ENGLAND captain Joe Root scored an unbeaten 72 on day one of his side’s two-day warm-up match against a Cricket South Africa (CSA) Invitation XI in Benoni.Root, Joe Denly (60 not out) and opener Dom Sibley (58 not out) all retired after passing their half-centuries.Jonny Bairstow, playing as a specialist batsman, made only 13 on his return to red-ball cricket with England.Zak Crawley (28 not out) and Sam Curran (18 not out) guided the tourists to 309-4 at the close.England are set to spend today in the field and will hope that pace bowlers Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer are able to take part after both were affected by illness.James Anderson will bowl for England for the first time since the opening Test of the Ashes in August, after recovering from a calf problem.All-rounder Ben Stokes is missing the warm-up match after being named BBC Sports Personality-of-the-Year on Sunday but has now joined the touring party.England face South Africa in a four-Test series, with the first match at Centurion starting on December 26.“You can’t really beat time at the crease and there’s another three-day game coming up so there’ll be opportunities there as well,” said Sibley, who has made 38 runs in his three Test innings so far.“I’ve got to start getting some scores but hopefully Boxing Day will be my day, if I play.”After Rory Burns (16) fell top-edging a hook shot to fine leg, Sibley patiently ground his way to 58 off 140 balls.Denly hit 10 fours and one six in a fluent knock, while Root, who scored 226 against New Zealand in his last Test appearance, was again in fine touch, scoring freely in making 72 off 86 balls.Ollie Pope fell lbw to Matthew Arnold for 20, wicketkeeper Jos Buttler was caught in the slips for 15 and Bairstow, who was dropped for the Test tour of New Zealand, hit a full toss straight to mid-on.But Crawley, who made his debut in the second Test against New Zealand, and all-rounder Curran played out the final hour comfortably.(BBC Sport)
Week 6 of the NFL season proved that a fine line between winning and losing extends to all 32 teams, regardless of current momentum. It also gave reason to believe many squads can compete at similar levels until winter comes. Granted, since we’re not yet at the regular season’s halfway point, we don’t know how those games in November and December — the ones that matter the most — will pan out. But the slate of results this week tells me that unpredictability might be rampant when the year 2017 nears its conclusion.The Atlanta Falcons lost to the Miami Dolphins 20-17, the Chargers downed Oakland 17-16, and the Steelers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 19-13 to spoil Andy Reid’s undefeated record. Most notably, the Denver Broncos’ run defense broke down in a surprising 23-10 loss to the injury-depleted New York Giants. With the Falcons, Chiefs and Broncos all falling short, another Super Bowl choice, the New England Patriots, barely escaped MetLife Stadium with a 24-17 victory over the New York Jets, following a controversial touchdown reversal that took 6 points away from the Jets.While the outcomes of these games were especially intriguing, this past week’s biggest story might be the loss of a Super Bowl contender’s one-of-a-kind quarterback, as Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers left the game against the Minnesota Vikings. His broken collarbone could keep him out for the rest of the year. In the NFC North, the Vikings (4-2) and Detroit Lions (3-3) surely feel better about the opportunity to overcome the Rodgers-less Packers.Former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian, now Dan Quinn’s offensive coordinator, is one of the men to blame for the Falcons’ offensive situations not working out. The Falcons will travel to Gillette Stadium next week to take on the Patriots in a Super Bowl LI rematch, and both sides aren’t performing up to their previously high standards. Still, the Falcons have that explosive ability, and plenty of blueprints exist for Sarkisian to understand how to attack this lowly Patriots defense.Extra points being missed can completely alter the outlook of contests, as was demonstrated when Raiders kicker Giorgio Tavecchio drilled his attempt off target in the fourth quarter. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers then drove his team down the field for the game-winning field goal. Rivers finally had luck on his side, and Derek Carr returned to the field with a lackluster, two-interception performance. You’d think with Carr at the helm, the Raiders would be able to emerge victorious, but then again, it’s difficult to judge how effective he can be struggling through injury issues.Rivers, meanwhile, appears to have a ton of fight in him as he nears the end of his career. With the win against the Raiders, both Rivers and Co. and Jack Del Rio’s crew have 2-4 records. The odds are probably more in the favor of the Raiders pulling out a playoff appearance, but if the Chargers are able to get running back Melvin Gordon going, I’m not counting the Bolts out. Ingram had 150 rushing and receiving yards versus Oakland. Chargers fans should also be excited for the potential of wide receiver Mike Williams after seeing him finally debut. Rivers could use a guy with that sort of size and speed, especially in crucial third-down situations that seem to destroy the Chargers at points.For the Rams, their hype train becomes more real with their 27-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Rams haven’t been 4-2 in 11 years and haven’t begun the year 3-0 on the road since 2001. If you were to tell me this summer Jared Goff would be as stable as he is now, I wouldn’t believe it. That has to speak to Goff’s maturation and the quality of the new head coach Sean McVay, a young gun from the Washington Redskins. Goff has thrown only three interceptions in his six starts this year, compared to his seven interceptions in seven starts in 2016. Even when Goff has pedestrian numbers, as he did against the Jaguars, the Rams find ways to get the job done. This time, it was on special teams and defense. Pharoh Cooper returned the opening kickoff 103 yards, and Malcolm Brown took a blocked punt to the house. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has an unit that forces turnovers at the right instances. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, picked off by Nickell Robey-Coleman minutes into the fourth quarter, learned the hard way.Is this merely an opportunistic team early on in 2017 or do the surprising performances signal the Rams actually have a shot in the NFC? I strongly believe the Rams have chance within their division, the NFC West. The 49ers look like the bottom feeder, and the Cardinals, despite their strong play against the Buccaneers this past weekend, have displayed bouts of inconsistency. Mark you calendars for December 17, when the Rams face the Seahawks for the second time. That game may decide the division champion.