Saturday, January 31, 2009

Result U-turn for 2006 Oval Test

Darrell Hair
Umpire Darrell Hair was at the centre of the Oval controversy

The result of the controversial 2006 Oval Test between England and Pakistan has been switched back to an England win by the game's world governing body.

The match was originally awarded to England by forfeit when the Pakistan team delayed play after being accused of ball-tampering by the umpires.

Last July, the International Cricket Council changed the result to a draw.

But the ICC board decided to reverse that decision at a meeting in Perth, Australia on Sunday.

It means that the series result will once again appear as a 3-0 England victory in the record books.

An ICC statement said: "After reconsideration of the matter, which included consideration of legal advice and input from the MCC, the custodians of the laws of cricket, the board decided that the original umpires' decision to award the match to England, should apply."

The decision was welcomed by chief executive Haroon Lorgat, who said it ensured "the integrity of the game".

He added: "I am especially grateful to the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) for its understanding in this matter."

The original incident occurred took place on the fourth day of the match in August 2006 when on-field umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove awarded England five penalty runs after ruling that the Pakistan team had tampered with the ball to help it swing.

Pakistan initially refused to resume play after tea and by the time captain Inzamam-ul-Haq led his players out of the dressing room, the umpires had already called the game off and awarded it to England, the first time a Test has ever been won by forfeit.

Inzamam was subsequently cleared of the ball-tampering charge by an ICC tribunal, but banned for four matches for bringing the game into disrepute by refusing to resume play.

Pakistan, meanwhile, blamed Hair for the whole affair and he was dropped from the ICC's elite umpiring panel in November 2006.

MCC's unanimous viewpoint has always been that the umpire's decision must stand

MCC world cricket committee chairman Tony Lewis
He responded by taking the ICC to an industrial tribunal, alleging racial discrimination, but withdrew the allegation after a week of evidence and the case collapsed.

Pakistan later agreed to play a Twenty20 match in England in 2012 and waive their fee for that match by way of compensation for the loss of the final day's play of the Oval Test.

Hair was restored to the ICC panel in July last summer but only stood in two Tests before announcing his retirement in order to take up the post of executive officer of the New South Wales Umpires and Scorers Association.

The ICC's original decision to change the result of the game to a draw was condemned at the time by the MCC, the guardians of the laws of cricket, who accused the governing body of setting a "very dangerous precedent".

A club statement issued at the time said the move contravened law 21.10, which stated that the ICC had no power to alter results, "whether it feels them to be 'inappropriate' or otherwise".

Former England captain Tony Lewis, now chairman of the MCC's world cricket committee, welcomed the ICC's reversal of its original decision.

"While fully appreciating the sensitive nature of these discussions, and the issues surrounding them, MCC's unanimous viewpoint has always been that the umpire's decision must stand as Law 21.10 is unequivocal," he said.

"We appreciate the co-operation and communication that exists between ourselves and ICC and will continue to work closely with them.

"Importantly, however, we will also continue to speak out in the interests of cricket and its players."

Champions Trophy to get new venue

Australia won the 2006 Champions Trophy
Australia were unable to defend the Champions Trophy last year

The International Cricket Council has confirmed this year's Champions Trophy will not take place in Pakistan.

The tournament had been due to be take place in September 2008 but was postponed because of security concerns.

And a decision was made to find an alternative venue following an ICC Board meeting in Perth on Sunday.

"The board has accepted the need for certainty in planning and delivering a world-class event," said ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat.

Pakistan is currently fighting Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants in the northwestern tribal regions bordering Afghanistan and has suffered a string of deadly suicide bomb attacks in the last year, which have killed more than 1,000 people.

South Africa had pulled out of the 2008 Champions Trophy, while England, New Zealand and Australia expressed doubts about playing in the troubled country.

India then withdrew from a three-Test, five one-day tour of Pakistan in December on government advice following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

"It is unfortunate the ICC Champions Trophy will not take place in Pakistan due to circumstances completely beyond the control of the PCB," added Lorgat.

The withdrawals have had a crippling effect on the finances of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), who have lost millions of dollars in lost revenue.

But the ICC has reassured worried Pakistan officials by confirming they will receive money from the event regardless of where the tournament is held.

"In view of the challenges facing the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) which are out of its control, the board agreed that, irrespective of the location of the event, Pakistan would retain the revenue due for hosting the tournament," read an ICC statement.

A new venue will be sought when in April at the next board meeting.

The ICC also said it will send a task team to Pakistan to ensure the country can host international matches in the future.

Live text - Federer v Nadal

Australian Open

Final latest:



Players are warming up


To get involved text us your views & comments on 81111. (Not all contributions can be used)

By Caroline Cheese

Chris Bailey
0847: "I expected Nadal to win the tournament, but I've wavered over the last few days. I don't think the semi-final is a factor. He's the fittest guy on the circuit and the rest of his route through has been quite comfortable. But in the last three matches, the length of Nadal's forehand and backhand has got shorter and he's almost reverting back to his clay-court style of game."
BBC Sport's John Lloyd

0845: Now Chris Bailey tells us that Roger Federer had to climb 20 flights of stairs to his hotel room on Friday because of the powercut. That should level things up nicely after Rafa had to play his five-hour semi-final a day later than Fed.

0843: Rafa wins the toss and elects to receive I think. The Spaniard does his trademark darting sprint down to the baseline and the warm-up is under way. Cracking atmosphere inside Rod Laver Arena.

0842: The BBC's John Inverdale reports that Roger Federer was watching Rafa's semi-final against Fernando Verdasco at a restaurant on Friday when there was a massive powercut and he was forced to jump into a taxi and return to Rod Laver Arena to catch the end.

0839: Equally raucous welcome for both players as they march on to court. Federer is his usual super-cool self, Rafa, as usual, a bundle of energy, jogging up and down in the tunnel as he waits to enter the arena.

0838: And now Rafa: "It's tough after the match two days ago but this is the final of a Grand Slam and for sure I will try my best. It's going to be exciting playing against Roger. I hope to play well and try my best."

0837: Pre-match interview time. "I think it's the first time playing the number one in the world in a Grand Slam final so that's a new thing for me," says Rog. "Obviously the history books are right there in front of me. I'm playing my biggest rival so I'm excited."

0836: "Federer Your My Hero" says another banner. Someone give that girl an apostrophe.

0834: "I've taken the day off work as I'm fully expecting Fedex to cover to my losses with an emphatic victory. Come on Fed!"
Tristan via text on 81111
Has Rog promised you a slice of the prize money then?

0831: "If there's lessons to be learned," sings Gabriella. "I'd rather get my jamming words in first." What?! Well, she is 17... Rod Laver Arena is nearly full as Advance Australia Fair is sung by a young Aussie.

0827: Gentle round of applause for Gabriella Cilmi's first number, but now she's on to a real crowd-pleaser: Sweet About Me, which sold 70,000 copies in Australia. It was also Oasis singer Liam Gallagher's favourite song of 2008.

0825: Lovely 20-minute warm-up from Piers there. Over at Rod Laver Arena, Australian singer Gabriella Cilmi has taken to the court. Complete silence from the crowd. They should get Piers in.

By Piers Newbery

0820: "Cant wait for the match, fingers crossed that it wont be a one sided affair! Vamos Rafa!!!!"
From anon via text on 81111

0817: The stats - Federer and Nadal have played each other 18 times, with Nadal winning 12, and the Spaniard also leads 4-2 in their Grand Slam final meetings. While Federer is trying to win his fourth Australian and 14th Grand Slam title, Nadal is going for his sixth major and first on hard courts. So there you go.

0812: So, Federer will today try to match Pete Sampras's record mark of 14 Grand Slam titles - a pretty stupendous achievement - while Nadal can join the likes of Federer, Sampras, Becker, Edberg, Lendl, Wilander, McEnroe, Connors.... everyone who's anyone really.... as a winner of three of the four major titles.

0807: "He's the best, if not one of the best, of all time." So says John Newcombe during a presentation on Rod Laver Arena, and he's not talking about Roger Federer but 'Rocket' Rod Laver. Tony Roche and Ken Rosewall are among the others paying homage to the great man.

0802: "It's a real shame. For months i have been waiting for a Federer Nadal match, but when one comes along, in all probability, it will be a hugely one sided affair. Not only did Federer play a day earlier than Nadal, he only had to endure 3 sets. Nadal had to endure the longest match in australian open history, a match of around 5 and a quarter hours, full of intense tennis."
From Oleeeeeeee on 606

The sun is out again in Melbourne

0758: Morning all, and welcome to Federer v Nadal episode 19. The weather is, not surprisingly, very good in Melbourne and the roof is open on Rod Laver Arena as the fans begin to take their seats half an hour ahead of kick-off.

Aussies enter 2018 World Cup race

The World Cup
Fifa president Sepp Blatter said joint bids are likely to fail

England will face competition from Australia to host the 2018 World Cup.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) has been boosted by a £19.3m pledge from the government to fund their campaign for both the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

"We know we have the capacity, experience and expertise to deliver a successful Fifa World Cup," said FFA chairman Frank Lowy.

The deadline for official bids expires 2 February and the successful countries will be announced in December 2010.

Japan, Qatar, Mexico, Russia and Indonesia have also declared their intention to host the prestigious tournament in 2018.

Fifa announced in December 2008 that bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups would be decided at the same time.

The bid will also help the world understand that Australia is a 'can do' country

FFA chairman Frank Lowy
Should a 2018 bid fail it now means countries can enter the 2022 vote straight after, as long as 2018's hosts are not from the same continent.

"We believe this is a passion and commitment that can be shared with the world and it would form part of a living and lasting legacy to the world from Australia," said Lowry.

"The bid will also help the world understand that Australia is a 'can do' country, where important, major events can happen with a minimum of fuss and a minimum of worry."

Australia's campaign is likely to receive support from Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who said in May last year that it would be "very special" if the tournament went down under for the first time.

Mirza & Bhupathi win mixed title

Sania Mirza and Mahesh
Mirza and Bhupathi were given a wild card into the mixed draw

India's Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi beat Nathalie Dechy of France and Andy Ram of Israel to win the Australian Open mixed doubles title in Melbourne.

The Indian pair won 6-3 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena to make up for Bhupathi's defeat in Saturday's men's doubles final alongside Mark Knowles.

Sunday's victory gave Bhupathi his 11th Grand Slam title.

The 34-year-old won a previous mixed title in Australia with Martina Hingis three years ago.

Bhupathi and Mirza, 22, broke Dechy's serve in the opening set, then broke their opponents twice in the second.

We wanted to stay out there and make it longer but they were just too good for us

Andy Ram
It is the first time an Indian pair have won a Grand Slam mixed doubles title.

"It's been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me this weekend," said Bhupathi.

"I want to thank all the Indians - we are very lucky that there are so many millions supporting us, not just here but back at home."

Ram admitted: "We wanted to stay out there and make it longer but they were just too good for us."

A successful tournament for India alaso saw 16-year-old Yuki Bhambri win the boy's junior championship on Saturday.

Ferguson expects title race twist

Edwin van der Sar
United rewrote the history books with a 12th successive top-flight clean sheet

Sir Alex Ferguson believes his table-topping Manchester United team hold a slight advantage in the title run-in, but warned against complacency.

United beat Everton 1-0 to move five points clear at the top of the league.

"It is an advantage, but I can't say it is a great advantage with 16 games left," said the United boss.

"We have a difficult game away against West Ham next week and there are a lot of difficult games in the run-in and teams will drop points."

I couldn't believe it when I read the last goal we conceded was against Arsenal way back in November

Sir Alex Ferguson

Cristiano Ronaldo's 44th-minute penalty, awarded for Mikel Arteta's challenge on Michael Carrick, earned United a deserved victory against a resilient Everton.

The win moved United five points ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea, who meet on Sunday, and Ferguson admitted he was hoping for a draw at Anfield.

"It is always better to be top of the league than anywhere else," said the Scot.

"We just hope we don't drop as many as the rest. I'll be looking for a draw on Sunday."

The win over Everton saw United rewrote the record books with a 12th successive top-flight clean sheet , with goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar eclipsing the previous league record of 1,104 minutes without conceding a goal, set by Reading's Steve Death in 1979.


The last player to score against Van der Sar was Arsenal's Samir Nasri in the Gunners' 2-1 victory at the Emirates on November 8.

And Ferguson said: "It is fantastic. I couldn't believe it when I read the last goal we conceded was against Arsenal way back in November - that's incredible."

Ferguson believed referee Mike Halsey made the right decision to award the penalty against Arteta and said his side should have been awarded a second spot-kick for Joleon Lescott's second-half challenge on Carrick.

He said: "It (the first challenge) was inside the box and I don't think Arteta tried to but he has clearly brought him down and it was a penalty.

"I think the second was a clear penalty, no question about it. It was more of a penalty than the first one but you are not going to get two penalties, let's be honest.

"I think we had a lot of chances in the match but we never put Everton to bed. A second goal would have put the result in our favour without question.

"If you are not taking that second chance you are not sure of the game and Everton kept going because of that, showed great resilience and athleticism and took it right to the wire."

Everton manager David Moyes did not believe Arteta's challenge on Carrick was a penalty.

"They stuck at it. In the first half we needed our goalkeeper (Tim Howard) to be inspirational to keep us in it," said Moyes.

"We were playing against a good team and you need a bit of luck and it might have gone against us in the penalty."

Beleaguered Adams vows to fight

Portsmouth manager Tony Adams
Portsmouth have not won in the Premier League since November

Under-fire Portsmouth manager Tony Adams says he is fully prepared for the battle to keep his struggling side in the Premier League.

Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Fulham saw Pompey slip to 15th in the table, just one point above the relegation zone.

"I'll pick us up and get on with the next game and rally the troops. I don't run away," Adams told BBC Sport.

"I'll fight and these players have to fight and stay together. It's a scrap, but I'll be scrapping."

The defeat at Craven Cottage was Portsmouth's sixth in seven games and left the club without a Premier League win since their 3-2 victory over Blackburn on 30 November.

Portsmouth have won just two of their 15 Premier League games since Adams took charge back in October.

But when asked if he was worried about his managerial future, the former Arsenal defender and England captain replied: "No, I don't think so.

"It is all good at the moment. I do my job to the best of my ability. It has been a tough period. The last two months have been difficult, both on and off the pitch."

Portsmouth sold key striker Jermain Defoe and midfielder Lassana Diarra this month, while a number of other players have been linked with moves away from Fratton Park.

Adams admitted he would be "delighted" when the transfer window closed, but added he wanted to make a few signings before 2 February.

"Heads have been turned up and down the country. Once it is closed we can get on with business," he said.

Adams aggrieved by Pompey mistakes

"I didn't have many options on the bench. But I think David Nugent will get a chance, he worked his socks off.

"But we need a couple of players as I am limited to what I can do.

"Jermaine Pennant is suspended for the next game and he's also got a knock at the moment so I am running out of players.

"The situation has changed at the football club. I've not been given £100m to spend in this window that's for sure, but you get on with the squad you've got."

S Africa enjoy heroes' reception

Greame Smith
Graeme Smith's side won over the Australian public

South Africa's cricketers have returned home to a heroes' reception after they became the first team to win a Test series in Australia for 16 years.

Coach Mickey Arthur said his side were overwhelmed after more than 1,000 fans came to at Johannesburg Airport to welcome the team back.

"We left Perth this morning as a very proud team and now we are even prouder," said Arthur.

"The magnitude of what we've done has hit us after this fantastic reception."

Australia will visit South Africa for the return series next month, and Arthur said he is expecting a tough challenge.

"We're under no illusions they are really hurting," he said.

South Africa's historic 2-1 Test series victory in Australia - which was followed up by a 4-1 win in the one-dayers - means expectation will be high.

"Australia are going to be far angrier. For the first time ever we will go into a series against them as favourites and it will be interesting to see how we handle that," said Arthur.

"With success comes expectation and we'll be playing in front of our home crowds so that will be a lot more difficult.

"But I'm confident the players have it in them to repeat their success."

The traditionally prickly relationship between the two sides seemed to thaw over the course of a memorable series, and Arthur was delighted with the way his players won over the Australian public.

"To see (captain) Graeme Smith walking in front of the Noble Stand in Sydney, which gave us all sorts of abuse the last time we were there, and get a standing ovation was phenomenal," he said.

"I think we won them over through our humility, we were extremely humble when we won. How you handle winning and losing is very important and the team were superb on and off the field.

"We showed a lot of respect for Australia and I think they recognised that.

"Our success was down to the leadership of both captains (Smith in the Tests and Johan Botha in the one-dayers) but it also calls for an incredible work ethic, courage and commitment from the team and they left Australia as heroes."

England draw with West Indies A

Tour match, St Kitts:
England 414 draw with West Indies A 574-8 dec & 16-0
Match scorecard

Andrew Strauss
Andrew Strauss fell three short of his century for England

England have drawn their tour match with West Indies A in St Kitts thanks to fine innings from captain Andrew Strauss and ex-skipper Kevin Pietersen.

Resuming on the third and final day at 134-2, England were bowled out for 414 with Strauss firing 97 and Pietersen falling 10 short of his century.

Paul Collingwood (82) also pitched in with a decent innings for the tourists.

It meant the hosts had a 160-run advantage but after adding a further 16 runs the game came to an early finish.

The match was always likely to be a draw after the hosts opted to bat beyond lunch on day two leaving England with just under four sessions to bat.

"It was not an ideal work-out but it was a pretty good one," said Strauss as the England captain looked ahead to the first Test which starts on 4 February in Jamaica.

"We head to Jamaica with just about as much as we could have got out of this practice time.

"Clearly when the Test match comes along there will be a need to raise intensity and sharpen up."

Strauss will hope to have Andrew Flintoff available for the first Test, after the all-rounder continues to recover from an injury to his left side, with the former England captain bowling the equivalent of six overs at Warner Park before play on the third day.

Once play began Pietersen was his usual free-scoring self firing a 53-ball half-century inside the opening hour.

Together with Strauss the pair looked to be heading for centuries before spinner Gavin Wallace produced a big, turning leg-break which defeated an attempted drive and hit the England captain's off-stump.

Pietersen also soon succumbed missing a delivery from off-spinner Amit Jaggernauth that he was attempting to smite to the leg-side.

Wicketkeeper Matt Prior (36) was run out for the second time in as many innings when he initially called Collingwood through for a single, but then changed his mind.

Collingwood's 50 included two sixes and three fours and came up during an 80-run stand with Prior for the sixth wicket.

His partnership with Graeme Swann was brief, the latter edging to slip off Wallace.

Collingwood fell to attacking paceman Kevin McClean when his attempted hook provided a catch on the run for wicketkeeper Devon Thomas.

Tail-enders Ryan Sidebottom and Steve Harmison both offered return catches from short balls as the final three wickets fell for seven runs.

West Indies A then returned to bat but with little time left to play, the game ended with an early handshake.

Ronaldo goal keeps Man Utd on top

By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at Old Trafford

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring United's winner

Manchester United turned up the pressure on the Premier League's chasing pack and re-wrote the record books with victory over Everton at Old Trafford.

Cristiano Ronaldo's 44th-minute penalty - awarded after Mikel Arteta fouled Michael Carrick - put them five points ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea before they meet at Anfield on Sunday.

And in recording a 12th successive top-flight clean sheet, goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar eclipsed the previous league record of 1,104 minutes without conceding a goal, set by Reading's Steve Death in 1979.

United deserved their victory and could have won by more, but they were made to work for the win by an Everton side displaying all their trademark defensive resilience.

Former United keeper Tim Howard saved well from Ji-Sung Park and Carlos Tevez, while Ronaldo also hit the post from 20 yards in the first half.

Everton - admittedly stripped of almost all of their recognised attacking strength - created few openings and Van der Sar rarely looked in danger of missing out on his place in history.

Boss Sir Alex Ferguson can now relax after another efficient rather than spectacular display, and watch his two closest rivals go into combat on Sunday knowing victory is essential if they are to keep United firmly in their sights.

Carrick orchestrated United's performance in midfield and Tevez was busy in attack, but in the end they had to be grateful for a narrow victory.


United were presented with the opportunity to move away from the pursuing pack in the title race - but they faced an Everton side lifted by influential pair Tim Cahill and Marouane Fellaini passing fitness tests.

The first 45 minutes took the predictable shape of United working all their attacking options, but running into Everton's blue wall of defiance.

Former United goalkeeper Howard was in early action, making a last-ditch save to turn away Park's cross and then blocking Tevez's effort from only eight yards with his legs.

Ronaldo came close to piercing the Everton rearguard after 25 minutes when his low shot took a deflection, only to strike a post and roll agonisingly across the goal-line to safety.

Everton's best form of response was the left-sided partnership of Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines. They worked a succession of promising openings, but the quality of delivery was poor and Van der Sar was rarely troubled.

The breakthrough came only a minute before half-time, and in the most frustrating manner possible for Everton as Arteta conceded a needless penalty.

Everton's Spanish midfield man flicked out a leg at Carrick as he raced into the area, and even though referee Mark Halsey let play progress, he then awarded a penalty when United gained no immediate advantage.

Ronaldo scored comfortably from the spot - and in the process put an entirely different complexion on the second half.

United were denied what looked an even more clear-cut penalty than the one they were awarded when Carrick was once again brought down, this time by Joleon Lescott, two minutes after the break but Halsey waved away their justified appeals.

Tevez had been an industrious figure for United, and he twice threatened to grab the crucial second goal, firing narrowly over then forcing a low save out of Howard from 20 yards.

Van der Sar had been largely unemployed, but he was in the action on the hour when he held on to Arteta's low free-kick from fully 30 yards.

Everton needed to find a cutting edge from somewhere, and with 23 minutes left Moyes decided it should come in the shape of substitute Victor Anichebe, who replaced Fellaini.

But it was still United posing all the serious questions and Howard needed to be alert to turn Tevez's deflected free-kick over the top.

Everton tried to press as time ran out, but they were lightweight in attack and United ended in the ascendancy, with Howard again saving well from Howard.

It was not United at their free-flowing best, but they will be satisfield to succeed against tough opponents who have taken points off Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal in recent times.

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Manchester United's Michael Carrick 7.92 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

Sharma wraps up victory for India

Second one-day international, Dambulla:
India 256-9 (50 overs) bt Sri Lanka 241 (49.2 overs) by 15 runs
Match scorecard

Ishant Sharma (right) is congratulated after dismissing Sanath Jayasuriya
Sharma (right) took 4-57, including the vital early wicket of Sanath Jayasuriya

India beat Sri Lanka by 15 runs in Dambulla to win the second one-day international, and take a 2-0 lead in the five-game series.

Paceman Ishant Sharma took 4-57 as the Sri Lankans were bowled out for 241.

Full report to follow.

Middlesbrough 0-0 Blackburn

By Phil Harlow

Tugay battles for possession with Blackburn's Vincenzo Grella
Boro and Blackburn are still deep in relegation trouble

Middlesbrough and Blackburn cancelled each other out at the Riverside with a goalless draw that leaves both sides in the relegation zone.

Blackburn enjoyed the better of a first-half of few chances, with Keith Andrews and Roque Santa Cruz going closest for the visitors.

Boro offered more after the break, but clear chances were few and far between.

Jason Roberts twice went close late on for Rovers but Boro keeper Brad Jones rescued his side with fine saves.

With just one point separating the two sides in the depths of the relegation scap, it was perhaps no surprise that this was not a game for the purist.

Blackburn' Andre Ooijer was booked inside the first five minutes for a clumsy foul, but the resulting free-kick cleared the penalty area by some distance before bouncing out for a throw-in.

Blackburn welcomed Santa Cruz, the subject of a series of bids from Manchester City during January, back to their starting line-up and the Paraguayan provided plenty of quality.

Santa Cruz curled in a dangerous ball for Morten Gamst Pedersen, but the midfielder skewed his effort well wide.

Moments later, Santa Cruz conjured up another delightful pass as he put Brett Emerton through on goal but the chance was wasted by poor control from the Australian.

Blackburn had the upper hand, and Andrews showed a delicate touch on the edge of the box before firing in a low shot that Jones had to be alert to save.

Boro were largely restricted to efforts on the break, with Tuncay finding himself crowded out by Vincenzo Grella and Christopher Samba.

The visitors were playing much the better football, and a precise passing move saw Stephen Warnock force a decent save from Jones before Benni McCarthy put a curling effort well wide.

Grella was the next to try his luck with a well-executed volley from the edge of the box and Santa Cruz forced Jones into an improvised save with his legs.

Santa Cruz was controversially penalised for handball after getting on the end of a Tugay pass, although his method of control looked at least as legal as the one he employed to score against Bolton midweek.

The second half was a similarly hard-fought affair, with an early chance for Boro midfielder Josh Walker denied by Pedersen's tackle.

A nasty clash of heads between Samba and Tuncay stopped play for several minutes, but the blood-splattered Boro striker played on after receiving treatment.

Jones tipped over a long-range effort from Tugay before Boro substitute Afonso Alves added some spark with a dangerous run and low shot that Paul Robinson saved well.

Blackburn were still the more dangerous side though, and Boro were grateful to survive two goalmouth scrambles with McCarthy and Santa Cruz both finding their way blocked by desperate defending, while David Dunn also had two decent efforts saved.

And Jones made himself the hero for Boro late on with two fine saves from Roberts, the first from an acute angle, the second from a header inside the six-yard box.

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate:

"A point is probably fair. It was a tense afternoon and a scrappy game.

"We knew we'd have to defend strongly and we did. But Brad Jones made some fantastic saves and everybody worked hard for us.

"In the long run that could prove to be a very important point for us."

Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce:

"We produced several opportunities and we should have won the game and this is happening too often when chances are going begging.

"We are not burying the opposition when we are on top and as a result we have found ourselves in the bottom six.

"I'm pleased that we have kept out unbeaten run going but we should have far more wins in this period."

Middlesbrough: Jones, Wheater, Riggott, Huth, Pogatetz, Adam Johnson, Bates, Walker, Downing, King (Emnes 65), Sanli (Alves 65).
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Hoyte, Shawky, Arca, McMahon.

Blackburn: Robinson, Ooijer, Nelsen, Samba, Warnock, Emerton (Dunn 50), Andrews (Kerimoglu 42), Grella, Pedersen, McCarthy (Roberts 73), Roque Santa Cruz.
Subs Not Used: Bunn, Villanueva, Givet, Simpson.

Booked: Ooijer, Nelsen, McCarthy, Pedersen.

Att: 24,303

Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Middlesbrough's Brad Jones 8.33 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

Hull 2-2 West Brom

By Mark Ashenden

Chris Brunt
Brunt gives the away fans something to cheer about at Hull

Hull City and West Brom had to settle for a point each after a scrappy but lively affair at the KC Stadium.

Hull took a deserved lead with Bernard Mendy out-sprinting the defence after a long punt from Ian Ashbee before rounding Scott Carson and poking in.

Jay Simpson grabbed the equaliser after good work from James Morrison, but Hull struck back with a Craig Fagan header.

Kamil Zayatte hacked down Robert Koren in the box and Chris Brunt blasted in under Matt Duke to secure the draw.

Both managers revealed during the week that this was a match they could not afford to lose with West Brom at the foot of the Premier League and Hull with just one win in 14 league games before Saturday.

Avoiding a seventh successive league defeat was clearly uppermost in Hull boss Phil Brown's mind, packing the midfield and starting Fagan up front, with Geovanni and Manucho dropped to the bench.

Despite the Premier League's two most leaky defences on show, a goal seemed to be the last thing likely to happen in the opening exchanges, with few clear-cut chances to cheer about.


The opening 20 minutes seemed to involve a competition to see who could shoot the furthest away from the target. Hull's Fagan and West Brom's Morrison the two most guilty of poor efforts.

Simpson made a hash of West Brom's first chance after he blazed a volley over the bar, but Hull were looking lively and hungry and had an opportunity to take the lead on the half hour.

Kevin Kilbane, making his 450th career league appearance on the eve of his 32nd birthday, crossed from the left, but the unmarked Richard Garcia's header went flying over the target.

With many of the home supporters leaving their seats for a half-time hot beverage, they would have been stunned to see their side grab a fully deserved goal.

As soon as the ball fell to Ashbee in the middle of the park, Mendy, starting his run on the right wing, seemed to instinctively know where the looping through-ball was heading.

The Baggies defence looked shocked as the lightning-quick Mendy was soon rounding Carson and poking the ball into the net to send the majority of the stadium into a state of delirium.

Hull looked determined to add to their one goal after the break with Mendy and Fagan linking up well with Dean Marney denied by the arms of Carson.

Bernard Mendy
French star Mendy grabbed the opener for Hull City

A Garcia shot and a Michael Turner header continued to keep Carson busy, but then West Brom struck.

Perhaps doing very little for 52 minutes had caused the Hull defence to fall asleep, but after struggling to get the ball away they stood back and watched Morrison twisting dangerously into the area.

The ball fell to Simpson who crashed the ball into the net past Matt Duke for a hugely undeserved equaliser.

The Tigers wobbled for a few minutes, but they did not have to wait long before grabbing the lead again.

Mendy powered down the right and crossed in for Fagan to place his header past the diving Carson.

The second half was a complete transformation with both teams being less cautious and West Brom were level within three minutes of falling behind.

After Duke saved from Marc-Antoine Fortune, Zayatte hacked down Koren to give away a clear penalty and Brunt despatched comfortably.

The visitors looked the most likely to grab the winner as Hull reverted to their early cautious approach, but both teams had to settle for the single point.

Although Hull avoided another loss, Brown will be thinking this is two points dropped.

Hull boss Phil Brown:
"We all want to win games and we put enough energy and effort in today to win it.

"The game plan was to get ahead. It made for a good spectacle. We did everything we possibly could and we came up against a very good keeper."

West Brom manager Tony Mowbray:
"The second half livened up and we chased the game and we showed great determination and character.

"We have found points away from home very hard to get this season so we'll take this one. Jay Simpson works hard and got his rewards today."

Hull: Duke, Ricketts, Turner, Zayatte, Dawson, Mendy, Garcia (Folan 81), Ashbee, Marney, Kilbane, Fagan.

Subs Not Used: Myhill, Doyle, Geovanni, Hughes, France, Manucho.

Booked: Dawson, Mendy.

Goals: Mendy 44, Fagan 69.

West Brom: Carson, Zuiverloon, Donk, Meite, Robinson, Morrison (Kim 76), Koren, Borja Valero (Pele 88), Brunt, Fortune (Bednar 75), Simpson.

Subs Not Used: Kiely, Hoefkens, Cech, Filipe Teixeira.

Booked: Robinson, Meite, Morrison, Zuiverloon.

Goals: Simpson 53, Brunt 73 pen.

Att: 24,879

Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Hull City's Bernard Mendy on 7.22 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

Aston Villa 0-0 Wigan

By Owen Phillips

Wigan keeper Chris Kirkland clears his lines
Wigan keeper Chris Kirkland clears his lines

Aston Villa missed out on the chance to overtake Chelsea and Liverpool and go second in the Premier League on a frustrating day against resolute Wigan.

Villa were lacklustre in a dull first half, which saw Wigan's Maynor Figueroa denied by keeper Brad Friedel.

But the home side upped the pace after the break and bombarded the Wigan goal.

Zat Knight hit the post, Paul Scharner twice cleared off the line and Gabriel Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey and John Carew were all denied by last-ditch blocks.

The frantic finale seemed unlikely for more than an hour in a below-par home display, but Villa created enough chances in the last quarter to have won two home matches.


The day began with a minute's applause for former Villa manager Vic Crowe and 1957 FA Cup winning captain Johnny Dixon, who both died earlier this month.

And Villa started in confident fashion, looking eager to mark the occasion in fitting style and build on their fine 1-0 win over Portsmouth in midweek.

Agbonlahor and home debutant Heskey saw plenty of the ball in the early exchanges, and all signs pointed to a victory that would put Martin O'Neill's side at least temporarily level on points with Premier League leaders Manchester United.

Heskey almost got on the end of a hanging Gareth Barry free-kick, and the Villa skipper had a shot deflected wide after a driving run from midfield.

But apart from Heskey's pace and power, the home side offered little in attack and Wigan coped with the minimum of fuss.

Chris Kirkland easily tipped over a looping Agbonlahor header and the lively Heskey, facing his former side just eight days after leaving them, also headed straight at Kirkland.

But the Latics, who were thumped 4-0 in the reverse fixture in October, finished the half stronger and started to play with confidence.

Scharner tried his luck from 30 yards but was off target before Wigan created two excellent chances to take the lead.

Brad Friedel superbly blocked with his feet as Daniel De Ridder raced through on goal following a lovely dummy from Scharner.

And the American keeper then stretched to tip over Figueroa's header from Michael Brown's clipped cross when Villa failed to clear a corner.

But O'Neill's men stepped up a gear on the resumption and started to create chances.

Knight's downward header bounced up and beyond Kirkland and onto the far post but Curtis Davies was unable to tap in the rebound and the visitors somehow cleared their lines.

Agbonlahor also blazed over the bar after a neat turn on the edge of the box, and another goalmouth scramble saw Wigan escape with their goal intact when Agbonlahor's close-range header was cleared off the line and then bobbled onto the post.

And within minutes Wigan had another remarkable escape after the third almighty goalmouth scramble of the second half.

A Villa break saw Brown's defensive lunge penalised as a pass-back.

Carew, playing his first game since November, had his shot superbly blocked by Scharner and the same player then reacted brilliantly to stop Luke Young's stinging volley.

But despite the constant late pressure, Wigan held on for a valuable point.

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill:
"A draw was frustrating in that we had some great chances but could not score, but apart from that I was delighted with all the other areas of our play. We are 12 games unbeaten in the Premier League, which is great.

"Wigan had drawn with Liverpool only a couple of days ago and they are a fine side.

"They had a couple of chances but the second half belonged to us but we could not force the ball in.

"But the effort from my players was phenomenal."

Wigan manager Steve Bruce:
"It was backs to the wall for us for much of the time.

"We were out on our feet after the midweek game we had against Liverpool.

"We rode our luck a bit but we had two good chances and should have scored from both.

"In the second half it was an onslaught and we had to hold on.

"Our attitude was terrific and we got away with a point."

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Wigan's Chris Kirkland 7.91 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

Rangers 2-0 Dundee United

By Clive Lindsay

John Fleck celebrates with Steven Davis
Fleck (left) sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from the penalty spot

Seventeen-year-old John Fleck scored his first goal for Rangers as they secured a hard-fought victory over in-form Dundee United.

Fleck took a penalty he won himself after a nudge in the back by Mihael Kovacevic as the forward thrust into the United box after 78 minutes.

The teenager had tested goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska with a first-half drive and Kris Boyd curled an effort wide.

Kyle Lafferty slotted in the second as United were caught pushing for a reply.

It meant that Rangers reduced the gap at the top of the Scottish Premier League to a point ahead of leaders and champions Celtic facing Inverness Caley Thistle on Sunday.

Rangers were coming off the back of their midweek Co-operative Insurance Cup success, although Walter Smith freshened up his side by introducing Steven Whittaker and John Fleck for Sasa Papac and Steven Naismith after their semi-final victory over Falkirk.

Darren Dods and Danny Grainger took the places of Lee Wilkie and Paul Dixon after United's exhausting semi-final defeat by Celtic on penalties on Wednesday.

United had also suffered a blow on Friday, with lively midfielder Willo Flood being transfer to Celtic.

But it was the visitors who looked the more sprightly in the early stages and Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor held well after Flood's replacement, David Robertson, burst into the box to meet a long throw-in and stabbed the ball towards goal from 14 yards.

Rangers began to threaten and a superb thrusting run from Nacho Novo, retaining his place after two goals on Tuesday, set up Kris Boyd, but his strike partner curled the ball wide of the post from the edge of the box.

Nacho Novo looks in pain
Rangers striker Novo went off injured before half-time

Zaluska produced a fine finger-tip save to deny Fleck and, from the corner, David Weir was too slow to pounce on the loose ball eight yards from goal.

Novo signalled to the Rangers bench that his game was over shortly before half-time with a hamstring injury and the off-form Kenny Miller was given the chance to shine.

United were the first to threaten after the break, Warren Feeney's low, driven cross was missed by Weir's attempted clearance and Robertson's late lunge to poke the ball home from seven yards.

That was a rare foray into the Rangers box by the visitors, who were stifling their hosts in midfield and a hitch-kick by Boyd and a scuffed effort from Whittaker failed to trouble the United goalkeeper.

Misfiring Boyd was replaced with Kyle Lafferty and there was a close call for United when the Northern Ireland international fired past Zaluska only to be ruled offside.

Fleck scored the winning goal moments later, but Kovacevic had the chance to redeem himself for conceding the penalty only to head over from 10 yards following a corner.

Miller and Lafferty both squandered chances to extend Rangers' lead before the latter took advantage of United pushing for an equaliser to stroke the ball home from 20 yards.

Rangers manager Walter Smith:
"We had very few opportunities until that last 20 minutes.

"John Fleck was brought down for the penalty and that picked us up a bit and it made Dundee United come at us after that.

"John is a quiet lad, but it was good to see him have the confidence to step up and take the penalty with Kris Boyd already off the field.

"Nacho Novo has a badly sprained ankle, but it doesn't look like anything is broken and it looks like two or three weeks out for him."

Dundee United manager Craig Levein:

"I felt there was nothing in the game until the penalty, when I thought Mihael did well to get back to him.

"Both players had their hands across one another and I think the Rangers player has lost control of the ball and has gone down very easily.

"Overall, I am relatively pleased with the way we were able retain our energy levels throughout the match.

"But maybe Wednesday's game prevented us having that bit extra needed to get an equaliser."

Rangers: McGregor, Broadfoot, Bougherra, Weir, Whittaker, Davis, Mendes, Ferguson, Fleck, Novo (Miller 43), Boyd (Lafferty 74).
Subs Not Used: Alexander, Papac, McCulloch, Naismith, Niguez.

Booked: Fleck.

Goals: Fleck 78 pen, Lafferty 90.

Dundee Utd: Zaluska, Kovacevic, Dods, Kenneth, Grainger, Feeney, Gomis, Buaben, David Robertson (Daly 80), Conway (Swanson 57), Sandaza (Goodwillie 70).
Subs Not Used: McGovern, Dillon, Shala, Dixon.

Booked: Grainger.

Att: 49,918

Ref: I Brines

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Rangers' John Fleck 8.83 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

Fulham 3-1 Portsmouth

By Aimee Lewis

Erik Nevland
Substitute Nevland celebrates scoring his second against Portsmouth

Fulham heaped more pressure on Portsmouth manager Tony Adams with a comfortable win at Craven Cottage.

Andy Johnson opened the scoring, finishing low into the corner after being put through by Clint Dempsey.

Younes Kaboul hit the crossbar and Pompey had two penalty appeals turned down before a Simon Davies long ball put Erik Nevland through to score.

Davies was again the provider as Nevland sealed the win before Portsmouth's David Nugent headed home.

It was the visitors' sixth defeat in seven games and Adams, on a day which was cold enough to freeze breath, certainly left west London feeling the heat.

Portsmouth have won just two of their 15 Premier League games since Adams took charge back in October and have not won since their 3-2 victory over Blackburn on 30 November.

The statistics make depressing reading for last year's FA Cup winners, but they can take some solace from the fact they created plenty of chances and should have taken at least a point from the game.


Portsmouth started well with Jermaine Pennant and Glen Johnson getting plenty of freedom down the right flank, but that early promise counted for nothing as Fulham took the lead courtesy of some slack defending.

Dempsey received the ball from Simon Davies and the American put Johnson, who was played onside by the lingering Sylvain Distin, clear to score his eighth of the season.

David James needed to be at his best to prevent Johnson from doubling Fulham's advantage.

The England goalkeeper raced off his line and used his left foot to prevented what looked set to be a certain goal after Sylvain Distin had flapped at Davies' through ball.

Portsmouth were not without their chances and probably felt aggrieved at going into the break a goal behind.

Sean Davies twice went close against his former club and Brede Hangeland needed to be alert to block Hayden Mullins' shot from hitting the net.

Kaboul had the best chance for Portsmouth when five minutes before half-time he rose unchallenged inside the six-yard box and had the beating of Mark Schwarzer only for the crossbar to come to the Fulham goalkeeper's rescue.

Portsmouth continued to attack in the second half and had two penalty appeals turned down within minutes of each other.

Nugent, on for the ineffective Kanu, looked to have been brought down by John Pantsil just as he was about to shoot and the Ghanaian right-back was in the thick of it again when he collided with Peter Crouch.

It was all Portsmouth and Crouch, standing inside the box, should have done better with Kaboul's cross after a surging run down the right from the defender.

However, Portsmouth were made to pay for their profligacy as Fulham went on the counter-attack and Davies' long ball from the right found substitute Nevland who raced onto the ball and shot low beyond James.

Nine minutes later and the Norwegian put the result beyond doubt with his second of the game after some fine play by Dempsey and Davies.

Nugent rose above the Fulham defence to connect with Pennant's free-kick, but his goal was mere consolation for a Portsmouth side now languishing in 15th place.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey (Gera 90), Etuhu, Murphy, Davies, Zamora (Nevland 63), Johnson.
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Teymourian, Gray, Stoor, Kallio.

Goals: Johnson 14, Nevland 71, 80.

Portsmouth: James, Johnson, Kaboul (Pamarot 76), Distin, Hreidarsson, Pennant, Davis, Mullins, Armand Traore (Utaka 63), Kanu (Nugent 46), Crouch.
Subs Not Used: Begovic, Lauren, Mvuemba, Little.

Booked: Mullins.

Goals: Nugent 84.

Att: 23,722

Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Fulham's Erik Nevland 8.50 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

Stoke 1-0 Man City

By Phil Dawkes

James Beattie
Beattie grabbed the winner, his second in three games since joining Stoke

Stoke had Rory Delap sent off but still managed to beat a disappointing Manchester City thanks to a James Beattie first-half header.

Stoke were reduced to 10 men when Rory Delap was sent off for kicking out at Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Beattie gave the home side the lead when he headed home a Matthew Etherington deep cross.

The visitors had the vast majority of possession but had only one shot on target throughout the whole match.

Before kick-off Stoke manager Tony Pulis had referred to the threat his side posed if they played to their strengths, namely grit and hard work.

With Manchester City counterpart Mark Hughes acknowledging an improvement in his side of late but also highlighting the tendency of opposing sides to raise themselves against the newly enriched Blues, the match was set as a contest between graft and guile.

This proved the case from the very first action of the match.

Stoke launched the kick-off in the direction of their physically imposing forward line, sparking a keenly-contested clash to which the visitors responded by claiming possession and looking to build patiently.

There were initial indications that this would prove productive for the visitors as Robinho jinked past Delap before chipping on to the roof of the net and then Stephen Ireland volleyed wide after a Ryan Shawcross clearance struck Craig Bellamy and looped invitingly for the Irishman.

Stoke's chief threat came from set-pieces and they tested the visitors' mettle in a concerted spell either side of the 20-minute mark.

Glenn Whelan should have done better when a Delap throw found him unmarked in the area but his tame header looped over while a Shawcross flick was on target but too close to keeper Joe Hart to trouble him.


Stoke were reduced to 10 men in the 36th minute.

Delap's ire at a Wright-Phillips diving tackle resulted first in an overly-aggressive challenge of his own and then a completely unnecessary and not entirely well-directed swipe at the ball as it lay near the Manchester City winger's midriff.

The referee produced a straight red for the midfielder, depriving Stoke of not only a man but their chief attacking weapon.

If Manchester City had bossed possession before, they completely dominated after, stroking the ball around at will to the sound of constant boos from an aggrieved home crowd.

Despite this the visitors could not create a clear-cut chance before half time but Stoke could and from it they scored.

Etherington was released down the left wing and his deep cross evaded Wayne Bridge and was met by a rising Beattie to head home his second goal in three games since joining the club.

Understandably the second half was played largely in the Stoke half of the pitch with the occasional foray by the home side into blue territory.

Robinho had the visitors' first effort with a snapshot that flew harmlessly wide of Thomas Sorenson's left-hand post but it was telling of their inability to break down a resolute Stoke that their next chance was not for another 15 minutes as substitute Elano's crossshot missed both the diving Ireland and the goal.

In the last 10 minutes Robinho cleverly floated a cross into the penalty area but it narrowly eluded the outstretched foot of right-back Micah Richards.

It was the marauding Richards who almost gave the visitors a late lifeline when he latched onto a Wright-Phillips through-ball before being well-challenged by Andy Griffin.

Mark Hughes' side's calls for a penalty were representative of their desperation, whilst substitute Griffin's challenge summed up Stoke's determination.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis:
"We were smashing when Rory Delap was sent off early in the first half and we deserved the victory in the end.

"The lads were very resolute and stayed together.

"We do not condone Delap's actions but the incident would not have happened if the referee had blown up after the challenge from Shaun Wright-Phillips.

"We have got 28,000 supporters and they got behind us for every tackle and pass."

Manchester City manager Mark Hughes:
"We are disappointed because we have got nothing out of a game in which we were in total control.

"We conceded a goal right at the death in the first half and that gave Stoke something to fight for.

"It was difficult to break them down because they had two banks of four.

"Good players need space and we were not given any although we should have had a penalty when Micah Richards was brought down in the box."

Stoke: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Abdoulaye Faye, Pugh, Delap, Whelan, Amdy Faye (Griffin 78), Etherington (Sonko 86), Beattie, Fuller (Cresswell 46).

Subs Not Used: Simonsen, Olofinjana, Lawrence, Kitson.

Sent Off: Delap (38).

Booked: Wilkinson.

Goals: Beattie 45.

Man City: Hart, Richards, Kompany, Onuoha, Bridge, Wright-Phillips, De Jong (Caicedo 72), Zabaleta (Elano 55), Ireland, Bellamy, Robinho.

Subs Not Used: Schmeichel, Fernandes, Garrido, Jo, Vassell.

Booked: Elano.

Att: 27,236

Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Stoke City's James Beattie 7.58 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

Bryans claim Aussie doubles crown

Bob and Mike Bryan with the Australian Open title
The grand slam is the seventh of the Bryans' careers

Twins Bob and Mike Bryan swept to their third Australian Open doubles title after a 2-6 7-5 6-0 win over Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles.

Third seeds Bhupathi and Knowles broke their opponents in the fifth and seventh games to claim the first set.

But they squandered three break points in the seventh game of the second set, allowing the American duo to hit back and level the match.

And the Bryans took the title in style, winning all six games in the final set.

The pair regained their world number one status from Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor, after qualifying for the final.

The Australian Open title is their seventh career grand slam.