The View From Down Here #25

I’m back. Miss me? Nah, I didn’t, either. But I had a nice enough holiday, watching cricket until my eyeballs bled, and then topping it off with tennis, which is really the only way to go when relaxing at a seaside town like Port Lincoln… So I suppose that means it’s time for some more sport results from the land down under. Let’s get to it…

Basketball
The big news this week out of the NBL has been Julius Hodge’s no-show for Adelaide over a contract dispute which led to him leaving the team. So? His open letter to the public blamed team management, but it is further indicative of the problems besetting the current NBL when a contract dispute like this occurring in mid-season goes unresolved. I’ll say it again: The new league cannot come soon enough.
NBL – Round 16
Cairns 105 def by Wollongong 112
Gold Coast 103 def Adelaide 94
Townsville 105 def South 95
Wollongong 111 def New Zealand 94
Sydney 86 def New Zealand 85
South 90 def by Perth 99
Gold Coast 88 def by Townsville 105
NBL – Round 17
Adelaide 106 def Wollongong 99
Perth 77 def by Cairns 81
Adelaide 107 def Cairns 83
Sydney 88 def Wollongong 79
South 115 def New Zealand 112
Townsville 115 def Gold Coast 92
Melbourne 108 def Perth 81
WNBL – Round 13
Bulleen 70 def Dandenong 56
Townsville 83 def Logan 66
Canberra 87 def AIS 51
AIS 71 def by Bendigo 93
Perth 91 def Sydney 85

Soccer
A-League Round 18
Central Coast Mariners 1 def Perth Glory 0
Melbourne Victory 2 def Queensland Roar 1
Adelaide United 2 def Sydney 0
Wellington Phoenix 3 hammered Newcastle Jets 0
A-League Round 19
Adelaide United 2 def Newcastle Jets 0
Central Coast Mariners 3 lost to Queensland Roar 4
            Wow! A match that included lots of goals! What’s this doing in a soccer report?
Sydney 1 def Wellington Phoenix 0
Perth Glory 3 def Melbourne Victory 2
W-League Semi-Finals
Down to the pointy end of the women’s league. The grand final should be the best match of soccer in the country this season. And I include the men’s leagues. The women are that much more entertaining. What a pity that the media in this country doesn’t even think they exist.
Newcastle Jets 0 lost to Canberra United 1
Queensland Roar 1 drew with Sydney 1
            Queensland then went on to win 5-4 on penalties.

Cricket
International Cricket
Third Test

Australia 445 & 4/257 (dec); South Africa 327 & 272 – Australia won by 103 runs
            With this win Australia have retained the mantle of number one test team… just. But despite the convincing win, Australia had luck in the form of Graeme Smith – South African captain and soul – being injured seriously while batting, and so unable to field or lead, and coming out with a hand in plaster to try to save the match and salvage a draw. The fact he almost succeeded says a lot about the man, and he has gone up in everyone’s estimation of him. He has come across as a real fighter, and his praise for Australia was humble. Australia’s Ricky Ponting could learn a thing or three from the man.
            But this win does nothing to really bolster Australia’s prospects. The return tour to South Africa should see Australia lose in a whitewash, and then off to England for the Ashes…
            Now England have had some trouble of late. Pietersen has quit as captain and Moores has been fired as coach. Andrew Strauss takes on the captaincy, while Pietersen feels he should be captain again one day, and that’s probably not a good thing to have. The coach role is yet to be decided, but don’t be surprised if it goes to an Australian. Geoff Lawson, Greg Chappell, even Shane Warne could easily slip into the position. It has been said by a number of media pundits that under Strauss and without Moores as coach England will band together and will regain the Ashes with ease. Maybe not with ease, but I would not bet against them this far out from the series…
            Sorry, but Australia’s time as a force is over and the rebuilding will not begin as long as they stick with under-performing old players and refuse to blood and give a chance to new young players, instead of dropping them from the team to suit their ‘horses for courses’ policy (which does not affect the older players, by the way) just when they are hitting their stride.
            One other thing should be pointed out about this test. It was played at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and the commentators were creaming themselves to say how good the ground and especially the wicket was. Well, I disagree. The cracks were so large several seagulls disappeared down them. The ball was going everywhere. It was a disgrace, it deteriorated to such a degree that if that had happened in India the Australians would have been crying foul, and it made a mockery of some of the bowling. Just more of the double standards that Australia applies to this sport.
            And now we have the shorter forms of the game at international level to look forward to…
First Twenty20
Australia 9/ 182; South Africa all out for 130 (18 overs) – Australia won by 52 runs
Well, Australia blooded a bunch of young guys in an essentially meaningless Twenty20 match. Good. Sort of. How is this going to help them in the long term in test match cricket. Especially when they select Warner – who blasted 89 runs from 43 balls – from the fringes of state cricket. Yes, he did very well, but what sort of a black eye is that for those who are trying their guts out and doing really well in the state Twenty20 matches? And then to drop Michael Clarke but keep Ricky Ponting. Wouldn’t this sort of useless match be perfect to give Clarke a chance to captain Australia without it really meaning much? So much potential… The selectors have again got it wrong.
            The match itself? Well, Warner was a highlight. Australia were headed for a 200-plus score before collapsing at the end. The half-time show was worthless, badly mimed and dull-dull-dull to boot. South Africa struggled with one guy even getting out hit wicket! Not as exciting as it could have been.
Australian Domestic
Twenty20 Big Bash

The matches have been entertaining, but to give you an idea of just how seriously this form of the modern game is being taken in Australia, certain players on the field are miked up in order to talk to the commentators in Channel 9’s commentary box so that their thoughts whilst playing can be related to the thousands of viewers. Now, they never do that in a four- or five- day match or even a 50-over-a-side match. Why? Those are seen as serious cricket. And Twenty20 is not. Yet. It will be though. And some are saying it is the death knell for test cricket. But the crowds again in Australia this summer indicate otherwise. And what better excuse is there for a man like me to lounge in front of the television for five days? Sorry, that’s tests, this is domestic Twenty20:
New South Wales 5/148; Western Australia 5/149 (19.1 overs) – WA won by 5 wickets
Tasmania 8/184; Queensland 4/166 – Tas won by 18 runs
South Australia 5/183; Victoria 2/184 (19.5 overs) – Vic won by 8 wickets
            And they did it with 1 ball remaining!
Victoria 7/161; Queensland 4/162 (19.4 overs) – Qld won by 6 wickets
Tasmania 128; Western Australia 7/132 (19.5 overs) – WA won by 3 wickets
            Again, they did it with 1 ball remaining!
South Australia 8/160; New South Wales 6/161 (18.2 overs) – NSW won by 4 wickets
            There was one incredibly pleasing aspect to this match – it had to be one of the largest crowds I’ve seen at a domestic cricket fixture! The crowd at the Adelaide Oval was huge, nearing a sell-out. That is a positive sign for local cricket, and a huge pat on the back is well-deserved for the South Australian crowds. Just a pity the result did not go their way.
Victoria 7/183; Western Australia 105 (17 overs) – Vic won by 78 runs
South Australia 7/163; Queensland 3/164 (18 overs) – Qld won by 7 wickets

Tennis
It’s Australia’s one big time every year when international sports stars – genuine international sports stars – come to our shores. It’s our tennis season leading up to the Australian Open, the first of the four tennis Grand Slams. The start of the year, injuries abound, last year’s injuries show they have not quite healed, and the unknowns start to make their runs. It’s actually quite an exciting time to be a tennis fan, and the Australian Open will be, as always, an exciting tournament, even if I can’t see any Aussies getting into the second week of the competition. Our only hope is really Lleyton Hewitt, but he’s been out with an ongoing injury for months, and this is really going to be his comeback tournament after slipping to number 70 in the world rankings. His time to shine again will be around the US Open, I think.
            Here are the results of the international tournaments being played in Australia. There are a heap more in the Middle East, South-East Asia and other places, but this is the news from Australia, so that’s what you’re going to get. All results are the final results; I’m not going to list all 321,864 undercard / preliminary / warm-up matches to be played this summer. So the winners have won these titles:
Men’s Brisbane International
Radek Stepanek (Czeck) def Fernando Verdasco (Spain), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Women’s Brisbane International
Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) def Marion Bartoli (France), 6-3, 6-1
ASB Classic (Auckland)
Elena Dementieva (Russia) def Elena Vesnina (Russia), 6-4, 6-1
            And with defending champ Sharapova out of the Australian Open with a nagging shoulder injury, you wouldn’t want to bet against another Russian taking the spot. You have these two, Safina (who was on the losing end of the Hopman Cup), and probably half a dozen we have never heard of and whose names we’d never be able to pronounce.
            (By the way, I know Auckland is in New Zealand, but I’m giving our cross-Tasman brethren some love here…)
Hopman Cup
Slovakia def Russia
            For those not aware of this tournament, it basically involves a male and female from various countries playing for their nations. Men against one another, a woman’s match, and then a mixed doubles match (occasionally only if needed). Rather entertaining… unless you follow Chinese Taipei or Australia who won not one of their ties in their respective pools.
            Doesn’t Australian tennis look good at the moment?

Book Review
Another one of these. And a brief one, as well. So: I have been a fan of Stephen King for a long time and for my birthday / Christmas I received two books – Just After Sunset and Duma Key. Just After Sunset is a book of shorter works, and I think this is where King shines nowadays. The majority were between quite good and very good, with only a few dud tales. But then it was time to read Duma Key. Well… I haven’t enjoyed a King novel since From A Buick 8. This maintains that recent standard. Disappointing. I hate to blast an author because of how well received my own literary efforts have been, but I did not enjoy this book. And on the heels of Blaze, I was so close to giving up on King… Just as well Just After Sunset came by and has encouraged me to continue to read him…

So, welcome to 2009, and let’s hope the view continues from down here…

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