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The week in numbers: w/e 30/10/11

McIlroy walked away with a cheque for $2m (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

2,000,000 – In dollars, the prize collected by Rory McIlroy for winning the inaugural (and non-official) Shanghai Masters – $560,000 more than he earned for winning the US Open in June. McIlroy beat Anthony Kim in a sudden-death playoff after squandering a three-shot lead going into the final round.

16 – By setting the fastest time in qualifying for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel recorded Red Bull‘s 16th pole of 2011, a new record for one team in a single season.

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The week in numbers: w/e 25/9/11

Makau erased Gebreselassie's time from the record books

2:03:38 – Kenya’s Patrick Makau set a new world record time of 2:03:38 at the Berlin Marathon, taking 21 seconds off the previous record held by Haile Gebreselassie.

1Sebastian Vettel requires just one point from the last five Formula 1 races of the season to clinch his back-to-back world titles after he dominated the Singapore Grand Prix to record his ninth win of the season.

0 – Number of times a car other than a Red Bull has been on pole position during the 14 races of this F1 season. Vettel has 11 poles, Mark Webber three.

2  Owen Hargreaves made only his second competitive start in three years, and scored as Manchester City knocked holders Birmingham out of the Carling Cup 2-1.

3 – Arsenal Ladies completed the domestic treble with a 4-1 League Cup final win over Birmingham. It was their 37th trophy in 24 years.

Cavendish sprinted to victory to take the rainbow jersey (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

2Mark Cavendish won the men’s road race at the UCI Road World Championships to become only the second British rider ever to win the event. Tom Simpson was the other, in 1965 – he went on to win BBC Sports Personality of the Year that year.

3 – Three of the four senior (elite) races at the Road World Championships were won by riders from the HTC-Highroad team (Cavendish, Tony Martin, Judith Arndt). In addition, all three riders on the men’s road race podium rode for the team in 2010: Cavendish and Matt Goss remain with HTC, while bronze medalist André Greipel moved to Omega Pharma-Lotto this year. The team is disbanding at the end of the season.

7 – The West Indies lost seven wickets for just 21 runs as they collapsed to 125 all out in their first Twenty20 match against England at the Oval. England romped to victory by ten wickets.

4 – Run outs in England‘s innings in the second Twenty20 match as they slumped to 88 all out – their lowest ever score in this form of the game – and allowed the West Indies to level the series 1-1.

4 – The European ladies’ golf team defeated the USA 15-13 to regain the Solheim Cup after three consecutive defeats. It was only the fourth time Europe have won the competition, which the USA leads 8-4.

80 – Age of Donald’ Ginger’ McCain, trainer of three-time Grand National winner Red Rum, who died last week.

The Premier League in numbers

100Robin van Persie scored his 99th and 100th goals for Arsenal in the 3-0 win over Bolton.

Walcott links up particularly well with van Persie (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

7Theo Walcott provided the assist for van Persie’s second goal. All seven of Walcott’s assists in 2011 have been for goals scored by van Persie.

43West Bromwich Albion‘s 0-0 draw with Fulham snapped a streak of 43 games since their previous goalless draw in a Premier League game.

63Chelsea‘s 4-1 win over Swansea extended their unbeaten streak against newly promoted sides to 63 games, dating back to 2001. They have won 56 of those 63 games.

27Manchester United opened the scoring in their 1-1 draw at Stoke with a 27th-minute goal by Nani. This was the third time in a row against Stoke that they have opened the scoring in the same minute.

6 – In scoring Stoke’s equaliser, Peter Crouch became only the sixth player to score for six different clubs in the Premier League. (The other five are Andy Cole, Les Ferdinand, Marcus Bent, Nicky Barmby and Craig Bellamy.)

9Queens Park Rangers‘ last-minute equaliser in the 1-1 draw against Aston Villa came courtesy of Richard Dunne‘s ninth Premier League own goal. He has two more than any other player.

The Rugby World Cup in numbers

9South Africa‘s 87-0 win over Namibia marked the ninth-biggest winning margin in a World Cup game and the third-highest score to nil.

14Namibia have now lost all 14 of their Rugby World Cup matches. No other side has lost as many without winning a single game.

Ashton's was one of two England hat-tricks against Romania (image courtesy of rugbyworldcup.com)

5Mark Cueto and Chris Ashton both scored hat-tricks in England’s 67-3 win over Romania – the fifth time more than one player has scored a hat-trick in the same World Cup match.

14 – Australia scored 11 tries in their 67-5 win over the USA, the 14th time they have crossed for ten or more tries in a match.

25New Zealand‘s 37-17 victory against France extended their unbeaten run at Auckland’s Eden Park to 25 matches. The last team to beat them there was France, in 1994.

2Argentina‘s 13-12 victory over Scotland was only the second game at this World Cup with fewer than ten points in the first half. The other was Argentina vs England.

The NFL in numbers

11 – 11 of Sunday’s 15 games were decided by seven points or fewer.

3 – Baltimore rookie Torrey Smith took his first three career receptions for touchdowns of 74, 41 and 18 yards, all in the first quarter of the Ravens’ 37-7 rout of the St Louis Rams. He finished with five catches for 152 yards.

18 – The Buffalo Bills became the first team in NFL history to win consecutive games in which they trailed by at least 18 points in each game, as they overcame a 21-0 deficit to beat the New England Patriots 34-31 on a field goal as time expired.

15Buffalo‘s victory ended a 15-game losing streak to the Patriots, dating back to 2003.

Brees has now thrown a TD pass in each of his last 30 games (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

4 – New Orelans’ Drew Brees became only the fourth player in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass in 30 consecutive games, joining Johnny Unitas (47), Brett Favre (36) and Dan Marino (30). The Saints outlasted the Houston Texans 40-33 in an offensive shootout.

20 – The Detroit Lions were outscored 20-0 in the first half by the Minnesota Vikings, but rallied to win 26-23 when Jason Hanson hit a 32-yard field goal in overtime.

1 – Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson became the first player ever to have at least two TD catches in each of his team’s first three games of the season. He had seven receptions for 108 yards, scoring from 32 and five yards.

553 – The Ravens accumulated 553 yards on offense, 406 of which came in the first half. Both marks were new franchise records.

3 – In a wild finish, the lead changed hands three times in the last 5½ minutes of the game as Pittsburgh beat Indianapolis 23-20.

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

Vettel cruises to easy Australian GP win

Sebastian Vettel cruised to an easy victory in Melbourne (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Red Bull‘s Sebastian Vettel won the opening race of the 2011 Formula 1 season in Melbourne, his eleventh career victory and his third in succession. The reigning world champion will enjoy few more straightforward victories, converting pole position into a comfortable lead over Lewis Hamilton which he maintained through the pit stops to win at a canter by 22 seconds. The McLaren driver had a largely uneventful and lonely drive to second, while Renault‘s Vitaly Petrov became the first Russian driver to achieve a podium finish in third.

Ferrari‘s Fernando Alonso recovered from a poor start to finish fourth ahead of a frustrated Mark Webber at his home grand prix. Hamilton’s teammate Jenson Button was sixth, paying for a poor start which left him bottled up behind Felipe Massa for several laps, resulting in an excursion down an escape road which led to a drive-through penalty. The Sauber pair of rookie Mexican Sergio Pérez and Kamui Kobayashi were initially seventh and eighth, but were subsequently disqualified when their rear wings were deemed to be in breach of the rules by the scrutineers.

This was the first time since 1970 that an F1 grid had featured five previous world champions. But while Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso and Button all finished in the top six, seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher’s race lasted just 19 laps. He suffered a puncture after being caught up in a first-lap incident, and was later retired by his Mercedes team as a precaution due to the damage to his car.

Here are a few thoughts on the opening race of the season, and what we can expect in the coming months.

Red Bull dominant, but McLaren already closing the gap

There is no mistaking the raw speed and aero balance of the 2011 Red Bull. In qualifying, Vettel was nearly eight-tenths of a second faster than next man Hamilton in a car which looked incredibly stable both under braking and in the corners. The old F1 maxim of  ‘if it looks good, it’s probably fast’ certainly holds true with this Adrian Newey design – his latest creation looks gorgeous and simply blew the opposition away. Vettel controlled the gap at the front of the race as he pleased and even Hamilton, wringing the absolute maximum from his McLaren, had no answer to him.

Hamilton’s effort in splitting the Red Bulls in qualifying was a stellar one, and was ample reward for his team which has essentially rebuilt their car from scratch after a torrid time in pre-season testing. It is testament to McLaren’s resources and focus that they appear to have turned what initially looked to be a dog of a car into the second-best on the grid. Button looked less able to find its absolute limits, but the way he climbed all over the back of Massa’s Ferrari for lap after lap was a sure sign of both his and the car’s potential. It would not be a surprise to see McLaren continue to close the gap in subsequent races.

We will get a better idea of the real pace of all the cars at Sepang, which will provide a sterner test of everyone’s mechanical and aerodynamic capabilities.

The tyre effect

Not only does the switch of tyre supplier from Bridgestone to Pirelli present a new technical challenge to the teams, but the requirement for this season’s tyres to wear more quickly introduces new dimensions of skill and randomness into proceedings. With soft tyres degrading after just a handful of laps, this should benefit drivers and cars who are kinder on their rubber, potentially saving a pit stop. It should also lead to more errors under braking, hopefully increasing overtaking manoeuvres.

Last year many races were run with every team running virtually identical pit-stop strategies, frequently one-stopping. Already in Melbourne we saw greater differentiation on this front, with teams opting for anywhere between one and three stops, which shakes up the running order. In addition, with the top ten having to start the race on the tyres they run in final qualifying, this is forcing the leaders into making their first stop much earlier than in previous seasons. As a result, they are unable to build a big enough gap to avoid rejoining in the midfield traffic, which adds a new and more random element to proceedings.

Overall, the impact of the new tyre regulations looks positive, with fears that the tyres would degrade too quickly seemingly unfounded. Definitely a positive.

Jury still out on KERS and DRS

After a one-year absence, the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) is back in F1. The advantage of the system, which stores up energy generated under braking to provide an additional power boost when desired, is offset by the weight of the batteries used to store that energy and additional rear tyre wear. Red Bull chose to run without it in the race. It will be interesting to see if they continue to do so on circuits with longer straights and higher top speeds, or whether other top teams also choose to sacrifice it.

As for the moveable rear wing or DRS (Drag Reduction System), it was not overly successful in promoting overtaking in Melbourne – the deployment zone was on the relatively short start-finish straight – and despite its repeated use Button could not pass Massa. There is no doubt that it confers a significant speed bonus. However, it probably requires the longer straights found on other circuits to be used to its full advantage in order to allow a following driver to make a pass stick and still brake earlier from a higher speed with initially lower downforce. It will certainly promote more overtaking, but it will be more evident on some circuits than others. Don’t expect it to make much of a difference on street circuits such as Monaco.

The final result is never the final result

One of the most infuriating aspects of F1 is the number of times you switch off at the end of a race, only to discover a couple of hours later that someone has been disqualified or demoted on a technicality. Pérez, on his debut, and Kobayashi had both driven superbly to finish at the bottom of the top eight, only to be disqualified on a minor technicality. While the decision was correct, it does nothing for the credibility of the sport with casual fans when a result is changed after the event.

Sauber are appealing against the double disqualification, so by the time we get to Malaysia in two weeks’ time the race result may have changed again. Only in F1.

How did the new drivers do?

Pérez, the runner-up in last year’s feeder GP2 series, was the most eye-catching of the four rookie drivers in Australia. Although he was slower than teammate Kobayashi throughout practice and qualifying, he was assured and mistake-free throughout, and was fast and lively in the race itself, coming in ahead of Kobayashi and recording a fastest lap four-tenths faster than his Japanese teammate.

GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado‘s race lasted just nine laps before a transmission problem, but he was within three-hundredths of his vastly experienced Williams leader Rubens Barrichello in the first qualifying session. Force India‘s Scottish rookie Paul Di Resta, the DTM German touring car champion, was promoted to tenth after a solid if unspectacular weekend, earning him a point on his debut after he had qualified ahead of teammate Adrian Sutil. Jérôme d’Ambrosio, who won one race in GP2 last year, had a largely anonymous weekend, being the 22nd and last qualifier (a second behind fellow Virgin driver Timo Glock) and ending up as the last classified finisher in 14th.

The return of an old friend

I couldn’t finish without mentioning Renault‘s new livery, which is a tribute to the black-and-gold colours sported by the John Player Special-sponsored Lotus cars of the 1970s and 1980s. It is gorgeous, and immediately brings to mind memories of Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell and a young Ayrton Senna. It’s lovely to see its return.

The week in numbers: w/e 14/11/10

David Haye successfully defended his WBA heavyweight crown (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

7:53 – In their all-British WBA heavyweight title fight, defending champion David Haye stopped Audley Harrison after 1:53 of the third round. In total, the fight lasted just seven minutes and 53 seconds.

0 – Neither boxer landed a single punch in what can only be described as a cagey first round (if you’re being charitable) – or a crap one (if you’re not).

1 – Harrison threw 32 punches but landed just one, in a contest which was as one-sided as it was short.

8Manny Pacquiao beat Antonio Margarito to win the WBC light-middleweight title after a unanimous and overwhelming points decision. He is the only boxer to have ever won world titles in eight different weight categories.

18 – 18-year old Sam Twiston-Davies rode Little Josh to victory at the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, earning his trainer father Nigel his third win in the race.

4Barcelona‘s Xavi Hernández is the only player in La Liga to have completed more than 100 passes in a single game – he has now managed this feat four times this season.

2010 F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

256 – Final points total of Sebastian Vettel, who won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Formula 1 drivers’ title. At the end of a 19-race season, he beat runner-up Fernando Alonso by just four points.

23 – At 23 years and four months, Vettel beat Lewis Hamilton‘s mark as the youngest ever F1 world champion.

0 – Vettel had not led the drivers’ championship at any point before yesterday’s race.

1 – Price in pounds paid in 2005 by Red Bull for the old Jaguar team. In just their sixth season, Red Bull have won both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles.

46Inter Milan‘s unbeaten 46-match streak at home ended last night after their 0-1 loss in the derby against AC Milan.

25 – Points scored by England‘s Toby Flood in their 35-18 win over Australia at Twickenham.

17 – England’s 17-point margin of victory equalled their biggest ever win over the Wallabies.

46Scotland succumbed to a record 46-point defeat at Murrayfield, losing 49-3 to New Zealand.

The Premier League week in numbers

Robert Huth - drought-breaker

697Robert Huth‘s opening goal in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Birmingham broke Stoke‘s run of 697 minutes without a goal against the Blues.

15Michael Essien scored the only goal in Chelsea‘s 1-0 win over Fulham on Wednesday night. Chelsea are undefeated in the 15 league games in which Essien has scored.

4Bolton‘s 1-1 draw at Everton on Wednesday made them the first team in Premier League history to draw four consecutive games 1-1.

10 – Number of changes to Blackpool’s starting XI made by manager Ian Holloway for the midweek trip to Aston Villa. Blackpool lost 3-2.

92:26 – In Arsenal‘s 2-0 win at Wolves on Wednesday, Marouane Chamakh posted the longest time between two goals by the same player in the same Premier League match.

37 – Time (in seconds) of Chamakh’s first goal, the fastest in the Premier League this season and the quickest ever by Arsenal in the Premier League era.

2 – Wolves have now conceded a goal in the first minute of their last two games, against Arsenal on Wednesday and against Bolton on Saturday.

10 – Wolves continued their streak of never having won a Premier League game in November, having drawn two and lost eight of their ten matches.

Johan Elmander - away-day specialist

6 – Bolton’s Johan Elmander has now scored six league goals this season, all away from home.

7 – Saturday’s 4-2 win over Blackburn was Rafael van der Vaart‘s seventh Premier League game at White Hart Lane, and the first in which he has failed to score, having scored seven in his previous six. He is yet to score away from home.

25Fulham achieved a creditable 0-0 draw at Newcastle, but have nonetheless gone 25 consecutive away games without a win.

0 – In failing to find the target in their goalless draw with Birmingham, Manchester City remain the only Premier League team without a headed goal.

47 – Even though they drew 0-0, West Ham and Blackpool attempted 47 shots (including blocked efforts) between them, the most by both teams in a single game this season.

4 – In recovering from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Aston Villa, Manchester United became the fourth Premier League team to remain unbeaten in their first 13 games. Only the Arsenal 2003/04 ‘Invincibles’ went the entire season unbeaten, however.

39Nedum Onuoha‘s opening goal in Sunderland’s surprise 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge broke Chelsea’s run of 39 straight league goals at home without reply.

The NFL week in numbers

3 – Number of San Francisco touchdowns negated by penalty in the 49ers‘ game against the St Louis Rams. The Niners also had an interception chalked off due to a defensive penalty, but still rallied to win 23-20 in overtime.

0 – There are now no winless teams in the NFL after the Buffalo Bills beat the Detroit Lions 14-12.

25 – In losing at Buffalo, Detroit set a new NFL record by losing their 25th straight road game – a streak dating back to 2007. The previous record of 24 straight road losses was also set by the Lions, between 2001-03.

David Garrard completed a 50-yard Hail Mary pass as time expired (image courtesy of jaguars.com)

50Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard threw a 50-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Mike Thomas on the final play of regulation to give the Jaguars a 31-24 win over the Houston Texans.

16 – Seconds remaining in overtime when Santonio Holmes scored the game-winning touchdown to give the New York Jets a 26-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns. It was the third latest touchdown in regular season overtime history. (In 1996, Michael Jackson scored with 10 seconds left as the Ravens defeated the Rams, and in 1978 John Jefferson scored as time expired in overtime for the Chargers against the Chiefs.)

2 – The Jets, who won 23-20 in overtime at Detroit last week, are the first team in NFL history to win road games in overtime in consecutive weeks.

3 Denver quarterback Tim Tebow’s first NFL pass went for a three-yard touchdown to running back Spencer Larsen, making him only the third rookie quarterback since 1991 to register a touchdown on their first career pass attempt (also Atlanta‘s Matt Ryan and Pittsburgh‘s Kordell Stewart) (Denver 49 Kansas City 29).

1 – The Broncos led 35-0 in the second quarter, and are the first team since at least 1950 to have a first half lead of 35-plus points and a first half deficit of at least 35 points in two games in the same season. (The Broncos trailed 38-0 in the first half against the Oakland Raiders in week seven.)

(Some statistics courtesy of Opta Sports, @StatManJon and NFL.com.)

The week in numbers: w/e 7/11/10

Édgar Rentería, 2010 World Series MVP (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

56 – The San Francisco Giants‘ 4-1 win over the Texas Rangers gave them their first World Series triumph since 1954 (a gap of 56 years), and their first since relocating from New York in 1957.

4 – Short-stop Édgar Rentería hit the three-run homer which gave the Giants their 3-1 victory to clinch the World Series. He is only the fourth man to have struck the winning hit in a World Series-clinching game (having previously done the same for the Florida Marlins in 1997), joining an exclusive club comprising three of baseball’s biggest legends: Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra. Rentería was also voted the World Series MVP, the first Colombian player to receive that accolade.

25 – Number of points deducted from Scottish First Division club Dundee, after they went into administration for the second time in seven years. This left them on minus-11 points, 20 points adrift at the bottom of the division.

7 Marseille‘s 7-0 away win at Slovakian champions MŠK Žilina was the largest ever victory by a visiting side since the European Cup adopted the Champions League format.

14Arsenal‘s 2-1 defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk marked the 14th successive Champions League away game in which they have failed to keep a clean sheet.

8Celtic beat Aberdeen 9-0 on Saturday, despite only having eight shots on target.

Brazilian GP winner Sebastian Vettel (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

4 – Number of drivers who can still win the Formula 1 drivers’ title with just the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to come. Sebastian Vettel led a Red Bull one-two in Brazil to cut Fernando Alonso‘s advantage over the German’s teammate Mark Webber to just eight points. Lewis Hamilton is a rank outsider, 24 points behind Alonso. (25 points are available for a win.)

2 – If Alonso finishes second in Abu Dhabi, he will guarantee winning his third drivers’ title.

1 – Although the drivers’ title remains in doubt, Red Bull claimed their first constructors’ world championship, in only their sixth season.

4 – Britain enjoyed their most successful ever World Rowing Championships, winning four gold medals in Olympic-class events (and five in total).

The Premier League week in numbers

61 – Number of minutes for which West Bromwich Albion played with nine men at Blackpool on Monday night. Although they lost the match 2-1, the score during the 61 minutes for which they had a two-man disadvantage was 1-1.

29 – After their 2-2 draw with Everton, Blackpool have now scored in 29 consecutive home matches, last failing to score at home on 18th October 2009.

Owen Hargreaves - crocked again

777Owen Hargreaves started Manchester United‘s game against Wolves, 777 days after his previous Premier League start.

5 – Hargreaves lasted for just five minutes before leaving the field injured. (United won 2-1.)

8Liverpool‘s 2-0 win against Chelsea ended their run of eight consecutive league wins against the other members of the ‘Big Four’ (Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal).

27 Cesc Fàbregas misplaced 27 passes in Arsenal’s 1-0 home defeat to Newcastle, his worst ever tally in a Premier League game.

2 – Arsenal are the first ‘Big Four’ side to lose at home to two different newly promoted teams in a Premier League season.

2Mario Balotelli became the first player to score twice and be sent off in the same Premier League match since Robbie Keane against Birmingham in December 2007.

The NFL week in numbers

3 – There were three overtime games this weekend, the most in the NFL since week two of the 2006 season.

13 – The Atlanta Falcons have won 13 straight home games under quarterback Matt Ryan, whose overall home record as a starter is now 17-1 (Atlanta 27 Tampa Bay 21).

Philip Rivers (image courtesy of chargers.com)

22 – Philip Rivers had his 22nd straight game with at least one passing touchdown (the longest active streak in the NFL) as San Diego beat Houston 29-23. He now has 2,944 passing yards this season, putting him on pace for an NFL-record 5,234 yards.

7 – The New York Jets picked up their seventh straight road win – a franchise record – as they defeated Detroit 23-20 in overtime.

1 – Detroit rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh missed an extra point attempt standing in for injured kicker Jason Hanson. He is the first defensive tackle since at least 1970 to attempt a kick in a game.

3 – The Oakland Raiders have won three straight games for first time since their 2002 Super Bowl season, and their five wins is already tied for their most since the same season. (Oakland 23 Kansas City 20 (OT)).

12 – The Philadelphia Eagles improved to 12-0 in games following a bye week under coach Andy Reid, the longest such streak in the NFL. (Philadelphia 26 Indianapolis 24).

13Indianapolis‘s loss ended the Colts’ streak of 13 straight wins in games played in November.

(Some statistics courtesy of @OptaJoe, @optajim, @OptaJean and NFL.com.)

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