Tag Archives: Ali

Top Ten Heavyweight Boxers of all time (part two: 5-1)

Yesterday Ken Irons shared the first half of his top ten heavyweight boxers of all-time, now it’s time to step into the ring with the elite, as he reveals his top five!

Butterbean: Failed to make the cut
Butterbean: Failed to make the cut

5) JOE LOUIS
Record: 66-3 (52 KO’s)

Joe Louis is a boxing icon who held the title (before it became fragmented) from 1937 until 1949, the longest period ever for a champion to reign.

He was undefeated until sustaining a 12-round loss to Germany’s Max Schmeling in 1936. After winning the title he had a return fight with the German in 1938, a fight which triggered deep emotions owing to the anti-Nazi feelings prevalent at the time (Hitler had reportedly personally encouraged Schmeling to win the title for the honour of the third Reich, although there was never any question that the fighter himself was involved in politics in any way). The fight lasted 124 seconds with Schmeling knocked senseless having been floored 3 times.

A tribute to Joe Louis in Detroit
A tribute to Joe Louis in Detroit

Louis retired in 1949 but then had to come back due to financial problems as he owed a large sum in taxes. This caused anger amongst fans and the general public as a whole because Joe had served his country well, both in wartime (in the U.S. Army) and as a unifying personality, loved by both blacks and whites.

The Government displayed no such sentimentality and Joe was reduced to working as a wrestler to pay off his debt, having first lost comeback fights to both Ezzard Charles and Rocky Marciano. He did receive official approval in death however, when the then U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, requested that he be buried at Arlington Cemetery.

4) GEORGE FOREMAN
 Record: 76-5 (68 KO’s)

George Foreman

Foreman, at 6 feet 3 inches, was not a stylish fighter but he was a devastating puncher, winning the title in 1973 against the seemingly invincible Joe Frazier when he demolished him in 2 rounds.

The following year, at age 25, he lost the crown to 32 year-old Muhammad Ali in the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in Zaire. Foreman was expected to win the contest but was overcome by Ali’s ‘rope a dope’ tactics whereby the latter leaned on the ropes, raised both gloves in protective mode and encouraged Foreman to eventually punch himself out.

Foreman always maintained that he had not felt right during the fight leading to some speculation that his water may have somehow been ‘spiked’, but this idea never got beyond the unsubstantiated rumour stage.

Foreman retired soon after and practised religion as a preacher. He came back to regain the title against Michael Moorer, at age 45. This made him the oldest man to win the title. He finally hung up the gloves for good in 1997.

3) LENNOX LEWIS
Record: 41-2-1 (32 KO’s)

London born but having spent part of childhood in Canada, Lewis holds dual nationality. At 6 feet 5 inches and 245 pounds, he was a superb boxer with a knock-out punch in either hand. 

Dispensing of all of the elite pugilists of his era, Lewis achieved amateur success when representing Canada at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, defeating future great Riddick Bowe for the gold medal, subsequently turning professional and switching allegiance to Britain during the same year.

He held the undisputed world title and never suffered an unavenged defeat, retiring in 2004, having stopped Vitali Klitschko via TKO in his final bout.

2) LARRY HOLMES
Record: 69-6 (44 KO’s)

Larry Holmes

Holmes has suffered more in his rightful claim to immortality than perhaps any other fighter due to the unfortunate timing of his rise to fame.

The fact that Muhammad Ali’s career was still ingrained in the hearts and minds of fans the world over when HolmesAli’s ex sparring partner, came into prominence, detracted greatly from the new champion’s overall standing.

He was, however, at 6 feet 3 inches, a consummate boxer/ fighter who could, in truth, match Ali in most aspects of his craft. As a one punch knock-out specialist he was perhaps superior to his old ‘employer’ who was more of adamaging’ puncher and his left jab is generally considered to be the best ever in the division.

Holmes was champion from 1978 – 1985 and his 19 consecutive defences of the title ranks second only to Joe Louis.

1) MUHAMMED ALI
Record
: 56-5 (KO’s 37)

Muhammed Ali

Muhammad Ali was a man whose fame transcended the sport due to his strongly held and fearlessly expressed political and religious beliefs (including his refusal to fight in Vietnam) and his generally extrovert personality.

He was the first champion to overtly ‘wind up’ his opponents, often causing trouble at press conferences, pre fight interviews and the like. This however was all part of his deliberate practice of getting the better of an opponent mentally which he invariably did, and which usually paid off for him in terms of results.

Ali’s dancing style, lightening fast reflexes and astonishing hand speed, wherein, in his own words,he “floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee”,were just too much for most of his bewildered and disheartened opponents to cope with

He is the only three time lineal world heavyweight champion, winning the title in 1964, 1974 and 1978. It should also be remembered that his ‘prime years’, 1967 – 1971, were taken from him when his license was taken away following the Vietnam draft incident.

So there it is, the top ten heavyweight boxers of all-time and not a Rocky Balboa or Butterbean in sight! Let us know your thoughts on Ken’s choices in the comment section below.

Written by Ken Irons

I have always had a love of the written word and have frequently, over the years, exasperated editors, publishers et al with my copious submissions of work. My highly advanced years I find a plus, as it means not having to research so much – I can remember it if it’s in the last century or so!

King of Promoters – The amazing story of Don King

Regular contributor Ken Irons regales Kureen readers with the amazing story of charismatic, wild-haired boxing promoter Don King.

Don King

Don King was born in 1931 in Cleveland, Ohio. From a young age he realised that, due to his colour and lack of social status, he would have to fight hard to achieve his ambitions. The first of these ambitions was to become a lawyer and to this end he went to Kent State University.

Ever the pragmatist however, he was persuaded by his elder sibling to drop out and to join him in illegal bookmaking and the numbers racket, then a way of life in the city.

King’s aptitude for numbers and his phenomenal memory proved highly beneficial in this new, if shady, enterprise and he soon ran his own operation. Something, however, that Don had assimilated, both from his upbringing and this work on Cleveland’s mean streets, had instilled in him a ruthless mindset that would almost bring about his downfall.

Don King 3

He had learned that: you have to grab what you want before the other guy gets it; no one is going to give you something for nothing; and, if someone does you down and you show them mercy, then they’ll do it again and again. Thus it happened that on two occasions, in 1954 and 1966, King ended the lives of two human beings.

When the cases came to trial in 1966 it was established that the first man had been shot in the back by King as he attempted to rob one of the latter’s gambling houses. This case was pronounced justifiable homicide.

In the second case, in 1966, King was convicted of 2nd degree murder for stomping to death an employee who owed him $600. The employee, an unfit and weedy man, stood no chance when confronted by the 6 foot plus, heavily built King, who stomped and mercilessly kicked him to death. A police officer, who had witnessed part of the slaughter, was wholly mortified by it and later described the horror of seeing the victims head flapping from side to side, propelled by the bigger man’s boots.

The conviction was subsequently reduced by the judge to non-negligent murder and King served just under 4 years. He was later pardoned for the crime in 1983 by Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes and there were letters of support from Jesse Jackson and other influential parties.

In the meantime Don used his incarceration to good effect and read extensively (notably on Philosophy), thus helping to mould the intelligent yet verbose speaker the public would soon marvel at. He was particularly prone to classic quotations, an idiosyncrasy that would remain with him.

Alas, these were interspersed with regular malapropisms that, despite a fierce intelligence, he seemed blissfully unaware of. However, his mode of communication, an important part of which seemed to involve never answering a direct question when he could instead divert the questioner’s attention by rambling on to his heart’s content, served him very well in the practice of negotiation that his career ultimately demanded.

On his release from prison King moved into boxing. After working with an experienced local promoter, Don Elbaum, he made a crucial move when he persuaded Muhammed Ali to box in a charity exhibition, staged to help a local hospital for black people.

There followed, in 1974, King’s golden hour. All he had learned to date: the determination, the bargaining skills, the ruthless business ethic, were used to negotiate with Ali, Foreman, their managements, the boxing authorities and heads of foreign government alike, to produce one of the biggest and most famous fights ever – the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ – Ali v Foreman in Zaire.  Vitally, a special arrangement was brokered with the Zaire Government to secure the (then record) $10 million purse.

King maintained his position as a major promoter throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, promoting the likes of Larry Holmes, Roberto Duran, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Julio Cesar Chavez, Bernard Hopkins and many others.

Always interested in music he also promoted The Jacksons ’84 ‘victory tour’. His other abiding interest – the cause of his fellow blacks – was served by his acquisition of an African American community weekly paper in Cleveland.

It would have been nice to think that King’s career was free of further problems involving the law. After all, his omnipresent towering figure, complete with spiky hair, standing in the ring flanked by the world’s best fighters as he beamed happily into the camera, was now a familiar sight the world over.

Nor did he confine himself to posturing only at his own promotions – on one famous occasion rival promoter Bob Arum was forced to clamber up the steps and bravely restrain King from entering the ring at Arum’s own promotion.

Outside of the ring, he had successfully integrated into society: he held an Honorary Doctorate of Humane letters degree from Central State University and had publicly backed presidential candidates.

It therefore shocked many people when King’s business methods came under serious scrutiny. He was sued by practically every one of the big name fighters he promoted for defrauding them: by Ali for $1.1million, Holmes for $10 million, Tim Witherspoon for $25 million, Tyson for $100million ad nauseam. Terry Norris alleged that King had conspired with his manager to underpay him. King settled out of court for $7.5 million, and conceded to Norris’s wish that the settlement be made public.

Don King 5

King’s normal practice was to settle out of court and thus Tyson was eventually paid $14 million, Witherspoon $1 million, Holmes $150,000 and so on. A particularly chilling example of King’s ruthlessness came with the Ali settlement; In 1982 Ali – who, it should be remembered, had kick-started King’s career by agreeing to box at the latter’s charity exhibition – had sued King for short changing him in the brutal Larry Holmes fight, during which Ali took a severe beating.

King’s response was to approach one of Ali’s old friends, a man called Jeremiah Shabazz, give him a suitcase containing $50,000 in cash, a letter ending Ali’s lawsuit against King, and instructions to deliver them to Ali. The letter even gave King the rights to promote any future Ali fights.

Ali was in hospital at the time showing the early symptoms of the cruel illness that has now taken hold of him. He was, according to his old friend, ‘mumbling’ a lot, however, he signed the letter. Shabazz later regretted helping King and it was reported that Ali’s lawyer was reduced to tears on hearing that his client had ended the lawsuit without telling him.

In a 1992 senate investigation into organised crime, King invoked the 5th amendment when questioned about his connections to ‘Godfather’ John Gotti. He subsequently deemed any such allegations as “racist”. The man who no less a writer than Norman Mailer had hailed as a “genius”, was characterised by Mike Tyson as “a wretched, slimy, reptilian motherfucker, who would kill his own mother for a dollar”.

King launched a $2.5 billion defamation suit against ESPN after a documentary claimed that he had “killed not once, but twice”, had threatened to break Larry Holmes’s legs, and cheated Meldrick Taylor out of $1 million then threatened to have him killed. The case was dismissed.

Don King’s wife died in 2010 at age 87. He has a daughter, 2 sons and 5 grandchildren. Although he has inevitably lost some of his strength and menace at 83, his ambition persists and he has made it clear that he will never retire.

Rather, he still plans and dreams of his next possible promotion and, of course, the resultant payday.

Written by Ken Irons

I have always had a love of the written word and have frequently, over the years, exasperated editors, publishers et al with my copious submissions of work. My highly advanced years I find a plus, as it means not having to research so much – I can remember it if it’s in the last century or so!

When religion mixes with sport

Ken Irons returns with an article that takes a glimpse at a host of high-profile athletes who struggled to combine their relationship with religion with a career in sport.

Muhammed Ali painting

Perhaps the most famous example of a sports star being governed by his religious beliefs is that of Muhammad Ali, although these beliefs were unquestionably more racial than religious – the organisation he belonged to being the Black Muslims.

Although Ali’s hagiographers liked to depict him as a man of near saintly proportions, his treatment of his fellow man often belied this theory.

For example, his close friendship with the infamous Malcolm X was responsible for Ali joining the Muslims, but when Malcolm X fell out of favour and was later assassinated by the Muslims, Ali entirely washed his hands of him and could not find a word to say in his favour.

Similarly, the notion that Ali had rejected conscription on moral grounds because he did not wish to kill Vietnamese people was a travesty. He was ordered by the Muslims, of whom he was understandably frightened, to take this action. It must also be said that enlisting held no personal appeal for him, as he had heard that the chance of him being attacked by white racist factions within the U.S. forces was considerable.

Ali’s later treatment of Joe Frazier, whom he gratuitously called an ‘Uncle Tom’ (causing Joe’s son, Marvis, to be ostracised at school) could, again, not be claimed to be the action of a particularly religious man. Frazier, a man from a deprived background, never forgave the comparatively middle class Ali for this insult.

Another gifted athlete, Jonathan Edwards, a man who still holds the world triple jump record he set more than 19 years ago, was a highly committed Christian who, at one stage in his career, steadfastly refused to compete on a Sunday.

He did subsequently relinquish this discipline and won the triple jump World Title in 1995 with two efforts that extended his own world record beyond the 18 metre barrier.

A silver medal followed at the following year’s Olympics. He then won gold at the 2000 Olympics shortly after which he was awarded the CBE. Further titles were captured at the 2001 world championships and the 2002 commonwealth games prior to his retirement in 2003.

In March this year Jonathan made a surprise statement revealing that he no longer believes in God. Giving up presenting Songs of Praise, he stated that he felt more settled and happier in himself since coming to terms with his feelings. Edwards, 47, now works as a BBC sports presenter and lives in Newcastle with his wife and two sons.

Jonathan Edwards

Ex-Argentina goalkeeper, Carlos Roa, who helped knock England out of the 1998 world cup on penalties, was a member of the 7th Day Adventist Church. He took a year out of football to study religion in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1999, before returning to action in Spain. He fell back on his religion to strengthen him when testicular cancer struck him some years later.

The Rev David Shepherd skippered and opened the batting for both Sussex and England in the 1950’s and is the only ordained Minister to play Test cricket. Refusing to play against South Africa in their 1960 tour, he was strongly anti-apartheid. He retired from cricket in 1963, was made Bishop of Woolwich in 1969 and Bishop of Liverpool in 1975.

Shepherd retired from those commitments in 1997 and was elevated to Life Peerage, sitting on the Labour benches in the House of Lords. He died on the eve of his 76th birthday in 2005

Written by Ken Irons

I have always had a love of the written word and have frequently, over the years, exasperated editors, publishers et al with my copious submissions of work. My highly advanced years I find a plus, as it means not having to research so much – I can remember it if it’s in the last century or so!

2015 Ashes Review

From the rapture of Cardiff, to the anti-climax at the Oval, the 2015 Ashes series was one of the strangest in recent memory, leaving both Australia and England with far more questions than answers.

It was the home side that regained the little urn, triumphing 3-2 courtesy of a trio of wins notable by their brevity. The tourists on the other hand destroyed England to achieve their two Test wins, ensuring that they dominated the batting averages as matters tumbled to a close.

In terms of days played it set a new low for a five match Ashes series, with only 18 of 25 utilised by two sides seemingly determined to throw caution to the wind from the offset.

 

Ending of Eras

It also closed the book on some notable careers, with Aussie skipper Michael Clarke announcing his retirement along with team-mates Ryan Harris and Chris Rogers.

England stalwart Ian Bell struggled, save for a defiant display at his home ground of Edgbaston, stating that he’ll make a decision of his own during the next week or so.

Ultimately the cricket wasn’t often sparkling, but in passages the likes of new Australia captain Steven Smith, Rogers, Joe Root and Stuart Broad rose above the mediocrity to place their imprint on the series.

England Player Ratings

Numbers
Alastair Cook (Captain): 7/10
Runs: 330, Average: 36.66

Cook led the side with more assurance than previously, displaying both innovation and purposeful intent. His batting was relatively consistent, although he failed to achieve his first century in a home Ashes contest, falling agonisingly close twice with scores of 96 and 85.

Adam Lyth: 2/10
Runs: 115, Average: 12.77

Dire. Looked every inch a player with an inflated County average achieved against gentle seam bowlers on batting friendly tracks. Far from international standard, at almost 28 Lyth should probably be consigned to the overflowing scrapheap of failed English opening batsmen, with Moeen Ali promoted instead.

Ian Bell: 5/10
Runs: 215, Average: 26.87

Warwickshire fans rejoiced when Bell struck a brace of half centuries on a testing surface at home ground Edgbaston, his elevation to number three seemingly spurring a renaissance. Sadly he reverted to previous form thereafter, necessitating some deep contemplation post-series for the only Englishman to have ever won five Ashes series.

Joe Root: 8/10
Runs: 460. Average: 57.50
Wickets: 4, Average: 33.75

England’s go-to Yorkie when chasing the winning line, Root had three exceptional matches in which he struck England’s only pair of hundreds, as well as two half-centuries and an unbeaten 38. With four wickets to boot, the 24 year-old Vice-Captain did show some fallibility in the face of tactical short bowling, but was a class above his country’s other batsmen.

Johnny Bairstow: 6/10
Runs: 118. Average: 29.50

Returned to the fold at Edgbaston following abundant form for Yorkshire. A belligerent 74 helped England to take advantage of skittling Australia out for just 60 at Trent Bridge. That knock aside he fielded soundly without being entirely assured at the crease. Deserves a prolonged run at this level.

Ben Stokes: 7/10
Runs: 201. Average: 25.12
Wickets: 11. Average: 33.45

The heir to Andrew Flintoff’s throne showed glimpses of undoubted potential, as well as providing the enduring image of Ashes cricket in 2015 with a barely believable one-handed catch taken when diving full length in the slips. Batting fizzled out over the course of the summer, with bowling by contrast becoming more consistent. Promising.

Jos Buttler: 5/10
Runs: 122. Average: 15.25
Dismissals: 12

Kept wicket without any issues, yet Buttler’s batting fell off a cliff, with his last ditch knock of 42 beefing a paltry average up towards the relative heights of the mid-teens. Will need to work on his defensive skills if he’s going to succeed in the longer format.

Moeen Ali: 7/10
Runs: 293. Average: 36.62
Wickets: 12. Average: 45.50

The experiment of utilising Moeen’s batting skills in the lower echelons of the line-up worked a treat, as he regularly contributed quickfire runs among the tail. His position as a front-line bowler is less secure though, with his left arm spin not a patch of opposition tweaker Nathan Lyon.

Stuart Broad: 8.5/10
Runs: 134. Average: 19.14
Wickets: 21. Average: 20.90

One of Broad’s finest summers as a Test bowler, he was consistently thrilling, peaking with a career-best 8-15 at Trent Bridge. His batting also improved significantly from recent efforts, with a willingness to tough it out against the opposition’s quicks commendable. Passed Fred Trueman’s 307 Test scalps, ending the series with 308 of his own.

Mark Wood: 7/10
Runs: 103. Average: 25.75
Wickets: 10. Average: 39.10

Appeared jaded early on, but became integral to England’s success. His fierce bowling lacks precision at times, but he has the talent and work ethic to become world class. Chipped in with useful runs and fielded superbly; a pleasing all-round contribution.

Jimmy Anderson: 8/10
Runs: 11. Average: 2.75
Wickets: 10. Average: 27.50

His spell of 6-47 at Edgbaston swung the momentum heavily in England’s favour, although he suffered a side strain in the same Test, missing the remaining couple of matches as a result. Looks back to somewhere approaching his best, and a target of 550 wickets at this level can’t be discounted.

Steven Finn: 7/10
Runs: 9. Average: N.A
Wickets: 12. Average: 22.50

After around 18 months in the international wilderness, Finn returned with one of the most potent displays of his entire career. At 26 years-old he looks to have finally found the consistent rhythm to succeed among the elite of world cricket.

Gary Ballance: 4/10
Runs: 98. Average: 24.50

Technical flaws exposed in the first two Test matches, Ballance, who had a fairytale first year in five day cricket, looked out of his depth in the two games he played, with only a scratchy 61 of note to show for his efforts. Will need to improve his sluggish footwork to fulfil undoubted potential.

So, we move on to the limited overs game. Can England continue the impressive form they showed against New Zealand earlier in the summer? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Ashes Watch: Finn-spirational England!

Win, loss, win, loss, win, loss, win… Not the start of a hastily penned poem, but England’s results in their past seven Test matches.

Steven Finn

Following a 405-run stuffing at Lord’s, England’s selectors refrained from any major amendments, instead tweaking the batting line-up by replacing the out-of-sorts Gary Ballance with his very in-form Yorkshire colleague Johnny Bairstow, and promoting Ian Bell and Joe Root one place in the order.

One enforced change meant that the weary Mark Wood was rested, with Steven Finn given the latest opportunity of his frustratingly sporadic international career.

Fantastic Finn

The latter proved to be the catalyst for a three-day victory, with a second innings Test best bowling analysis of 6-79 ensuring that the home side only had to chase 121 to regain the lead in this intriguing, albeit error-strewn, series.

Equally uplifting were the return to form of Ian Bell on his home patch, Moeen’s continued consistency and Jimmy Anderson’s mesmeric first innings spell that resulted in an Ashes best-bowling return of 6-47, although a side strain rules him out of the fourth Test, meaning that England will turn to Stuart Broad to lead the attack.

Other than the injury to Anderson, the continued malaise of Adam Lyth becomes increasingly prevalent with each meek dismissal, and Jos Buttler could use a knock of substance to accompany his pristine glove-work.

England third Test ratings

Alastair Cook (Captain)
34 & 7

Batted with sublime precision until unfortunately lodging a lusty pull-shot straight into the ample bread-basket of a cowering Adam Voges for one of the more peculiar dismissals of his career.

Smartly rotated his attack, using Finn in brief bursts and setting attacking fields that proved too tempting for most of the Australian batsmen. Another failure in the second innings was outweighed by the aura of Cook’s newly found comfort in the lead role.

6/10 (Batting: 4/10, Captaincy: 8/10)

Adam Lyth
10 & 12

Two more failures for a player who is threatening to earn the “passenger” tag if he doesn’t step up at Trent Bridge next week.

A worrying trend of collapsing towards leg-stump continues to undermine a player with the capacity to fill a role that has been an English weakness since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012. Will have to produce soon with Alex Hales waiting patiently in the wings.

2/10

Ian Bell
53 & 65*

Edgbaston Test was widely reported as a last chance saloon for Bell, whose rotten sequence of scores had placed him under the spotlight, with a gaggle of younger players touted as replacements.

Ian Bell

Thankfully the veteran excelled during cap number 113, providing the glue in both innings, to eventually see England over the line on day three in front of his home crowd. Looked instantly at ease occupying the tricky slot at number three.

8/10

Joe Root
63 & 38*/ 0-7

Another whose promotion was a success, Root is England’s go-to player these days, and the Vice-Captain once again stepped up on a tricky surface with two more valuable contributions.

Plays with the freedom of an unburdened soul who relishes the heat of battle, as he continues to torment bowlers from all over the globe with his aesthetically alluring displays – none of whom have yet found a reliable solution.

8/10

Johnny Bairstow
5 & DNB

25 year-old’s recall arrived courtesy of majestic county form, where he’s been averaging more than 100 for Yorkshire this season, and can’t really be judged on this brief appearance.

A rip-snorter of a Mitchell Johnson bouncer did for the raven-haired middle order man, who had to be in good form just to nick it! Likely to be retained for the foreseeable future.

2/10

Ben Stokes
0 & DNB/ 1-28

Like Bairstow, Stokes received a brutal Johnson half-tracker that almost took his head off, so it’s difficult to be critical of that dismissal (it wasn’t like, say, jumping over the ball and being run-out!)

Ben Stokes

Only bowled 11 overs due to the excellence of the rest of England’s seam attack, but was on point and tidy throughout a prolonged spell that covered for Anderson’s absence on the third day.

4/10 (Batting: 1/10, Bowling: 7/10)

Jos Buttler (wicket-keeper)
9 & DNB

Took a couple of spectacular pouches behind the timbers, as his ‘keeping continues to excel in tricky circumstances.

That is fortunate in light of yet more uncertainty at the crease. A scratchy 38-ball knock of 9 can be partially justified by overcast conditions and a spicy track, but the cold hard facts are that Buttler has yet to contribute more than 27 in his five Ashes innings.

5/10 (Batting: 2/10, Wicket-Keeping: 8/10)

Moeen Ali
58 & 1-64

Time and again Moeen has frustrated his Aussie counterparts with quick-fire runs among the lower order, with some saying that his improvement against the short ball validates him as the best option to open alongside Cook.

His half-century propelled England’s lead from a reasonable 54 to a daunting 145, and he took the vital wicket of Mitchell Starc, who had threatened to make a match of it with a tail-end 50 of his own.

7/10 (Batting: 8/10, Bowling: 6/10)

Stuart Broad
31 & DNB /2-44 & 1-61

It’s a joy to see Broad batting well again, those handy contributions down the order had been sorely missed since breaking his nose in the summer of 2014, when India’s Varun Aaron squeezed a short ball betwixt helmet and grill.

As well as a responsibly compiled 31, Broad was the lesser of the trio of bowlers who tormented Australia in their first innings, and chipped in with another wicket second time round, although he’ll probably need to bowl even better in the absence of Anderson next week.

7/10 (Batting: 7/10, Bowling: 7/10)

*Steven Finn*
0* & DNB/ 2-38 & 6-79

What a recall! Finn could barely have wished for a more productive return to the Test fold. From the embryonic deliveries of an imposing first day burst, it was clear that the 6 foot 7 inch fast-bowler barely resembled the crest-fallen trundler who was sent home early from the 2013-14 series “down under”.

Then One-Day coach Ashley Giles had described him as “unselectable”, after this display he may be indispensable. At 26 years old the hope is that he has finally come of age, six years after he initially burst onto the international scene.

9/10

Jimmy Anderson
3 & DNB/ 6-47 & 1-15

Back to his very best, Anderson had the ball swinging both ways at close to 90mph, perplexing all of the Australian batsmen who became unsure whether to play or leave, resulting in the demise of half a dozen by the second morning.

Jimmy Anderson

The crowd relished this skilful exhibition from the king of swing, who also celebrated his 33rd birthday on day two of the match. The only downside was a side-strain that rules him out of the reckoning for Trent Bridge, although it’s hoped that he’ll recover in time for the climax at the Oval.

9/10

That’s more like it! England and Australia resume hostilities at Trent Bridge next week, but will we actually witness a match that makes it into the fifth day? As usual Kureen will be keeping an eye on the action!

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Ashes Watch: Old wounds opened for England

England headed to Lord’s for the second Ashes Test match of the summer following an impressive 169-run victory in Cardiff, only to endure four days of turmoil at the hands of a vengeful Australian side.

Having won the coin toss Australia batted first on a docile track, racking up a score of 566 for 8 declared over the course of five destructive sessions, Steven Smith compiling a career best 215, and veteran Chris Rogers a Test high 173, the latter having been dropped early on by the hapless Adam Lyth.

Tough at the top

England’s response was almost immediately in tatters, four top order wickets tumbling in the face of some brutal fast bowling. Despite a decent recovery courtesy of captain Alastair Cook (96) and all-rounder Ben Stokes (87), England ended their innings more than 250 runs adrift.

Australia batted again, and once more the pitch seemed lifeless, England’s bowlers toiling under scoreboard pressure and against confident, skilled opponents.

Set a notional 512 to win, the home side were completely blown away this time, all out for a spineless 103, with Ben Stokes’ risible run-out (see video above) the nadir.

Repercussions

England’s selectors have retorted by ditching the out-of-sorts Gary Ballance and calling up the very in-form Johnny Bairstow to take his place.

In the past Bairstow has struggled to step up to the top table, but his County form, he averages more than 100 with the bat for Yorkshire this season, indicates that this is a young player very much in the ascendency.

For old hands like Ian Bell it’s probably now or never, with those in the know claiming that he must perform at his home ground of Edgbaston next week, or else face being discarded like a used tissue – the heat is on.

England second Test ratings

Alastair Cook (Captain)
96 & 11

One of the few home players to come out of the match with any credit. Cook showed plenty of fortitude to compile a painstaking 96 when all about him shouldered arms, the only pity is that he didn’t go on to make a deserved ton.

Alastair Cook

His captaincy wasn’t helped by a deliberately lifeless pitch which backfired spectacularly on England, failing to negate Australia’s quicker through the air attack, whilst blunting the likes of Mark Wood and Jimmy Anderson who rely predominantly on the pitch.

6.5/10 (7/10 batting, 6/10 captaincy)

Adam Lyth
0 & 7

In his most crippling nightmares Lyth wouldn’t have forecast anything this gloomy.

Not only did he drop two critical catches, he (briefly) batted without sense, appearing entirely out of his depth, like a toddler trying to negotiate Niagra Falls with the aid of a cheap float. Is fortunate to keep his place, probably saved by his century against New Zealand a couple of matches earlier.

1/10

Gary Ballance
23 & 14

After a golden inaugural year on the Test scene, Ballance has inevitably found life harder during his second summer of five-day cricket.

A weakness against the short ball has been remorselessly exposed by both New Zealand and Australia this summer, and whilst it may seem harsh for the Zimbabwe-born southpaw to be dropped ahead of Lyth or Bell, it could be a good idea to remove him from the firing line until he explores his technical flaws further.

3/10

Ian Bell
1 & 11

After 112 Test caps, Bell finds himself under arguably the most intense scrutiny of his career, and with good reason. Since amassing a belligerent 143 in the Caribbean,  the 33 year-old has managed just one score of more than 29 in a dozen innings.

Previous excellence has saved his bacon thus far, with a promotion to number three mooted for Edgbaston. Another failure could see the man famously dubbed “Sherminator” by Australia’s touring side a decade ago unceremoniously dumped back onto the county circuit.

1/10

Joe Root
1 & 17/2-55 & 0-32

Calls to promote Root to number three have so far fallen on deaf ears, but he was once again left to marshal the tail at the end of this match, trying to farm the strike in a vain attempt to delay the coffin being nailed shut.

Two failures with the bat for the in-form Vice-Captain, who had set Cardiff alight to strains of “Rooooot” a week earlier. His bowling continues to progress, but England will need him back to his best next week, with a promotion to number four on the cards.

4/10 (Batting: 2/10, Bowling 6/10)

Ben Stokes
87 & 0/0-77 & 0-20

After suffering a pasting with ball in hand, England’s all-rounder showcased his brutal batting ability, pummelling the three lions away from the ignominy of 30-4 on day two, as he and Cook combined for a fifth wicket stand of 145.

From there it was something of a match to forget, with Stokes’ comical second innings run-out (where he failed to ground his bat/anatomy despite being comfortably inside the crease) the enduring snap-shot of a lamentable collapse.

5/10 (Batting: 7/10, Bowling: 4/10, Daft run-out: -10/10)

Jos Buttler (Wicket-keeper)
13 & 11

Increasingly edgy at the crease, the effervescent Buttler of previous series has been replaced by a forlorn figure bereft of confidence, suffering a seemingly scrambled mindset every time he steps up to bat.

Buttler run out

Seemed unsure whether to attack or graft during England’s 2nd innings collapse, dismissed after a couple of unconvincing boundaries. The first real test of his international credentials. Did a decent job with the gloves.

3/10

Moeen Ali
39 & 0/ 1-138 & 2-78

The experiment of using Moeen, a batting all-rounder, as a front-line spinner who bats at number eight has thus far proven hit and miss. On one hand he continues to contribute useful runs from a lower order perspective, on the other he’s wasted amongst the tail and was comfortably out-bowled by opposing spinner Nathan Lyon.

An aesthetically pleasing 39 and the snaring of both Aussie wickets to fall in their second innings were positives, but Moeen went at almost 4.5 runs per over, lacking the control necessary in the context of the match.

5/10 (Batting: 5/10, Bowling: 5/10)

Stuart Broad
21 & 25/ 4-83 & 0-42

Broad, so often an Ashes pantomime villain in the past, actually has a decent record against Australia, and was one of only two touring players to leave the previous tour “down under” in credit.

This match was arguably a microcosm of that 2013-14 edition, with neat contributions throughout from the lofty Nottinghamshire paceman, including a defiant 25 which eked England beyond the 100 barrier as they toiled in the closing stages.

7/10 (Batting: 6/10, Bowling: 8/10)

Mark Wood
4 & 2*/ 1-92 & 0-39

The sparkle synonymous with the Durham seamer since his inclusion in the England side dimmed at Lord’s. Wood looked weary and uncertain, perhaps inevitable when considering the abundance of overs he’s slung down this summer.

The current recess arrived not a moment too soon for a bowler who leaves it all on the pitch every time he bowls. There’s no prospect of dropping a player destined to lead England’s attack in the future years, but nothing really went his way in a forgettable performance.

3/10

James Anderson
6* & 0/ 0-99 & 0-38

Not one of Jimmy’s finest matches, as England’s all-time leading wicket taker failed to add to his 406 Test scalps. In truth he never really looked a threat.

Jimmy Anderson

Will be desperate to find his lost rhythm before the teams line up at Edgbaston. Anderson is another whose position in the team is unlikely to come under immediate threat, but impotent displays in three of four summer Tests thus far have hinted that there might not be too much gas left in tank for a bowler who turns 33 on the opening day of next week’s encounter.

2/10

Can England bounce back next week after this humiliation? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. As usual we’ll give our ratings after the match.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.