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My sporting month: February 2012

February sees major sporting events all over the globe, from the NFL’s Super Bowl in Indianapolis to a glut of events in the Middle East: Test cricket in Dubai, and cycling in Qatar and Oman. Closer to home football’s Champions League enters its knockout phase, with eight first-leg matches including tricky assignments for the Premier League’s two survivors, Arsenal and Chelsea. And that is just the first of a series of challenging fixtures for the misfiring Gunners, who face a horrendous run of games in a short spell. But it will certainly be an exciting month, and here are five of the key events I will be following in February.

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49ers beaten at own game as Giants road trip reaches Super Bowl

NFC Championship Game: San Francisco 49ers 17 New York Giants 20 (OT)

There was to be no ‘Har-Bowl’ and no fairy-tale ending for the San Francisco 49ers and Alex Smith. A year after they finished a lowly 6-10 and the former number one overall pick was drummed out of town, Jim Harbaugh‘s revitalised team fell one step short of their first Super Bowl appearance in 17 years.

The New York Giants won on the road again, shutting down the 49ers’ offense for long periods and riding the boot of Lawrence Tynes to prevail 20-17 in overtime on a cold, wet evening at Candlestick Park. They will now play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis in a fortnight’s time, a repeat of the title game from four years ago, when the underdog Giants denied the Patriots what would have been only the second ‘perfect’ Super Bowl winning season.

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The week in numbers: w/e 22/1/12

Joe Paterno, RIP (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

85 – Age of Joe Paterno, former football head coach of Penn State University, who died after a short battle with lung cancer. Paterno won 409 games and two national championships in nearly 46 years as coach, but was sacked last November for his links to a child abuse scandal.

0 – Number of sets won by the five British players – Laura Robson, Heather Watson, Elena Baltacha, James Ward and Anne Keothavong – who competed on the first day of the Australian Open. They lost ten sets and all five matches between them.

3 – Former Chelsea and Leeds defender Michael Duberry scored an unusual hat-trick for current club Oxford United. He conceded two own goals to put visitors Hereford United 2-1 up at the Kassam Stadium, before snatching a last-minute equaliser to earn Oxford a point.

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The week in numbers: w/e 15/1/12

Yet another hat-trick for Messi (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

3Lionel Messi was awarded his third Ballon d’Or, becoming the fourth player (after Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini and Marco Van Basten) to win three times. He is only the second man after Platini to do so in three consecutive years.

23Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed for 15 and 8 as Australia defeated India by an innings and 37 runs in the third Test in Perth to take a 3-0 lead in the four-match series. Tendulkar remains stuck on 99 international centuries and has now gone 23 innings without registering a ton.

69 – Australia’s David Warner needed just 69 balls to score his century in Perth, the fourth-fastest ton in Test history. Four of the seven fastest centuries have been scored at the WACA. He finished with a total of 180 off 159 deliveries.

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The week in numbers: w/e 8/1/12

Philander has made an astonishing start to his Test career

224 – Jacques Kallis, playing in his 150th Test, recorded his highest ever score of 224 as South Africa won the third and final Test in Cape Town to clinch a ten-wicket win and a 2-1 series victory over Sri Lanka.

30 – South Africa’s Vernon Philander took six wickets in the match, raising his totals after just four Tests to 30 wickets at an average of just 13.23 runs and one wicket every 25.2 balls.

1 – Andy Murray won his first tournament of 2012, defeating Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-1 6-3 in the final of the Brisbane International.

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