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It’s early days, but 26-year-old Australian opening batsman Marcus Harris and 25-year-old Indian opening bowler Jasprit Bumrah are exciting prospects.

This Perth Test is only Harris’ second, and Bumrah’s eighth, but they have already notched up runs and wickets to command attention.

Harris’ first class career got off to a flying start in only his third Sheffield Shield game for Western Australia. He broke Clem Hill’s record that had stood for 115 years as the youngest to crack 150. He was 18 years of age at the time.

This season’s highlight has been an unbeaten 250 for the Vics against NSW, showing he’s not afraid to go big.

What he’s shown in his three Test digs to date is an ability to mix patience with power and placement.

If there’s a weakness it’s a casual flick outside off stump, with a horizontal bat.

But when he sticks to his strength of a perpendicular bat in an arc from cover through mid-off, straight, mid-on, and mid-wicket, Harris looks every inch a Test batsman.

Yesterday in Perth was a perfect example, especially in the patience department.

In his first Test half-century, Harris struck nine fours off 90 deliveries.

That translates to 36 off nine deliveries, with the remaining 14 off 81 – that’s patience.

Marcus Harris with Victoria. (Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

His final score of 70 off 141 with 10 fours, translates to 40 off 10, and the remaining 30 off 131 – same story.

The flick was again his undoing, so once he either improves the shot, or gives it a miss, the baggy greens have unearthed a new faithful servant.

Overall, he’s patience personified with the bat, and an excellent fieldsman.

Jasprit Bumrah is a totally different proposition.

No-one could teach a budding bowler to bowl like Bumrah, he’s exclusive to himself.

I’ve never seen a fast bowler walk eight to ten paces before breaking into a run of only six steps yet he can generate 140-145 kph deliveries with superb accuracy, moving the ball either way with his delivery arm well away from his ducking head.

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Decidedly odd, but very effective.

In only his third Test since debuting in January this year against South Africa, Bumrah had career-best match figures of 7-111 in Johannesburg, claiming the wickets of Quentin de Kock twice, plus Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, and AB de Villiers.

By any standards, that’s very impressive.

Bumrah is among the leading Test wicket-takers this year with 35 at 24.91. He sits just behind the leader – South African quick and world number one Kagiso Rabada, who has 46 at 20.39.

That too is very impressive.

He’s been the best Indian bowler so far in this series, but Lady Luck hasn’t looked kindly on him, despite the fact he has pointlessly beaten more Australian batsmen than his colleagues.

So get used to Harris and Bumrah. They will be around for a long time – and will always be entertaining.

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James Troisi is a player to whom labels do not quite adhere. It makes him a little hard to digest.

A lot of what Troisi does is conducted at a helter-skelter pace. In the opening five minutes of last night’s win over Brisbane, Keisuke Honda received the ball from Ola Toivonen. Under no small amount of pressure and with Brisbane Roar defenders closing in cautiously – not wanting to be embarrassed, hoisted by some dreamy nutmeg after a lurching challenge – Honda passed it, sharply but without hostility, to Troisi.

The ball ricocheted off Troisi’s foot, a touch as heavy and regrettable as a Tennessee Williams ending, and possession was turned over. It was as if Troisi’s instep had sprung prematurely into action, dribbling off before the ball had arrived. 

Then, a few minutes later, a hacked Melbourne clearance was sent spiralling up the pitch towards Troisi. Here, he chested the ball down to a teammate rushing ahead of him, an almost reflex decision – a very good one – made in the flurry of flight.

Troisi bustles, can get ahead of himself, can over-commit and frustrate as a result. But there is no denying his energy, or the satisfaction his contributions bring when the at-speed machinations align. It’s a little like shooting skeet: bang, bang, bang, miss, miss, miss, and then all of a sudden the aim is true and the shot connects, and it all seems spectacularly effective and deliberate. 

He has his softer, more considered moments too, but even they must be taken advantage of almost right as they appear. For Melbourne’s first goal against the Roar last night, Troisi was gifted the ball after a blundering sequence, missed clearances and tackles spilling the ball this way and that, and then to Troisi.

He turned, saw Kosta Barbarouses making a run that could only be viably passed to in the next second or two. The distance between where the Kiwi might receive the ball, and where the goalkeeper might rush out to thwart things, was closing. Troisi dinked the pass, right on the money, and Barbarouses finished. It was lovely, but had Troisi pondered on the decision, the window of opportunity would have snapped shut.

Of course, such is his nature, he didn’t.

Vince Lia of Adelaide United and James Troisi of the Victory (AAP Image/George Salpigtidis)

Troisi’s place in Muscat’s new 4-4-2 diamond is one justifiably questioned, but not necessarily because of what Troisi does or doesn’t offer. It’s more a matter of displacement, namely of Terry Antonis. Antonis has been electric over the last few weeks, after Troisi’s injury and illness gave Antonis the opportunity to assume the position at the central diamond’s point. 

Troisi also roams around a lot, and when you have two better passers in Antonis and Honda placed further out toward the wings, to see Troisi sidle over and bunch up the wide play, or roam forward, take up positions ahead of Barbarouses, and vacate the No.10 position, well, it all seems a little out of order.

Troisi isn’t really a 10, or a winger, so in the system where the two side points of the diamond drift inwards anyway, one of these clearly liminal attacking slots should surely be filled by the Victory’s clearly liminal attacker. 

But maybe Muscat doesn’t want a more traditional 10, which is what Antonis or Honda placed at the diamond’s tip would be, certainly more so than Troisi. Perhaps he wants these two deep pools of creativity to tip inwards from the wings, trickling into the centre, or overloading defensive responsibility on the league’s full backs rather than the central defenders and defensive midfielders.

For Honda – who is talented and prominent enough a player to involve himself centrally in the attack wherever he’s placed in the formation – this is working well. Antonis is more marginalised. Terry Antonis conjured a wonderful nutmegged backheel in the build up to Victory’s second goal, playing through Corey Brown, right up against the left wing, who duly crossed for Toivonen.

These silken touches and attacking instincts are better utilised in the middle, and if we considered a comparison between Antonis and Troisi in a vacuum, the choice of who should be centrally positioned, and who’s the better ersatz winger, is clear.

But in a vacuum football is not played. Perhaps Muscat’s plan isn’t to play his attackers in their natural roles, and his methods aren’t as dictated by compartmentalisation. Maybe constant movement, revolving positions, and the sense that everyone might play everywhere is exactly what Muscat is pursuing.

Certainly the passing move that led to the penalty that gave Melbourne their third goal was a blur of players popping up in unlikely areas, all contributing, all willingly and fluidly interacting.

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A symphony relies on different sections of the orchestra taking and ceding the lead; trumpets blast out the fanfare, the strings arrive with a soaring motif that commands the ear, suddenly a swell of woodwind and percussion shakes the foundations, and the majesty is produced in concert, without prescription, with multiple elements sloshing around one another.

The Victory even threw in a corner routine, as perfectly executed as the one Muscat dreamt of when he conceived it. Like clockwork it ran; from Honda, to Troisi, then finally to Barbarouses, who hooked the ball home cleanly. Their first half, with four goals scored and two conceded, had more football in it than most entire matches. It was a feast. 

The second half saw Toivonen drift out onto the wings, intending and indeed duly going on to play in a streaking Troisi or Barbarouses rushing through the middle. At other times, Toivonen himself held a central position, ready to dart in behind.

For all of his six feet and three inches, Toivonen is not a traditional striker; he wants to set up teammates, to involve himself in the tactility of build-up play, to arrange for regular rendezvous with the ball – “Let me steal a kiss, my darling.” He is another part of this fluid attack, in fact, one could argue he’s the catalysing element.

Ahead of Carl Valeri, the Victory are a formless threat, even more potent when the full backs get forward. There are no positions, and there are all of them. Honda was seen, as the 4-2 defeat of the Roar wound down, drifting back into the deep midfield, or out on the wing with Storm Roux lingering ahead of him. 

The risk here is that, in such a fluid attack, this lack of structure might cause the team to topple and come crumpling to a heap, more a mess than it is a coherent system. Although it’s very hard to quantify this, the sense is that the endless discipline of Honda, the extraordinary dedication he has to improving himself and drawing golden fibrils of ambition out of his teammates, is the hoop that holds this all together.

Keisuke Honda of the Victory celebrates (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

What the system needs is enthusiasm, constant positive and supportive movement, effort and generosity. In stoppage time, Honda burst down the wing, crossing in the hope his team might score a fifth goal, such is his ravenous desire for more. “I was not satisfied today,” Honda said after the game.

That indefatigable spirit, along with Toivonen’s unique forward play, Antonis’s subtlety and Barbarouses’s dashing pace and, yes, James Troisi’s slightly unwieldy, vague and woolly talents, are all the ingredients Muscat has combined in this rare alchemy.

And the result?

The league’s most exciting attack.

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Australia are in a strong position in the second Test after getting an even spread of batting contributions on a precarious Perth Stadium pitch offering sharp seam movement and major variations in bounce.

On a day when the new pitch played a lot of tricks, with some balls shooting through at shin height and others exploding up at the batsmen’s heads, Australia did well to edge to 6 for 277 at stumps.

The perilous state of the deck was highlighted when well-set Marcus Harris was dismissed by an innocuous delivery from a part-time spinner made unplayable by the surface.

Batsman Hanuma Vihari, who had taken just 22 wickets in eight years of first-class cricket, rolled out a gentle off break with his second ball.

Landing slightly short of a length it was the kind of delivery a batsman would reasonably expect to come through at about bail height.

Instead it leapt off the pitch in extraordinary fashion, leaving Harris fending at just below shoulder height as the ball lobbed off his glove to slip.

Harris had earlier seen the other side of this Jekyll and Hyde pitch when a short-of-a-length delivery from Indian quick Mohammed Shami shot through at just above ankle height. On many other occasions the Indian pacemen got deliveries to bounce far higher than the batsman could anticipate.

It’s not just variable bounce – there is also extravagant seam movement on offer in Perth. With the second new ball Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah got several deliveries to turn like Shane Warne leg breaks.

One Bumrah delivery to Pat Cummins seamed away by an incredible 25cm – more than double the width of a cricket bat. Another seamed by 22cm past the edge of Tim Paine and then flew over the wicketkeeper’s head for four, despite being well pitched up.

Then, as if to underline its unpredictability, the Perth pitch sent the last ball of the day skidding at ankle height into the front pad of Cummins, who narrowly avoided being LBW.

Australia may well have been dismissed before tea had India not bowled so poorly in the first session. Perhaps overexcited upon viewing the green pitch, the visiting seamers bowled far too short before lunch.

As a result, Australian openers Marcus Harris (70) and Aaron Finch (50) were able to leave too many deliveries. While Finch’s half-century was scratchy, Harris’ knock was sublime.

In defence he played the ball late, under his eyes and with soft hands. In attack he was decisive and discerning.

Playing just his second Test, Harris was impressive in the way he waited for the Indians to stray into his hitting zones before unfurling his most adventurous strokes.

It took a ridiculous delivery from Vihari to dismiss him. One of the most subtle yet significant features of Harris’ knock was his strike rotation. Regularly he dead batted the ball into gaps and then scampered through for a single.

Marcus Harris of Australia raises his bat on reaching a half century (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

The same could not be said of first drop Usman Khawaja. The left hander has always been over-reliant on scoring boundaries and India have brutally exposed that weakness.

Khawaja, quite incredibly, has scored 41 runs from 205 balls in this series. Because Khawaja does not naturally look for singles, when he is being denied boundaries by good bowling it is easy for dot balls to pile up and pressure to mount.

That was just what happened yesterday as he crawled to 5 from 38 balls before trying to release the tension with a cut shot, succeeding only in edging behind.

When Peter Handscomb followed suit, edging a cut, Australia had lost 4-36 to slump to 4-148. India were cock-a-hoop and the pitch was their best mate.

Then Travis Head (58) and Shaun Marsh (45), two of the most heavily-criticised batsmen in the country, halted India’s momentum with a pivotal 84-run stand.

By the time Marsh was out trying to cut Vihari Australia had moved to 232, which already looked like a competitive score on this tricky pitch.

Head also fell to a needlessly-aggressive shot, caught at third man attempting to blast the second new ball through the off side. That should not distract from the fact that, just seven innings into his Test career, Head has now played three hugely valuable knocks in challenging circumstances.

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First he made 72 from 175 balls on debut to help Australia save the first Test against Pakistan in the UAE. Then he again made 72 – more than double Australia’s next-highest scorer – in the first Test against India after coming to the crease at 4-87.

While those two knocks were patient, grafting efforts, Head yesterday played with greater flair. It was a reasonable approach on a pitch where no batsmen could ever be truly comfortable.

If Australia can add another 50 runs to their total this morning, and edge up to 330, India will have a mountain to scale.

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This is a short and light article, nothing to challenge Dr Sheldon Cooper or the like. I didn’t set the world on fire in my physics classes.

It is, however, a bit of a challenge for common sense to rise and less histrionics – especially from some commentators and journos.

I also meant to have this in before the first Test, but of course I was diverted by the working world and lightning struck. Thanks Ishant…

I’ve watched cricket for many years and over time have learned to expect that in these series there could be a no-ball wicket or two. What I haven’t learnt to live with is the response. There is regularly a verbal flogging of the bowler who is engaged in such an event, complete with a repetitious judgement of how the no-ball cost the wicket.

So let’s tackle this. Not every ‘no-ball’ that took a wicket would still have taken that wicket if the ball had been legal.

In fact, it’s probably likely to be very few.

Consider this: cricket is known to be a game of ‘inches’ (or centimetres to be correct, though metric measurements just don’t have the same ‘ring’ to it).

So if you sent the ball down at the right spot (instead of the no-ball delivery) it would, actually, hit the bat one-inch away from where it did.

One inch off a moving bat changes the trajectory massively. That snick to second slip flies through the empty fourth slip instead.

The ball arrives at the batsman in a different position, doing different things. The movement, spin, bounce are all affected as well as where the ball impacts with the bat.

That edge onto the stumps becomes a ‘French cut’, that cutter that comes back in and cleans up the stumps hits the ground at a different location and spot on the ball and doesn’t move.

So next time there is a no-ball wicket, don’t jump on the commentary bandwagon, castigating the bowler with tales of missed opportunity doesn’t cut it.

A no-ball wicket is not a guarantee of a legal ball wicket. Unless the ball was bowled, gun-barrel straight, and the batter didn’t play at it – or swung and missed by more than the length of the infringement and the ball hits pads plumb or cleans up the wickets – then it’s unlikely it would still be a wicket if the ball was legal.

The ball bowled by Ishant Sharma that was declared a no-ball would very likely have gone over the stumps if released an inch earlier.

So now with the Test over I can have my one paragraph review. I still dislike DRS, rules say ‘in opinion of the umpire’ yet some guy in a box adjudicates according to his own opinions in slow motion. And yet mistakes still happen – big ones.

One incident in the Test had the third umpire judging the appeal rather than determining if there was evidence to overturn the on field decision.

Congratulations to India yet our boys made it tough for them. To win this series though, we need to make some changes and I don’t pretend to know what they are. Moving Usman Khawaja to open isn’t the answer, you don’t strengthen a spot by weakening another. Good luck to the selectors.

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With only a single finals appearance in seven seasons, the Sydney Thunder could be coined as the BBL’s most unsuccessful team, but 2018-19 is promising something more than just another early competition exit.

The Thunder have been well below par over the years, despite having some prized players in their squad. Luck and venues have had a bit to do with it, but the Thunder will be out to build on something of a promising season last time around which didn’t finish as well as it should have.

They ended up finishing in sixth spot, just one win out of the finals and equal with the Sixers, but still well below what they would have wanted after what was a topsy-turvy start to the season, yet one which would have filled them with hope.

Beating the Sixers and Hobart Hurricanes inside their first three matches, the second of those a blowout, had them heading in the right direction, but unfortunately, there were more results like the blowout loss against the Adelaide Strikers in Game 2 to follow.

The longer season may well play into the hands of the Thunder this time around. With youth and no great reliance on international talent, they should be able to gel as a unit and play quality cricket, which will improve the longer the season goes on as players move more and more into their respective roles within the outfit.

Usman Khawaja. (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

Squad

Shane Watson (c), Fawad Ahmed, Jos Buttler (England) Pat Cummins, Anton Devcich (New Zealand) Callum Ferguson, Ryan Gibson, Chris Green, Liam Hatcher, Chris Jordan (England), Usman Khawaja, Jay Lenton, Nathan McAndrew, Arjun Nair, Kurtis Patterson, Sam Rainbird, Joe Root (England), Daniel Sams, Gurinder Sandhu, Jason Sangha

Captain: Shane Watson
Coach: Shane Bond
Imports: Jos Buttler, Joe Root (both replaced in January by Anton Devcich and Chris Jordan)

Batsmen
The Thunder have a consistent batting outfit.

Jos Buttler and Shane Watson will form a dynamic opening stand at the top, while Joe Root adds stability in the top order and could be the man who tries to bat through the innings.

Then there are players like Callum Ferguson, Usman Khawaja and Kurtis Patterson who can all do plenty. Khawaja, in particular, has been excellent in the BBL over the years, so when he isn’t out with international duty, there will be plenty of pressure on him.

All-rounders
Arjun Nair is the main man who will run the all-rounder show after some impressive spin bowling last year. Watson appeared to be bowling less and less at times, but will also be classified here, so there are no problems in terms of getting the four overs out of a fifth bowler for the Thunder.

Bowlers
Pat Cummins will be the designated leader of the attack for the Thunder – if he gets on the field. The signing of Sam Rainbird from the Hobart Hurricanes is a good one as well.

Daniel Sams is another key signing, having burst onto the scene with the Sydney Sixers last season in a stunning debut performance. Gurinder Sandhu and Liam Hatcher will also be competing for spots, while Chris Jordan is guaranteed to take one when he arrives during the second half of the season.

On the spin front, it will be Fawad Ahmed, who had an outstanding season last year – more on him shortly.

(AAP Image/Craig Golding)

International cricket impact
The Thunder will be impacted by international selection. English imports Jos Buttler and Joe Root will leave halfway through the season, while Usman Khawaja and Pat Cummins are likely to be tied up with the Australian side for most of the summer.

Best XI

1. Jos Buttler
2. Shane Watson (c)
3. Usman Khawaja
4. Joe Root
5. Callum Ferguson
6. Kurtis Patterson
7. Arjun Nair
8. Pat Cummins
9. Sam Rainbird
10. Daniel Sams
11. Fawad Ahmed

Keys to the season

How will Joe Root go?
Joe Root is seen as a marquee pick-up for the Thunder, although a career T20 strike-rate of under 130 leaves a bit to be desired.

The Englishman Test skipper was dropped from the national team and is aiming to use a block of BBL cricket to force his way back in.

His best attribute will be consistency, but whether he can take things to another level at the back-end of an innings or not remains to be seen.

His ability to hold down an innings and ensure there are no collapses while turning the strike over is important for the Thunder. His role for the side will be crucial – until he leaves of course.

Batting in tandem with big hitters like Shane Watson and Jos Buttler could create a dynamic partnership and where others won’t rotate strike, you can bet everything that Root will, keeping the hitters rolling and the score moving on an upward trend for the Thunder.

Shane Watson. (AAP Image/Rob Blakers)

Can Arjun Nair become a top-class spin partner for Fawad Ahmed?
Fawad Ahmed has become one of the most important cogs in the Thunder machine over the last couple of years. He has been consistent, bowling both during the powerplay and after it, limiting runs and taking wickets.

While he couldn’t bring about another trip to the finals, he won matches out of his own hand last year, finishing up with 12 wickets at an average of 20.42, but more importantly, an economy rate of just 6.12.

Ahmed will be required to play a huge role for the Thunder, but so will all-rounder Arjun Nair. The youngster was up and down last year, but put in a pretty strong overall performance.

He needs to take it to another level this time around though, reducing his economy rate to below the seven runs per over mark and causing problems for the batsmen, building pressure from one end and tying it down during the important middle overs.

The Thunder’s chances of making the finals or not doing so will be greatly impacted one way or another by the way Nair and Ahmed play this season.

Daniel Sams needs to avoid second-year syndrome
Daniel Sams burst onto the scene last year. There is no doubting just how important he was for the Sixers attack following his debut, and when the Thunder announced his signature over the off-season, there was genuine excitement about what he will be able to deliver to Western Sydney.

However, Sams may have only been so good because no one had any idea who he was.

The element of surprise is something which can be a major advantage in T20 cricket, but Sams won’t have it this year.

He will still have all the pace variations and potent new-ball bowling as he did during a moderately successful JLT Cup campaign, but T20 is a different beast.

If he can’t get it right, he could end up being just another toiler.

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Full fixtures
Match no. Date Time (AEDT) Opponent Venue TV
1 Fri Dec 21 7:15 PM Melbourne Stars Manuka Oval Seven/Fox
2 Mon Dec 24 7:15 PM Sydney Sixers Spotless Stadium Seven/Fox
3 Fri Dec 28 7:15 PM Hobart Hurricanes Blundstone Arena Seven/Fox
4 Mon Dec 31 7:15 PM Adelaide Strikers Adelaide Oval Seven/Fox
5 Wed Jan 2 7:15 PM Perth Scorchers Spotless Stadium Seven/Fox
6 Sat Jan 5 6:15 PM Melbourne Stars Metricon Stadium Fox
7 Tue Jan 8 7:15 PM Brisbane Heat Spotless Stadium Seven/Fox
8 Sun Jan 13 2:45 PM Adelaide Strikers Spotless Stadium Fox
9 Thu Jan 17 7:15 PM Brisbane Heat Gabba Seven/Fox
10 Tue Jan 22 7:15 PM Melbourne Renegades Spotless Stadium Seven/Fox
11 Thu Jan 24 9:40 PM Perth Scorchers Optus Stadium Seven/Fox
12 Wed Jan 30 7:15 PM Melbourne Renegades Marvel Stadium Fox
13 Sat Feb 2 7:00 PM Sydney Sixers SCG Fox
14 Sat Feb 9 6:15 PM Hobart Hurricanes Manuka Oval Fox
Prediction

The Thunder have plenty of youth in their squad, but they should be able to make improvements from last year as the team continues to grow in the shortest form of the game.

Sure, they will find it tough in patches, but if they can work through those tough games, have their imports stand up and win crucial matches against the likes of the Brisbane Heat, Melbourne Stars and Hobart Hurricanes, they should find themselves sneaking into the top four by the end of the season.

Going any further than that will be easier said than done, but the achievement of making the finals should be enough for the Thunder to hang their hat on this season, given their squad.

Fourth.

Be sure to join The Roar throughout the course of the Big Bash League season for live coverage of every game, including video highlights and all the best analysis and opinion of the competition.

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We should have learned. If Miami taught us anything last week it is that even the most unlikely things can become reality.

In the freezing December weather in Kansas, it was fitting there was magic in the air. Phillips Rivers, criminally underrated, lit up the big stage when it mattered most.

Make no mistake this was a coming of age game for LA. The questions have followed the Chargers like a bad smell. Can they deliver in the postseason? Can they beat Kansas City? Are they ready for the big stage?

Two of those three were emphatically answered tonight. Without superstar running-back Melvin Gordon and number one receiver Keenan Allen for the majority of the game, the Chargers somehow overcame this – and a fourteen-point deficit – with less than five minutes remaining.

Teams trailing by fourteen points with less than five minutes remaining were 0-88, with Rivers being 0-20. Incredibly, things only started clicking for LA within the final minutes. They produced a largely disjointed performance with their offence and defence failing them at inopportune moments.

Philip Rivers has been the driving force being the Chargers for so long now. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The pressure was on both teams heading into this titanic battle of the AFC’s best. Yet it was the Chiefs who looked unaffected for 55 of 60 minutes.

It had looked so good for so long for Kansas City. The Chiefs seemed in control until the final five chaotic minutes. On the second play of the game, Philip Rivers took a shot deep downfield toward Tyrell Williams however it was severely under thrown, allowing Steven Nelson to pick it off.

The Chiefs, left in great field position marched down the field for their eighth opening touchdown drive of the season. The most of any team in the NFL. On the drive Pat Mahomes performed his weekly Houdini act, scrambling for 41 yards before throwing a brilliant pass to Damien Williams for a first down.

At the end of the quarter it was a 14-0 lead to the Chiefs, leaving LA fans fearing the worst once again. Their fears would have been worsened after star wide-out Keenan Allen injured his hip attempting an acrobatic catch in the end zone.

Moments later, hopes were restored as second year stud Mike Williams soared for the jump ball bringing LA within seven of the AFC favourites. With the Chargers having the sixth ranked offence and Kansas City possessing the league’s best ranked offence, many expected a shootout. It didn’t turn out as such.

Moments before halftime Rivers threw a wild pass deep in the red zone, only to be picked off once again. The half ended 14-7 Kansas City.

After the break, Mahomes led a 73-yard drive to restore the Chief’s two possession cushion.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

Trailing 21-7 the Chargers were finding other options to stay in the game utilising big bodied receivers Mike and Tyrell Williams as well as future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates.

With five to go in the third, Mike Williams showed why he was taken seventh overall just two seasons ago. Receiving the ball from Rivers on an end-around, the 6”2’ speedster burnt the Chiefs defence for a nineteen-yard rushing touchdown.

Frustration was the emotion which reigned for LA in the late third and early fourth. The Charger defence had numerous opportunities to end the drive early, with Mahomes facing two 3 and 10s and a second and 15. The four defensive penalties certainly didn’t help. To add further exasperation, Damien Williams ran in a one-yard touchdown to almost put the game beyond the Chargers, down 14 with 8:20 to play.

It seemed incredibly unlikely this game would have a climax. The Chiefs had gone four from four in the red zone, with a confidence zapping eight minute drive resulting in the aforementioned Williams touchdown. Add to that an offence who had not scored for almost fifteen minutes. Even the most optimistic of Chargers fans would not have foreseen the final happenings.

From this point on, it was Philip Rivers’ ballgame. The Chargers marched the ball down the field to go within seven, with 3:53 remaining. An outstanding defensive stand, gave the Chargers one last chance.

On 2nd and 20 with 2:32 to play, Rivers perfectly floated a ball into traffic for Travis Benjamin to heroically catch, placing LA in Chiefs territory. Four plays later on 4th and 8, found the dreadlocked Benjamin again, this time converting for twenty-six yards to the KC 10.

With eight seconds to go, LA had a first and goal. Rivers threw a fade to Mike Williams who controversially hauled in the touchdown, despite appearing to push off the covering Orlando Scandrick.

No one in sixteen years had successfully scored a two-point conversion to win a ball game with less than ten seconds to go. Thankfully, Anthony Lynn didn’t know that.

One man was left wide open in the end zone. Guess who? Mike Williams. Coming in with seven career touchdowns, the Clemson alumni finished with three touchdowns and the two point conversion.

LA players and staff alike ran onto the field in raptures. After five long years and nine straight defeats, the Chargers had finally overthrown the Chief’s kingdom in the most dramatic circumstances.

Stats that mattered
Passing:
P. Rivers (LAC) – 26/38, 313 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs.
P. Mahomes (KC)- 24/34, 243 yds, 2 TDs.

Rushing:
J. Jackson (LAC)- 16 carries, 58 yds, 3.6 avg, 1 TD.
D. Williams (KC)- 10 carries, 49 yds, 4.9 avg, 2 TDs.

Receiving:
M. Williams (LAC)- 7 rec, 76 yds, 10.9 avg, 2 TDs.
D. Williams (KC)- 6 rec, 74 yds, 12.3 avg.

Defence:
C. Jones (KC) 2.5 sacks. 10th straight games with a sack.
M. Ingram (LAC) 1.5 sacks.

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The Brisbane Summer Carnival continues this Saturday at Doomben where it is Lough Neagh Stakes Day. Here are my five plays across the meeting.

Bet One- Win- Race Three Number 3 Bluebrook
Looks a good race for Bluebrook. Talented galloper for Kelly Schweida who should take some beating here. He resumed over 1200m here two weeks ago and was very good in defeat in an on pace dominated affair won by Hingus Rose.

Big tick up to 1350m, good second up record and isn’t badly treated at the weights given his overall record.

Bet Two- Win- Race Four Number 2 Sun City
Short enough but happy to be in his corner. This colt trialled up really well prior to debuting in the Maribyrnong Trial where he got off the pace and chased hard when second to Unite And Conquer. Trialled nicely here last week and has the form on the board.

I think if you want to bet, wait until race time and you could get better than what is on offer at the moment.

Bet Three- Win- Race Five Number 7 Single Blonde
Doesn’t have to be anything special to put these away. Not A Single Doubt filly for the WaterBott team who was hard in the market when debuting on the Kensington track at Randwick and she was there to win halfway down the straight but I reckon condition just gave way late when third to Tenley.

Trip away usually brings these youngsters on and the depth in that two year old race in Sydney looked and does look strong.

Bet Four- Each Way- Race Seven Number 11 Stanley Park
I think he’s a really good each way gamble. Duke Of Marmalade gelding for Toby Edmonds who is five weeks between runs since racing at the Sunny Coast where he looked home but was bloused late by Snitch, who won again a couple of weeks back to frank the form.

Poorly drawn last week so taken out and saved for this, where I think he’s one of the hardest to beat. $8+ looks clear overs.

Bet Five- Each Way- Race Eight Number 8 Granny Red Shoes
Zoustyle the one to beat, but $13+ for Granny Red Shoes looks clear overs. Forget her Melbourne Spring prep. Couple of runs down there saw her have not much luck in a forgettable campaign.

Back home now and her trial last week was outstanding to the eye. I think she can give this an almighty shake.

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Racing returns to Randwick this Saturday for a bumper nine race card, highlighted by the Villiers Stakes (1600m), with the Group 2 ensuring the winner gets ballot exemption for the Doncaster.

Here are my five plays across the meeting.

Bet One- Each Way- Race Two Number 8 Gongs
I think she deserves another chance. I liked her when she raced at Rosehill a fortnight back and on face value, she was disappointing behind Kapajack, but looking at the replays, early on in the day, the inside wasn’t the A1 ground.

Was beaten under two lengths so she wasn’t too bad in defeat and she remains down in the weights so I’ll lean her way without much confidence at an each way angle.

Bet Two- Win- Race Three Number 4 Seasons
Just needs to take care of the barrier and she’ll be winning. She was given such a sweet ride by Tim Clark when resuming over 1200m at Rosehill three weeks ago and from the 600m onwards, she was the winner and won accordingly.

Tick over trial last week at Hawkesbury was very good behind Pumpkin Pie and I think only bad luck will be beating her.

Bet Three- Each Way- Race Four Number 1 Destiny’s Kiss
At the time of writing this, Randwick was a Soft6. If we happen to remain there or get to a 7/8, I think Destiny’s Kiss will tighten right in. He’s been a ripper for Joe Pride for a number of years now and continually runs well.

That was the case last time in the ATC Cup at Rosehill. The slow tempo and firm track didn’t help his cause but he still ran okay in defeat behind Exoteric. Randwick 2400m is his go and if the track has any give, I think he’s one of the hardest to beat.

Bet Four- Win- Race Five Number 5 Enforcement
Pleasing to see early support for this debutante. Team Snowden trains this son of I Am Invincible, who has looked the part in a couple of trials, the latest coming over 1000m at Hawkesbury last week where he was tucked in behind the leader before J Mac gave him a squeeze to get clear and he went to the line under a really good hold in winning. Like him a lot.

Bet Five- Each Way- Race Seven Number 10 Sambro
I think there are several horses you could back each way here in the Villiers. Went the way of Sambro. Hasn’t raced since October 27 when beaten a lip by stablemate Torgersen in a close finish at Randwick.

Been freshened up and the tick over trials have looked pretty good to the eye. He’ll be strong at the end I’m sure and is worth an each way ticket.

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Racing returns to Flemington this Saturday, the Ascot Summer Carnival continues and Gawler will host their metro race meeting in South Australia. Here are my five plays across the three meetings.

Bet One- Win- Flemington Race One Number 2 Spirit In The Sky
He holds a nomination for the Magic Millions and has been well backed in futures markets for the race and the way he has trialled, I’m suggesting a debut win is on the cards.

The most recent jump out saw him go straight to the front and he gave nothing else a look in, spanking them and running decent time. Confident he can measure up. I had him marked a clear favourite so the $4.80+ is overs for mine.

Bet Two- Win- Ascot Race Three Number 1 Akiko
Got a slice of the $8 opening price and has firmed to $6 at the time of writing. He ran in the Regional Championship here a fortnight back and was clearly one of the best runs of the race when working home strongly from the back to run a narrow fifth.

Parnham jumps on now, gate one, can sit closer…really keen.

Bet Three- Win- Gawler Race Three Number 1 Pretty Glass
Sue Jaensch at these provincial meetings in SA is near enough to being an ATM. Was really keen on her when she resumed at Warrnambool on Jericho Day but she just hit a flat spot in the run and that cost her.

Warmed to the task late and would have won in another couple of strides. Stable has a great record at these Provincial SA tracks, she’s got upside and the right form.

Bet Four- Win- Gawler Race Four Number 3 Columbia
Very much in his corner. Strung together a couple of sharp wins at Morphettville prior to going to the Magic Millions at Ballarat and if you were on that afternoon, it was grim viewing.

Should have finished much closer but just had no luck when trying to get through. Back to this level, he looks extremely hard to beat.

Bet Five- Win- Gawler Race Six Number 4 Handsome Return
Natural upside and improvement from the first up run and he should be winning. Will Clarken trains this former kiwi, who made his Australian debut over 1200m here at the midweeks where he was hard in the market and despite being challenged halfway down the straight, Jamie Kah kept her cool and the class of this horse kicked in.

Quickly up to 1700m a little query, but has a stack of upside.

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I’m a rugby league fan. There are millions of others around the world.

However, every time I open the paper I don’t hear about off-season training or inside scoops for next year’s premiership. Instead, I read these media reports of things like sexual assault or violence against women.

This has got to stop!

In the NRL, we have seen five reports of some form of this since the grand final and it just makes me sick. People in the public domain get educated about these things. We know they exist and we know not to do it. We are told the consequences of what will happen if we do and we learn to respect women.

Apparently the same lessons have been lost on NRL players.

I’m calling for a stand now for the NRL directly. If a player gets charged and convicted, ban him for life.

I don’t care who it is – if it’s a 20-year-old rookie or a 35-year-old fan favourite veteran who everyone loves and the children adore – do not let him back in the game.

Sure I know some players have done it in the past and got to return. I’m prepared to see anything amongst the lines of “What about that player?”

Player welfare is incredibly important. But so is the welfare of women. These issues are eroding support for the game and if I was a member of the NRL board I would be saying “we can’t take it anymore”.

As fans of the game, we want to go through the off-season without having to read about off-field drama but sadly all because of one report or another, we do.

It’s not only turning off casual fans, but the game’s most loyal and rusted on supporters have had a gutful.

So what do you Roarers think? Should the NRL give lifetime bans to players who are convicted of such heinous acts from this point on?

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