random thoughts to oil the mind

Category: Sport Page 2 of 4

[:en]Good for the body, great for the soul.[:de]Die schwierigste Turnübung ist immer noch, sich selbst auf den Arm zu nehmen. – Werner Finck

Weak Six Nations

Three games in and this is looking to be one of the worse Six Nations competitions of recent years. Wales’ table position is rather flattering, and with France and Ireland yet to play the big games are still ahead for them. And once again Scotland will be vying for the wooden spoon with Italy. But all is not lost. England’s performances have provoked some of the finest examples of impartial commentating from the BBC, including this ‘special’ moment from Brian Moore.

Will Anyone Beat Australia?

Matthew Hayden

That might just be a taster of the final to come. And if it is, what a treat that will be! Australia met South Africa for dominance of Group A, both teams already through to the Super 8s round, with the points from this game carrying through to that stage of the competition.

Australia opened the batting and immediately made it clear they meant business, clearing 50 inside 5 overs. Matthew Hayden looked to be on stellar form as he scored the fastest century in World Cup Cricket, off just 66 balls, a dangerous omen for the other Super 8 sides. Despite immediately thereafter succumbing, for a total of 101, Hayden’s tally was bolstered by near centuries from Michael Clarke (92) and Ricky Ponting (91) as well as a sound 42 from opening partner Adam Gilchrist, for a total of 377 for 6.

An impressive total no doubt, but Australia have had a reputation of late for being unable to defend their targets. South Africa looked to be up for the challenge, with an impressive opening partnership between AB de Villiers and Graeme Smith for 160, stopped only by an extraordinary run out, thrown directly from the outfield. The run rate slowed visibly after de Villiers’ dismissal, and Smith eventually retired with cramp (albeit with a brief return to the field, only to be almost immediately caught behind in the later stages). Tait pulled an important haul for Australia to wrap some of the danger men, and put an end to any South African hopes of victory. But does anyone else wish he’d stop grunting?

If Hayden and co. can stay in the form they’re in, the latter stages of this competition can only go one way. South Africa are not out of it yet, of course, and both they and Australia will join the West Indies, Ireland, New Zealand, England, Sri Lanka and presumably Bangladesh for the Super 8s. A handy 2 points from this meeting will leave them in confident mood to face the hosts in Antigua next Tuesday.

Super 8s Stage Approaching

Cricket World Cup 2007With only a few more games to play in each of the four qualifying groups, the Super 8 stage of the Cricket World Cup is almost here. In some cases, positions are already decided, and New Zealand for example can already guarantee taking 2 points through to the next stage.

Having seen most of the teams of the tournament in action, it would appear to me that there is as yet no clear favourite. The Super 8s stage of the tournament requires each team to play all of the other qualifying teams, apart from the qualifier from their group (the result of this match is carried forward into the Super 8s stage). This means some of the important matches have already been played. Tomorrow South Africa and Australia will face each other in their final group games, having both been eased into the competition with perfunctory matches against the Netherlands and Scotland, a big game which might even be a preview of the final.

Nevertheless, even without this result I would wager that both of them will be in the top four of the Super 8s, probably to be joined by Sri Lanka, who have looked mighty in their opening games (the result against India pending), New Zealand, who qualified from their group with a clean sweep, or hosts the West Indies who currently face Ireland in their first Super 8 scoring game.

France Crowned Again on Six Nations Super Saturday—Probably!

Ireland denied once again on points difference from their first Six Nations championship, and on St Patrick’s Day to boot, as France took the challenge set by Ireland in their 8 try victory over the Azzurri. With the unlikely Italian victory out of the picture, the French set to work against Scotland in Paris, with a target of 24 points. Although England playing in Cardiff would have a mathematical chance to clinch the title, a championship victory for them would be an incredible feat. The title was France’s to lose, and Scotland’s to deny.

A dramatic start to the day in the Stadio Flaminio as Ireland looked to stretch a big point victory over Italy to put France in a difficult position later in the day. Italy started well, kicking penalties and a drop goal, and despite conceding two tries looked to be in a decent position at 12-13 until a controversial try to Ireland in the dying minutes of the half put them 12-20 ahead. The second half, however, was a one horse race, as Ireland put try after try past the Italian defence. The game opened up considerably as the scoreboard racked up a considerable points difference for Ireland, but a last minute decision to continue after the clock went red left Italy in a position to score a generously awarded second try to claw back 7 points before the final whistle. The final score of 24-51 left France needing a victory margin of 24 points to claim the trophy.

Knowing what they had to do in Paris, the Scots ignited the game with an early try to put France on the back foot. From there France fully attacked the game, looking to be half way to their tally by half time, when Sean Lamont took a quick penalty to sprint for the line and spoil French hopes. Leading 20-14 going into the second half, France got the bit between their teeth and forced a 25 point lead with over 15 minutes to go. First half hero Lamont was bizarrely sin binned for an infraction by his younger brother Rory, and all looked to be going France’s way using all the strength, speed and skill they could muster. Yet a late try from the unlikely arms of Euan Murray put the championship just beyond France’s reach. As the BBC commentator put it:

“He’s got a five yard run in, and like every good tight-head prop, he’s now got cramp!”

Patterson’s failed conversion left France needing a try to win. The clock went red, the French pushed for the line, pushing on, penalty after penalty. With the ball over the line, the referee went to the television referee asking for any reason not to award the try—and who other than an Irishman to be occupying that position! The try awarded. France triumphant. Ireland beaten on points difference for the second year running.

Although Wales will play host to England shortly, the required margin for England (victory by 57 points) to claim the championship essentially confirms France’s championship.

Latest from the West Indies

Herschelle Gibbs

In typical fashion, England underwhelmed in their first game of the tournament losing to a solid New Zealand performance. A major hiccough during their innings in which England lost 4 wickets for 5 runs left the Kiwis with an mediocre target of 210 to reach. Despite the new ball putting New Zealand in a precarious position on 19 for 3, an excellent partnership by Scott Styris and Jacob Oram saw them through to what was ultimately a tidy victory. The result puts New Zealand in a strong position to progress through the group, and leaves England needing results against both Canada and Kenya in their last two games.

In the second Group A game, the Netherlands were soundly crushed by a mighty South African performance, epitomised by Herschelle Gibbs’ record setting six 6s in an over, a feat never before achieved in international cricket. Despite rain forcing the match to be reduced to 40 overs apiece, South Africa posted an impressive 353 for 3, including the fastest half century, on top of Gibbs’ unique achievement. South Africa have to face Scotland before their big game in Group A against Australia, though by then both teams may have already qualified.

And in the second game from Group D, Ireland managed to ease past Zimbabwe, leaving them in a stronger position to take on group favourites Pakistan tomorrow, who will be looking for a victory following their first defeat at the hands of hosts, the West Indies.

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