Monday, 17 May 2010

A Successful Weekend for England

My time as a university student has come to an end with my final exam today and I thought that I would just write a brief reflection on the dramatic events from the past couple of days. I have been writing mainly previews or reviews recently due to a lack of time but I will be looking to write some more interesting pieces and more general 'comments' in the near future now I have more time.

On Saturday I commented on the exciting weekend of sports that lay ahead. Two days on and the dust has settled on what was a successful 48 hours for our English sport-stars overseas.

Amir Kahn successfully defended his WBA light-welterweight title with a comfortable victory over Paulie Malignaggi. Kahn never looked in danger of being beaten and eventually, in the 11th round, the referee stepped in to put an end to what had developed into a very one-sided fight. The win, however, should not be considered as great a feat as many are claiming. Malignaggi is well-known for his distinct lack of punching power and with Kahn's vulnerable chin still a doubt the match-up proved to be a very safe option. It was an important step in his fledging boxing career but, ultimately, it was a win that will look far more impressive on paper than it was in reality.

The same cannot be said of England's cricketers, however. They beat Australia yesterday evening to claim their first ever ICC tournament and did so with the same swagger and style that has characterized their play throughout the competition. Their bowling attack was disciplined and consistent. When they reduced the Aussies to 8-3 they put England at a great advantage but Australia did recover to post a respectable target of 148. This target was achieved with balls to spare thanks to a classy and composed partnership of 111 between Kieswetter and Pietersen. Despite Kieswetter and KP hitting out on 63 and 47 respectively the target was already within reach and England strolled over the line with 3 overs to spare.

England's performances in the Caribbean over the last fortnight have been, compared to their usual form in the ICC tournaments, quite simply staggering. The team has played with a simplicity and confidence that is unrecognisable from the over-thought and mechanical approach they have traditionally adopted in the shorter formats of the game. The likes of Luke Wright, Kieswetter, Lumb and Yardy integrated perfectly with the familiar faces that made up the core of the squad. Then there is, of course, the sensational batting of Kevin Pietersen. He has been back to his best of late and has been a controlling and confident figure at the crease and his form seems to have catalysed the rest of the team. Twenty20 cricket can sometimes be labelled merely as 'a bit of fun' but this ought not to belittle England's achievement as not only are they now World Champions, but they did it dominantly and with admirable style.

Elsewhere, at Wembley on Saturday afternoon Chelsea beat Portsmouth. The scoreline was not as comprehensive as many, including myself, expected but the result was predictable. Boateng may have missed the penalty but that was their only shot on target in the 90 minutes. Chelsea missed a penalty of their own and struck the woodwork numerous times on their way to a 1-0 win. Chelsea have been celebrating their domestic double but one player who will not have been in jubilant mood is Michael Ballack. In a predictable and rather dull match this injury news was probably the biggest news to come out of the game. He injured his ankle under a poorly timed challenge by Boateng and now the German midfielder, who has 98 appearances for his country, will miss the World Cup next month.

Ballack has not been at anything like his best form this season but his importance to his national team should not be underestimated. He is a superb big tournament player and has been a stand-out performer in each of the last two World Cups. The German captain is at his best on the big stage and will have been central to Germany's chance of progressing deep into the competition. The Germans have a good squad so it is far from being the case that all hope is lost. It is a big loss though and will leave a very large hole in their World Cup plans.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...

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