Smashing summer of sport

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The intensely crowded summer of sport continues through January, with soccer, tennis, cricket on the screen. This has now been added to by cycling, with the Tour Down Under beginning in South Australia.

And, as I breakfasted this morning, and was planning things in my head, which sport in what order and so forth, an email arrived from a friend, which said, in part:

Check out the score from this match last night.

I watched the last 12 overs and it was something to see!

I went and looked at the link he’d sent, and man, even the baldly stated figures were something to see, the highlights were something else. So we’ll come to that in closing.

Starting with the soccer, as it has Australia on the international stage, the Asian Cup has the group stage coming to an end, concluding today and tomorrow.

Australia’s group, Group A, has concluded with Korea Republic (Formerly South Korea) on top, with Australia second. This was decided in the match between these two teams, in which the Korea Republic defeated Australia 1-0.

Australian manager, Ange Postecoglou, was somewhat criticised for altering the team for this match – he changed four players – however he is a believer in squad rotation.

However, tournament soccer is a marathon, not a sprint and so if you play your best eleven players for all ninety minutes of all the group matches, these players will become fatigued and injuries will start to pile up.

Furthermore, both Australia and Korea Republic had already qualified when this final group game kicked off and so giving less experienced players some time in full match conditions is a sensible thing to do. Also, I suspect that Postecoglou had divined that his team may play Korea Republic again, if they progress in the group phase, and so presenting a different team will give an element of surprise.

In any case, Australia finished second in Group A and will now play China in one quarter final. Korea Republic will play Uzbekistan, second to China in Group B, in the other finalised quarter.

Groups C and D will be finalised today and tomorrow, with Japan out of group D already looming large as the biggest hurdle in the knockout phase of the tournament.

Across the continent, in South Australia, cycling got underway with the Tour Down Under.

I edge up to cycling like a dog recently — beaten, cringing with the thought of the next drug scandal. So far, the Tour Down Under has been immune; let us fervently hope it stays that way.

The pedalling began with the female event, the Women’s Tour, on Jan 17, with a 59k leg from Woodside to Murray Bridge.

This stage was won by Valentina Scandolara of the Australian team, Orica–AISLauren Kitchen of Roxsolt was second, six seconds behind, with another Orica rider, Melissa Hoskins, third.

The second stage was a criterium – laps of a street circuit, in the centre of Adelaide – and this was won by Hoskins for Orica, with Kimberley Wells of High5 Dream Team second and Annette Edmondson of Wiggle Down Under third.

By the way, the ‘Wiggle’ part of that team is a sponsor name for a business in Britain selling sporting accessories online — it’s nothing to do with the human body or the children's entertainers. I did look, but there seems no certain provenance for the name, the business began as the mundane Butlers Cycles. Wiggle as a name must have just seemed like a good idea at the time, when the accessories part of the business was split off in 1999.

Thus the general standings for the women’s event have Scandolara in the Ochre Jersey as leader, with team mate Hoskins second, six seconds behind and Kitchen third, on the same time.

The men’s event got underway on Sunday 18 January, with a prelude criterium in the streets of Adelaide.

Giant German, Marcel Kittel, of Team Giant-Alpecin arrowed out of the pelaton to gain victory in the final sprint. Second was Spaniard Juan Jose Lobato of team Movistar and Dutchman Wouter Wippert of Drapac was third.

This augurs well for Kittel and his team, as they move into the race proper on Tuesday 20 January, with the first road leg a 132 kilometre journey from Tanunda to Campbelltown.

As for cricket, there is a one day tournament going on in Australia at the moment, but I struggle to take much interest after the tensely fought test series just completed. Indeed, I was planning to have a week without cricket in the column until my friend’s email arrived.

His email refers to a one day match played between South Africa and the West Indies in Johannesburg.

In one day matches, 200 is poor, 300 is solidly good, and 400 is stratospheric. South Africa won, scoring 439 to the West Indies 291

However, superb as the team score was, it was the frenetic batting of South African captain A.B de Villiers that caught the eye. Even then, he stood on the shoulders of giants.

The South African openers put on 247 for the opening wicket. Hashim Amla scored 153 n.o., while his partner, Rilee Roussouw, was dismissed in the 38th over for 147.

So, De Villiers strode to the wicket with the score already in the record books and then proceeded to go to town on the unfortunate West Indian bowlers, already battered by the opening pair. He scored 149 off 44 deliveries with nine fours and 16 sixes.

There is a whole story on Cricinfo listing the records that tumbled during this innings of South Africa, but here are some relating to de Villiers himself.

De Villiers’ fifty came up in 16 balls, a world record. His hundred came up in 31, another world record. I might add, if he’d scored one more run, and made 150, that would have been another record.

De Villiers hit sixteen sixes, equalling the world record held by explosive Indian batsman Rohit Sharma. De Villiers’ strike rate was 339, meaning pro rata he would have scored 339 if he had faced one hundred deliveries. This is another world record.

So it was wild stuff and you can watch it here courtesy of Sky Sports on YouTube.

And in the end, I feel the best part of this is that it occurred on ‘Pink Day’ — an initiative to raise awareness of breast cancer. South Africa’s colours are green and gold, but on Pink Day they wear pink to promote the fight against this terrible disease.

So, well done AB de Villiers, that innings means that South Africans in pink went round the cricketing world and one hopes the message of what is really important went with it.

Lachlan Barker blogs at You can follow him on Twitter @cyclonecharlie8.

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