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Archive for April 2007

Australia retain World Cup

Australia this morning retained the ICC World Cup after beating Sri Lanka by 53 runs using the Duckworth/Lewis method to lift the cup for the fourth time.

I had hoped to watch the start of this match and with no play past midnight I just gave up on it but managed to get up to watch the ending where there was so much confusion on when exactly the match would end.

Australia's vice-captain Adam Gilchrist carried the day for Australia with a world cup final record score of 149 runs from 104 runs and that was the major difference between the two teams apart from the weather conditions.

Its rather unfortunate that the weather played a big part in this final but having said that very few would doubt that Australia deserved their crowning again as champions as they totally dominated all their matches at this world cup. It is therefore not surprising that Australia last lost a world cup match against Pakistan in 1999.

Sri Lanka also have been very consistent and played in some of the most interesting matches of this world cup especially the matches against South Africa and England.

This match also saw the retirement from cricket of Glenn McGrath from cricket and he has had a wonderful tournament and deserved to be the player of the tournament.

So congratulations to Australia and I hope in four year's time there will be more competition.

Refusing to be held back

I have always found the Old Testament very inspiring and in Judges 6 I read about how God’s people of Israel suffered at the hands of the Midianites. Due to their sin, God had removed His protection from His people, and so their enemies were able to raid their land and rob them of their livelihood.

It is in this situation that God calls Gideon to deliver Israel from their oppressors. Gideon was threshing wheat in his father’s winepress for fear of the raiding bands when an Angel appeared to him saying, “The LORD is with you, mighty man of valour”. Looking at his circumstances, Gideon would hardly have felt like a mighty man.

Rather than embracing what the angel has just said about him he responds with a question regarding the plight of his people as a whole (v.13): “If the LORD is with us, why then has this happened to us? Where are all His miracles ...?” At this point, the angel could have given Gideon an explanation for Israel’s plight, but he does not even answer Gideon’s question. Instead he turns the focus back on Gideon. “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” (v.14)

For Gideon it was difficult to comprehend that he should be God’s choice. He had surely heard the stories about the great judges who had led Israel in victory over their enemies. These were great men (chapters 4-5) of God; but who was he to save Israel? After all, his family was insignificant, and he was the least in his father’s house! (v. 15)

I sometimes see that this happens to me and other people that we are often held back from what God wants us to be by the way we see ourselves. We may even act and talk as if we were confident in God, but deep down inside we do not believe that God can use us for his purposes.

Our background, our past failures, and the comments that others have made to us and about us - all these things add to a sense of inadequacy that makes us deaf to God’s call. And many of these influences will remain with us as long as we live. Even after Gideon’s victory some rebuked him, still convinced that God should have used them rather than him (Judges 8:1). By that time, however, Gideon had learnt to deal with such influences, because he had come to realise who he was in God (vv. 2-3). By that time, no one could rob him of God’s call.

Sri Lanka meets Australia in Final

Sri Lanka will meet defending champions Australia in the ICC Cricket World Cup final after the Australia beat South Africa by 7 seven wickets in the second semi-final match.

For the second time in this tournament South Africa lost to the defending champions only that this time the defeat was heavier. None of the South African batsmen could manage a half century with eight of them only managing single digits including captain Graham Smith who could only get two runs with all rounder Jacques Kallis only scoring only five and that in a way explains South Africa's lowly total of 149.

Glenn McGrath took the wickets of Ashwell Prince and Mark Boucher before they could register a run. Watching this match, one couldn't believe that this was a tussle between the number one and two ranked teams because the erratic South Africans looked out of sorts.

On the other hand the Australian bowlers did a wonderful job with McGrath taking three wickets and Shaun Tait four. The excellent bowling explains why Australia has managed to bowl out every team they have played the full match in this tournament. The only team not bowled out was Bangladesh but this was a reduced overs match.

This now sets up a very interesting match up against the Sri Lanka team who must be bubbling with confidence after beating New Zealand in the first semi-final. While South Africa has lost three times at the semi-final stage, for the Kiwis it is actually five and they lost a match in which they threatened to win up to around the 20th over.

Whilst Austrlia are hot favourites to retain the Cup, I think Sri Lanka will prove a handful and I won't be surprised if there is an upset. Sri Lanka will bring their bowlers Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga who missed the Super 8 match between the two teams and I am sure this trio will cause problems to the Australian batsmen.

Who will join Watford?

Watford became the first team to go down this season after a one-all draw with Manchester City and its not clear yet at this stage who will be joining them in the Coca-Cola Championship next season.

The writing has been on the wall for Watford for a long time but recently they have been playing well and could easily have drawn against Chelsea at home only for Salomon Kalou to score a last minute winner. I think a lot of teams coming from the Championship start very slowly and lose a few matches initially but by the time they warm up to the premiership it would be too late to save their premiership status and I think that's what happened to the Hornets.

I am just wondering who will join Watford and at the moment it could be any one of West Ham, Charlton, Sheffield, Wigan and Fulham. Bobby Zamora's wonderful strike against Everton kept the Hammers hopes of surviving alive but I think their goal difference could be a real stumbling block.

West Ham's last three games are away to Wigan and Manchester United and then at home to Bolton and it is that Old Trafford fixture that must be causing a lot of concern for the Hammers supporters. The teams West Ham are playing all need to win their matches for various reasons - Bolton for Europe, Wigan for survival and Manchester United for the title. So its a tough road ahead.

Charlton who also started the season badly are facing Blackburn and Liverpool away and then Tottenham at home. Compared to West Ham's fixture list, this is not a bad one at all and a win against Blackburn could get them on the right path but Spurs will still be fighting to finish in the EUFA places and that could a real big one. Liverpool might have secured third place by then but would want to finish with a win at Anfield but all the same Charlton could get something out of that match.

Sheffield, Wigan and Fulham are currently outside the relegation zone and of the three Sheffield have a favourable fixture line up. At the beginning of the season I didn't give the Blades much of a chance to survive life in the premiership but they look like they will certainly avoid the drop especially after their brave deserved draw at The Valley.

Neil Warnock's side have two games against Watford and Wigan and an away match at Villa Park. They should be able to push aside already relegated Watford and from there all they need are four points from the last two matches to survive.

Wigan has an interesting fixture list facing two relegation threatened teams, West Ham and Sheffield and then a home match to Middlesborough. For them its going to be like playing in three cup final matches in a row but I guess depending on other results the last match against Sheffield may not be all that significant.

Fulham quietly slipped into the relegation dog-fight after losing their way in the second half of the season which culminated in the axing of their manager Chris Coleman. Their fixture list is a tough one with just one home match against Liverpool but two tough away matches against Arsenal and Middlesborough. On 36 points, they should should be hoping that results elsewhere will save them but I will not be surprised to see them relegated especially if they fail to garner more than three points from their remaining three matches.

So we enter a critical phase of the premiership season as teams at the bottom try to avoid the drop and I hope we are going to watch some exciting matches to cap what has been a wonderful season so far.

Nadal rules in Monaco

Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer to win the Monte Carlo Masters title for the third straight year and extend his winning run on clay to 67.

Nadal has been in top form in Monaco all week and won the title without dropping a set which is commendable. Federer had also not dropped a set before the final and he was only really tested in the second round by Andreas Seppiif when he won in two sets but after two tie-breaks.

I thought that Federer played quite well in the first set and made Nadal fend off three break points but in the second set it was clear that Nadal was going to retain his title.

We will have to wait until Rome to see if Federer can close the gap to match Nadal's play on clay. Federer is still to beat Nadal on clay and he would be desperate to get a way past him to enhance his chances of winning the French Open.

Australia too good for Sri Lanka

Australia maintained their unbeaten world cup record stretching back to the last World Cup by beating Sri Lanka by seven wickets at the 2007 ICC Cricket World cup.

The match that I was looking forward to turned out to be a no contest with Sri Lanka deciding to rest their key bowlers Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas and Australia chasing 227 against such an attack was an easy task and hence Australia reached the target with seven overs to spare.

Amid all this its easy to forget that Australia's bowlers did a very good job restricting Sri Lanka to just 226 runs and Nathan Bracken in particular was impressive getting four wickets for just 19 runs in 9.4 overs.

I am now just wondering whether New Zealand will also decide to rest their key players against Australia because they will need a win plus a good run rate to overtake Australia at the top. Finishing second or third for them will not make much of a difference because either way it will set up a semi-final match against Sri Lanka.

There is one match though where nobody will be rested and this is the South Africa/England match in Barbados tonight. This will be South Africa's last Super 8 match and they will need to win it to reach the semis whilst on the other hand England with four points and another match against the West Indies still to come, would need a win to steal a march to the semis.

Meanwhile, in an earlier post, I gave Ireland no chance against Bangladesh but Ireland proved me wrong by beating Bangladesh by 74 runs. Ireland are now off the bottom of the Super 8 ladder and its good to see them at least score points and this level and they have more than justified their presence in the Super 8 stage.

Massa wins in Bahrain

Ferrari's Felipe Massa won the Bahrain F1 grand prix after starting from pole but it was McLaren's Lewis Hamilton who stole the limelight with a record third consecutive podium finish in his first three F1 races after finishing second again.

I think this time Massa did well to take advantage of his pole position and lead the race from the start but towards the end Hamilton put him under pressure and I think its a question of a few more races before we see Hamilton winning his first race. Kimi Raikkonen completed the podium places with third.

It wasn't all that rosy this time around for world champion Fernando Alonso who for the first time this season finished outside the top three places and had to settle for fifth position after Nick Heidfeld snatched fourth from him.

Heidfeld fourth position and teammate Robert Kubica's sixth has shown once again that so far this season BMW-Sauber are the third best team relegating Renault to fourth. Renault had Giancarlo Fisichella finishing in the points in eighth position with team mate Heikki Kovalainen behind him. Toyota scored points for the first time this season with Jarno Trulli finishing seventh.

Australian Mark Webber could not finish a race for the first time this season and he must be hoping that its not a repeat of last season where he could hardly finish a race. His team mate David Coultard also did not finish the race after a driveshaft failure and so Red Bull has a lot of things to think about for the next race in Barcelona.

Three drivers are on 22 points and it couldn't be more exciting but going to Barcelona the question is : will Hamilton win his first race at Barcelona? We will know the answers in nearly a month's time.

Australia, NZ and Sri Lanka reach semis

New Zealand this morning joined Australia and Sri Lanka in the semi finals of the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup after beating South Africa by five wickets.

After losing to Sri Lanka in their previous match New Zealand rebounded with a win over South Africa which was actually quite close despite the sub 200 target of 195. The Kiwis reached that target with just ten balls to spare and this shows that had South Africa scored 30 or 40 more runs they could have won this match.

South Africa's next and last match is against England and they have to win it to entertain any hopes of the semi-finals. I think South Africa will be able to overcome England who are themselves so inconsistent you can't tell what to expect from them match to match.

Ireland have a chance to restore their pride after the massive loss to Australia when they meet Bangladesh in Barbados. I think Bangladesh will win this match to maintain their slim hopes of a semi-final place.

Meanwhile Australia's last two matches are very interesting in that Australia will meet Sri Lanka and New Zealand. These are the two teams who are going to give Australia a real test and I can't wait for Monday night's match against Sri Lanka.

A win is very important for both teams because both teams will be vying to finish top of the ladder at the end of the Super 8 stage. The team that finishes top will play the team that finishes fourth and this increases the chances of reaching the final especially when the fourth team is likely to be South Africa or England.

Adjusting to watering in the morning

The new Melbourne water restriction stage 3a now mean that all watering of gardens has to take place in the morning and apart from that the rest of th e restrictions do not change.

Although the restrictions came into effect at the beginning of April it was only this Saturday the 14th that I managed to remember to water in the morning and before that although I forgot the latest rains have meant that it wasn't all that necessary and grey water was also covering the gap quite well.

I am finding that it will take some time to fully adjust to the morning only regime and especially on the weekdays. Under stage 3, I used to mainly water in the evening and rarely in the morning but now I have to adjust to the morning time. While for me Saturday could be a bit easier, Tuesday morning will always remain to be a challenge given the limited time available.

I think the good thing is that overally more water is saved which is the whole point of the restrictions and the recent rains have also meant that constant watering is not required at least for now and in the meantime I will just keep on monitoring the water storage levels and hoping that they will be on the way up soon.

Its Liverpool/Chelsea again

One thing that can be guaranteed in this year's UEFA Champions League is that there will be an English team in the final as Liverpool will meet Chelsea in the semis for the second time in three years.

Manchester United will meet AC Milan in the other semi-final to decide who goes to play in the final in Athens. Manchester United made easy work of Roma scoring seven goals in one of the most one sided matches I have watched for a long time. At 3-nil I thought Roma would come back but once it became 4-nil by half time the match was effectively finished as a contest.

Manchester United will now meet another Italian team in the form of AC Milan who beat Bayern Munich 2-0. I thought Milan had wrecked their chances of playing in the semis when they conceded a late equaliser at the San Siro in the first leg but they re-grouped in the second leg and dominated Bayern in their own backyard.

I think the best match of all the second leg ties would have been the match between Valencia and Chelsea. Chelsea needed to win but it was Valencia who scored first and making it even harder for Chelsea because then they needed two goals to win. Chelsea came in the second half a different team and played Valencia off the park in their own backyard.

Chelsea's strength and depth showed in this match and also Jose Mourinho's tactics worked all right and I think Michael Essien was the difference. Essien marked his return from injury with a stunning goal to secure a place semi-final berth for his team.

After winning the first leg 3-0, the second leg at Anfield was a mere formality for Liverpool and it proved to be so. As mentioned in a previous post, PSV are not the team they were in the first half of the season and I think they only came to make sure they didn't lose by an even bigger margin.

The all English semi-final between Chelsea and Liverpool should be an exciting one at least on paper. The last time these two teams met at the same stage two years ago, the matches themselves were not as exciting and I hope that this time we will not see two cagey and ultra defensive matches.

On the Austrlalian TV front, we were subjected once again to the same match being shown on both ESPN and SBS on both days. SBS had scheduled to show the Liverpool/PSV match but after the result from the first leg they decided to show the Bayern/Milan match instead which in a way made sense but I don't think the Liverpool fans liked that decision that much.

South Africa back on track

South Africa's win against the West Indies in the ICC Cricket World Cup Super 8 puts them back in track to reach the semis of the competition.

After a poor batting performance against Bangladesh which resulted in a loss of 67 runs plus the number one ranking status, South African knew that only a win would give them a comfortable sail into the semis. Its not done yet as theoretically the other four teams below them can still reach semis.

Later today England will play Bangladesh and a win for either side will strengthen the team's quest for the semis. Bangladesh's win over South Africa has increased its chances of reaching the semis and a win will increase their chances even more.

England's captain Michael Vaughan once again failed with the bat as England lost Australia and this time he knows that his side has to win all the remaining matches or they will watch the semis from home.

McLarens reign at Sepang

McLaren completed a one-two finish at the 2007 Malaysia F1 grand prix to herald a new era for the team after Fernando Alonso came up as winner followed by Lewis Hamilton.

In a race in which Ferrari's Felipe Massa threatened to dominate in the lead up, it was the McLaren who dominated where it counted most and Alonso got his first win for his new team.

Starting from pole, Ferrari's Massa could not take the lead as Alonso surged forward from the start and it was when he slipped off the track while trying to overtake Hamilton that his hopes for a podium finish evaporated.

Kimi Raikkonen completed the podium places with another fine drive and he couldn't win his fight for second place with Hamilton and had to settle for third.

Last year's winner Giancarlo Fisichella could only finish sixth for Renault but his fellow Renault driver Heikki Kovalainen finished in eighth. I think that was the only consolation for Renault that both their drivers finished in the points.

BMW Sauber showed once again that they will be a force to reckon with this term after Nick Heidfeld finished fourth again although fellow driver Robert Kubica did not finish the race.

Australian Mark Webber finished just outside the points this time in tenth and this was a slight improvement after finishing thirteenth in Melbourne.

So I am looking forward to the next race next week in Bahrain to see whether McLaren can continue from where they have left at Sepang and also to see whether Massa can score points where it matter most - the race.

World Cup hots up

With the two day break at the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup in the West Indies, maybe its time to take stock and review the action of the last few days and look ahead at the coming crucial matches which will decide who reaches the semis and who goes home.

I think England had a good chance of winning against Sri Lanka after good work by their bowlers who managed to restrict Sri Lanka to just 235 runs but the Sri Lankan bowlers did very well to defend the target. I think England were let down by their opening batsmen who didn't give their team a good start. Michael Vaughan could only manage 10 and Ed Joyce went out for a duck and the team had to once again depend on Kevin Pietersen but it was Ravi Bopara who nearly got home the victory.

The result means that Sri Lanka now have six points and are joint top with Australia and New Zealand. I actually think that these three teams will be in the semis plus possibly South Africa.

England have two points at the moment and to get to the semis they will need to start winning matches and to kick start that they will have to beat the Australians in their next match. I think they can do that because they beat Australia three matches in a row just a few weeks ago but they are playing an Australian side bubbling with confidence at the moment.

South Africa should see off Bangladesh on Saturday to get two points that will take their points tally to six and its looking very likely now that the two unseeded teams still left in the competition, Bangladesh and Ireland, will prop the ladder in the end but its only the order that will be determined in the coming weeks.

A South African loss though against Bangladesh would give hope to the West Indies whose next match is against the southern African nation.

Away from the action, Greg Chappell has resigned as India coach following their group stage exit. I am not really surprised by this but I don't know what the coach could have done when India's experienced players just failed to fire.

So there is still so much to look forward to and I hope that we will be able to witness some more riveting matches like the England/Sri Lanka one.

Liverpool in driving seat

Now that the first leg matches of the Champions League quarter finals have all been played, at this moment Liverpool look set to be the one with one leg in the semi-finals and the other three ties can easily go either way but Bayern Munich and Valencia can sleep easily knowing that a scoreless draw is all that is needed.

Liverpool played some simple but effective football which rewarded them with three goals which will make it very difficult for PSV Eindhoven to come back in the return leg at Anfield. Since PSV ousted Arsenal from the Champions League in the previous round they haven't played particularly well and the stand out result was the 5-1 mauling by arch rivals Ajax.

So it doesn't really come as a surprise to me that they lost to Liverpool but it is the margin of defeat that causes some concern and the erratic play displayed. To say that Liverpool played great football will not the truth but its just that PSV were not just there at the races. It was good to see Javier Mascherano, a player who couldn’t get a game at West Ham, boss the midfield in the manner he did.

I think AC Milan began their match confidently against Bayern Munich but as the match progressed Bayern crawled their way into the game and it was a matter of time before Bayern scored. The drawn result means that Milan has to win the second leg and without suspended Alberto Gilardino and cup-tied Ronaldo it doesn't look like an easy task at all. Bayern only have to take off from where they left in the first leg and they will see themselves in the semis.

Chelsea came back from behind to draw at Stamford Bridge and could not add to the one goal to go to the Mestalla with an advantage. I think Valencia have the edge and all they have to do is do what they did against Inter Milan in the previous round minus the fighting in the end of course.

Chelsea lacks some innovative play and their play has now become rather predictable and Valencia were comfortable with that type of football and there wasn't much threat on their goal although Chelsea had one or two good chances.

Valencia have lost only twice at home in the league this season and Chelsea will have to play their best football if they are going to make it to the semis. Also Chelsea haven't played well away from home in the Champions League this season and this is going to be a very tough test indeed. Manchester United will have to make do without Paul Scholes in the second leg at Old Trafford. Roma should have put some of the chances that came their way away but at least they go to Old Trafford with a lead and all the pressure will be on Manchester United.

From an Australian perspective, it was good to see that SBS and ESPN showed different matches this time. So it was possible to press the Back button and keep track of both matches. I am hoping that next week ESPN will not show Manchester/Roma and Liverpool/PSV matches which SBS are showing live.

The second legs are next week and so it’s not going to be a long wait at all to see who will go into the semis.

Windies slipping away

The West Indies succumbed to their third straight defeat at the Super 8 this morning after losing to Sri Lanka by 113 runs.

This leaves the Windies with just the two points which they got from the group stages and in real danger of leaving the stage before the semi-finals. It was good to see a big crowd for once at this World Cup but the crowd could only watch as the home team's batting once again failed to produce many runs.

The Windies have so far failed to reach 200 runs in the Super 8 stage and they have also failed to utilise all their fifty overs. As the home team it would have been good for them to be in the semis but this looks very unlikely now.

While the Windies have already played three games, New Zealand, Bangladesh, England, Ireland and South Africa have so far played just one match which brings into question the whole scheduling of these matches. At least New Zealand and Bangladesh play tonight but after that New Zealand's next match will be in a week's time against Ireland.

The time delay could be explained by there being no matches on Thursday and on Good Friday but it would have been better to make sure that no team plays their third match before more than half the teams have played their second. After three matches in six days, now the Windies have to wait eight days for their next match.

The scheduling could surely have been better than this.