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The Sunday Stroll: 21 Nov, 2010

November 21, 2010

Ahh the week that was…

Sebastian Vettel… F1 Drivers’ World Champion. Enough said really. Full credit to the chap… he’s been the fastest driver this year, with ten pole positions and joint most race wins to prove it. He might have erred in a Sato-esque ‘crash-happy’ menner occasionally (just ask Jenson Button or Mark Webber…), but he still emerged triumphant despite being cost several points and at least two wins through his Red Bull’s pretty shoddy reliability record (spark plug troubles in Bahrain, a loose wheel nut in Australia, brake issues in China and Monza, and an engine failure in Korea). Seb kindly delivered an emotional – but highly amusing – radio transmission shortly after being told of his championship winning success, which was about as coherent as a dolphin on crack…

The fall-out from David Haye’s demolition of Fraudley ‘one-shot’ Harrison continued this week. Many fans, pundits, and ex-pros were naturally dismayed at what turned out to be the entirely predictable farce we expected, but what really got their goat was The Hayemaker’s belatedly-retracted admission that he and his family had placed a fair few bob on him winning in the third round (see 10.28pm via link). Shock horror, he duly delivered. The Sun hired a lip-reading expert who claimed Haye told Harrison ‘get down’ and ‘now’ in the moments before dear ole Fraudley hit the deck, which Haye subsequently excused as nothing more than a spot of in-fight taunting. Either way, it was far from David Haye’s finest moment, and his actions will hardly have the Klitschko’s quaking in their boxing boots. Furthermore, the only real beneficiary of this farce was the loser, Fraudley, who might have lost his pride but pocketed a cool £3m for plonking himself / being plonked on his backside. Now that’s a nice retirement pot if you ask us…

On Wednesday evening, the ‘new’ England gave debuts to a bunch of kids (Jordan Henderson, Keiron Gibbs, Andy Carroll, et al.) for their encounter with the equally new-era orientated French side. Unsurprisingly perhaps, England were comprehensively out-played, with the French controlling the game and only allowing us a consolation goal towards the end. It was aptly summed up by the Guardian’s David Lacey,  suggesting it was ‘much like Arsenal catching Blackburn on a bad night.’ Capello’s arm might have been twisted by various injuries and withdrawals, but England were still miles off the pace. New era, Fabio? Same results…

At least FIFA seem able to get results. Having ‘provisionally suspended’ Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii after allegations that the pair would essentially accept a few dollars (by few we mean several) in return for their vote in the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups, the duo have been banned for three and one years respectively. SportingBlogs is always delighted to hear when the corrupt get their comeuppance… so well done FIFA.

This week we also heard that a couple of South African rugby players tested positive for the banned substance methylhexaneamine. Intriguingly, the South African’s have warned that their entire squad might well test positive too, given that they reckon the players might have accidentally [yeah, once again, athletes test positive and know nothing about it…] ingested the substance through the team’s energy drinks which have since been sent for analysis. As coach Peter de Villiers said, ‘We don’t want to put the players at risk. If there is something that we are taking as a squad that might have caused this then we must find that out now.’ It would be nothing short of remarkable should their energy drinks turn out to be responsible… but we cannot help but wonder if once again cheating individuals (this time with assistance) are attempting to concoct an elaborate ruse to escape punishment…

Down in the land of kangaroos and koalas, England cunningly sent their first choice bowling unit to Brisbane early in order to acclimatise for first test, rather than bowling in the final warm-up game against Australia A in Hobart, where the conditions ‘are very different [to] Brisbane and the ones we will be facing in the first Test,’ according to England coach Andy Flower. In Hobart, the tourists had a great first day, reducing the hosts to 66-5 before dismissing them for 230 (Chris Tremlett claimed 4-54, Ajmal Shahzad 3-57 and Tim Bresnan 2-65). The tourists dominated days two and three, racking up 523 after a majestic 192 from Ian Bell, which was built around contributions throughout the batting order, most notably from Alastair Cook (60), Ian Trott (41), and Paul Collingwood (89). There was still time at the end of the third day for Tim Bresnan to stake his claim to a place in the opening test XI as he reduced the hosts to 128-3 at the close. England wrapped up a comfortable 10-wicket victory on the final day, with Tremlett taking three early wickets (3-67) and Monty Panesar (3-63) removing centurion Cameron White (111), before Bresnan  (4-86) ended the innings on 301, allowing Strauss and Cook to successfully chase down a modest target of 11. Another win for the tourists; you would have to say they are looking in pretty good nick…

Meanwhile, Australia revealed a cunning plan to win back the Ashes – naming a massive seventeen (yes, 17) man squad for the first test. Whilst the altogether more boring reality is such that the size of this squad was largely injury enforced (and it has since been trimmed to a more respectable thirteen), it still amuses to consider the potential for this being a cunningly desperate ploy by the Aussies to deceive the English: pick that many players that England have no idea who they might face and consequently fail to prepare properly. Furthermore, maybe even sneak the odd extra batsman into their XI? Which would then become a XII, obviously. Given that the Barmy Army are rumoured to have a new chant along the lines of ‘are you England in disguise?’ perhaps they might need twelve after all…

Chris Gayle and his batting prowess once again wowed the watching masses after he racked up a remarkable 333 against Sri Lanka in Galle earlier this week. As reported by espncricinfo, the West Indian left-hander ‘etched his name in history when he became just the fourth batsman after Bradman, Lara and Sehwag to make two 300-plus scores in Tests.’ He might come across as too laid-back for some more purist-inclined cricket fans, but when Gayle is on-form there are few that are better. As Brett Lee no doubt remembers…

Fans of the two-wheeled motorsport MotoGP – in particular, Valentino Rossi – will be pleased to know that the Italian’s scheduled shoulder operation took place earlier on this week. The two hour procedure was to correct ‘cartilage and joint damage’ suffered in a motocross training accident earlier in the year, which many believe went on to jeopardise his 2010 title challenge more than the broken leg which caused a four-race absence. The procedure ‘went well, without any complications,’ which bodes well for his recovery, and as a consequence also bodes well for fans of the sport who have an intriguing 2011 season to look forward to.

This weekend has also seen the ATP World Finals Tour come to London. The big names of men’s tennis (Federer, Nadal, Murray, Djokovic, et al.) – after taking time out from visits of undoubted importance to Downing Street to meet British PM Davey C – will been mixing it up at the O2 arena, with home favourite Andy Murray drawn in a group alongside Roger Federer, Robin Soderling, and David Ferrer. The other group is comprised of Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych.

F1 gets a new tyre provider next year – Pirelli – and as a result have allowed the teams a couple of days of testing on the new rubbers. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa topped the timings on day one, somehow managing to go faster on these untested tyres than he had managed in qualifying for the actual race. Massa’s views on the tyres: ‘On the hards, there were some difficulties over a long run while the softs worked well both on the very first lap and also after they had done a larger number of laps.’ Fascinating, Felipe. New drivers’ champ Seb Vettel – who was second fastest to Massa on day one – was equally loquacious when it came to his appraisal of the new rubber: ‘the tyres behaved well, better than expected.’ Aaanyway that’s hardly the first time Vettel has been short on coherent sentences [see top]. On the final day Alonso topped the timings, although he was a couple of tenths off Massa’s best time. Michael Schumacher also impressed in his Mercedes… about time, you’d have to say.

And finally, although the F1 season might be over, here is a gem of a video from the Abu Dhabi weekend where Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa had the pleasure of one very fast Ferrari-World rollercoaster. Alonso’s reaction to the acceleration is particularly amusing…

As always folks, thanks for reading…

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