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‘Controlled’ Ben Stokes shows England the way with century as hosts take charge against South Africa in Manchester




Friday was always going to be a big day for Ben Stokes.

It was the day his candid documentary Phoenix from the Ashes was released, a film in which he goes into granular detail about the difficulties he has faced over recent years. From the Bristol incident to the death of his father. Suffering debilitating panic attacks. Taking anxiety medication.

But he also had a big job to do on the field against South Africa after striding to the crease with his side still four runs behind and five wickets down after Proteas paceman Anrich Nortje had dismissed Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow caught behind during a searing five-over spell.

It was a job he performed to perfection as he and fellow centurion Ben Foakes helped England carve out a first-innings advantage of 264.


There seemed a chance Stokes’ knock would be over shortly after it had begun when an apparent twinge of the knee – a joint that has been giving him gip all summer – left him grimacing.

Treatment did the trick, though, and he carried on with an innings in which South Africa’s bowlers occasionally got the treatment.

There were nine boundaries in Stokes’ 103 from 163 balls – six fours and three sixes. So, yes, it was an innings of belligerence at times but beauty, too, And brains. A perfect balance of attack and defence.

It was the sort of innings we have seen Stokes play numerous times over the years, just not this summer.

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The consensus has been that Stokes has been too frenetic of late, too eager to lead from the front and get this forward-thinking England side ahead of the game by sacrificing himself. Kevin Pietersen even said Stokes was “devaluing his wicket” after one febrile cameo against India.


But this was different. The intent was there – see sixes over the leg-side off Simon Harmer and a gorgeous straight four off Lungi Ngidi after skipping down the pitch. There was no timidity. But there was a patience. A willingness to get himself in before getting on with it.

Stokes took 101 deliveries to reach his half-century – the milestone clinched with one of the sixes off Harmer – but then just a further 57 to reach three figures. His strike rate for the innings was 63.19.

Game-advancing but also example-setting.

Sky Sports Cricket expert Kumar Sangakkara said: “It was an incredible innings, not just in the context of the game but in the context of the messaging around how this team should be playing in this new culture.

“I spoke to Brendon McCullum this morning and he was very bullish about being positive but not reckless and it was a great example by the captain, the leader of setting the tone.


“He mixed aggression with smartness. The longer this English team commit to this process, they will learn and become smarter.”

Sangakkara’s fellow Sky Sports pundit Michael Atherton added: “I was impressed with Stokes. There has been conversation about his batting, which has sometimes gone too far to the aggressive side, but I thought he played in a really controlled fashion.

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“Earlier in the summer, he perhaps didn’t get that right or wanted to say to the team, ‘this is how we are going to play’. But when he came down the pitch here, it was controlled. He wasn’t coming down to have a big wahoo.

“There was certainty and calmness, a better tempo to his game. He soaked up the pressure and then moved through the gears.”

Stokes, speaking to Sky Sports on Saturday morning, said: “We have been vocal with how we want to play and me being captain and leader of that, it was more showing lads it was okay to go out and do certain things.


“I am a massive believer in leadership showing that and not expecting anyone else to do something you wouldn’t do.

“We got an understanding of the wicket. It didn’t feel like a wicket where you could stand there and hit through the line. Some balls were bouncing, some balls were skidding, there was reverse swing.

“But when we do have that positive mindset to score it makes things a lot easier. I went out there with the intention to get on the front foot and take scoring opportunities and it made my decision-making a lot easier.”

Foakes, who scored an unbeaten 113 and shared a 173-run stand with Stokes for England’s sixth wicket, said of his skipper: “Everyone wants a piece of Ben but the way he played was pretty special.

“Ben was quite clear – he said ‘we can absorb as well, this is a difficult phase. Let’s make it up and score where we can, let’s be busy, but don’t do anything stupid’. That’s what we went with.”

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On the day Stokes’ documentary displayed his importance to England off the field, his batting showed how vital he is for them on it.


Emir of Doma Hosts Women’s B’ball League Players in Lafia



The Emir of Doma, Dr. Aliyu Amadu, has called on the sponsors of the Women’s Basketball League in Nigeria, Zenith Bank, to do more for basketball in the country.

He stated this while receiving all the teams and officials participating in the Second Phase of the Savannah Conference of the ongoing Zenith Bank Women’s Basketball League in Lafia, Nasarawa State yesterday.

The Emir who was a former basketball player appreciated the bank and the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) for allowing the state to host the national competition while assuring all the players and other visitors a great stay in the community.

The teams; Nigerian Customs, Nigerian Army, Air Warriors, Nasarawa Amazons and Plateau Rocks alongside their officials and all the referees were at the Andoma Palace on a courtesy visit while also getting the royal blessings.


“I want to welcome the ladies, who made this tournament possible, you are welcome to Nasarawa State and Doma Kingdom, the only palace in Nigeria with a basketball court,” he said.

“I want to specifically appreciate Zenith Bank for facilitating this competition, we are hoping they will do more for basketball so that the day the NBA players will be coming, we will see their banner side by side with other sponsors and it will document what they have been doing for the game of basketball in Nigeria.

The emir said that it was possible to bring NBA to Nigeria.

“We can bring NBA teams to Nigeria, we have hosted the World Cup in football, and other sports have been to Nigeria and basketball must have its place, all the other sports have been hosted and sponsored by the Nigeria government, they should do same with basketball. Several Nigerians are bringing fortunes from NBA, so why can’t we bring the game here for our people? It will be on record that Nigeria have hosted superstars here.“

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Meanwhile, Nigerian Customs Ladies whitewashed Nigerian Army 76-36 points yesterday to seal their qualification to the finals in Lagos.


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UCL: Bayern compounds Man U’s woes in 7goals thriller, as Arsenal return with a bang



Bayern Munich on Wednesday night compounded Erik Ten Hag’s Manchester United’s woes in a seven-goal thriller at the Allianz Arena.

The German champion beat Manchester United 4-3, leaving manager Ten Hag with more questions than answers about his defensive options following the team’s humiliating 3-1 home defeat to Brighton over the weekend.

Goals from Leroy Sane, and Serge Gnabri gave the German side a two-goal advantage in the first half before United fought their way back into the game.

Harry Kane and Mathys Tel completed Bayern’s lead over Man United in a game that was more of a contest than many expected.


After the break United again started well, pulling a goal back on 49 minutes with Rasmus Hojlund recording his first goal for the club with the aid of two deflections.

Within minutes, Bayern won a penalty which made the game safe, and Eriksen was adjudged – first by VAR, who advised the ref to watch a replay – to have handled Dayot Upamecano’s header.

From the penalty spot, Kane made no mistake, and though Casemiro bagged two late goals to make things interesting, Tel’s goal saw the German champions take control of the group while United desperately needed a break.

Arsenal on the other hand enjoyed a fine return to the Champions League as they thrshed PSV Eindhoven 4-0 at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners made a return to the Champions League after six years of absence from Europe’s elite competition. Arsenal last played in the Champions League in 2017.

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Bukayo Saka, Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Jesus, and Martin Odegaard all scored as Arsenal sent the right warning across.

Arsenal started a goal rush with Saka getting Gunner’s first inside eight minutes before Trossard doubled the lead, Jesus added a third before the break and Odegaard capped off a fine evening.

David Raya retained his place in the Arsenal goal having replaced Aaron Ramsdale for Sunday’s Premier League win at Everton.

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Amusan relishes historic Diamond League win



World women’s 100m hurdles record holder, Tobi Amusan, says the track in Eugene, Oregon holds a special place in her heart and her list of conquests.

The Nigerian wrapped up her season on an outstanding and record-breaking note by clinching the Wanda Diamond League title for the third consecutive year on Sunday night on the track she has come to affectionately call her own.

The 26-year-old posted an impressive performance in the 100m hurdles event at the Oregon Diamond League despite facing tough competition from Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, Kendra Harrison, Danielle Williams, Nia Ali, Tia Jones and Megan Tapper.

Amusan started off strong and maintained her lead, clearing the final hurdle and finishing with an impressive season best time of 12.33secs. Camacho-Quinn from Puerto Rico gave a strong chase, coming in second in 12.38secs, while USA’s Harrison took third place in a time of 12.44secs.


The world champion, Jamaica’s Williams, finished fourth in 12.47secs.

This remarkable victory marked Amusan’s third consecutive Diamond League title, making her only the second woman in Diamond League history to achieve a hat-trick of 100m hurdles titles.

The Nigerian athlete accomplished this feat on the same track in Oregon, where she had won the World Championship the previous year and set the current world record of 12.12secs.

After the race, an elated Amusan said, “I came out here and said it’s my race to lose, and I will give my all. I said it’s 200 or nothing because, 100 per cent, I am not winning today (Sunday). So, I came out here, and I told God to give me the strength.

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“I said this (racing in Eugene) is God’s track. I came here, I’m like ‘This is my track; I’m going to dominate’ and God did just that.”


Amusan expressed gratitude to God, dedicating her win to her coach, her family, her fans and everyone who had supported her throughout the challenging year.

“Right now, I just want to rest. I’m just grateful to God; that’s all I can say this season. This win is not about me; it’s for my coach, my family, and everyone who supported me throughout this year. It’s been a rough one, and I’m just thankful,” she said.

The record-setting victory provided a glorious end to the season for Amusan, who had experienced disappointment after failing to defend her world title at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, in August.

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