I was going to write all about the sport I went to see a week and a half ago, before I came down with a rather nasty bout of the 'flu. But then England cricketer Steve Harmison destroyed the West Indies - so something about that first.
Windies Can't Get Out Of Harm's Way
The West Indian cricket team were beaten by England in the first test match of a four match series at Sabina Park, Jamaica, last weekend. The five-day game was over by lunch on day four thanks, in no small part, to Steve Harmison
Harmison's truly ludicrous figures of 7-12 1 were the best figures the Durham bowler had managed at any level of cricket and the best figures ever at a ground which used to regularly play host to such legendary West Indian fast bowlers as Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner and Wes HAll.
England had managed a first innings lead of less than thirty, but knocked off their victory target inside three overs, the target being 20. At one point during the Windies' second innings, England captain Michael Vaughan put eight of his players in the slip cordon2. This meant nine players in a row, behind the bat, one bowling, and the other was either positioned at short third man (another behind the beat position) or short leg (very close top the batsman). This roughed up the West Indian tail enders, meaning the slightest edge would almost certainly offer a chance - this tactic was the most absurdly attacking fielding strategy ever. The only team who've tried anything similar at international level were Australia
How refreshing to have bold captaincy and ruthless fast bowling from men wearing England caps. Michael Vaughan and Steve Harmison, take a bow. And let's not forget Simon Jomes and Matthew Hoggard, the other two prongs of England's pace barrage. The future's bright.
Ice, Ice, Baby
On Saturday the 6th of March I attended my first ever Ice Hockey game. This was the playoffs of the Findus British National league 3 between the Newcastle Vipers and Dundee Stars. The game was exciting, as ice hockey tends to be and attracted a decent crowd of a couple of thousand to the Newcastle Metro Radio Arena4. It's a very enjoyable game to watch with none of the spells of 'nothing much happening' you get in most traditionally British Sports.
Newcastle won the game, the first in the league stage of the playoff - 4-3 by the way - and, during the intervals, we were entertained by games between the Whitley Bay and Sunderland Under-10 teams who were clearly enjoying themselves. Ice hockey can erupt into astonishing violence, but this game was one I thoroughly enjoyed and I plan to go again sometime.
SUNDERLAND FOR EUROPE! (please)
The day after that ice hockey game, I paid a visit to my local fotball stadium, the Stadium of Light5, which is, of course, named after Lisbon's Estadio da Luz6. The game in question was the quarter-final of the FA Cup between Sunderland and visitors Sheffield United.
In the first half, United failed to demonstrate why they're in such a high league position, and Sunderland went in at half time 1-0 up thanks to an excellenet finish by Tommy Smith. In the second half it was the Blades who played well, while Sunderland looked shambolic in attack, althought the defence were pretty solid, with the exception of some heart-rending moments cause by Phill Babb's defending.
In the end though the Black Cats held on. They will face a semi-final against Millwall, with the winning team guaranteed an UEFA Cup place, as the final would be against Arsenal or Manchester United, both of whom will be competing the European Cup, barring the most unlikely premiership finish ever. So come on, Sunderland. Get into Europe. Bring the big boys to Estadio da Escuimentao Eterno. You can do it!
Several A/K/A Random's 'sporting blues'
Greetings again from across the pond, AmSports fans! A casual observer of the sporting scene over here would expect me to go into a detailed explanation of the national college basketball tournament that kicks off this week and how offices across this great land will have random drawing pools to select the winner of the 64-team field, or why schools from Kentucky, Duke and Stanford University and tiny St Joseph's University have gained top seeds, or why a team from Oregon (Gonzaga) is playing in the midwest portion of the tournament instead of out west.
You would be sadly mistaken.
One might also expect that I, hailing from Cleveland, would discuss their pro basketball team and its 19-year-old wunderkind LeBron James, he of the $90 million shoe deal the day of his high school graduation, and how he is leading the Cavaliers to more than double last season's victory total and a spot in the playoffs.
The ever-widening steroids scandal?
Back to the dogs, and the mushers up in Alaska, competing in the 1,100 mile Iditarod sled race, which started up last weekend and concludes this week, to no national telly ratings, virtually no national sponsorships, so therefore it is ignored by much of the mainstream media.
And it's tragic news from up north. Seems the Norwegian team with Kjetil Bracken has a two-hour lead on its closest competitors, but just moments away from the checkpoint in Unakaleet, the lead sled dog, a 7-year-old mate named Takk (I am informed that means 'thank you' in Norwegian) dropped dead on the trail.
Takk and his partner Blue had led mostly that same team to victory for musher Robert Sorlie last year, but Blue had to drop out earlier with a sore paw and observers are concerned that the team, without its leaders, will falter in the remaining 260 miles of the race. Reports also have it that Bracken left Unakaleet with tears in his eyes, which could be a problem in the 28-degree (that's below zero Celsius) weather.
Four-time winner Doug Swingley had previously been forced to drop out with frozen corneas. It is expected he will regain his vision shortly, when they unthaw him.
As I write, the racers (they go about six miles an hour, and don't ask me what that it in kilometers, I don't speak kilom) are heading to the checkin station in Shaktoolick. (Truth be told, I'm only writing this because I love those Alaskan towns' names. Unakaleet, Unakaleet, Unakaleet. Shaktoolick, Shacktoolick, Shacktoolick.)
Of course, I used to drive my mother crazy when, on a family vacation, I would insist on stopping in places called Wapokeneta (Ohio) or in Hell (Michigan.)
This is several, a/k/a random and I won't even comment on the possible drugging of a pooch at the Birmingham, England dog show recently, signing off and hoping this doesn't get lost in cyberspace. Woof.
Special Match Report From Demon Drawer
Livingston v Hibernian - CIS Insurance Cup Final
On Sunday 14 March you better not have been trying to get to Glasgow along the M8 motoroway. 40,000 Hib fans had vacated Edinburgh hoping that their exploits over two teams from Glasgow7 were knocked out by the Edinburgh outfit on their way to Hampden. The only obstacle left was the team that went into adminstration on the day they beat Dundee (another team in adminstration) in the Semi-Final five weeks previously. As the Hibs fans reached junction 3 heading West their green scarfs and flags waving, vehicles came across a splattering of the Gold and Black of Livingston.
The new town had only had a team for nine years since the old team of Meadowbank Thistle moved there, changed names and became Livingston. The town is made up with a number of people who have moved out of Edinburgh or Glasgow and fans of Celtic, Rangers, Hearts and Hibs themselves outnumber Livi Lion supporters in the town. The City Stadium ticket office was still open on Sunday morning vainly trying to shift the last of the clubs 9000 ticket allocation.
So the snakes of green, white, gold and black meandered towards Glasgow for the 3pm kick off at the National Stadium. Inside three quaters of the stands were a sea of green. Only one small quadrant of the lower stand displayed a dash of yellow. Even the upper stand behind the Livi few was full of green Hibees.
The first half was a cacophony of noise. Both teams had attempts on goal which excited their fans briefly until the oohs indicated a near miss. The faithful from Easter Road drowned out the Junior team - confident that their exploits against the big two meant their name was on the trophy. The minority held out hope for their third win from three this season against their louder, brasher opponents. The teams went in goal-less at the interval.
The second half erupted in the first few moments as first Derek Lilley, then Jamie McAllister found the back of the net. Silence fell over the majority of the ground, however, and for the first time all afternoon the roar of the Livi Lions could be heard resounding around Hampden. The silence was deafening as the glums took to their seats or took the steps to leave for the remainder of the second half. The voice of the Livi fans was loud and forceful and, as the end grew nearer, the celebrations started to spread. The final score of 2-0 to Livingston was meet with cheers from the majority of the fans left in the stands.
The Hibs fans had mostly made their escape to beat the traffic back East. So, when their players walked up to receive their losers medals, they were applauded by patches of green but mainly from the jubilant Livi fans. When Stuart Lovell, the first captain of a team in administration to lift a trophy, held it aloft the cheers was small but heartfelt from fans who have been on an emotional roller coaster for the last few weeks.
Have Your Say
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