Monthly Archives: June 2013

Pit Stop – Webber Is Off – By Lewis Brearley

Despite firmly denying rumours that he could join Porsche’s new Le Mans effort for 2014, Mark Webber has announced that he will indeed do so.

He will leave Red Bull at the end of the season to return to the sportscar series where his top level racing career began.

Anyone who has ever frequented YouTube racing videos will surely have seen the astonishing incident where Peter Dumbreck’s Mercedes CLR takes off, flips and lands in the surrounding forest from the 1999 Le Mans race. At the practice session before the race Webber himself suffered the same incident as Mercedes encountered bizarre stability issues at high-speed, causing them to pull out of the event.

These dangerous events, in which fortunately no lives were lost, caused Webber to state that he would never return to the dangers of Le Mans. But fifteen years later Webber will return to the new, full factory funded, works Porsche team who themselves are returning to the endurance circuit after a long absence.

Porsche are the most successful team in Le Mans history, with 16 victories, most of them coming from the manufacturer’s dominance of the Group C period in the 1980s, when their 956 took four successive victories.

The battle between them, Audi and Toyota in the LMP1 class looks set to be enthralling. The sportscar racing scene is at one of the highest levels of quality ever seen, with six former F1 drivers currently driving for Audi and Toyota alongside great drivers such as Tom Kristensen, Benoit Treluyer and Stephane Sarrazin.

Webber has always loved pushing himself to his very limit and challenging himself against the very best drivers in the world. Sportscar racing has much less focus on the tyre management which has been the bane of Webber’s life recently. He believes racing should be flat out and that everybody should be pushing as fast as possible and in Le Mans this is certainly the case.

It is this aspect, rather than the unease within the Red Bull team between himself, management and his team-mate and built up by the media, that is likely to have led to this decision to switch disciplines.

Webber’s decision precedes one of his favourite events, the British grand prix. British fans, more than 100000 of whom will be travelling to the Silverstone circuit over the weekend, haven’t had much home success to cheer for in recent years. Lewis Hamilton’s supreme wet-weather victory in 2008 was the last British win.

With Jenson Button aiming for a points finish, the chances of home success this year depend mainly on whether Hamilton’s Mercedes team have sorted the tyre degradation issues which have plagued their season. At the last track resembling Silverstone, Barcelona, Mercedes struggled with horrific wear and this weekend will be a clear indicator of how far the team have progressed.

The team are confident, as are the fans; but whether or not Hamilton can challenge Vettel, Webber and Alonso will be a mystery until a hopefully sunny Sunday.

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Bowled Over – T20 Game is Superb – By Luqman Liaqat

England fell five runs short once again after losing the ICC Champions Trophy final by the same margin on Sunday, leaving England with a must win match on Thursday to save the T20 series.

The Kiwis piled up a massive score on a flat pitch of 201-4 which is their highest total away from home, Hamish Rutherford (62) and skipper Brendon McCullum (68) top scored and Eoin Morgan’s men chased well in reply but couldn’t cross the winning line.

Luke Wright made 52 but the tourists kept picking up wickets at vital moments, debutant Corey Anderson bowled a strong final over to win the match.

After electing to bat first, New Zealand lost James Franklin early when he inside edged debutant Boyd Rankin (1-24) behind to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler for a duck. Rutherford and McCullum put on a blistering 114-run stand, Chris Woakes’ went for 19 runs in his first over including a huge six from Rutherford.

Bopara’s opening over was also very costly as went for 18 runs and Wright finally had Rutherford caught at deep mid-off in the 12th over leaving New Zealand on 116-2.

McCullum scored 68 from 48 balls, his innings featured seven fours and two sixes and he fell when Wright bowled him out with a swinging yorker.

From 161-3, Ross Taylor and youngster Tom Latham added another 39 runs inside the last four overs to take the Black Caps’ past 200 for the third time, however a positive for England was that they restricted them to only 45 in last five overs of the innings.

The England ballers proved to have very expensive figures, James Tredwell and Bopara’s two overs went for 32 runs but despite that Rankin impressed on his debut and Wright finished with (2-31).

Chasing 202 the England openers dug a strong foundation as Michael Lumb (29) and Alex Hales (39) brought up fifty in the fifth over.

After towering a huge six over mid-wicket, Lumb misplayed the ball as it hit his pads and rolled back onto the stumps.

A 55-run partnership from Hales and Wright put England well above the required run-rate as the 100 came up in the 11th over. Although Hales mis-hit Ronnie Hira’s (1-34) full toss to Franklin at deep mid-wicket, Wright continued his brutal hitting bringing up his half-century off 29 balls.

With England 132-3 after 13 overs they looked well on track for victory, before McCullum put in a slip which worked as Morgan (7) edged behind and Taylor took a stunning one handed catch and once Mitchell McClenaghan removed Wright England still needed another 63 from 30 balls.

Bopara and Buttler decreased the required runs to 26 from the final two overs and Buttler (1-35) scooped Butler for six at the start of the penultimate over.

Buttler was run out for 17 by Latham to leave England needing 16 in the last over bowled by Anderson, despite Ben Stokes first ball maximum and Bopara quick-fire innings of 30 from 19 balls wasn’t enough to take the men in red home.

The teams will now play on Thursday in the second T20 here at the Oval in a game which is a must-win for England as Kevin Pieterson will also be back in action.

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Bowled Over – England Collapse at End – By Luqman Liaqat

England’s wait for a first global 50-over title continues after falling agonisingly close after losing by five runs in a rain-hit final of the ICC Champions Trophy at Edgbaston against India.

The final was reduced to 20-overs due to heavy downpour through the morning and afternoon, after the ICC hadn’t considered a reserved day for the final they added 75 minutes to the rainy day.

Batting first India put 129-7 on the board, which was greatly dependent on Virat Kohli (43) and Ravindra Jadeja’s (33) partnership of 47 from 33 balls and Ravi Bopara claimed the best figures of 3-20.

In the chase England were rattled by the Indian spinner’s as they fell to 46-4, before Eoin Morgan (33) and Bopara (30) had the hosts on course for victory with 20 runs remaining from 16 balls before a late collapse left their dreams shattered.

The in-form India openers on this occasion could only stay together for three overs before Stuart Broad (1-26) bowled out Rohit Sharma (9). Shikhar Dhawan (31) and Kohli helped India reach 50 in the ninth over and then rain halted play again.

Trouble struck the Indian batting-line up straight after the delay, from 50-2 they were reduced to 66-5; Bopara dismissed the tournament’s top run scorer Dhawan, Suresh Raina (1) and the dangerous Mahendra Singh Dhoni (0) hit the ball straight to third-man during a double-wicket maiden.

But Kohli and Jadeja shared handy partnership of 59 on the sixth wicket Jadeja pulled Broad for a maximum a few balls after he was put down by Jonathon Trott. Kohli lifted Anderson (1-24) to Bopara and Ravi Ashwin was run out via Ian Bell’s direct hit before a couple of boundaries from Jadeja and a six off Anderson took India to a competitive total.

In reply, England were under pressure pretty early in the chase, Cook edged Umesh Yadav (1-10) to first slip in the second over. Trott has been critised for a slightly low run-rate, he batted to 20 from 17 balls only to fall over when attempting to work Ashwin (2-15) to the on-side.

Joe Root (7) and Bell was stumped, some replays showed his foot was grounded when he dragged his foot out at Jadeja (2-24) leaving England in deep trouble on 46-4. Morgan and Bopara put on 64 for the 5th wicket, the pair decreased the required run-rate from 10 to 5.

Bopara hit two huge sixes and Morgan powered to 33 off 30 balls, when England reached 110 with 20 runs needed off 16 balls. But the game changed in one wayward over from Ishant Sharma (2-36), first Morgan was fooled by a slower ball which he chipped to mid-wicket and Bopara pulled the ball straight to square leg.
England never recovered from the fall of the two set batsmen, Jos Buttler was bowled out for a golden duck and Tim Bresnan ran himself out.

With 15 runs required from the final over, Broad managed one boundary and James Tredwell was unable to hit a six from the last ball, as England finished on 124-8.

The strong Indian crowd at Birmingham saw their team add the Champions Trophy to the World Cup triumph in 2011.

England in contrast have now failed to cross the finishing line in a one-day competition for the 4th time and not even when the match was reduced to the format they have been crowned world champions they still couldn’t pull it off.

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It’snowheaven – The English Rose – By Jess Softley

Being the first English ski and snowboard Championships, there were high expectations for this inaugural event to equal its Scottish counterparts.

However, with seasoned event organisers Snowsport England, no one need worry. With a set up designed to challenge slopestyle riders, and big boots to fill, over 90 athletes turned up to show off England’s pride and joy.

The proof of its success came flooding in, as some of this year’s GB Olympic hopefuls came to test their skills against Chill Factore’s indoor snow dome. Riders of all abilities in both disciplines came to showcase their skills, as spectators and parents of some of the young hopefuls, could watch on with pride from the balcony.

The snowboarders presented a high standard of ability, impressing the judges on both the rails, kickers and wall rides, hoping to gain that all important top podium position.

It was clear early on that the level of technicality was high between riders, with John Weatherly particularly catching the eye of not only the judges but also the spectators, as he pulled out a monster backside 360 gap over the two pipe stalls.

Matt McCormick also stood out as he stepped up the bar with a steezy front 7 off the big kicker. Close on the heels was Keiron Staton, who was determined to let no one stand in the way of his podium position.

The girls were definitely determined not to be over shadowed by their male counterparts.

The talented Isobel Jones and Brit winner Becky Menday showed off their versatility on the shotgun rail, securing their fate in the finals, with Isobel taking 1st place and Becky just sliding in behind with 2nd. Followed closely behind was Cerys Allen.

With such insane runs, 1st place went to John Weatherly, with Matt McCormick just missing out, taking 2nd place, and Keiron Staton taking a well earnt 3rd.

So did they English comp match its Scottish counterpart in this healthy competition, Och aye it did!

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Bowled Over – England Ease Into Final – By Luqman Liaqat

England eased past South Africa with an emphatic victory in the semi-finals at the Oval to reach the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy final.

Alistair Cook’s men chased down a mediocre target of 176 with about 12 overs still to spare, Jonathon Trott scored an unbeaten 82 which saw England cross the winning line but it was mainly down to the bowler’s hard work earlier in the day.

After being put into bat first South Africa were bowled out for 175 in 38.4 overs and it was the ninth-wicket partnership of 95 between David Miller (56 not out) and Rory Kleinveldt (43) that added some respectability to the scoreboard.

James Anderson (2-14) set the tone with an outstanding new-ball spell then James Tredwell (3-19) and Stuart Broad’s (3-50) finished the job by sharing three wickets each.

Anderson sent Colin Ingram packing for duck after he was judged lbw in the fifth ball of the match and Steve Finn followed up by removing Hashim Amla (1) caught behind by Jos Buttler, the first of six catches for the English wicket-keeper.

From the African’s top order batsmen only Robin Peterson (30) played some positive shots hitting a couple of glorious boundaries and when he became Anderson’s second lbw victim the Proteas were really struggling on 45-3.

The South African skipper AB de Villiers was out for a nine-ball duck, playing a loose shot to give his wicket away. Off-spinner James Tredwell bowled out JP Duminy in the next over for three, the collapse continued as Tredwell dismissed Faf du Plessis (26) and Chris Morris for 3 either side of Ryan McLaren’s run out after quick thinking from Trott at second slip.

With the Proteas innings in complete disarray at 80-8 inside the 23rd over, Miller and Kleinveldt’s 96-ball stand helped as both men took an aggressive approach which almost paid off for a strong target until Broad removed Kleinveldt and Tsotobe (0) in successive deliveries.

Miller was left stranded on 56 not from 51 deliveries, which included two explosive sixes from Broad and Finn’s shorts balls.

In reply, England lost their openers early, Cook edged behind to De Villiers off Morris and Ian Bell nicked a width delivery from Kleinveldt leaving England 41-2 in 11 overs.

Joe Root (48) joined Trott in a third-wicket alliance of 145 which all but ended South Africa’s chances of a turnaround and the cause wasn’t helped by the absence of their seam attack spearhead Dale Steyn.

Root was bowled out sweeping Duminy (1-27) two away from his fifty, Trott faced 84 balls and hit 11 fours and Eoin Morgan (15 not out) supported him to finish off the job without any further problems.

With this victory England reach their second Champions Trophy final, the three lions previous final was in 2004 on that occasion victory went to West Indies and South Africa have once again failed at the semi-final stage.

England have not won a 50-over competition before, they have lost three World Cups and on Sunday they will want put the record straight at Edgbaston as they await the winner of Thursday’s semi-final between India and Sri Lanka.

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Pit Stop – Le Mans Takes The Limelight – By Lewis Brearley

This weekend will be the first for over two months where neither a MotoGP nor a Formula One race will happen.

But for many of the most die-hard motorsport fans, this is the biggest and most important weekend of the whole season, for this weekend sees the 81st running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

While tens of thousands of motorsport fans make the annual pilgrimage to watch the endurance classic first hand, thousands more can enjoy full live coverage courtesy of the Eurosport channel.

The build up to this year’s race has centred on the slow realisation that this could be an Audi walkover, due to the pace difference between Audi and their biggest rivals, Toyota which unexpectedly revealed itself at the Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps endurance races.

After last year’s event, which saw Toyota run stunning but short-lived pace in what was their first race with the new generation TS030 Hybrid car, the Japanese company were expected to battle Audi closely this year. However, the situation now clearly visible from results of both races already run this season combined with the Le Mans practice session times, is one of Toyota lagging behind Audi.

Yet the Audi team are not outwardly showing confidence. They claim that contrary to popular belief they do actually have a race on their hands thanks to the Toyota being able to run an average on two laps more per fuel load than Audi’s respective challenger.

This means the Audi would need a speed benefit of 1.2 seconds per laps according to the Audi team themselves.

The first practice session from the Le Mans weekend therefore looks extremely positive for Audi, after the fastest R18 e-tron posted a time four seconds faster than the highest placed TS030.

The battle for overall victory may therefore be without tension, but Le Mans is about way more than just that.  The LMP2 class nearly always provides an absorbing race, with around 20 entries this year all with a chance of victory. The class which is arguably the soul of the race sees passionate and experienced privateer racing teams race through the night and into the dawn.

Furthermore, there is the annual battle for GT class honours between Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, Chevrolet and this year’s newbies SRT. In this race the form points towards an Aston-Ferrari battle for class victory but the hugely experienced Porsche outfit can never be discounted.

Le Mans always provides entertainment, and the more hours you commit to it, the greater its repayment. I understand if staying awake all weekend is too much for you though.

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Bowled Over – England Progress – By Luqman Liaqat

England won by 10 runs to book their place in the ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals in a rain- shortened match at Cardiff against New Zealand.

The three lions captain Alistair Cook was the top scorer with 64 off 47 balls as England fell apart at the end of their innings from 141-3 to 169-all out in a match reduced to 24-overs per side due to heavy downpour earlier in the day.

Despite being without Graeme Swann the English bowling attack did well at the SWALEC stadium to restrict their opponents to 159-8 as Kane Williamson scored a strong 67.

After rain through the morning, play eventually started at 3.45pm and Ian Bell fell in the second over slapping the ball straight to short extra over off Mitchell McClenaghan the tournaments leading wicket-taker.

In the next over Kyle Mills sent Jonathon Trott back to the pavilion for 8 leaving England 25-2. When Joe Root joined Cook in a stand 75 the run-rate soon picked up giving England a chance to post a strong total.

Cook in total was dropped three times all of the chances were put down by Nathan McCullum. For the very first time in an ODI innings the England skipper cleared the rope twice and he doesn’t play Twenty20 but on this occasion he showed his quick scoring ability by scoring a handy 64.

Root was looking very busy at the crease as usual by using his wrists to find the gaps in the field and he provided one maximum pulling Daniel Vettori straight over deep midwicket. When England reached 100 inside the 14th over, McClenaghan struck again as Luke Ronchi took a catch off a Root pull shot gone all wrong.

Eoin Morgan made a run a-ball 15 hitting one over the top, and Cook fell when Nathan McCullum took a return catch off his own bowling. In the 20th over England lost their fifth wicket and were bowled out before the allocation of the 24 overs reaching 169 courtesy of Jos Buttler’s two late boundaries.
The New Zealand seamers bowled some tight overs at the death of the England innings with Mills (4-30) and McClenaghan (3-36) taking the pick of the figures.

England opening bowling pair soon made the chase look even more daunting for the Kiwis’, James Anderson in his early three-over spell bowled with testing pace and movement Ronchi could only skew the ball down to third man and Martin Guptill ran the ball back onto his own stumps leaving the score 14-2.

Some superb bowling and fielding from England helped them claim three more wickets, Taylor (3) pinned lbw by Tim Bresnan, Ravi Bopara (2-26) removed Brendon McCullum (8) and James Franklin for 6 as the batting line-up was left reeling on 62-5 after 14 overs.
Williamson tried his best to keep the chase alive, hitting eight boundaries and one six off Stuart Broad and debutant Corey Anderson (30 from 24 balls) impressed with his huge hitting potential but the sixth wicket stand of 73 was in a losing cause.

Anderson (3-32) picked up the final wicket of the innings dismissing Nathan McCullum as New Zealand fell short by 10 runs finishing on 159-8.

England are through to the semi-finals where they will face India or South Africa and New Zealand on the other hand are relying on Australia to beat Sri Lanka in the final Group B game on Monday.

Bowled Over – India March On- By Luqman Liaqat

India continued their perfect record in the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy by beating arch-rivals Pakistan in a rain hit match at Edgbaston.

After several delays throughout the day it meant India eventually needed to chase 102 in 22 overs, they reached the target by losing two wickets with 17 balls to spare.

In form batsman Shikhar Dhawan scored 48 runs off 41 balls and Virat Kohli contributed with a handy unbeaten 22 to steer his side over the winning line.

Pakistan were sent out to bat under very cloudy skies, opener Nasir Jamshed had a successful lbw overturned via a review however his reprieve did not last long as he poked a catch straight to Suresh Raina at second slip off Bhuvneshwar Kumar leaving the score 4-1.

Kamran Akmal was promoted to open alongside Mohammed Hafeez which saw Pakistan reach 50-1 inside the 12th over before rain held-up play for 12 minutes.

Straight after the rain break, Hafeez (27) edged behind to the Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni giving Kumar (2-19) his second wicket of the match. Ravichandaran Ashwin soon dismissed Akmal as he was caught at short-leg via Dhoni’s thigh after playing a rash drive leaving the Pakistanis now 56-3.

When the score reached 70-3 after 19 overs, a further interruption of over an hour reduced the match to a 40-over contest. Asad Shafiq (41) and Misbah-Ul-Haq (22) put on a 40 run partnership before Misbah was bowled out by Ravindra Jadeja.

Ishant Sharma despite not being on his best, with some fortune he had Shafiq to a leg-side edge and in the next over Jadeja (2-39) trapped Shoaib Malik with a quick arm ball and Pakistan from 110-3 were now in a huge mess at 139-6.

It was left to Umar Amin with 27 off 26 deliveries to see them through to the inning’s final over, a couple of late run outs meant Pakistan were bowled out before their full allocation for 165 in 39.4 overs.

Under the Duckworth/Lewis revision India faced a target of 168 from 40 overs, Dhawan and Rohit Sharma threatened to become the first Indian opening combination to score three successive century stands.

India reached 45-0 inside 8.1 overs when more downpour saw India’s target adjusted to 157 off 36 overs. Saeed Ajmal had Sharma’s wicket when Misbah held a catch at midwicket for 18 before the weather once again intervened this time for an hour.

Miraculously, the sun eventually appeared and India’s target was adjusted for one last time to 102 in 22 overs. India on 67-1 now needed 35 runs from 54 balls, Dhawan scorer of two centuries in India’s wins earlier in the tournament, holed out off Wahab Riaz on 48 from 42 balls.

Kohli was then joined by Dinesh Karthik (11*) to finish off the job in 19.1 overs and take India through to the semi-finals with three wins out of three.

India had already booked their place in the semi-finals as Group B winners following victories over South Africa and West Indies, while Pakistan knew they were going home regardless of the result as they had already lost twice.

 

 

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Pit Stop – Racers Want To Race – By Lewis Brearley

How you reacted to the late-race radio exchange between Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes engineer is a clear indicator of what you want and love about Formula One racing.

When Lewis’s engineer, responding to the looming threat of a rapidly closing Fernando Alonso, radioed with the rather oblique: “Your rear traction metrics are under 2000,” Lewis replied simply: “just let me drive man.”

The get-out-there-and-drive-the-wheels-off attitude doesn’t tend to compliment the technical, cerebral very well. Indeed, this was the issue at the very core of the Senna versus Prost battle years ago and we all know how destructive that became.

Yet in modern Formula One the most obvious example of this culture clash is with Lewis Hamilton, who puts Senna as his hero. The engineer simply meant that there was plenty of life left in his driver’s tyres and was giving him a coded message to push to fend off Alonso. Was there really such a need to make such a command so complex?

In a sport so technical, where tenths of a second can separate glorious victory from despairing loss, any advantage and even ways of working are jealously guarded.

While a huge frustration to the Hamilton-ites, it surely makes sound sense for the more technical minded fans. Why spend millions on aerodynamic parts, engine software developments and brake cooling devices to blow it with a rash communication?

The thing which makes F1 so different and special among sports is the fact that it can be enjoyed in such disparate ways, and every fan across the spectrum can love it just as much.

After all, whether you were shouting in unison with Lewis and his plea to just “get on with the driving”, or instead you were in harmony with his engineer in thinking that there was nothing more vital to the race than Lewis’s rear tyre degradation matrix, your love of Formula One isn’t any less.

However, someone who just may be falling out of love with F1 is Jenson Button. Just as it looked that his team was finding its way out of the mire it found itself in at the start of 2013, his torrid season reached a new nadir. For the first time since the dark days of 2009 the team finished with both its cars outside the points.

This was supposed to be Button’s year in which he finally had a big team to lead, to mould around himself and to challenge for a second championship.

But with the winding down of the Mercedes technical partnership next year and the loss of the technical director Paddy Lowe, there doesn’t seem to be any light visible at the end of the tunnel yet.

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Is This The End

England Under 21 boss Stuart Pearce faces an anxious wait to see if he will remain as the head coach of the side.

After an abysmal effort in the Under 21 Championships, where the young three lions lost all of their group games, scoring just one goal, the former England player has come under scrutiny for his managerial credibility.

However, let’s not forget that the squad he had to choose from had the minimal number of under 21 players playing in the top flight out of all European divisions, with the best of that crop already in the senior England side.

Some fans and pundits have called for this to be the way it should be, with the senior side getting the overall benefit, but in reality it shows the complete lack of depth in our International game.

Other nations such as Spain and Germany have more younger players in their senior squads, yet still produce players of star quality in the Under 21 and the Under 19 categories.

A recent article by the Mail showed less than 35% of players in the Premiership were English, which is down 10% on both Germany and Italy, while Spain have an impressive 59% of players.

With this stat, it is little wonder that their are no longer the sheer volumes of players coming through, or the star quality to make England a force on both fronts.

Pearce could potentially done better in the championships but with a lack of talent at his disposal, cannot be blamed fully.

Unless an overhaul in the structure of the game is produced, expect to see England fail at Championships for many years more.

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