Saturday, 5 June 2010

A Quick (and Belated) Round-Up

I have been rather lazy with my blogging over the last fortnight because of the end of uni festivities but am ready to get back to it. With the World Cup just six days away I thought I would refrain from doing a post exclusively about that right now as it will no doubt consume most of my attention for the next month. Instead, I will look at a few stories from the past week or so and then dedicate future posts to the World Cup and the Three Lions.

Firstly, Bangladesh have travelled to England to take part in a two test series, the second of test of which is currently being played. England took the first test courtesy of a massive 226 runs from Jonathan Trott which helped the side towards a first innings total of 505. England made the Tigers follow-on thanks to some good bowling from the youngster Steven Finn. Two innings of 282 then 382 by the visitors left England with a second innings target of 160 which they comfortably achieved with eight wickets in hand to win the first test.

In the second test, which is currently in its second day, England stuttered to a respectable first innings total of 419 thanks, in large, to Ian Bell's score of 128. Bangladesh have a bright start to their innings as they currently stand on 106 without loss. With England playing less than convincing cricket in this brief test series they have come under inevitable criticism.

It appears that only a demolition of Bangladesh will do as any mistakes against the test minnows will be scrutinized and needlessly exaggerated. England are winning even if they are making relatively hard work of it. There are certainly concerns to be had as England will, of course, be facing far sterner tests ahead, namely the Ashes down under. I personally believe, however, that the current England squad have the ability and experience to raise their level of play when and where needed and thus the endless negativity surrounding this series seems unnecessary. Any positives are dismissed because of the level of the opposition whereas mistakes or under performers suffer the wrath of journalists ready to pounce upon any and all signs of weakness.

Last week in Paris Andy Murray was sent crashing out of the French Open in the fourth round after a straight sets defeat to Tomas Berdych. My last post was on the British number one's five set thriller against Richard Gasquet in the first round but this victory did little to spark a promising run in the tournament. Murray has been struggling to find his form on the clay and with the grass court season approaching the gaze of a nation will soon once again fall upon him. Murray was always going to struggle on clay but to lose in the manner he did was somewhat concerning. Perhaps the extra rest his early exit will have given him will have done him some good and he can now focus on retaining his title at Queens before Wimbledon.

Across the Atlantic, just briefly, the NBA Playoff Finals have gotten under-way as one of the great sporting rivals has been resumed once more. The LA Lakers are facing the Boston Celtics in the best of seven series and it was the Lakers who took the first game on Thursday night. The two franchises have delivered many memorable moments and this is a series well worth keeping an eye on.

I could not attempt my quick round-up of some of the bigger sporting stories over the last week or so without delving into the world of football. Benitez has left Liverpool, Walcott was left at home and Ferdinand left the hospital on crutches. News and stories have been flying around non-stop over the past week and it is impossible to comment on them all but these three were perhaps the biggest.

Capello's final 23 man squad was, for the most part, unsurprising. The only shock, in my eyes at least, was the exclusion of Theo Walcott for Wright-Phillips. Despite his hat-trick in the qualifier against Croatia Walcott misses out on a place in the squad as if in some form of cruel punishment for his pointless inclusion in the 2006 World Cup squad. Nevertheless, with Lennon likely to have the number seven shirt the choice between Wright-Phillips and Walcott as his deputy seems relatively inconsequential.

Benitez's exit from Anfield was as predictable as Capello's final squad. Rafa had been in charge for six years at Liverpool but his decline in the last season, in which they finished seventh, was a dramatic and, ultimately, a damning one. He failed to pay good value for money for any player other than Torres and despite leading the side to Champions League glory in only his second season he failed to fulfil the club's desire for domestic success. Names from across the footballing world will no doubt be linked with the job but with high expectations, a flawed squad, and little money to spend, it is not a role that is as tempting as it once was.

And finally, yesterday the all too familiar news came through that England's preparations for a major tournament had once again been hampered by an injury to a key player. Captain Rio Ferdinand injured his knee in the team's first training session in South Africa and will miss the entire World Cup. Tottenham's Michael Dawson has already been flown out to replace him while Gerrard will take the arm-band with Frank Lampard stepping into the role as vice-captain.

Ferdinand is unquestionably a loss the team could have done without and it will impact upon England's chances. Rio has been far from his best over the last two years, however, as he has suffered endless injury problems. The centre-back position is probably the one position in which we have real strength in depth but few bring the calming influence or reassuring experience that Ferdinand will have. Let's just hope that the rest of the team can remain healthy at least till they take to the field in a weeks time!

I think that is plenty for now but I will have a more comprehensive look at how the World Cup is shaping up in a few days time.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...

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