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The Sunday Stroll: 13 Mar, 2011

March 13, 2011

‘How to Swing a Cricket Bat’, by Ross Taylor and Kevin O’Brien; ‘A Guide to Getting Lost whilst Rallying’, by some hapless chap; ‘How to Embarrass the French’, by Italian rugby (we loved this); and ‘How Not to Pass a Rugby Ball’, by Matt Giteau. It can only be this week’s Sunday Stroll

Well the Cricket World Cup has been in full-swing over the last few weeks, with most matches going according to plan – with the exception of England games, of course. After scraping a victory against minnows The Netherlands, earning a remarkable draw against pre-tournament favourites India, and getting beaten by a Kevin O’Brien-inspired Ireland (another minnow of the game), they pulled off an astonishing six-run victory over big-guns South Africa before losing to Bangladesh on Friday – this being the same Bangladesh team that had been bowled out for 58 by the West Indies earlier in the tournament. Consequently, England’s progress rests heavily on beating the West Indies and hoping results elsewhere go their way. Given the their tournament so far, it would seem churlish to rule out any eventuality; exit in the group stage or eventual winners… who knows! In the meantime, here are the best bits from Kevin O’Brien’s record-breaking knock last week…

And whilst on the subject of Bangladesh, here’s a video clip where the title really does say it all…

Elsewhere in the tournament, New Zealand’s Ross Taylor caught the eye with a scintilling knock against Pakistan earlier this week. He scored 131 off 124 balls (with eight fours and seven sixes), although it was in the final six overs where New Zealand plundered 114 runs that he really came alive, taking 28 off one Shoaib Akhtar over and 30 off another from Abdul Razzaq; check out the video below for the best bits. The knock was also memorable (for all the wrong reasons) for Pakistan ’keeper Kamran Akmal, who stirred suspicions in some circles as he dropped Taylor on nought and put in yet another hapless display. On the back of last summer’s spot-fixing debacle (and subsequent guilty verdicts and bans) it is almost inevitable some folk are a smidge suspicious of such a bafflingly-inept performance. As they say, however, innocent until proven guilty; maybe Kamran really is just an abjectly untalented cricketer??? Regardless, here are Taylor’s tremendous six-hitting endeavours…

Over in the much-loved world of football, the big game this week was Barcelona-Arsenal, with the Catalan giants coming out on top (highlights below), in no thanks part to a rather harsh red card for Arsenal’s Robin van Persie. Undoubtedly Barça had been the better side – the fact that Arsenal’s only meaningful attempt on target was Sergio Busquets’ own-goal tells its own story – but that does not excuse what many agree was a poor piece of officiating. Arsenal were ahead in the tie at the time and might well have gone on to complete a fine defensive performance and knock Barcelona out; the better footballing team doesn’t always have to win. After all, just ask Jose Mourinho who ‘parked his Internazionale airbus’ at the Nou Camp last season as Inter progressed to the final at Barça’s expense.

Elsewhere in the myriadic realms of soccerdom, ref Peter Walton bagged a laugh from both sets of supporters whilst officiating the Everton-Birmingham encounter midweek when he was forced to raise an imaginary yellow card to Brum’s Jordon Mutch having left his cards in the changing room. Given that most opposing fans only ever agree on how poor the referee was, perhaps Mr Walton should be commended for uniting both sets of supporters in this instance…

Meanwhile, one ref who seemed to hack off both sets of players was David Spain, who sent off Havant & Waterlooville player-manager Ashley Vickers for taking out a mankini-clad pitch-invader during their match against Dorchester. Afterwards, a bemused Vickers commented, ‘A guy ran on to the pitch without any of the stewards getting near him and I thought I was doing them a favour. The funny thing was the stewards actually thanked me for it, but the ref decided to send me off and it beggars belief.’ Such was the surprise at the decision of those present that the opposing Chairman even offered to take off one of his players to even things up. Remarkable really…

Mind you, at least the ref didn’t miss a handball as blatant as this one:

On a more positive note, here is a cracking free-kick routine we came across earlier this week…

Into rallying now, and whilst Robert Kubica makes steady progress in his recovery from injuries sustained whilst rallying last month, a more light-hearted moment from the sport emerged with this rally driver forgetting his co-driver after his man with the pace-notes had kindly helped him out of a ditch…

Things could be worse however; and they certainly appear to be so for McLaren Mercedes with their 2011 looking a fair bit off the pace of perceived front-runners Ferrari and Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton bluntly stated, ‘Do I believe I have a car to win the world championship at the moment? I don’t. No,’ whilst team-mate Jenson Button added, ‘it’s been a tough winter and we haven’t done the mileage that we’d have liked and we haven’t been able to get the performance out of this car that we expect to.’ Not looking so great then. Two weeks to go until the (delayed) season-opener at Albert Park in Melbourne, and for those interested, here is a quick highlights clip from the Valencia test…

Time to head across the Atlantic and broaden your horizons – here are the NBA’s top ten plays of the week…

And switching US sports codes, here’s a jolly good example of why you’ve got to be mad to play ice hockey. Shocking and deplorable challenge admittedly, but a real man’s game nonetheless…

And lastly into rugby union, and the big story this weekend was Italy’s remarkable 22-21 defeat of last year’s Grand Slam winners France in Rome on Saturday. It was their first Six Nations triumph over the French, and having suffered several spankings at the hands of Les Bleus in previous seasons, the deserved victory will have been doubly sweet. Witnessing ex-player and current Italy coach Nick Mallet wiping away a tear or two at the match’s conclusion was truly a sight to behold. Well done to the Azzurri!… they’ll be dancing on the streets of, well, Rome tonight…

Away from European shores, Danny Cipriani’s Super 15 career seems to be on the up, following a decidedly inauspicious start, with this belting 60-metre score (see below) for his Melbourne Rebels outfit against the Natal Sharks. Although his team went on to record a narrow defeat, Cipriani is starting to show glimpses of the mercurial talent we all thought he would turn out to be when he first burst on to the rugby scene. Being in the news for rugby-related reasons for once is a undoubtedly an improvement for the English youngster…

And we leave you with Matt Giteau’s “heroics” from the other week; brilliant vision for this pass, although his team-mate might disagree somewhat… [incidentally, Giteau has just announced that he will join Jonny Wilkinson at French club Toulon after the World Cup this autumn…]

As ever folks, thanks for reading. All the best, SB

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