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Archive for July 2006

England overwhelm Pakistan

England overwhelmed Pakistan in the second test at Old Trafford when they beat Pakistan by an innings and 120 runs. Suddenly England has a new hero in Monty Panesar who took a total of eights wickets in this test and most importantly the key ones especially in the second innings where he took the wickets of Imran Farhat, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq.

The scorecard looks very interesting with all Pakistan's wickets being taken by just two English bowlers, Panesar and Steve Harmison. It was a much improved England performance but having said that it was always going to be difficult for Pakistan to come up with anything once they scored only 119 in their first innings and then fail to bowl out England.

All in all Pakistan didn't perform at all and its interesting to see what happens in the third test, hopefully Pakistan will re-group and provide a better contest.

Another Sri Lanka world record

Sri Lanka set a new world partnership record when captain Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara partnered to get 624 runs in Colombo in the first test against South Africa. Sri Lanka's rich vein of form has continued since the last test series it played against England last month.

In the process Mahela Jayawardene set a new Sri Lanka batting record and also the third highest indvidual score of 374 runs and its fitting for a batsman who has been around for the last nine years. Sangakkara's 287 eclipsed his previous highest score of 270.

This world record comes hot on the heels of another record which Sri Lanka posted against the Netherlands in Amstelveen when they reached 443 runs early this month. This was the highest one day total and interestingly that time they were beating a record set earlier by South Africa of 438 runs.

Let's hope that Sri Lanka goes on to win this first test.

Too many zeroes spoil the till

Zimbabwe's record runaway inflation of more than 1000% has resulted in the number of zeroes in transactions increasing all the time such that according to The Financial Gazette article its causing problems to computer systems that were not designed to handle such big numbers.

You can imagine a store till that was purchased five years ago and handling bread at say Z$195 in 2002 now being asked four years later to handle the same bread but at a staggering Z$200,000. This is just bread but what about things like lounge suites, let alone cars and houses. Those in Zimbabwe could update me on how much some of these things now cost but whatever they cost now the bottom line is the number of zeroes has increased.

The interesting part are the proposed solutions to all this. What I found most intriguing is the concept of the kilo dollar. The kilo dollar according to a Sunday Mirror article would be worth Z$1000. I think all these ideas are just short term ones because this looks like an economy that needs a long term fix.

Stability at Villa Park essential

As a Baggies fan you would wonder why I would be concerned by the goings-on at Villa Park but the truth is that I am a bit concerned. Itís not for Aston Villa per se but for football in the Midlands. Aston Villa are going into the new premiership season as prime relegation candidates unless something dramatic happens to change that view.

At the moment Aston Villa is the only midlands club left in the premiership and should they go down and if none of West Brom, Blues, Leicester, Derby, Wolves, Coventry get promoted then there would no midlands club left in the premiership next season and this is what concerns me. Its good for the Midlands to have at least one club in the premiership and for many years that club has been Villa. Not so long ago there was Derby, Coventry and Leicester all in the top flight but this has since changed.

I can only imagine what problems led to David O'Leary's resignation but whether Doug Ellis sells the club or not at the end of the day most fans would expect a competitive Villa team. I hope they are going to retain captain Gareth Barry because he is an important player for Villa and then bring in some new players but the real truth is that time is slowly running out and the ship has to be steadied and now.

Personally I think getting Martin O'Neill would be a real coup for Villa because he is a proven coach who can sustain a team in the premiership. But for now I can wait and see.

World Cup coaches continue to tumble

It's now nearly two weeks after the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany ended but the coaches continue to tumble as a result of what happened there and Brazil's Carlos Alberto Parreira is the latest to go. It seems like a long time ago now when Jose Pekerman, the Argentina coach offered to resign after the quarter final loss to Germany but since then a lot more coaches have left their posts. Of the 32 coaches that went to the World Cup, at least fifteen of them are no longer in their positions if my counting is right.

Some coaches decided to leave 'on a high' like Germany's Jurgen Klinsmann and Italy's Marcello Lippi while others whose World Cup was a nightmare like Croatia's Zlatko Kranjcar and Poland's Pawel Janas maybe had to go because of results. I should mention that other coaches had already decided they were leaving their posts before the tournament started like England's Sven Goran Eriksson and Japan's Zico and our own Guus Hiddink.

What I have found particularly interesting is the variation in the speed with which replacement coaches are appointed. For European teams this has to be done quickly especially with qualification for Euro 2008 starting in September and some friendlies lined up before that. Take for example Italy's appointment of their new coach Roberto Donadoni. The previous coach Marcelo Lippi stepped down on a Wednesday and Donadoni was appointed on Thursday. That was a one day turnaround. The other appointments have been quick like Wim Rijsbergen for Trinidad and Tobago and Joachim Loew for Germany because these two were previously assistants to Leo Beenhakker and Klinsmann respectively.

Compare this to the time it took England, for example, to appoint Steve McLaren. Looking at it now this should have taken the shortest time since McLaren was already working under Sven.

Which begs the question as to why it takes so long for some football associations and yet its so quick for others. I think there are a number of factors including whether the replacement is already employed somewhere or not. Australia is also looking at appointing a coach to take the Socceroos forward after their exploits in Germany. I would expect this to take some time because Australia's situation is a bit unique with most players based overseas but also a good number in the local A-League. The coach could be based in Europe like Hiddink was or could be based here in Australia. The US have to replace Bruce Arena as well and they also face the same situation with a number of players in the domestic MLS and others based abroad mostly in Europe.

Talking about the new England coaching setup, this rumour of Terry Venables assisting Steve McLaren, shouldn't this be the other way round?

England settles for a draw

England settled for a draw in the first Test at Lord's against Pakistan. It was a better England performance compared to the last Test against Sri Lanka and in the end captain Andrew Strauss made sure that his declaration could only lead to a draw at worst or a win at best in favour of England.

I think for this Test the decisive day was the first one when Pakistan dropped Paul Collingwood and Alastair Cook. Its one thing to drop a catch and then the batsman gets under fifty runs and another when you drop a catch and then the batsman goes on and gets 186 runs.

Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf also kept them in the match with his 202 runs in the first innings and Pakistan could argue that they had a good chance to win had the declaration been set earlier.

Hopefully Andrew Flintoff will be back for the second Test and we will begin to see the kind of England team that is going to tour here for the Ashes this coming summer and this is the main reason I will once again be following the second Test match at Old Trafford.

Live coverage with new media laws

I was just wondering what was there for me in the proposed changes to the Australia media ownership laws announced last week by the Federal Communications Minister Helen Coonan until I read this article in The Age. I like that idea that free-to-air networks that buy rights to sporting events will be forced to televise them or possibly lose those rights possibly to pay TV. That would be very good and that could mean that we will be able to watch most of Wimbledon live, especially in the second week and also for a change watch Formula 1 live.

Currently Channel 9 has got the rights to Wimbledon although Foxtel also shows some games live especially in the first week. This year in the second week of Wimbledon we missed some live matches that started at 9 pm local time because Channel 9's coverage was going to start around 11 pm. Compare this to the French Open where Foxtel have got the exclusive rights live coverage commences the moment play starts at Roland Garros.

Another sport whose rights are with a free-to-air network but is not shown live is Formula 1. Channel 10 has got the rights to F1 and its hardly broadcast live save for the Australian Grand Prix. Interestingly, pre-race coverage sometimes starts at around 1030pm for European races and this is normally 30 minutes into the actual race. Motor GP on the other hand is on Foxtel and this is always shown live.

These events could stay with free-to-air networks and as long as there is guaranteed live coverage there is no problem. Hopefully these new media laws will easily sort this out and get us viewers to get more live coverage of sporting events and stop the current practice where events are shown at a time most suitable to the television network. If a network has got no space for a sporting event then they won't have to buy the rights for the event or else they will be 'forced' to show it.

Italy wins on penalties

Italy won the 2006 FIFA World Cup on penalties and I think they deserved it on the strength of their performance throughout the tournament. I thought France did enough to win this World Cup in regulation time but they just couldn't break down Italy's defence well marshalled by their captain Fabio Cannavaro. France dominated the game especially from the second half onwards but they couldn't get that vital second goal and Italy depended on their illustrious defending and sporadic counter attacks and set-pieces to force the match into penalties.

The talking point in this World Cup final will however, be always about the sending off of Zidane in extra time. In Zinedine Zidane's last match before retiring from football that wasn't the best way to say farewell but he did enough in the final to show why he is regarded one of the best footballers ever. Before the sending off I reckon the major talking points would have been the foul that led to France's penalty and Italy's disallowed second half goal.

Its unfortunate that David Trezeguet is the one who missed a penalty for France because when more that one player misses it doesn't look that bad. Trezeguet's penalty was so similar to the one Zidane scored in normal play but the difference is that his didn't cross the line. For Italy it was fitting that Fabio Grosso scored the winning penalty. He has been a revelation for Italy and has had a very good tournament. For me Grosso and Germany's Philip Lahm were the best left backs in the tournament.

From the way Italy played after their equaliser and more so in the second half I could tell that these guys were not so concerned by penalties the way they were against Germany in the semis and when it came time to take them you could see that they had practised penalties very well and I think the whole team could have scored if that was needed.

So for a change Italy triumph on penalties in a World Cup.

Federer dismisses Nadal Challenge

Roger Federer won his fourth consecutive Wimbledon title early this morning after dismissing Rafael Nadal's challenge in four sets. In an error strewn match for Nadal, Federer once again showed why he has gone for 49 consecutive matches without a loss on grass and on this performance that number can only increase.

Nadal did very well to get to the final in the first place and not only that he is the only player who managed to take a set off Federer at the All England Club this year. I think he now no longer deserves the tag clay court specialist as such but has to be rightly seen as a good tennis player who at age 20 can only improve.

I won't be surprised to see Federer come again to win Wimbledon next year and get a fifth consecutive title but he will better take note of Nadal's improvement on the grass surface and it will only be a matter of time before Nadal wins Wimbledon going by his play this year.

It's also good to see that at least now there is somebody who can challenge Federer in the form of Nadal. It still remains to be seen how Nadal will fare at the US Open but from his Wimbledon exploits we can expect a good tournament from him.

Federer to battle it out with Nadal

Once again Roger Federer will meet Rafael Nadal in a Grand Slam final but this time it will be at Wimbledon and this promises to be an entertaining final. Federer is still to drop a set so far in this year's tournament and Nadal has dropped two and that was in one match in the second round against Robert Kendrick.

I still think Federer has the edge this time around but unlike the French Open final Nadal will go in this match with no record of his own to defend and against the favourite and that could work in his favour. Federer on the other hand will increase his winning streak on grass to 48 should he win and so he will be keen to extend his record.

Meanwhile Cara Black and Rennae Stubbs lost in their semi-final doubles match which means that Black will not be able to defend her doubles title.

Nadal faces Baghdatis test

I promised a friend of mine, Gwitso, that should Rafael Nadal make it to the semi-finals of Wimbledon I would surely create a tennis category on this blog and he has now. My assumption, proved wrong now, was that Nadal was a 'clay court specialist' and therefore he wouldn't make it into the second week of Wimbledon but from what I have seen so far he has played some brilliant tennis and now Marcos Baghdatis stands between him and the final. Whoever wins, it will possibly be a repeat of the one of the two grand slam finals played so far this year with both players having played Federer in the Australian and French Opens.

Baghdatis became the most popular Cypriot here in Melbourne when he reached the final of the Australia Open in January and now he is on the threshold of getting into the Wimbledon final. It should be a good match possibly lasting five sets but I think Nadal will cruise through.

In the other semi-final I expect Roger Federer to reach yet another Wimbledon final. Jonas Bjorkman has done well to reach this stage but I don't expect him to give Federer too much trouble.

From a Zimbabwean and Australian perspective, Cara Black and Rennae Stubbs will fight it out against the Chinese pairing of Zi Yan and Jie Zheng for a place in the Women's doubles final.

France meets Italy in World Cup Final

France edged past Portugal this morning to set up a date with Italy in the 2006 FIFA World Cup final. Portugal's lack of goals proved to be the decisive factor as France scored through a penalty and defended that goal to the end. On the other hand, Portugal whom I thought would be the winner, did everything right but score.

Portugal would have learnt that possession and corner kicks are good but if they don't produce goals then they are only good for post match analysis and very little after that. Having said that, the central defensive partnership of Lilian Thuram and William Gallas was superb and worked vey well and in the end it forced Portugal to resort to long range shots which caused France no problems at all.

I think that in a way this match was rather subsued because ten players went on the pitch knowing that another yellow card would rule them out of the final. For France this included Zidane and Vieira but in the end Louis Saha is the only one who is going to miss out and I think he will look at his first yellow card against Brazil and wish he had been more thoughtful then.

Turning now to the incident that led to the penalty: Was it a dive? I will leave it for others to answer but what I can say is that if it was then its unfortunate because Thiery Henry always says that he never dives but if it wasn't then then the referee did a very good job in spotting the foul.

Looking forward to the final, it will be 4am local time here in Melbourne which is good in the sense that we can watch the whole match including extra time if there is any and still have ample time to start preparing for work and other daily activities. I don't forsee it as being a classic final but one that will be dominated by defence and attack on the counter but you never know.

In my opinion, the USA game aside, Italy have played very well in this tournament and if I were to choose a winner I would choose them. France on the other hand have to come to life in the knockout stages where they are still to concede a goal in open play and rightly deserve to be in the final. A win for France will be a good send off for Zidane.

Italy stops Germany run

Germany's splendid run came to an end this morning against a well-organised Italian team that I think in the end deserved to win in the way they took the game to the Germans especially in extra time. Just like against the Socceroos the Italian won the match in the dying minutes of the game only this time there was no controversy because both goals were excellent especially Fabio Grosso's one.

Following on from the last World Cup the hosts fell in the semis and ironically it was Germany who knocked out the hosts South Korea last time around and now they will have to fight for third place which is not bad for a team that was never expected to reach the semis and whose coach was dismissed as inexperienced. I donít know whether Germany was holding on for penalties in the latter stages of the game because had the match gone on to penalties I think Germany would have won it.

Italy now go to the final knowing that so far no opposition player has scored against them. Italy last conceded a goal that was an own goal by Cristian Zaccardo in the 27th minute against USA in their second group E match. That sounds like a long time ago now. Whoever they meet in the final must therefore be aware of this good defensive record.

I just want to mention the refereeing. This time I think the referee Benito Archundia was too lenient to both teams. A lot of fouls that would have earned a free kick at least or a yellow card at worst in previous rounds were waved play on. If you look at the fouls and yellow cards given to Tunisia in the Tunisia/Spain match and to Australia in the Australia/Brazil match, you can't just ignore the sense of injustice to both teams or maybe I am wrong in my assessment. Any thoughts?

Looking ahead to the other semi, I am still going for Portugal but it wont be easy and possibly depends on whether Zidane clicks again.

England, Brazil bundled out

I didn't think both England and Brazil were going to bow out in the manner they did but the fact of the matter is England and Brazil were bundled out of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany this morning.

I think England put on their best performance in the tournament but once again came short in the exciting penalty shoot-out. But I think there were always questions about England the moment Sven-Goran Eriksson decided to take inexperienced Theo Walcott at the expense of Bent and Defoe. Before being sent off Wayne Rooney didn't have the best of games but it wasn't because he is not good, it was just because he was performing an unfamiliar role of lone striker and also very few balls were coming his way and hence the frustration.

Had say Defoe been in the team, Sven might have used two strikers instead of one with Rooney playing behind Defoe. I think one striker was used because the combination of Crouch and Rooney doesn't seem to work. So the question is: Why did Walcott go the World Cup in the first place?

Talking about Brazil, there was a marked difference between the Brazil that played in the 2005 Confederation Cup and the Brazil that was in Germany this time. Were they overconfident going into the tournament? Whatever the answer to that France picked up from where they left against Spain and the Brazilians could not find their rhythm and for France the next stop is Portugal.

With Deco and Costinha back for Portugal it looks like it will be an exciting and evenly poised encounter but I will go for Portugal.

Germany march continues

I should say I was disappointed with Argentina who bowed out of the World Cup this morning after the penalty shoot-out against Germany. Argentina dominated the first half although creating very little in terms of chances but once they scored I thought they just lost control a little bit and this was partly because Germany was coming back into the game in search of an equaliser.

In my opinion Argentina got it wrong with the substitutions. Yes, it was unfortunate that Abbondanzieri got injured because that threw away Argentina's game plan out through the window and they were now limited to two on-field substitutions but taking off Riquelme I think was a mistake because then the game was not won. Also when Jose Pekerman, the Argentian coach took off Crespo, he should have put in Messi or Saviola instead to put pressure on Germany. Riquelme's absence was acutely felt in extra time where Argentina just played like another ordinary side.

On the other hand Germany substitutions were quite good especially David Odonkor who really made Sorin work hard in the second half and Sorin's overlaps from then on were limited.

Once again Germany prevailed in a penalty shoot out and you couldn't bet against them especially with Jens Lehmann being so good at penalties. Now Germany meet Italy who I thought played quite well.The match could have been different had Ukraine converted their two chances just before Luka Toni scored his first goal. Also credit to Italy, they did not try to defend the one goal advantage and in the end scored three.

Italy-Germany will be an intriguing match and I am can see Germany in the final again for the second World Cup running.