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The week in numbers: w/e 18/12/11

Wilkinson retired as the second-highest scorer in rugby internationals (image courtesy of rugbyworldcup.com)

1,246 – Points scored by England’s Jonny Wilkinson, who announced his retirement from international rugby last week. Only New Zealand’s Dan Carter (1250) has more international points. Wilkinson’s 36 drop goals is more than any other international player.

15 – South Africa crushed Sri Lanka by an innings and 81 runs in the first Test of a three-match series at Centurion. Sri Lanka have now failed to win any of their 15 matches since Muttiah Muralitharan retired from Test cricket in July 2010.

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SPotY-watch

In exactly three months’ time (Thursday 22nd December) the 2011 BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPotY) Awards will take place at the BBC’s new MediaCityUK complex in Salford, Manchester. As ever, this will be a celebration of British sporting achievement in 2011, which includes England crushing Australia in the Ashes and rising to the number one Test ranking, a 19th top-flight title for Manchester United, victories in two of golf’s four majors, the green jersey at the Tour de France and two golds at the World Athletics Championships.

The competition for the main SPotY award looks set to be a close-run affair, with several candidates vying for supremacy in the public vote. The final shortlist of ten will not be published for several weeks, but here is a quick overview of the top ten contenders based on the current odds offered by bookmakers’ William Hill.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Darren Clarke (10/11)

Won The Open Championship by three shots at his 20th attempt, giving him his first victory in one of golf’s four majors. The genial Irishman, who remains a firm public favourite, dedicated his victory to his two children and late wife Heather, who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2006. That year he was runner-up in SPotY, having said that he did not want to win because of a sympathy vote.

SPotY prospects: The runaway favourite. Possesses the winning combination of a great sporting achievement and a human interest back-story.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Rory McIlroy (4/1)

After a spectacular implosion on the back nine in the final round of the Masters which saw him card a final round 80 – the worst ever of any player leading the tournament after three rounds – the 22-year old Irishman bounced back at the US Open. He led every round and finished with a 16-under par total of 268 (both tournament records) to win his first major by an astonishing eight shots. He is currently ranked three in the world.

SPotY prospects: Slim. If Clarke dominates the golfing vote as expected, McIlroy may well slip outside the top three.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Mo Farah (4/1)

Having launched himself into the elite echelon of distance runners with gold in both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at the 2010 European Championships, the Somalia-born Farah continued his upward trajectory in 2011. He won the 3,000 metres at the European Indoor Championships in March, and then followed that up with gold and silver at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. After narrowly losing out to Ethiopian Ibrahim Jeilan in his favoured event, the 10,000, he bounced back to outsprint 2007 world champion Bernard Lagat in the 5,000 to win his first global championship gold.

SPotY prospects: Top three.

Image courtesy of Graham Watson

Mark Cavendish (12/1)

For the fourth year in a row Cavendish, the Manxman regarded as the world’s best sprinter, was dominant at the Tour de France. He won five stages – including the prestigious finale on the Champs-Élysées for an unprecedented third year running – and claimed his first green jersey as the leader of the points competition. He also won two stages at the Giro d’Italia in May, and starts as the favourite for Sunday’s road race at cycling’s Road World Championships. Winning the rainbow jersey might just elevate him into the top three.

SPotY prospects: The cycling world is relatively small but will mass in support of Cav after years of being overlooked in the public vote. It may just be enough to put him into the top three – I will be voting for him – but I suspect he will fall just short.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Tom Daley (20/1)

2011 has been a relatively unexceptional year for the young diver (who is still just 17 years old) in terms of performances, failing to top an individual event – he finished second in both the 3m springboard and 10m platform at the British National Championships – and notching just two wins in the synchronised event with partner Pete Waterfield. However, his year has been overshadowed by the death of his father Robert in May after a long struggle with cancer.

SPotY prospects: No chance.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Alastair Cook (25/1)

Cook was the outstanding batsman in the 2010/11 Ashes series, scoring 766 runs – the second-highest total ever by an Englishman in an Ashes series – at an average of nearly 128. This summer against India, his 294 in the third Test was the highest individual score of the series. (In eight innings, India as a team only surpassed this total once.) For 2011, Cook finished with 927 runs at an average of 84, and recently won the ICC’s Test Player of the Year Award.

England teammate Jonathan Trott had an equally impressive year and was named the ICC’s Cricketer of the Year. The 4-0 series whitewash of India catapulted England to the top of the Test rankings, making them a virtual shoo-in for Team of the Year – even if the rugby team wins the World Cup. This is reflected in the official ICC rankings: England current has four of the top nine batsmen (Cook, Trott, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen) and three of the top five bowlers (Jimmy Anderson, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad).

SPotY prospects: Possible top three, and an almost certain winner as part of the Team of the Year.

Image courtesy of fantasypremierleague.com

Wayne Rooney (33/1)

Having started the 2010/11 season slowly, England’s primary striker finished strongly to help Manchester United to a record-setting 19th league title and the final of the Champions League. However, his form at the start of this season has been electrifying, with nine goals in five league games, including back-to-back hat-tricks.

SPotY prospects: Slim, unless he continues his blistering early season form and performs Beckham-style heroics in England’s final qualifier in Montenegro in a fortnight’s time.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Dai Greene (33/1)

The 25-year old Welshman added the World Championships 400 metres hurdles gold to his European and Commonwealth titles with a storming finish in Daegu. He is also the second fastest-ever British man in the event, behind Kriss Akabusi. His achievements are all the more notable for the fact that he suffers from Osgood–Schlatter disease (a condition which affects the knees) and was diagnosed as a teenager with epilepsy.

SPotY prospects: None, despite his inspirational back-story. Track-and-field voters will opt for Farah.

Image courtesy of rugbyworldcup.com

Chris Ashton & Jonny Wilkinson (both 66/1)

The two rugby players’ SPotY prospects rely solely on England’s performance at the current World Cup, even though both featured in the Six Nations triumph earlier in the year. Winger Ashton – he of the controversial ‘swallow dive’ celebration – has scored 12 tries in just eight internationals this year, including four against Italy during the Six Nations and two in Sunday’s World Cup group victory over Georgia.

Image courtesy of rugbyworldcup.com

Wilkinson is the record points-scorer in World Cups with 257, but had a less than impressive start to this tournament, converting just three of his eight kicks at goal in England’s stuttering 13-9 win over Argentina – a performance which included five consecutive misses. The fly-half did win SPotY in 2003 after that kick, but he remains the only winner of the award from rugby, and several years of injury and declining form since them will weigh heavily against him.

SPotY prospects: None, unless England win the Rugby World Cup – in which case it could be any one of half a dozen or more players – and even then, neither is likely to feature higher than third. 

Beyond the current bookies’ favourites, if I could usher one more sportsperson into the final SPotY shortlist of ten it would be Alistair Brownlee, who recently clinched his second senior world triathlon title in three years. Heptathlete Jessica Ennis misses out this year, by virtue of ‘only’ finishing second in her event at the World Championships.

In terms of the other major awards, I think we can probably safely pencil in the England Test cricket side as the Team of the Year, and Andy Flower must surely be the favourite to become Coach of the YearOverseas SPotY has gone to a tennis player in four of the past seven years and Novak Djokovic – world number one and winner of three Grand Slam singles titles in 2011 – is likely to make it five out of eight, with an honourable mention for Sebastian Vettel, who is on the verge of his second Formula 1 title.

The Lifetime Achievement Award has been won by a football player or manager six of the 12 times it has been awarded, but it could genuinely go to any of a number of sportspeople – however, my bet would be Michael Schumacher. Seve Ballesteros, who won the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, could potentially be posthumously given the Helen Rollason Award (for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity). There would certainly be few more popular winners. Tom Daley has won the Young SPotY award in three of the last four years. Open to anyone aged 16 or under on January 1st 2011, he is eligible for the last time this year, but I suspect it may be heading elsewhere this time around. Your guess is as good as mine on that one, though.

Incidentally, in case you’re wondering why the ceremony is taking place on such an unusual and late date this year (it is normally held on a Sunday in mid-December) it is reportedly because two of the favourites, Clarke and McIlroy, are scheduled to play in tournaments up to the 18th and would not otherwise be able to attend in person. So now you know.

The week in numbers: w/e 11/9/11

Marsh scored 141 on debut, surpassing his father's Test best

141 – In his debut Test innings Australia’s Shaun Marsh scored 141, surpassing his father Geoff’s top score of 138, which he accumulated over a 50-Test career.

13 – The top four men’s singles seeds at the US Open (Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray) all reached the semi-finals, only the 13th time in history this has been achieved at a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era.

4Andy Murray reached the semis at all four Grand Slams this year, the first time he has achieved this. Having reached the final in Australia, he lost his semi-final matches at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

0 – Sets lost by Serena Williams in reaching the US Open final. However, she lost 6-2 6-3 to Australian Sam Stosur.

2Stosur became only the second Australian woman to win the US Open singles title. (Margaret Court won five times between 1962 and 1973.) She is also the first Australian winner of any of the four Grand Slam women’s singles titles since Evonne Goolagong at Wimbledon 1980

Vettel has already all but clinched his second F1 title (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

112 – Points advantage of Sebastian Vettel over his nearest challenger, Red Bull teammate Mark Webber, after the German clinched his eighth win of the season at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. There are only 150 points still available, meaning Vettel could clinch his second consecutive Formula 1 drivers’ title in Singapore in two weeks’ time.

5 – The five world champions currently on the F1 grid occupied the first five places at Monza: Vettel, Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher.

9 – Overall Vuelta a España winner Juan José Cobo was the ninth different rider to wear the red leader’s jersey during this year’s race, one more than the previous record of eight in 2008.

19 – Runner-up Chris Froome actually completed the 21-stage course 19 seconds faster than Cobo, but the Spaniard had a net 32-second gain in time bonuses to take victory by 13 seconds.

1 Ashley Young‘s goal in England‘s 1-0 win over Wales was the only shot on target of the entire match.

0England are the only side yet to concede a goal from inside the area in Euro 2012 qualifying.

Toseland was forced into retirement after his hand injury (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

30 – Age of double World Superbike champion James Toseland, who retired last week after being left permanently disabled by a crash which damaged his right wrist in March.

500Mark Cavendish‘s victory at stage one of the Tour of Britain was the 500th win for HTC-Highroad since the team’s formation in 2008. The most successful squad in the sport during that period is disbanding at the end of this year.

3 – Three Warwickshire batsmen scored centuries in the same innings (Ian Westwood 171, Jim Troughton 151, Rikki Clarke 126) as Nottinghamshire were defeated by an innings and 114 runs at Liverpool.

11Ryan Sidebottom recorded match figures of 11 for 98 in Yorkshire’s six-wicket win over Somerset at Headingley.

2Alistair Brownlee secured his second world triathlon title in three seasons after winning the event in Beijing. Brother Jonathan was third, but finished as the overall runner-up.

Rookie Cobb made an immediate impact with an NFL record-tying kick return (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

108 – In the opening game of the 2011 NFL season on Thursday night, Green Bay Packers rookie wide receiver Randall Cobb returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown, tying the all-time NFL record. He also caught a 32-yard touchdown pass as the Packers defeated the New Orleans Saints 42-34.

12 Green Bay‘s win means the defending Super Bowl champions have won their last 11 season openers. The last opening day loss was by the Denver Broncos in 1999.

422 – Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton passed for 422 yards (with two TDs and one interception) in the 28-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. This was a record total for a rookie quarterback on his NFL debut, and tied the best single-game total by a rookie.

59 – Seconds between the San Francisco 49ers’ Ted Ginn Jr returning first a kickoff 102 yards and then a punt 55 yards for touchdowns in the 49ers’ 33-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

The Premier League in numbers

15Tottenham‘s 2-0 win at Wolves broke a run of 15 winless away games in the Premier League in the month of September, dating back to 2001.

Six goals in two games for Rooney

4Wayne Rooney‘s hat-trick in Manchester United’s 5-0 win at Bolton made him the fourth player in Premier League history to score consecutive hat-tricks (after Les Ferdinand, Ian Wright and Didier Drogba).

18Manchester United have scored 18 goals in their opening four league game, a new Premier League record.

7Chelsea‘s 2-1 win means they have now won on each of their last seven visits to Sunderland.

6Sergio Agüero‘s hat-trick in Manchester City’s 3-0 win over Wigan gave him six league goals so far this season, the same as teammate Edin Džeko. 15 of the 20 Premier League teams have scored fewer than six goals.

4Norwich have now conceded a penalty in four successive Premier League games. Declan Rudd saved it, but West Bromwich Albion nonetheless won 1-0.

The Rugby World Cup in numbers

4Jonny Wilkinson missed four successive kicks during England’s 13-9 win over Argentina.

6 – Argentina’s Felipe Contepomi and Martín Rodríguez combined to miss six of nine kicks in the same match.

Winger Goneva got off to a flying start with four tries

4 – Tries scored by Fiji winger Vereniki Goneva in his country’s 49-25 victory over Namibia.

3 – Namibian fly-half Theuns Kotze kicked three drop goals against Fiji. No other player has yet kicked one.

21 – New Zealand-born James Arlidge scored all of Japan’s points in the 47-21 defeat by France (two tries, one conversion, three penalties). At one point in the second half Japan closed to 25-21 before France pulled away.

815 – Defending champions South Africa fielded the most-capped starting XV in rugby union history in their narrow 17-16 victory over Wales, with a combined total of 815 caps.

(Some statistics courtesy of Opta Sports, The Times, StatManJon, Infostrada, nfl.com and rugbyworldcup.com.)

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