England are on top this summer – long may it continue!

WELL, another super-charged weekend of sport is behind us with England’s cricketers destroying their Aussie rivals at ‘headquarters’ and Chris Froome majestically winning the Tour de France, emulating the feat of last year’s first-ever British victor, Sir Bradley Wiggins

With Andy Murray’s famous Wimbledon win already in the locker it is not just the weather that’s red hot at the moment.
In fact, if Lee Westwood had carried his form from the first three days of The Open at Muirfield into the final stanza we may have been celebrating an even greater stash of the summer’s top-class sporting goodies. Certainly we are enjoying some famous victories in some big events – which 12 months on from the golden windfall at London 2012, and the glow of all that, is all the more pleasing.

When I was growing up and watching an Ashes Series on our old black and white TV, I remember an Australian opening pair of Bob Simpson and Bill Lawry who just seemed destined to bat for days; this current crop of Aussie Test cricketers just seem to bat in a daze. Their performance in the first two Tests has been poor. And with three matches to go they don’t have much anywhere to turn to improve things.

Sure, sport goes in cycles, Spain, in football for example, have dominated world football in recent times after years of under-achievement and Australia have been the best in the world of cricket many times – and may well be again. But I’ve watched them play Test cricket, both live and on the television, for some 50 years and seen the likes of the Chappell and Waugh brothers, Jeff Thomson, Denis Lillee, Alan Border, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Ricky Ponting take England to task. Sometimes very painfully.

Now, I am thrilled England are playing with such determination and doggedness. And two-nil COULD easily be five-nil at the end of this series, such is the relative strength of our batting and the potency of our bowling attack. Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swan are truly world-class, and supported by others they can be close to unplayable. But there is something in me that wants a bigger push-back from the tourists. It is too much to expect every Ashes series to be like that of 2005 when the matches were electrifying but this one just seems destined to be one-way traffic. A near-thing at Trent Bridge, aided by an exceptional near-ton by an Australian rookie tail-ender, turned into a demolition job at Lord’s, and it is difficult to expect any different at Old Trafford next week.

As for England, Joe Root (left) barely looks big enough to deliver a sack full of Friday night ECHOS, but he has been brought through the system carefully and constructively and his 180 at Lord’s, the second century of his short England career, showed maturity and character. He has many more magic days ahead of him.

In Paris on Sunday evening, the Arc de Triomphe was lit up with a spectacular ‘Son et lumiere’ marking the end of this year’s Tour de France – the 100th staging of the world’s most famous cycle race.

Of course in recent times the event has been stained by the drug-taking epidemic that has sustained the sport’s front-runners in an annual three-week challenge that demands super-human effort.

If Lance Armstrong’s confession of routine drug-taking earlier this year merely underlined the true extent of cheating there has been in this sport, you sense that this year’s win for Chris Froome, like that of last year by Britain’s Sir Bradley Wiggins, has seen cycling, and the Tour de France, finally turn a corner.

Froome’s effort was magnificent, some of his climbing remarkable and yet his modesty and selflessness was best displayed by a wonderful gesture that knocked 40 seconds off his winning gap but meant the members of the Sky team could cross the line in triumph together.

Froome and Wiggins, two very different characters, but two British sportsmen now indelibly linked by their fantastic achievements. And the Tour itself fittingly moves to the UK next year when its first two opening stages will be held in Yorkshire and the third stage between Cambridge and London before heading back across the Channel and those big mountain climbs. Exciting stuff.

Well played Phil Mickleson winning his first Open Championship when coming from behind on the final round. His magical putt on the 18th sent him into ecstasy – and gave him a decisive three-shot lead. And as he celebrated with his family, the man who engraves the winner’s name on the famous Claret Jug was already getting on with things – a sure sign that those left out on the course were playing for just prize money, and plenty of it, and not a place in Open Golf history. Shame about the empty seats, though, all around the course.

Expect a much bigger turnout next year at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake, the famous links course, which will be staging its 12th Open Championship.

That’s all ahead of us, for now let’s just enjoy this very special summer of sport – and the new football season is just around the corner!

Read more: Liverpool Daily Post Brian Barwick: England are on top this summer – long may it continue! – Sport Opinion – Sport – Liverpool Daily Post

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