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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.

Cricket World Cup 2007 Gets Underway

Glenn McGrath

The World Cup is truly underway now in the West Indies, with the hosts hopefully recovered from their opening win against Pakistan. Yesterday the defending champions Australia took on minnows Scotland in a one-sided game which showed a return to form for Ricky Ponting’s side, whilst later the 2003 semi-finalists Kenya took on Canada.

The Scots played admirably against their determined opponents, although a few fielding errors cost them the initiative in the opening stages, and they were unable to do anything against Australia’s last gasp efforts in the dying overs to bring their tally to 334 for 6. Australia then proceeded to show how it’s done, punishing a jittery Scotland in the early stages of their innings, Glenn McGrath showing why he’s the best in the business at World Cup level, taking 3 for 14. The Scots can certainly feel proud about their performance, and Majid Haq looks to be a promising all-rounder for the side, despite his unnecessary run out in the early stages.

Whether Australia are back to form after their recent spate of losses is hard to tell, and it won’t be until they play South Africa on the 24th of March that we’ll see them really tested. Kenya put in a solid performance to push past Canada by 7 wickets, with several overs spare after Canada set the modest target of 199. One wonders whether the West Indies should feel too confident having only set a target of 241 in their opener against Pakistan.

France Flooded, Ireland Crowned, Italy Arrive, Wales Go Back to School

Wales v Italy

Another busy weekend for the Rugby Six Nations which saw Ireland win the Triple Crown for the third time in four years after beating Scotland 19-18 in a stiffly fought match which left Ireland’s points scorer Ronan O’Gara breathless. Some tremendous tackles from the likes of Sean Lamont prevented the scoreline really opening up, and a few flare ups on the pitch illustrated the tension between the teams. A flat Irish performance kept their championship hopes alive, whilst Scotland’s comeback after such a downheartening result against Italy a fortnight ago illustrates the importance of Chris Paterson to the side (statistically the best kicker in the world at the moment).

Later in the day, Italy pulled out a well deserved 23 – 20 victory over Wales to beat their previous record in the Six Nations championship. With ten seconds left on the clock, Wales forewent a penalty to tie the game in order to push for a win by kicking to touch. Perhaps time they included some rudimentary arithmetic with the training. Disappointing for the Wales team, but an important step forward for Italy in the Six Nations championship.

And in a strange game a Twickenham, the championship was really carved open as England edged out a lacklustre France with a nervous start to a game plagued with basic errors from both sides. The result leaves France in top spot on points difference, but denies them a Grand Slam victory, and opens the championship up to four potential victors—France, Ireland, England or Italy, the first three in charge of their own championship hopes. All will be decided on St. Patrick’s Day—perhaps it will finally be Ireland’s year!

AC Milan to Play in Champions League

As everyone is no doubt aware, the investigation into match fixing allegations in Italy’s Serie A led to the punishment of the top four clubs, Juventus, Fiorentina, Lazio and AC Milan, with the league title being given instead to Inter Milan. The punishments for the clubs varied, from Juventus’ severe reprimand of 2 previous league titles, demotion to Serie B and a 30-point deduction in the upcoming season, to AC Milan’s 15-point penalty and ban from the UEFA Champions’ League. However, following the various clubs’ appeals, some reduction in penalties have been awarded, with AC Milan not only having their penalty slashed to 8 points, but also being reinstated in the Champions’ League. If the BBC are watching closely, in line with their generous resurrection of previous cult classics a la Doctor Who, perhaps they should consider a resurrection of another famous ’70s Saturday evening show: Silvio’ll Fix It?

Italy Triumph: But Something Ails Our Beautiful Game

The Italian team celebrate victory

So Italy have taken the title for a fourth time, bringing their tally to four, edging them out as the best in Europe, and ending what should be acknowledged as one of the worst tournaments in recent memory. For the second time in its history, the final was settled on a penalty shoot-out, the feeling of the fans towards the end soured by a red card for Zinedine Zidane for headbutting Marco Materazzi.

There can be little doubt that the tournament was marred by some dire games, poor refereeing decisions, strange FIFA interference, and a generally lack-lustre performance from many of the teams, particularly towards the end of the tournament. Can any blame be apportioned for this? Or was it simply the luck of the draw that this tournament was destined to be poor viewing for the spectators? Of course, credit should be apportioned where it is due, and both the hosts and the fans did an excellent job in ensuring the tournament was shrouded in a carnival atmosphere, and the focus for the media could be left to the football.

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