My sporting month: March 2012

The football season will be gearing up for its home stretch in March, as the Premier League season enters its final third and we have the quarter-finals of both the FA Cup and the Champions League to look forward to. Similarly the Six Nations reaches its climax this month with a potential Grand Slam showdown to look forward to. And the England cricket team embark on the final leg of their winter tours.

But for many other sports their year is only just beginning, or at least getting into their stride. As winter turns to spring, here are five of the key sporting events I’ll be watching this month.

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The week in numbers: w/e 23/10/11

Simoncelli died in a crash at the Malaysia MotoGP on Sunday (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

24 – Age of Italian MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli, who died after a crash at the Malaysian MotoGP in Sepang. He competed in 34 MotoGP races for Honda, setting two poles and recording two podium finishes. It was the first fatality in MotoGP since Japan’s Daijiro Katoh died after a crash at the 2003 Japanese GP, while last year Japan’s Shoya Tomizawa died in a Moto2 race in San Marino.

7 – Britain’s track cycling team dominated the European Track Championships in Apeldoorn, Holland, winning seven gold medals in the 13 events. No other country won more than one gold. They won the men’s keirin (Matt Crampton), omnium (Ed Clancy) and team pursuit, and the women’s keirin (Victoria Pendleton), omnium (Laura Trott), team sprint and team pursuit.

1 – At the halfway point of the group phase in the Champions League only Real Madrid still have a 100% record, although ten out of the 32 teams remain unbeaten.

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The week in numbers: w/e 27/2/11

Anelka scored twice against Copenhapen

4 – All four goals in last Tuesday’s Champions League matches were scored by Frenchmen. Nicolas Anelka registered both Chelsea goals in their 2-0 win at FC Copenhagen, while Bafétimbi Gomis and Karim Benzema scored in the 1-1 draw between Lyon and Real Madrid.

43 – Benzema scored Real Madrid’s goal 43 seconds after entering the field as a substitute.

512 Marseille‘s 0-0 draw with Manchester United means they have now gone 512 minutes in the Champions League without conceding a goal.

1Ben Foden scored the only try of the game as England defeated France 17-9 in the clash between the only two unbeaten teams in the Six Nations.

8 – Defeat ended France’s eight-match winning streak in the Six Nations. England were also the last team to beat them, in March 2009.

Kaymer takes over as world number one

1 – Despite losing the WGC Match Play final to England’s Luke Donald, at the age of 26 Germany’s Martin Kaymer has now displaced Lee Westwood at the top of golf’s world rankings.

19Barcelona‘s 3-0 win at Mallorca extended their unbeaten streak away from home in La Liga to 19 matches, equalling the Spanish top flight record of Real Sociedad (1979-1980).

5Arsenal have now lost more League Cup finals than any other team (1968, 1969, 1988, 2007, 2011) after a late defensive mix-up allowed Birmingham City to win 2-1 at Wembley yesterday.

7 – Arsenal’s last seven Cup final defeats (both domestic and European) have come as a result of a goal after the 80th minute (six) or a penalty shootout (one).

36 – Former Bradford, Wolves, Southampton and Tottenham defender Dean Richards died on Saturday after a long fight against illness. He was aged just 36. He is perhaps best known for being on the wrong end of three major comebacks during his career where his side had led 3-0 at half-time – a 4-3 FA Cup defeat (in 2001) to Tranmere while at Southampton, a 5-3 Premier League defeat to Manchester United later that year after transferring to Tottenham, and then a 4-3 FA Cup replay loss to ten-man Manchester City in 2004.

The cricket World Cup in numbers

30 – In Australia’s 91-run win over Zimbabwe, Ricky Ponting was run out for the 30th time in one-day internationals, second only to Mark Waugh‘s 32 among Australian batsmen. Ponting also holds the record for most run outs in Tests (14).

Ten Doeschate scored his 4th ODI ton

4 – Of the eight centuries by Netherlands’ batsmen in one-dayers, four have been scored by Ryan ten Doeschate, who notched up 119 in the defeat by England.

37 – In losing to Pakistan by 205 runs, Kenya conceded 37 runs in wides, equalling the world record in ODIs.

107 AB de Villiers‘ unbeaten 107 in South Africa‘s seven-wicket win over the West Indies was his seventh ODI century in 39 matches since the beginning of 2009. In those games he has averaged an impressive 62.80.

31 – Victory over New Zealand on Friday extended Australia’s unbeaten streak in World Cup matches to an astonishing 31. Their last defeat was against Pakistan in the group stage in 1999.

4Bangladesh‘s Shafiul Islam took 4/21 in their 27-run victory over Ireland. It was the first time a Bangladeshi bowler has taken four wickets in a World Cup match.

47Sachin Tendulkar‘s 120 in Sunday’s tied game was his 47th ODI hundred, but only his second ever against England.

3 – Tendulkar still has more ODI wickets against England (three) than he does centuries (two).

5 Tim Bresnan‘s 5/48 made him only the second England player to take five wickets in a World Cup innings. The first was Vic Marks in 1983.

158Andrew Strauss‘s 158 in England’s reply was his highest ever one-day score.

The Premier League week in numbers

4 – By scoring in the 3-1 win over TottenhamBrett Ormerod has now scored for Blackpool in all four English league divisions.

11Sébastien Squillaci’s eighth-minute goal in Arsenal‘s 1-0 victory over Stoke was the eleventh scored by Arsenal in the first 15 minutes in the Premier League this season, more than any other side. Stoke have not scored in the first 15 minutes all season.

Nolan celebrated his 50th Premier League goal

50Kevin Nolan‘s goal in Newcastle‘s 1-1 draw with his former club Bolton was his 50th Premier League goal. He has 11 this season alone, a career high.

12Wigan, who lost 4-0 at home, have now lost all 12 of their Premier League encounters with Manchester United.

31Wolves‘ 4-0 thrashing of Blackpool was their biggest top flight win in more than 31 years, since a 4-0 win at Norwich City in February 1980.

21Fulham‘s 1-1 draw with his former club Manchester City meant that Mark Hughes has now drawn 21 of his last 39 games while in charge of these two clubs.

(Some statistics courtesy of Opta Sports, The Times@InfostradaLive, Cricinfo and @StatManJon.)

The week in numbers: w/e 5/9/10

Laurent Fignon (1960-2010)

2 – Number of Tours de France won by French cyclist Laurent Fignon, nicknamed ‘Le Professeur’, who died last Tuesday from metastatic cancer. He was aged 50.

8 – Number of seconds by which Fignon lost the 1989 Tour de France to Greg LeMond, the closest finish in the race’s history. He is often better remembered for that narrow loss than for his 1983 and 1984 wins.

19 – Age of Moto2 racer Shoya Tomizawa, who died after a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix yesterday. The Japanese rider, winner of the inaugural race in the newly-created Moto2 class earlier this year, came off his bike when under pressure from Italy’s Alex de Angelis, and was hit by both de Angelis and British rider Scott Redding. He was airlifted to one hospital, and then to the Riccione Hospital on the Adriatic coast where he died.

7 – In winning her first round singles match against Petra Martić, Elena Baltacha became only the seventh British woman in 20 years to reach the second round of the US Open. Martić had previously defeated Baltacha in the first round at Wimbledon. (Baltacha lost to Petra Kvitová in straight sets in the second round.)

Carolina Wozniacki (image courtesy of FTT)

0 – Games lost by women’s number one seed Carolina Wozniacki of Denmark in winning her second round singles match 6-0 6-0 against Taipei’s Kai-Chen Chang.

9 – Number of different teams represented by the winners of the first nine stages at the Vuelta a España. There have been nine different winners, covering eight nationalities:  Britain (Mark Cavendish, who was first across the line as HTC-Columbia won the team time trial), Belarus (Yauheni Hutarovich), Belgium (Philippe Gilbert), Spain (Igor Antón, David López), USA (Tyler Farrar), Norway (Thor Hushovd), Italy (Alessandro Petacchi) and France (David Moncoutié).

9/6 – In the first innings of their county championship match against Gloucestershire, Derbyshire were reduced to nine for six before finishing 44 all out. Gloucestershire’s James Franklin at one stage had bowling figures of 5/0; he eventually finished with 7/14. Remarkably, Derbyshire recovered to win the match when Gloucestershire, requiring 125 in their second innings to win, were dismissed for just 70.

24 – Number of wickets that fell on the first day of the aforementioned Gloucestershire vs Derbyshire match.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

42,000,000 – In Euros, the projected loss Barcelona will make in transfer fees on Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimović should AC Milan take up their option to buy him for €24m next summer following his season-long loan deal. Ibrahimović was acquired from Inter Milan just one year ago in a deal that valued him at €66m.

18,200,000 – Fee (in ponds) paid by AC Milan to Manchester City to sign Brazilian forward Robinho. City had set a British transfer record of £34.2m in signing him just two years ago.

191,000,000 – According to The Times, net spending by Premier League clubs (i.e. transfer fees paid less transfer fees received) in the summer transfer window reached £191m, three times as much as last summer’s £64m. Man City alone accounted for more than half the total, with net spending of £99m. (These numbers do not include Tottenham‘s £8m prchase of Rafael van der Vaart.)

116Kevin Pietersen scored 116 off 105 balls as Surrey tied their Clydesdale Bank 40 match against Sussex on Saturday. It was Pietersen’s first century in any form of cricket in 18 months, and his first domestic one-day ton in seven years.

4 – England’s women’s rugby team have reached four of the last five World Cup finals, but their 13-10 defeat to New Zealand in yesterday’s final was the third straight time they have finished as runner-up to the same opponent. The win marked the Black Ferns’ fourth consecutive World Cup win.

The international football week in numbers

Theo Walcott - 13 England caps, 13 wins

13 – After their 4-0 victory over Bulgaria, England have won all 13 games in which Theo Walcott has featured. No other England player has ever won their first 13 internationals.

11 – England have now won their last 11 home internationals, equalling their best ever run (set in 1957).

11Wayne Rooney has failed to score in his last 11 games for England, although he was involved in all four of England’s goals on Friday night.

1958 – The last time a Bolton Wanderers player featured in a competitive match for England, until Gary Cahill came on as a second-half substitute for the injured Michael Dawson.

9 – The Republic of Ireland are now unbeaten in their last nine away matches (three wins, six draws) after winning 1-0 in Armenia.

15Scotland‘s 0-0 draw in Lithuania was their first clean sheet in 15 games.

4 – Scotland have visited Lithuania four times in the last four European Championship qualifying campaigns.

2 – By defeating Wales 1-0, Montenegro recorded only their second competitive win since becoming an independent football nation in 2006.

4 – After their 1-0 home defeat to Belarus, France have lost their last four games, their worst run in 73 years. They have also lost six times so far in 2010, joint-highest for any calendar year in their history (also 1930).

(Some statistics courtesy of @OptaJoe and @OptaJean.)

At least we’re not as bad as France

After the tension of last night’s do-or-die World Cup game against Slovenia, I suspect England fans everywhere could probably do with a spot of blood pressure-lowering light relief.

So here is a little musical effort by Dave Henson – to the tune of Lady Gaga‘s Bad Romance – produced just before France‘s final game against South Africa. It was featured on BBC 5Live earlier this week, but if you haven’t heard it already it’s well worth four minutes of your time.

You can find Mr Henson’s other comedy musical stylings on his YouTube channel here.

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