

Just like the opening one-day international, which Kohli’s side won by 66 runs, it was a mismatch of styles. The hosts slowly built up towards a long-overdue assault, whereas Buttler’s side sprinted in the chase and, this time, managed to get over the line.

Before the fireworks, left-arm seamer Reece Topley making his return to the tourists’ side for the first time since playing against Ireland in August 2020, took 2-50 from the eight overs he bowled, a notable performance in an otherwise bludgeoned attack.

But the chastisement England’s bowlers suffered was nothing compared to the treatment given out by Stokes and Bairstow, who used the very good batting conditions to hit blow after blow into the empty stands.

Their phenomenal display made light of the absences of the injured Eoin Morgan, fellow batsman Sam Billings and Joe Root, who is being rested.

Then, when England rocked, they were driven over the line to victory by debutant Liam Livingstone and Dawid Malan, who previously had one ODI cap between them.

Stokes and Bairstow cause damage to India

Bairstow had already shared an opening-wicket stand of 110 with Jason Roy in 16.3 overs, which was only ended when Roy was run out for 55 in a mix-up sparked by Rohit Sharma’s superb swoop and throw.

Stokes himself was very lucky not to be run out on 33 as he strolled a second run. When Kuldeep Yadav’s throw from the deep directly hit the stumps, there was little evidence to suggest Stokes had his bat beyond the crease line, yet the third umpire ruled in his favour.

Stokes was given not out by third umpire Anil Chaudhary, following an on-field review and the replays were not really conclusive enough, so perhaps it just came down to benefit of the doubt. 

It was spinner Kuldeep who took the full force of the Stokes assault, being hit for three successive sixes as the left-handed batsman moved from 50 to 99 in just 11 balls.

Somehow he completely outclassed Bairstow, who played a number of superb lofted on-drives in his 11th ODI century

 Stokes eventually fell after he edged a bouncer from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, meaning that the Durham all-rounder missed out on the third-fastest century by an England player in ODIs. In the next over, Bairstow picked out Kohli at extra cover and stand-in captain Jos Buttler was bowled by a Prasidh Krishna yorker.

Rahul hushes his critics

When Rahul reached three figures he celebrated by putting his fingers in his ears

Rahul was dropped after contributing just 15 runs in four innings during the T20 series, however he returned to form in the previous one-day international by scoring an unbeaten 62 and carried it on here.

With the score at 39-2 when he came to the crease, Rahul and Kohli shared a third-wicket stand of 121, which was only ended when Kohli edged a cut to Buttler off the bowling of Adil Rashid.

The entrance of the pulsating Pant, coming into the side in place of the injured Shreyas Iyer, prompted Rahul to speed up. When the 28-year-old reached his fifth century in ODIs, he celebrated the feat by putting his fingers in his ears, later explaining it was to symbolise ignoring his critics.

Still, the real delight came from the leg-side swiping of Pant, who smashed seven sixes during his innings. Hardik Pandya pummeled 35 in a 16-ball cameo.

In the last 10 overs, India scored 126 runs. This time however, it was not enough to win the game.

What’s Next?

England and India face off for the final match in the series on Sunday, where the ODI stage of the tour will be decided on the same ground, the tie starts at 9:00am (BST).

Emphatic England Hit Five Past Sorry San Marino

Ollie Watkins scored with his first shot in an England shirt

Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins scored on his debut as England began their World Cup qualifying campaign by emphatically beating minnows San Marino five-nil at Wembley Stadium.

Watkins, 25, is the first Aston Villa player to score on his England debut since Darius Vassell in February 2002 against the Netherlands.

Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse opened his goal scoring account at senior international level just 14 minutes into the match, after he swept in from Ben Chilwell’s low cross to give Southgate’s men the lead at an empty Wembley.

Ward-Prowse is congratulated by his team-mates after giving England the lead

Seven minutes later, Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin doubled the hosts lead after heading the ball beyond Elia Benedettini in the San Marino goal, following Reece James’ fine delivery.

Raheem Sterling, who was England’s captain for the night made it three-nil shortly before half time after his shot was deflected in at the near post and eight minutes into the second half, Calvert-Lewin scored his second and England’s fourth of the night as San Marino’s players began to quickly tire.

Gareth Southgate’s side lost their first half momentum as the Three Lions made four substitutions at the interval but Watkins, who had been on the pitch for twenty minutes netted his first goal for his country with seven minutes of normal time remaining with a crisp low finish into the bottom left corner, after being assisted by Man City midfielder Phil Foden.

Watkins’ effort finds the bottom left corner of the net in his first game as a full England international

San Marino’s goalkeeper Elia Benedettini was a standout performer for Franco Varrella’s side after the 25-year-old shot stopper made a string of superb saves to deny Chilwell, Mason Mount, Lingard and Ward-Prowse respectively, as England made the expected winning start to their World Cup qualifying campaign.

Match stats

  • England have won all seven of their matches against San Marino, by an aggregate score of 42-1.
  • San Marino have lost 140 of their 143 qualifying matches for the World Cup and European Championships (D3).

  • England have won their past 19 home matches in qualifying for the World Cup/European Championships, scoring 67 goals and conceding six.

  • San Marino have only conceded more goals against Belgium (46) than they have in their seven games against England (42).

  • Raheem Sterling scored his 150th career goal, netting 136 for his two clubs Liverpool and Man City and 14 for England, with 12 of those 14 for the Three Lions coming in his last 14 appearances.

  • Tonight was Gareth Southgate’s 50th match as England manager, winning 30 of his first 50, the same as Roy Hodgson managed. Only Walter Winterbottom and Alf Ramsey have won more of their first 50 games as England boss (33).

  • Dominic Calvert-Lewin became the first Everton player to score a brace for England since Wayne Rooney in 2004 against Croatia, and the first player with a hyphenated surname to score twice for the Three Lions since William Bromley-Davenport in 1884 against Wales.
  • England had 22 shots in the first half, three more than San Marino managed in the entirety of their last World Cup qualifying campaign (19).
  • Mason Mount created eight chances in open play in this game, the most by an England player since Glen Johnson against Andorra in June 2009 (also eight).

What’s Next?

England travel to Tirana to take on Albania on Sunday afternoon which kicks off at 5pm (GMT), whilst San Marino welcome Hungary to the San Marino Stadium on the same day and that game kicks off at 7:45pm.

Scott Brown: Celtic captain agrees player-coach deal with Aberdeen

Scott Brown is leaving Celtic Park after amassing over 600 appearances during his 14 years at the club

Celtic midfielder Scott Brown has signed a pre-contract agreement with Scottish Premiership rivals Aberdeen in a player-coach role.

The Pittodrie outfit confirmed that the 35-year-old former Scotland skipper will move north in the summer.

Brown, who will become part of Stephen Glass’ backroom staff after a trophy-laden 14 years at the Bhoys, said it was  “a new chapter” in his footballing career.

Glass, who is moving to the Dons from American side Atlanta United 2, said Brown’s arrival signals a “coup” for Aberdeen.

Brown has been added to Glass’s staff following Aberdeen’s decision to part company with Derek McInnes earlier this month.

In a statement released by the club, Stephen Glass said, “The opportunity to bring a player of Scott’s calibre, a leader who has more European appearances for Celtic than any other player, is a huge coup for me and for Aberdeen.

“His experience will be invaluable on the pitch and he is someone who will help set the standards we expect at this Club. A born competitor, with a strong appetite to win, his hands-on approach and desire to nurture will hugely benefit the development of the young, emerging talent we have here.

“Scott will be a big part of my coaching team and whilst his impact will undoubtedly be felt on the pitch where I believe he still has much to give, I am looking forward to assisting his transition into coaching.

“He is excited about coming to Aberdeen and working with the current playing, and wider coaching and support staff already in place.

“I’ve no doubt he will be a success here.”

Scott is intently anticipating the next chapter in his distinguished footballing career.

Brown said: “There is no doubt I had a lot to deliberate when deciding my next steps, particularly after enjoying fourteen successful years at Celtic. However, the opportunity to join Aberdeen, a Club entering an exciting new period with my former team-mate Stephen now at the helm, was one I couldn’t pass up.

“Once this season concludes, I’m looking forward to joining Stephen, the playing and coaching staff and everyone at Aberdeen FC. I am totally committed to the challenge that lies ahead in meeting the ambitions of the Club and its fans.

“I still feel I have got a lot to give, not only on the pitch, but in a broader capacity as I embark on my coaching journey. I will be relentless in my quest for success for Aberdeen.”

Sheffield United: Chris Wilder ‘resigned’ twice, wanted £4m pay-off says Blades owner Prince Abdullah

Sheffield United owner Prince Abdullah says the club’s former manager Chris Wilder offered his resignation twice and asked for a £4m pay-off

Sheffield United owner Prince Abdullah has divulged that Chris Wilder offered his resignation twice and wanted a £4m severance fee to do so when his time at the club was drawing to a close.

Wilder, 53, eventually left the South Yorkshire outfit by mutual consent earlier this month with the club cropping up the Premier League table and seemingly destined to be relegated to the Championship, with both parties apparently having irreconcilable differences.

However, owner Prince Abdullah has revealed that Wilder’s initial intention was to resign with a heavy pay-off.

“In December, Stephen [Bettis, Sheffield United CEO] told me that Chris had talked about resigning. I was really worried and I knew that a phone call or a Zoom call would not do the trick, I had to sit with him,” Prince Abdullah told Sky Sports.

“The problem was, because of Covid, all Saudis were banned from leaving the country. I spent two weeks trying to get permission to leave. As soon as I got that, I flew to London and drove to Sheffield and met Chris before the Southampton game [which resulted in a 3-0 defeat].

“I told Chris, if we lose every game until the end of the season, we are not going to fire you. We need you to be our coach. I am not talking about emotion, I just believe you are the best manager to bring us back to the Premier League.

“I told him recruitment could be better and that we could sit down after the season and talk about how we could make it better.

“I told him that I am not happy that sometimes after defeats when you talk to the media [and say], ‘I can’t make cake out of sand’ and when he says, ‘all I have is Championship players’.

“It does not reflect well on the club image. Those players finished ninth in the table last season, it hurts the club financially.

“I am OK with Chris taking all the credit when we win but at least take some responsibility when we lose. Don’t, under the pressure of some losses, say ‘everything around me is rubbish’.”

Chris Wilder left Bramall Lane on Saturday, 13 March

On Wilder’s clear financial demands, Prince Abdullah added: “We were very clear and said we don’t want to fire you but if you want to resign, you can, but we will not pay you the same money as if we were firing you.

“The emails started between his representatives and our financial guy and we were astonished to find he had asked for £4m to resign.

“We said, ‘no way are we going to pay you £4m, you are resigning, we are not firing you, why would we have to pay almost one year’s salary?’”

Sheffield United’s main priority is to now recruit a new manager ahead of what is possibly going to be a Championship promotion push next season.

Lewis Hardcastle: Barrow midfielder forced to retire at the age of 22

Hardcastle in action for Barrow

Barrow midfielder Lewis Hardcastle has been forced to call an end to his footballing career aged just 22, after he was diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC).

The Bolton-born footballer became ill during the Bluebirds’ game against Salford City last month and following medical examinations it revealed a heart condition for the former Blackburn, Salford and Port Vale player.

After the diagnosis, Hardcastle under took a plan of action to treat the issue, however experts have advised that he should retire with immediate effect.

In a club statement released by Barrow, the club said: “Lewis, 22,  joined the Club in 2019 following an impressive loan spell from Blackburn Rovers and has made 69 appearances for The Bluebirds, including many as captain.

“He was instrumental in our promotion back to the Football League last season and will go down in Club history as one of the 2019/20 National League title-winning side.

“The Club is doing everything it can to support Lewis and his family at this very difficult time and further announcements will be made in the coming weeks.”

Hardcastle, who began his career at Blackburn Rovers captained the under-23 side to the Premier League Division Two title under the tutelage of Damien Johnson during the 2017/2018 season. He would go onto feature 64 times for Rovers’ Academy during his time at Ewood Park.

In September 2015, Hardcastle was loaned out to Salford City, who were then in the Northern Premier League and would go onto make 19 appearances for The Ammies before returining to the Riversiders in early December.

This was followed by a loan stint at League Two side Port Vale, although Hardcastle only made nine appearances in all competitions for the Valiants before he was recalled by Blackburn in January 2019.

India V England: Tourists collapse as hosts win first one-day international in Pune

Krunal Pandya, brother of fellow India international, Hardik, hit the fastest half-century by a player on one-day international debut
First one-day international, Pune
India 317-5 (50 overs): Dhawan 98 (106); Stokes 3-34
England 251 (42.1 overs): Bairstow 94 (66); Krishna 4-54
India won by 66 runs
Scorecard

England threw away the chance to win a fluctuating first one-day international against India, as Eoin Morgan’s side lost by 66 runs in Pune.

Jonny Bairstow’s sparkling 94, from 66 balls, had the world champions well on target as they looked to chase down India’s target of 318.

However, Kohli’s pace bowlers roared back, and an England side who are missing the rested Joe Root lost five wickets for just 41 runs, before eventually subsiding to 251 all out.

India had earlier been lifted to 317-5 off their 50 overs, thanks mainly to Shikhar Dhawan’s 98 (Off 106 balls) and an unbeaten 58 from Krunal Pandya, who’s 26-ball half-century was the fastest by a debutant in one-day internationals.

On a bruising day, England captain Eoin Morgan had to spend sometime off the field after splitting the webbing on his right hand, whilst Sam Billings sprained his collarbone joint attempting to stop a boundary.

Rohit Sharma was struck on the elbow by Mark Wood whilst batting and, most seriously of all, new Lancashire signing Shreyas Iyer suffered a partial dislocation of his left shoulder.

India win mistmatch of styles

The one-day part of this long tour carries the slightest importance when compared to the tourists’ defeats in the Test and Twenty20 series, but the two top-ranked sides in the world still served up an enthralling event in an empty stadium.

However, England were carried to their 2019 World Cup glory by their all-out aggression, India still favour an outmoded approach to 50-over cricket.

Their reliance on a late pummel could have backfired had it not been for Krunal and KL Rahul, who took advantage as England went astray when influential skipper Morgan was forced off in the 41st over.

The hosts had no answer to Bairstow’s savage hitting, only for a revival from their seamers to once again leave the game evenly poised.

England were left relying on a lower order that has hardly played any cricket, and they were gradually smothered by their hosts.

England squander Bairstow mastery

Bairstow’s stunning striking was similar to England’s oppressed batting in the build-up to the 2019 World Cup win and threatened to make light work of the chase.

Muscling the ball, primarily on the leg side, he marauded an India attack with seven sixes and six fours.

However, when Jason Roy was caught at point by Prasidh Krishna for 46 to end an opening stand of 135 after only 14.2 overs, England lost command.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar was miserly, while debutant Prasidh Krishna took four wickets and Shardul Thakur three.

Ben Stokes drove to Gill at cover, Bairstow holed out on the leg side, Morgan was bounced out by Thakur and Jos Buttler was trapped on the crease to be out lbw off the bowling of Thakur.

Moeen Ali, in only his second match of any series since November, had endured a strenuous day, dropping Dhawan and shippinh 28 runs in the three overs he bowled.

He looked to be rescuing England with the bat, but when he edged Bhuvneshwar Kumar behind for 30, the tourists’ hopes disappeared with him.

Emotional Krunal lifts India

Hardik Pandya consoles his brother Krunal, following the latters interview at the halfway stage of the match

On a verifiable pitch, the stylish Shikhar was strong square of the wicket, sharing a 64 run partnership with Rohit as well as sharing a stand of 105 with captain Virat Kohli, who was looking menacing in helping himself to 56.

Left-hander Shikhar also profited from two let-offs, the first being a tough chance for a diving Roy at point whilst on 16, the second was a simple chance for Moeen on the leg-side boundary when Shikhar on 59.

As India were looking to move through the gears, the rapid Mark Wood returned to have Kohli flick to deep square leg and Dhawan pulled to mid-wicket as part of Stokes’ 3-34 in what was the all-rounders first ODI since the World Cup final.

Morgan had just departed the playing area when Krunal, elder brother of Hardik, joined Rahul to begin a blur of the ball being flayed to all parts.

The fearless left-hander slashed over the off side and whipped off his pads, providing the motivation for 112 runs to come from the last 9 and a half overs.

The Pandya brothers’ father died in January. Krunal was clearly emotional receiving his cap during the warm up and again when interviewed at the interval, tearfully embracing Hardik.

What’s Next?

England and India face each other again in the second one-day international at the same ground on Friday, which starts at 8:00am (GMT).