Home Sweet Home
Sri Lanka have won their first Test Series, home or away, since 2009. They beat Pakistan 1-0 after drawing the final Palekelle test against a maddeningly erratic Pakistan side. In short, this is their first series win since Murali’s retirement- a series that has propelled Sangakkara to the top of the Test Batting Rankings, apart from breaking Don Bradman’s record of 29 centuries. He is also the only batsman to score two 190s in a single series, and 2 ducks.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s outgoing captain Misbah Ul Haq, the hero of their 2007 T20 World Cup tragedy and 2009 World Cup win, has been dropped from this year’s World Cup in October. Not coincidentally, the cup is in Sri Lanka, in the very same conditions that saw Misbah finish at the bottom of the top-order aggregate run table on this tour.
West Indies, fresh from a confounding one-day series defeat in England (without winning a game), despite having Gayle return and despite starting as favorites, are now toying with an inexperienced New Zealand side in the United States Of America. Yes, you heard that right. Gayle is at his explosive best, carrying on from where he left off in each IPL season. His scores of 50 and above in 5 out of his last 6 matches (including a century) has helped a careless Windies side survive without an out-of-form Darren Bravo in their side, and take a 2-1 lead in the series. This could be a very rare series win over a Test-playing nation for them. But after destroying West Indies in the third ODI, you’d back the momentum to be with the ‘visitors’.
Australia, under Michael Clarke, have now officially been christened LOLstralia on Twitter, and their 4-0 whitewash by the Poms brought back memories of the pre-87 side that was whipped where ever it went. Not being able to win a single match in a 5-match ODI series is a first in their illustrious history, and it is their worst-ever ODI series defeat, topping their previous two 3-0 losses to England and New Zealand. England found unlikely heroes in the form of Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan after playing their first series without the retired Kevin Pieterson. Apparently, they may not need him anymore, in such scintillating form- with 10 consecutive ODI victories for them, first in their history.
Almost as a sidenote, it is worth mentioning that Australia are still ranked 1 in ODI cricket.
On the eve of their test series against England, a battle for no. 1 test ranking in the world, South Africa find themselves in the midst of a minor tragedy. In circumstances that rise above cricket, Mark Boucher was ruled out of the series, and promptly retired after being hit in the eye by an errant bail. He ends his massive career on 147 tests, with 999 dismissals behind the stumps (998+1 on the field), first in the list of keepers that was headed by Adam Gilchrist till last year. Ab De Villiers will replace him for the first test as keeper, and Tsolekile will be handed his test debut in uncertain circumstances going into the second test. A series win for South Africa, the only side to be able to beat England in England in the last five years, could take them back to the top of the rankings.
After Federer’s win at Wimbledon, the top 3 players (Federer, Djokovic and Nadal) go into the Olympics- and will fancy their chances at the very same grass courts in a few weeks. Andy Murray, though, might have other ideas.
In 2008 at Beijing, Nadal won the gold, Djokovic the silver. Federer partnered with Wawrinka and took the gold in doubles after losing to Blake in the quarters.
Wiggling out of defeat
Tour De France:
Bradley Wiggins, the only Brit athlete who seems to be peaking at the right time (apart from the Red Bull engineering team), leads the prestigious Tour De France by 1 minute and 53 seconds, as they enter the Alps for the most brutal, crucial stretch of cycling over the next 4 days. He lads defending Champion Cadel Evans, who he sensationally beat in the time-trial, and could be on route to a record FIRST-EVER British victory in this tour (a phrase we are all too familiar with). His SKY team are also favorites to take him to the podium, with Evans struggling to keep pace.
Fernando Alonso leads the 2012-13 Championship by 13 points over the surprising Mark Webber, after an action-packed British Grand Prix. Vettel lies way behind in 3rd, a full 29 points behind Alonso- and will need a repeat of the 2010 season, where these exact three drivers went down to the last race. The Red Bull Era began with that race, but so far, signs are that yet another Spanish era might begin in another sport.