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  • Northampton v Saracens: Premiership play-off semi-final – live!

    69 min: Lawes takes the second lineout down, he feeds Manoa. Hartley takes it from the bottom of the ruck but is halted immediately. Seven phases later Lawes in front of the posts makes some yards but Saints are driven further left. Myler sends it back towards his right right and in the 12th phase Waller is punished for going in off his feet. That could be a big moment as the pressure was building to a level where Sarries may not have been able to handle it much longer.

    67 min: From the lineout Saints get their maul on again, but Mako Vunipola is penalised for offside and we go back to the corner once more.

    66 min: Before the lineout can be taken, Itoje replaces Wray.

    65 min: Penalty count now reads 8-16, the latest from Saracens results in Myler kicking to the corner.

    62 min: Pressure does not affect Owen Farrell. He sends a long-range kick over and the gap is now five.

    61 min: Denman, off his feet, concedes a penalty in the scrum near halfway.

    60 min: Du Plessis is replaced by Figallo for the final quarter.

    57 min: What a game we have. This has come entirely against the run of play since half-time but – AGAIN – from a lineout Saints get their roll on in the maul. It’s unstoppable and Tom Wood makes it over. The referee spots Hartley and George having some afters and refers to the TMO but concludes that “I don’t see much in this”. With a chance to level proceedings again, Myler’s testing conversion is shanked wide to the right.

    52 min: Saracens are really beginning to dominate proceedings now. Northampton’s pack look increasingly tired and badly missing the services of Corbisiero. Stephenson is penalised for not rolling away and Farrell uses the advantage to send a hail Mary to his right. It is claimed by Pisi, we go back for the penalty. Farrell does not break sweat, sending it over with ease. Denman comes on for Ma’afu in the Saints’ front row.

    50 min: Dickson is off to have a head injury assessed, Fotuali’i is on for him. It may well be permanent.

    49 min: Mako Vunipola kicks the ball away on halfway as Dickson tries to recycle from a ruck. That’s the 12th penalty conceded by Sarries compared to Northampton’s five.

    47 min: That lead did not last long, though! Saracens are back in front through a Jamie George try but the credit must go to his pals in the pack after a terrific maul from a lineout in similar territory to where Saints earned their penalty try in the first half. A difficult conversion from Farrell is perfectly struck. The home forwards are looking a little jaded.

    43 min: It’s been a similarly attritional start to the second period but Sarries have conceded a penalty inside their own 22 after a strong maul following a Saints lineout. Myler does not have any problems converting his fourth kick from four.

    41 min: Farrell gets us going again. Saints change: Stephenson on for Wilson, who had replaced Tuala early on but picked up an injury.

    It was 18-1 that this would finish level at 80 minutes! It wouldn’t be a bad shout now.

    40 min +3: The final act of a heavy opening half sees Myler level it up again.

    37 min: We’re enduring a little bit of a lull in the past couple of the minutes with some non-descript kicking back and forth but you’ve got to say the story of the half has been the phenomenal level of ferocity in the tackle.

    35 min: Taylor is punished for a deliberate knock-on, deliberately slapping away a George Pisi pass, and Myler dispatches the kick to touch near Sarries’ 10.

    34 min: Alex Corbisiero’s game is over with a shoulder injury – he is being replaced by Alex Waller, who scored the winning try in last year’s final.

    32 min: Dylan Hartley produces a massive hit on Billy Vunipola. But Greg Garner gives a penalty for not rolling away afterwards. He also refers Hartley’s tackle to the TMO to see if he attempted to bind and after some debate it was judged to be fair. Farrell goes for the posts from 40m and swings it over to put the visitors back in front.

    30 min: Almost immediately Northampton concede an unnecessary penalty for not rolling away quickly on their own 10 after good play from Itoje and Barritt. It’s a difficult one for Farrell, though, far on the right, and he hooks it too far left. That’s his first miss of the day and we remain tied.

    27 min: Saracens denying Saints another score when down to 14 was a big psychological boost for the visitors but they cannot lead for long as from the restart they concede a penalty and Myler makes it 10-10.

    26 min: Saracens rapidly clear their lines from the lineout and are up quickly to stop Saints advancing. Taylor is the fastest one up and forces a knock-on 35 from the posts. Farrell splits the posts.

    23 min: From the lineout the ball works across to Wilson, who replaced the injured Tuala, and his delayed kick is almost blocked down. Myler, via Corbisiero’s collection, sends a second kick to touch. Itoje has returned with Barrington coming back off now Vunipola has returned.

    22 min: Saracens concede a penalty and Farrell kicks to touch near halfway. Meanwhile, Mako returns.

    22 min: Garner doesn’t like the first attempt, so it will be reset.

    21 min: Saracens deal with it this time and send it to halfway but Saints are soon on their bike and back on the front-foot. Dickson makes the key break and motors into the 22. Corbisiero, Burrell and Wood are denied by big tackles as Saracens get their defensive shape back quickly before the hosts concede a penalty for obstruction. This is an important scrum …

    18 min: Saints get a move on in the scrum and win a penalty. Myler buries it into the Sarries 22.

    17 min: Before the scrum and due to Mako Vunipola’s sin binning, Barrington is on temporarily for Itoje.

    16 min: Sarries go back on the attack but Barritt is judged to have given a forward pass to Taylor after a neat feed from Farrell.

    14 min: Third time lucky! The maul is interrupted once more and Garner has had enough, awarding a penalty try – Saints’ sixth of the season. The extras are added from under the posts by Myler.

    12 min: The lineout soon becomes a maul and it has enough behind it to make it over the line but Greg Garner says there’s no try, instead penalising Billy Vunipola for entering at the side. The following lineout turns into another ferocious maul and this time it is Mako who concedes the penalty and trudges off for 10 minutes with a bloodied nose to boot.

    10 min: Burger produces a massive hit on Elliot and Saracens turn it over briefly before losing it again. Then Myler sends the ball into touch near the left-sided corner with a beautiful kick. From there Saints steal the lineout but Sarries defence repel them for 10 phases before conceding a penalty for not moving away quick enough. Does Myler go for the posts? No – it’s for the corner.

    8 min: But Mako Vunipola has turned it over after two phases before the ball ends up in the Saints 22, from where it is kicked back again.

    7 min: A Burger knock-on results in the first scrum of the game but from it the hosts display some more nervy handling. Burrell eventually kicks and wins a lineout on the Sarries 10 which is taken down by Wood.

    6 min: Northampton have yet to really settle but you get the sense there will be helluva lot of kicking throughout this contest. Ahsee Tuala, the Saints full-back, has left the action for treatment on what appears to be an arm injury.

    2 min: What a start! Strettle takes a poor pass from Barritt on the right touchline inside his own 10 and chips down the line. The ball bounces kindly, Taylor reaches it first, finds Strettle behind him. Burger tries to stop him advancing but the Sarries wing makes it across the line. Greg Garner checkes with the TMO but it’s never really in doubt. Farrell adds the extras.

    1 min: Saracens send it back to where it came from and are up quick with a couple of solid early tackles to deny Saints any progress. It goes back and forth for a bit without either troubling.

    Stephen Myler gets us underway!

    The teams are emerging from the changing rooms to a lively welcome from a packed Franklin’s Gardens. Almost set!

    There is one change on the Saracens bench – Jared Saunders steps into the place of Schalk Brits, who is ill – but both will start as announced.

    Rub you hands together, lick your lips in preparation for what’s to come.

    Northampton are the reigning champions and this year finished top of the table. They have a hex over Saracens, having beaten them in last year’s final – thanks to a try from the replacement prop Alex Waller in the final minute of extra-time – but the omens for them to retain their title do not look good. Only four of the past dozen champions finished the season on top of the table and only Leicester and Wasps have successfully defended their titles.

    Continue reading...

  • Ireland gay marriage referendum result: near clean sweep expected for Yes campaign - live

    Ahead of the official result, follow the latest news and reaction as Irish voters appear to have approved Ireland’s referendum on same-sex marriage

    RESULT: 69.67% in Kildare North vote Yes in same-sex marriage referendum #MarRef

    Irish senator David Norris, who drove the decriminalisation of homosexuality from the 1970s to 1993, says: “It’s wonderful. It’s a little bit late for me ... I’ve spent so much time pushing the boat out that I forgot to jump on and now it’s out beyond the harbour on the high seas, but it’s very nice to look at.”

    Dub Castle gates now closed..hundreds in queue to get in. ushers say will let more in soon #rtenews pic.twitter.com/SfOxyIWRSU

    The result for Galway East: 53.3% Yes and 46.7% No.
    Across Ireland the turnout for the marriage referendum has been significantly higher than the last two votes held in the Republic.

    RTE is interviewing both Gerry Adams and drag queen Panti Bliss. Now that’s progress.

    Ireland’s justice and equality minister, Aodhan O’Riordain, tells of his pride at the expected landslide victory for gay marriage.

    The fourth official result is in: 60.1% Yes and 39.9% No for Meath West, RTE reports.

    Another official result: 68.3% Yes vote in Wicklow, according to RTE.

    #Result of #MarRef from #Waterford: Yes (53.6pc) versus a No of 46.4pc

    Nice day for a Yes vote...

    RTE reports that the first official result comes for the marriage referendum comes from the Sligo-North Leitrim constituency, which has voted 53.6% yes and 46.4% No.

    So it looks like only one county, Roscommon/South Leitrim, is going to spoil a clean sweep for YES in the Irish #MarRef. Quite some result.

    Stephen Fry has told his 9.7m followers that “Oscar smiles in his grave”:

    Here at #HayFestival - almost no signal but news in that Ireland’s Yes Campaign has carried the day. So so happy. Oscar smiles in his grave.

    More on Northern Ireland - it appears that pressure is set to build on its politicians to allow a vote on gay marriage. Caitriona Ruane, Sinn Fein’s Stormont Assembly Member for South Down, said: “The marriage equality rights that will be enjoyed by Irish citizens in the south must be shared by citizens in the north. Sinn Fein will continue to campaign for marriage equality for all in the North and to end the discrimination against our LGBTI community.” Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which does not permit same-sex marriage.

    No campaigner, Ronan Mullen, tells media at RDS he'll continue to fight for children to be raised by mother & father pic.twitter.com/VdDVsd830t

    Huge sense of pride over what has happened in Ireland, tempered by massive sadness that I'm missing the bloody party. #therealvictimhere

    Gerry Adams says the likely Yes vote is “hugely important” and pays tribute to the pro same-sex campaigners.

    Henry McDonald’s story from Friday reminds us that same-sex marriage inexplicably remains illegal in Northern Ireland. But that could soon be tested by a couple who have been married in England.

    Related: Northern Ireland keeps watchful eye on gay marriage vote across the border

    @Independent_ie Lowest yes votes - Adamstown & Gusserane - both 52pc Yes, Wexford town boxes expected Yes, No #NoVote boxes so far

    Tally complete in Wicklow - 42,497 (68.05%) #YesVote, turnout 68.06%. #PresRef 76% #NoVote #TallyTweets

    Final Tally in Dublin West Yes 29665 (71pc) No 12229 (29%) Turnout 64% #MarRef #TallyTweets

    Australian marriage equality campaigners are vowing to step up their efforts following the expected Irish result. Rodney Croome, convener of Australian Marriage Equality, said: “If there was ever any doubt that marriage equality was inevitable in Australia, the Irish vote has removed it. The questions is not if, but when.”
    He predicted Australians will feel deeply embarrassed to have fallen behind the traditionally conservative Catholic country. “Australia’s political leaders have no more excuses for dragging the chain.”

    Unofficial results for Dublin’s North West constituency are 70.4% Yes with a 60% turnout, according to RTE.

    The last time Cathal Ashbourne-Loftus and I crossed paths was in southern Lebanon 20 years ago when he was serving in the Irish Battalion of the UNIFIL peace-keeping force. The retired Irish soldier turned up at Dublin Castle today to speak for the No side, which appears to be on their way to a resounding defeat.
    Ashbourne-Loftus is now a member of the Christian Solidarity Party, a Catholic traditionalist political movement in the Irish Republic. While he admitted “the sky won’t fall in” as a result of the Yes vote, Ashbourne-Loftus predicts a raft of legal battles through Ireland’s courts as a result of gay marriage being introduced.
    “There is no doubt in my mind that that there will be a flood of cases taken against churches of every persuasion if they refuse to marry same-sex couples in their places of worship,” he said.
    On why the No side appears to have lost so heavily, Ashbourne-Loftus added: “Many of the older generation whom we canvassed went from Yes, but that did not translate to them voting No ... they simply stayed at home.”

    British rights campaigner Peter Tatchell says: “The Irish people have voted for love and equality. Oscar Wilde would be so proud. This vote will give hope to millions of same-sex couples around the world who want to marry the person they love. Equal marriage is an unstoppable global trend. The Irish vote is proof that love can triumph over prejudice and discrimination.”

    Full and Final Tally in Dublin West Yes 29665 (71pc) No 12229 (29%) Turnout 64% #MarRef Thank you so much!

    Anne and Myles O’Neill, from Terenure, Dublin, says: “I am the mother of two wonderful sons, one heterosexual, one homosexual and I adore them both. And today, both of them are equal.”

    Stephen Carroll, an Irish journalist based in Paris, tweets:

    Yes Equality campaigners celebrating in the Dublin count centre #MarRef pic.twitter.com/wd4MvGizGj

    A veteran trade unionist, peace campaigner and religious minister to the gay community on both sides of the Irish border has urged other churches to accept the Yes vote.
    Dublin-born Unitarian minister Chris Hudson, whose All Souls church in south Belfast holds regular services for LGBT Christians as well as those of other faiths, said: “Many leaders of Christian churches called on the Irish people to vote No, but the Irish people did not heed them. Instead people decided to ‘love their neighbour as themselves’ and decided to embrace the spirit of the law instead of the letter of the law, bless them.
    “Church leaders really need to look at their message of exclusion and the people’s embrace of inclusion. Christianity is alive and well among the good people of Ireland, but the church leaders need to catch up.”

    Sitting here watching the Irish make history. Extraordinary and wonderful.

    Lots of bemused tourists at Dublin castle. A Greek couple are out of tune with the sentiment among growing crowds: “I think this is a terrible thing for this country. Something not to be celebrating. We don’t celebrate that people are against the church in Greece and I’m quite astonished to see this in Ireland.”

    With @NicReillyDrawda who's getting hitched to Ronan next week. Love them both & proud to be his best man #MarRef pic.twitter.com/DbQR41saZu

    Deardriu Lally flew from Germany last night to vote Yes. She brought her three children - Luke, 9, Tim,5, and Fia, 4 - to Dublin Castle today. “This is the most important day in their lives! I don’t even know where we’re staying tonight but it’s Eurovision night and Dublin will be having a party!”

    And while we wait for the official result of the referendum later today, you might like to watch the TED talk given by Panti Bliss - a very articulate and wise Irish drag queen - in Dublin in September last year. It explains why progress like today’s referendum is important for LGBT people. It’s been viewed almost 2.4m times.

    How ironic that the Angelus bells are ringing at noon, a sound that echoes across Ireland every day of the year and is still broadcast before news bulletins on RTE. An echo too of that old Ireland where politicians and people complied with what clergy told them from the pulpit.

    Notable that the results coming in from across Ireland are showing a lean to yes. Shows how far Ireland has moved as only four constituencies outside Dublin voted in favour of divorce in the 1995 referendum which squeaked in with only 9,000 votes.

    My tweet of the day award goes to the wonderful Panti Bliss.

    This is how I feel about Ireland today. pic.twitter.com/fQ4HiCHb3z

    While we wait for the final result, click here to read a poignant piece by James Stephen-Donohoe, who tells of the pain he felt as a gay teenager in Ireland: “I could write an essay on the following 20 years of my life journey. Its been one of loneliness, heartbreak, isolation, depression and over the last 10 years one of joy, peace of mind, serenity and contentedness.

    “I’m writing this piece because I don’t want any more children to experience the fear, loneliness and shame that I and hundreds of my gay brothers and sisters had to and still have to face.”

    My gay brother Jim posted this today. As his older sis & Gomorher Id no idea he went through this. #VoteYes #MarRef https://t.co/WljXVE0evV

    Aoife O’Driscoll, 33, who is from Waterford, and her partner Anna MacCarthy, 32, from Kerry, both live in Dublin, reports Sandra Jordan. In the run-up to the referendum Aoife says they were canvassing in working class areas like Ballymun. “The kids there can be quite intimidating. Before we might have expected them to be shouting ‘faggot’ or ‘dyke’. But instead they were shouting “go on! Go on”!” Anna says. As it appears that the Yes side will win, she adds: “There’s that sense that you don’t have to fear any more. We have hope.”

    Fred Shelbaum (left) and Fergal Scott, who have been a couple for 24 years, tied the knot in a civil union in 2012 but now plan to marry. “We’ve just paid off our debt from the civil partnership festivities and now we are having to pay for a wedding,” said Shelbaum. “There might be a lot of people getting on bended knee today around Dublin Castle when the Yes vote is confirmed.”

    The referendum returning officer says the result may be closer to 5pm than 4pm because of the high number of votes cast.

    RTE reports that in Enda Kenny’s Mayo constituency, 75% of the ballot boxes indicate a 55:45 split in favour of a Yes vote.

    This pict seems to say it all about #MarRef MT @somulligan: So happy and proud of the tally from our polling station pic.twitter.com/CBeBh1FXHL

    Taoiseach Enda Kenny says there was a 'palpable movement' by people to be involved in the same-sex marriage campaign https://t.co/qUHtEJZehr

    Gay Labour party parliamentarian John Lyons, who voted yesterday arm-in-arm with his mother, says: “I’m a very very happy man today. We’ve had a historic count at Ballymum, my home constituency today, looking at 73% for yes. Theres a lot of emotion in people out there today. People will officially feel today a full citizen of Ireland. My Irish mammy was just one of Irish mammies who stood up yesterday to vote.”

    David Davin-Power, an RTE political correspondent, says: “This is a major illustration how Ireland has changed in past 20 years. Only four constituencies outside Dublin voted in favour of divorce in referendum in 1995.”

    Leaders on both sides of Ireland’s gay marriage campaign expect the measure to be approved by a majority of voters. Senior figures from the No campaign say the only question is how large the Yes margin of victory will be.
    Cabinet minister Leo Varadkar, who came out at the start of the government’s campaign, says Dublin looks to have voted yes by a margin of 70%, while most districts outside the capital also were reporting strong “yes” leads.
    Varadkar said: “We’re the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate. That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world of liberty and equality. It’s a very proud day to be Irish.”

    Ger O’Keefe, 27, a gay Yes campaigner from Waterford, tells Reuters: “It’s very hard for it to sink in, inside screaming and jumping already but I’m just waiting for that exact moment when I can say it.”

    What a hairstyle...

    Taoiseach Enda Kenny says it’s looking positive for a Yes vote in the referendum, which would send a “message of pioneering leadership” from the Irish people.

    Former Blair-era spindoctor Alastair Campbell offers his view:

    Ireland led world on smoking legislation. Now looks like being first country to deliver gay marriage with specific popular consent #MARREF

    Leo Varadkar, health minister and Ireland’s first openly gay cabinet member, says it is a special day: “It seems to me that the Irish people had their minds made up on this some time ago.”

    52 boxes from Laois opened, 48 remaining. @FineGael tally says several rural boxes indicate 2-1 #Yes #MarRef #TallyTweets

    More images from the count...

    Ireland’s equality minister has called it already...

    I'm calling it. Key boxes opened. It's a yes. And a landslide across Dublin. And I'm so proud to be Irish today. #MarRef

    Ireland correspondent Henry McDonald is at Dublin Castle where the result will be announced later today. He reports: The first ballot box to be opened in Ireland’s referendum on same sex marriage augurs well for a Yes vote. It came from the constituency of Wicklow/East Carlow and showed a 67% Yes/33% No vote.
    Later in some predominantly working class constituencies of Dublin the margin for Yes was even higher. One ballot box from Ballyfermot in West Dublin showed an 85% Yes vote.

    A Yes vote will be not only a major milestone on the road from a sub-theocratic Church-dominated state to a liberal, secular Republic, but also embolden gay rights campaigners across the world.

    BREAKING: Returning officer says early count at Dublin North Central shows 65-70% Yes. #MarRef http://t.co/Iivmre9uoy pic.twitter.com/9B4rdECLxk

    David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute religious think-tank, which has opposed legalising same-sex marriage, appears to concede defeat already.

    Congratulations to the Yes side. Well done. #MarRef

    Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has told RTE Radio he is confident that the referendum will result in the introduction of gay marriage: “I think it was a debate that captured the imagination and I had a strong sense that the Yes vote would win. I think that will be borne out today.”

    A tweet from the Irish Independent gives an impression of the way the wind is blowing.

    #Breaking Two boxes in East Meath, from Laytown/Bettystown have shown a 2 to 1 vote in favour of Yes to marriage amendment #MarRef

    It appears that Ireland is on course to make history by becoming the first country in the world to introduce gay marriage by popular vote. While counting has only been underway for an hour, early indications from count centres suggests that the campaign to extend the right to marry to same-sex couples will succeed. A high voter turnout was recorded in all regions, particularly in cities, with a significant youth vote and returning emigrants possibly influencing the ballot.

    Welcome to our live coverage of the result of Ireland’s historic referendum on same-sex marriage. After yesterday’s vote, counting began this morning at 9am and the result should be known later today. We’ll bring you all the developments as they happen.

    Continue reading...

  • England v New Zealand: first Test, day three – live!

    113th over: New Zealand 439-5 (Williamson 124, Watling 10)

    Wood’s 25th over yields the single run New Zealand needed to take their lead to 50.

    112th over: New Zealand 438-5 (Williamson 124, Watling 9)

    Stokes bowls, and there are no near misses. Just a single for Williamson, and another leg bye, the 34th of the innings. “Seriously, you’re having a discussion aboout meaningless singalong extended outros and the winner isn’t Ooh Mau Mau Pa Pa Ooh Mau Ma Mau?” asks Phil Sawyer. “The Trashmen or Ramones, I’m happy either way.” They’re both rubbish, obviously, but that’s certainly meaningless enough to qualify.

    111th over: New Zealand 436-5 (Williamson 123, Watling 9)

    Wood does his last-second leap-to-the-left thing, and then the ball moves away from Watling, who waves his bat at it but doesn’t edge it. Excellent, aggressive bowling. “I went through a long ‘Hey Jude Hating’ period, partly because every time they had some poll on a radio station it would always win ‘Best Beatles Song’ or ‘Best 60s Song’ or something,” writes Rocket. “But then I did something radical – I just listened to it as if I had never heard it before, and you know what, it really is a brilliant song. And the reason it kept winning all those radio polls? Because it deserved to. By the way, are there any Test or First Class cricketers called Jude. Obscure question I know!” Ah, Jude the Obscure. A decent book, but the extended singalong postscript grates after a while.

    110th over: New Zealand 435-5 (Williamson 122, Watling 9)

    ball is zipping around, which is alright unless NZ have a decent lead.

    109th over: New Zealand 427-5 (Williamson 122, Watling 1)

    Wood gets the ball to ball swing into Watling, who doesn’t know what to do with it, and it passes between bat and pad and just wide of the stumps. And then, after a single, Williamson edges again, to first slip, but the ball lands three inches in front of Cook’s hands. This is a great innings from Williamson, but the lad’s got to have a pocket full of rabbit’s feet and four-leaf clovers sprouting out of his ears.

    108th over: New Zealand 426-5 (Williamson 122, Watling 0)

    Kane Williamson has now scored 364 runs since his last dismissal in a test. That's a New Zealand record #bbccricket

    107th over: New Zealand 424-5 (Williamson 120, Watling 0)

    That’s an excellent advertisement for the DRS system right there (whereas the occasions when the ball is shown to have been on its way into the meat of leg stump before striking a pad but the batsman stays in are a little less overwhelming). A maiden from Wood.

    @Simon_Burnton Macca's brother on the left there singing for The Scaffold http://t.co/lVORiqfYM8.

    The ball flicked his upper arm, and came nowhere near his bat. Watling stays!

    There was contact with something, and the umpire’s finger went up straight away – but the batsman reviewed it in a heartbeat. So, what did it hit?

    105th over: New Zealand 424-5 (Williamson 120, Watling 0)

    Williamson grabs boundary No14, tickling the ball to deep fine leg. That Buttler catch in full:

    104th over: New Zealand 420-5 (Williamson 116, Watling 0)

    That really was an excellent catch by Buttler. Almost makes up for some of the balls he’s missed completely and have gone for four. Meanwhile, this spent 50% more time at No1 in 1968 than Hey Jude. Add Congratulations by Cliff Richard and The Legend of Xanadu by Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich, both also No1s that year, and the very idea of someone remembering Hey Jude as the era’s musical lowpoint really boggles the mind.

    Anderson tries to tickle away a shortish delivery that was passing just down the leg side, it flicked off his gloves, and Buttler took an excellent low catch, diving to his right!

    104th over: New Zealand 419-4 (Anderson 9, Williamson 115)

    I must admit I spent that entire over, bowled by Broad, researching British chart history, but can report that Anderson hit the final ball for four.

    103rd over: New Zealand 415-4 (Anderson 5, Williamson 115)

    “I don’t know if any of you are old enough to remember the six weeks Hey Jude spent at No1 in the pop charts (and presumably a lot more in the top 20),” writes Stephen J Nicholson, “but surely no-one who heard it played incessantly then, as I did, could ever remotely want to listen to it again.” Actually there were only two weeks at No1 – nine in the top 10, 10 in the top 20, 15 in the top 40 – in 1968. This was 45 years ago, and you’re still sick of hearing it. It was Britain’s seventh-biggest selling single of that year. This was No3.

    102nd over: New Zealand 413-4 (Anderson 4, Williamson 114)

    Broad bowls a bobbly thing down leg side. It just refused to bounce, and diverted a bit further away from the stumps, Buttler fails to collect and four more byes are added to the list of extras, which have brought the tourists 62 bonus runs – that, according to Opta, is more than any of England’s last 137 Test innings, since they gave West Indies 74 of their total of 544 in 2009.

    REVISED TIMINGS: Tea at 4:45-5:05pm; Close of play at 7pm (although can continue until 7.30pm to complete the overs) #ENGvNZ #LoveLords

    101st over: New Zealand 408-4 (Anderson 4, Williamson 113)

    Mark Wood completes the 101st over, so rudely interrupted by rain and lunch. Dan Lucas proposes “the ‘for a minute there, I lost myself’ outro to Karma Police” as the best extended meaningless singalong chorus. But those are all actual words. It’s good, but it’s not this:

    The players are back out. I expect play will continue until 7.30pm, and two overs will carry over until tomorrow.

    “I was at the Live Aid gig when Paul McCartney’s mic failed for his closing rendition of ‘Hey Jude’ and the audience filled in for him,” writes John Pyle. Show-off. “It left me unmoved, which is not to say working technology would have made it any better, better, better etc.”

    “I’ve always held the view that Cook-Pietersen is similar to McCartney-Lennon,” suggests Krishnan Patel. “The former is a great but people despise him for being the PR guy while the latter is considered much more ‘naturally’ talented. And Hey Jude is considered rubbish because people are sick of hearing it again and again. The reason for it being heard again and again, of course, is that it was a brilliant piece of work.” Indeed. Nobody’s sick of hearing the second-best extended meaningless singalong chorus in pop history. Talking of which, what is the second-best extended meaningless singalong chorus in pop history?

    That is, in 25 minutes from now.

    “Hey Jude is singularly responsible (along with yesterday) (oh, and Penny Lane) for my deciding as a child that I didn’t like the Beatles and writing off some great music,” moans Tom Levesley. “The entire Wings canon didn’t help either. I’ve since realised McCartney was rubbish and have been catching up since then. For that, the half hour of la-la la la, and people like my mate Daran banging on about how great it is and how ‘it builds’, Hey Jude will always be rubbish. PS I’m working today so feeling more cantankerous than usual.” Bah. No word yet from the pitch inspection, though I can confirm that it has taken place.

    I don’t think much of the new Lord’s engraver:

    Kane Williamson went up on the Honour's Board straight away at the @HomeOfCricket. Special moment. #engvnz ^PT pic.twitter.com/XmLR64cQ7A

    Williamson’s keeping good company on this list:

    Youngest to make 10 Test 100s 23y-71d S Tendulkar 23-114 D Bradman 24-80 G Smith 24-122 N Harvey 24-134 G Sobers 24-288 K Williamson #ENGvNZ

    There will be an inspection in 15 minutes, so with no further rain expected and groundsmen busily squidgeeing and mopping you can look forward to recommencement shortly afterwards.

    Gary Naylor brings us the very latest from St John’s Wood. The news is good.

    @Simon_Burnton Much brighter at Lord's and few umbrellas in sight. Might be 30 mins or so, but not much longer I guess.

    Weather latest:

    This spell of rain should clear the #ENGvNZ cricket at Lord's as it gets drier and gradually brighter again. @bbctms Nick

    Hello world!

    Well that was an excellent session. New Zealand tried to attack, with Taylor and McCullum especially scoring quickly. But England fought back well, getting the two wickets – and big ones at that – we thought they needed to keep this contest alive. Broad especially was impressive, while you have to be happy for Mark Wood getting his first Test wicket.

    Simon Burnton will be here for the first hour after lunch. Send him your thoughts on why Hey Jude is rubbish to simon.burnton@theguardian.com.

    100.3 overs: New Zealand 407-4 (Anderson 4, Williamson 112) Wood has his tail up now and is up around 90mph. There’s a bit of rain around though, which is a shame for England as you feel that they’re just about in the ascendancy. That said, New Zealand are leading with six wickets in hand. It’s all a bit good this. Bah, and now they’re going off for rain. That’s going to be lunch.

    100th over: New Zealand 407-4 (Anderson 4, Williamson 112) Er, my apologies: the batsmen crossed when McCullum got out, so it was Williamson who survived that decision, rather than Anderson. Refresh the page and all evidence of the mistake will be gone. Apart from this confession, that is.

    From nowhere, Stokes produces a beauty of a short ball that flies thinly off the shoulder of the bat, too fast for the slips to react and down to the boundary for four. And then another, that pitches on leg and swings a long way past off. Lovely bowling.

    99th over: New Zealand 403-4 (Anderson 0, Williamson 112) McCullum likes the look of Wood and tries to clear the straight boundary off a full length delivery. He doesn’t get hold of it entirely, and they run two, but the captain goes next ball! That’s a hell of a tasty first Test wicket for Wood to get. Corey Anderson enters the fray. Williamson is on strike and the very next ball is full, straight and hits him on the pads, but Williamson just about gets away with it. England lose a review, and rightly so, because that wasn’t a howler – it was a marginal decision.

    Ooh that’s close. It was nipping back in and it’s “umpire’s call” by mere millimetres.

    It’s full and straight and hits Williamson on the pads first ball. Given not out, but we’re going to review. It might have been sliding down leg.

    That’s the big one! McCullum tries to go over square leg, but the ball is far too full. He gets a big thick leading edge, way up in the air to third man, and Root comes around to take the catch just inside the rope!

    98th over: New Zealand 400-3 (McCullum 40, Williamson 111) A leg bye to Williamson means that New Zealand take the lead. Stokes then gives McCullum a medium pace half volley and the outcome is predictable: the ball is deposited by the charging batsman over midwicket for six. There’s an appeal next ball, as it loops up and is taken at gully, but the ball came off the pad. Short again from Stokes and McCullum continues his Game of Thrones audition, hammering it hard and down to fine leg on the hook for four. That’s the 400 up in sparkling quick time.

    “Dan, 18 of those 57 extras are byes. How can you say that Butler has kept well in this test match?” asks someone who doesn’t sign their emails. It’s a very fair question, but I’d take Buttler’s inexperience, the Lord’s slope, the fact that the ball is swinging and the England bowlers’ loss of line as mitigation.

    97th over: New Zealand 389-3 (McCullum 30, Williamson 111) It’s seriously dark out there now. As will Alastair Cook’s mood be, as McCullum fences at one, away from the body and it takes a genuine edge off the toe end, flies at catchable height wide of third slip and gives him four runs to third man. Four more to backward point too, as Wood floats down a wide on and McCullum smacks it to the backward point boundary. That’s the scores level.

    96th over: New Zealand 380-3 (McCullum 22, Williamson 110) Broad comes off, Stokes replacing him. Yet more runs to the extras tally, as he strays on to leg stump, it clips McCullum’s pad and goes down to long leg for four more leg byes. We’re seven shy of the record number of extras in a Test innings at Lord’s. And, as Simon Burnton spots, three more leg byes would take them to the most in any Test innings ever.

    Our good friends from the OBOccasionals have been in touch. Here’s Joe Neate:

    95th over: New Zealand 374-3 (McCullum 20, Williamson 110) Williamson hits the ground with his bat in frustration after only bottom edging a wide one. The bounce is getting more and more unreliable here. There are also dark storm clouds making their way towards Kings Cross, just three miles away, so batting isn’t likely to get any easier. Four byes as Wood swings one a long way down leg. His line is pretty all over the place, I’m sad to say – Williamson has a big play and miss at one wide outside off, but gets nowhere near it.

    Ironic applause from some canny members of the crowd as that man Extras gets to his half century #53notout #ENGvNZ

    94th over: New Zealand 370-3 (McCullum 20, Williamson 110) I see people are calling this a cat and mouse contest, but it isn’t is it? I mean, the mouse is never going to rip the cat to pieces, whereas here, Broad could run through the batting lineup or McCullum could demolish England’s attack. It’s fascinating, but it’s a crap analogy. A wide as Broad finds extravagant bounce and Buttler makes an excellent take, leaping high and grabbing it one-handed. He’s kept very well in this match. Four runs follow as Broad goes short again and McCullum punches hard, past cover, to the rope. Oh and then a beauty that jags back in sharply and smacks into McCullum’s hip. And then a massive swing and a miss at one down the leg side. More width, another big swish and it flies down to third man in no time at all for four more.

    93rd over: New Zealand 359-3 (McCullum 11, Williamson 109) Is this a drop? Wood gets one to go low between bat and pad, and Buttler doesn’t gather cleanly. There’s a noise, but no one else on earth seems to have reacted so it might well have been Williamson’s bat on ground. Wood is full and, when Williamson pushes to Anderson at mid on, the batsman is a touch lackadaisical coming through for the run – he’s a gonner if Anderson hits with his throw, but Anderson doesn’t do that. Ah well. McCullum works a single to fine leg and the deficit is down to 30.

    92nd over: New Zealand 357-3 (McCullum 10, Williamson 108) Chance! McCullum backs away, Broad follows him with a short one and finds the shoulder of the bat. It loops up, but it’s wide of the slips and short of backward point. They could do with moving him up to gully, I reckon, because McCullum is going to go hard at the ball. A half volley gets flicked away to mid on for a well-run two. After McCullum takes another single, Broad goes up for a big LBW appeal against Williamson. Alone. “Er, no” says David Gower, wonderfully indignantly. It was far too high I reckon and they’re not wasting a review on that. A single behind square on the off side finishes the over.

    @DanLucas86 it's not just a drinks break it's some sort of sponsor's drink break. Rather corporate these days is the cricket.

    91st over: New Zealand 353-3 (McCullum 7, Williamson 107) A change of bowling now, with Mark Wood coming into the attack. His first ball is a short, wide loosener that comes off the toe end of McCullum’s bat as he looks to cut and drops just short of Stokes at backward point. I’m scared for Wood. McCullum knocks the ball out to mid on for a single and Williamson lets the last two balls of the over go by.

    90th over: New Zealand 352-3 (McCullum 6, Williamson 107) Broad has bowled pretty well this morning. There have been questions, among fans anyway, about his place in the team. Personally I think he’s a good bowler and certainly shouldn’t be discarded. But, he bowls too much and probably doesn’t have Anderson’s superhuman stamina, so they might want to think about giving him a rest at some point given England’s schedule. I don’t think he should be playing ODIs, for one thing.

    Williamson looks to uppercut over the slips and misses the ball. The slips and Buttler go up for the edge, but even Broad isn’t interested. On Sky, they’re discussing the merits of sunglasses and Bumble questions why batsmen don’t wear them. Usman Afzaal did, didn’t he? Four more leg byes when Broad loses his line a touch, although I thought I heard bat on that. That’s drinks.

    Perfect platform for McCullum and Corey Anderson. Quite possible that this might be a seminal demoralization of this English team. #ENGvNZ

    89th over: New Zealand 348-3 (McCullum 6, Williamson 107) The lights are coming on already. My colleague Simon Burnton reckons it’s going to rain, but, that’s going on instinct alone. That said, Moeen Ali is looking up at the skies. Anyhow, this is a bit quiet, with Anderson just straying on to leg stump and Williamson clips him away for one. Ooh and then McCullum charges down the ground to an inswinger; it clips his pads and races down to long leg for four leg byes.

    88th over: New Zealand 343-3 (McCullum 6, Williamson 106) Broad to McCullum, what a fascinating contest. And it can last more than four overs in this format! Broad beats the edge with a ripper, before a very thick outside edge runs out to point and they take two. Broad comes back with the surprise inswinge and McCullum just closes the face of the bat at the last minute to defend it away to midwicket.

    87th over: New Zealand 341-3 (McCullum 4, Williamson 106) Anderson continues to find some swing, while Williamson continues to play watchfully. He’ll seize on anything loose, but this guy isn’t going to force the issue much of the time. Ooh and then a beauty from Anderson, full on off and swinging a long way through the air. It takes Watling’s edge, but again his hands are lovely and soft, so it falls well short of the slips.

    86th over: New Zealand 341-3 (McCullum 4, Williamson 106) On Sky, they make the point that not one delivery with the new ball would have gone on to hit the stumps. I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing, given how much these two like to drive and glance into the off side. As if to prove the point, Taylor goes for the big cover drive but connects with naught but St. John’s Wood air. He goes to a fine short ball from Broad, which brings McCullum to the crease. This is a good time to bowl to him, as he’s going to play his shots, although if England get it wrong that new ball could fly.


    Short from Broad and down the leg side. Taylor goes back and tries to defend, but it takes the inside edge. Buttler flings himself to his left and takes a magnificent one-handed catch.

    85th over: New Zealand 337-2 (Taylor 62, Williamson 106) Wides, five of them, as Anderson finds a surprising amount of bounce and sends a very short one very high, a good couple of feet over Taylor, over Buttler and down to the fence. Better, as Andy Townsend would put it, next up though as he swings one away from Taylor, who flashes at it outside off. Ooh and then another one that jags back in and passes the edge again. After that talk earlier of New Zealand’s positive approach, this has been fine new ball bowling. Taylor nurdles to square leg for the first run off the bat in three overs. Ah and then Williamson just pushes his bat out and guides it down to the vacant third man region for four.

    84th over: New Zealand 327-2 (Taylor 61, Williamson 102) This is nicer from Broad, a couple of absolute jaffers that go past Williamson’s outside edge, not that the batsman was really looking to play at them. The first moved in and wasn’t too far away from off stump, and the next nipped away. I don’t think Cook has a third man in for Williamson, which is odd given his predilection for scoring there. Now Williamson does play and miss, looking to cut one that keeps low outside off.

    83rd over: New Zealand 327-2 (Taylor 61, Williamson 102) Anderson tries a bit of short stuff, but there doesn’t appear to be a huge amount of pace left in the pitch. He has Taylor in a touch of trouble as the batsman defends on the back foot and the ball drops and rolls back towards the stumps. Taylor keeps it away though. Oh and then the last ball is fuller and really zips through as you’re more like to expect. Let’s call it two paced, this pitch.

    82nd over: New Zealand 327-2 (Taylor 61, Williamson 102) As you might have suspected, it’s Broad from the Nursery End. He has Adam Lyth at short leg; it’s odd to me that the new man always gets stuck there. Lyth is a fine, fine slip fielder while there are few better at short leg in world cricket than Ian Bell. He’s finding a touch of swing down the slope, but his line is too wide to tempt Taylor. Oh and then he overcorrects and Taylor gets a thick, possibly deliberate inside edge that turns it round to fine leg for four. The next ball is knocked out to Anderson at midwicket and they scamper through for a sharp single. This is an excellent start from Taylor, putting the pressure on the bowlers.

    81st over: New Zealand 322-2 (Taylor 56, Williamson 102) Thinking about it, it does make sense for Anderson to use up one over of the old ball for a loosener. The new ball takes effect straight away, the first ball full outside of,f speeding off the bat, through cover point and away for the first boundary of the day. Taylor is looking to score quickly off this, as he drops one into the off side and hustles through for a single. Williamson gets the strike and edges to slip, but he played it with such soft hands that it was never in danger of even coming close to carrying. England have three slips and a gully for Williamson, but Williamson still manages to find a gap between them, opening the face and getting two to backward point. New Zealand are eating up that deficit.

    “Hi Dan.” Hi, Phil Russell. “On the subject on unfathomably popular songs, what’s the deal with Mustang Sally? Teeth-grindingly irritating rhythm, nonsensical lyrics and yet turns up on every compilation album and kareoke night going. Effectively it says: ‘See. I have a car, and look at me, I’m going drive it around a bit. I’m great, me.’ Garbage. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.”

    80th over: New Zealand 315-2 (Taylor 51, Williamson 100) One last over with the old ball then I would imagine, given the cloud cover. These first three overs have been a bit of a miniature holding spell, you feel, before we get stuck into the real business. Taylor punches out to cover for a single and Williamson isn’t interested in doing anything but blocking the rest.

    “The problem you’re going to have with The Frog Song,” writes Chris Bourne, “is that he likes to pick on a member of the audience wearing a leather jacket and make them come on the stage to hop up and down to the music. I’d call the whole thing off if I were you.”

    79th over: New Zealand 314-2 (Taylor 50, Williamson 100) This is a slightly odd one: Jimmy Anderson is going to have a bowl two overs before the new over is due. Williamson runs his second ball down to the vacant third man region and, though it doesn’t have enough on it to reach the boundary, he’s quick enough between the wickets to get three runs and move to an excellent hundred. That brings Taylor on strike and he turns a short one down to fine leg to bring up his own half century.

    78th over: New Zealand 310-2 (Taylor 49, Williamson 97) Moeen Ali will get things underway for England, with the new ball available in three overs’ time. Williamson gets the first runs of the day from the first ball, pushing it out to extra cover for two. Lord’s is certainly a lot duller than it was on days’ one and two, so that new ball could well be nasty to deal with. Williamson cuts behind point for two more to move to within four of his hundred. On the telly, Shane Warne makes the point that Ali should have a, er, point in place. There is a man in the position, but he’s right on the boundary. A full toss gets knocked to mid on for a single, then Taylor drives the final ball down to third man for two more.

    @DanLucas86 I don't mind "Jude" nor "Road" nor even "Mull", but the hair. the hair...

    Here come the players...

    “Nothing wrong with going to the bar during ‘Hey Jude’,” writes Evelyn Williams. “I think the mistake would be in going to see Paul McCartney in the first place.” I actually prefer the Stones to the Beatles, but I’ve never seen McCartney. Also my friend brilliantly got tickets for £25.

    @DanLucas86 considered opinion is he ruins Hey Jude the second he starts shouting.

    @DanLucas86 mind you, surely everyone will head to the bar during The Frog Chorus, so Hey Jude is a good idea. Unless it is the encore.

    @guardian_sport @DanLucas86 lets hope its not a shambles again by @englandcricket,yesterday was very poor

    @DanLucas86 After a spectacular morning, clouds have rolled in across St John's Wood but it's warmer than yesterday and it might swing.

    Indeed, that did make choosing a jacket to wear today a tough choice this morning (I went with the leather one, sartorial experts). The forecast is for the clouds to get heavier throughout the day, then they might lighten up for the final session. The good news is that we’re not expecting any rain.

    So the cricket. From a neutral perspective, it would be lovely to see Kane Williamson be the first batsman in this Test to go on and make a monster of a score. The guy is an outstanding talent and a proper all-round batsman, capable of batting in any situation in any form of the game. There was THAT balls-of-steel shot in the World Cup, too, which instantly endeared him to every non-Australian around the globe. He’s going to break a fair few records, this kid.

    Before we get stuck into the cricket though, time for iconoclast’s corner. I’m off to see Paul McCartney tonight; is it wrong that I’m planning my trip to the bar during Hey Jude? I figured it’ll be a short queue as everyone will be busy sticking two thumbs up, plus I hate Hey Jude.

    Morning folks. Well this is all rather glorious, isn’t it? Obviously not if you’re an England fan, but, judging by the OBO correspondence so far, it seems a fair few of you are disengaged from the team. While this may be a sad state of affairs, it does at least give us leeway to revel in the excellent cricket that’s been on show so far.

    Continue reading...

  • Aston Villa hero Peter McParland still feeling blows of 1957 FA Cup final
    The 81-year-old was seen as both hero and villain when he collided with Manchester United’s Ray Wood before scoring twice in a 2-1 win, but is now set on a return to Wembley in the hope that Villa can repeat the victory of 58 years ago
    Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph send Villa through to the final

    Next Saturday morning Peter McParland will say goodbye to his wife Carol, leave home in Bournemouth and later in the day take his seat at Wembley Stadium. The man born 81 years ago in the granite town of Newry, County Down, will not be recognised by Arsenal supporters at the FA Cup final and only Aston Villa followers of a certain age can still recall the Northern Irishman’s exploits at the ground on a sunny day in May 1957.

    McParland can claim to be the greatest winger in Aston Villa’s history. He may now also be the grand old club’s greatest fan, and he is a living reminder of the days when the FA Cup, which many now consider an annoying distraction from the money-driven Premier League, was at the heart of people’s lives and the final the most important date on football’s calendar. The 1957 final between Aston Villa and Manchester United’s “Busby Babes” certainly shaped McParland’s life.

    Continue reading...

  • Drought-stricken California loses 50m gallons of water as vandals target dam
    • Police say vandals caused ‘irreversible damage’ to inflatable dam in Fremont
    • ‘This is a very significant loss of water under any circumstances’

    Related: California accepts historic offer by farmers to cut water usage by 25%

    An inflatable dam in drought-stricken California was damaged on Thursday, causing the loss of nearly 50,000,000 gallons (190m litres) of water.

    Continue reading...

  • 3,000 children enslaved in Britain after being trafficked from Vietnam
    Like many Vietnamese children, Hien was brought to Britain for a life of modern slavery. He ended up in prison on cannabis offences. We report on the gangs expanding across the UK and efforts to help their victims

    Hien was 10 when he arrived in Britain. He did not know where he was or where he had been. He knew only that he was here to work. Since he emerged from the back of a lorry after crossing from Calais seven years ago, his experience has been one of exploitation and misery. He has been a domestic slave, been trafficked into cannabis factories, been abused and beaten and was eventually prosecuted and sent to prison. It has been a life of terror, isolation and pain.

    Hien’s story is not unique. He is one of an estimated 3,000 Vietnamese children in forced labour in the UK, used for financial gain by criminal gangs running cannabis factories, nail bars, garment factories, brothels and private homes. Charged up to £25,000 for their passage to the UK, these children collectively owe their traffickers almost £75m.

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