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June 24, 2017

Saturday Sports: Felicitations France, College, Ireland, and Afghanistan... New Zealand too...

In Nebraska, USA:  College World Series action heats up today.   The College World Series is an annual June baseball tournament held in Omaha, and is the culmination of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Baseball Championship.  The eight participating teams are split into two, four-team, double elimination brackets, with the winners of each bracket playing in a best-of-three championship series.  Today's action will
determine the winners of those brackets.  The teams left vying for the championship are , TCU, Oregon State, Florida and LSU. Cal State Fullerton was eliminated Monday and Texas A&M was ousted Tuesday. Florida State left the field after a loss to the Tigers on Wednesday.   Louisville was the most recent team eliminated.  Saturday's sudden death games feature TCU playing Florida and Oregon State vs. Louisiana State.  TCU beat Florida 9-2 in a late game on Friday night. 

En France:  Paris Olympiques.  Today those in Paris will enjoy watching tryouts for over thirty Olympic Sports, throughout the city.  French Citizens have been encouraged to come to Paris to engage in these sports over these two days.  The initiative is part of Paris' bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.  Although its only competitor for those games is Los Angeles, Paris wanted to strengthen their bid, and so  today welcomes athletes and normal mortals to celebrate the Olympics, and to show the IOC that vouloir and pouvoir are perfectly united in the Paris bid...  The most popular event so far has been kayaking on the Seine. 

In New Zealand:  New Zealand Rugby captain Kieran Read has said the team do not feel burdened by the phenomenal level of success they have enjoyed and, like the entire country, they expect nothing less than victory in their series against the British & Irish Lions.  The All Blacks enter today’s first meeting as favorites, having not lost at Eden Park, Auckland,  since 1994, a run of 38 matches. They have also won 46 successive games in New Zealand dating back to a 2009 defeat to South Africa.  World champions in 2011 and 2015, the All Blacks took the pace of their game to new levels last year and showed in a 78-0 thrashing of Samoa last week how dangerous they are with the ball in hand, running in 12 tries.  The Lions, on the other hand,  have impressed with some strong performances in the last 10 days, with a forward-orientated game that controls possession and shuts down the opposition with a lightning fast defensive line.  The All Blacks are expected to continue their streak. 

In International Cricket:  Congratulations are in order for Ireland and Afghanistan, who were awarded Test match status on Thursday, taking the number of countries playing at the pinnacle of cricket from 10 to 12 in a decision described as "fantastic" and "remarkable," especially in Ireland and Afghanistan.  Both countries were confirmed as full members after a unanimous vote at an International Cricket Council (ICC) meeting during its annual conference in London.  The new status allows both countries' national teams to play five-day Test cricket, which is not the hottest ticket these days, but is considered as the sport’s supreme format.  They join the 10 other full members, including founding members Australia and England, who played the first Test match at Melbourne in 1877, South Africa, New Zealand, the West Indies, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh,  and Zimbabwe. 

Readers of this space may remember that all of these teams have played test cricket with non member countries' teams, but always in practice or friendly mode.  Ireland captain William Porterfield stated: "It’s wonderful news for all of Irish cricket, with all the players already talking about playing in a Test match for the first time."

Afghanistan Cricket Board chief executive Shafiq Stanikzai addressed the great joy with which his country greeted the news.  He said: "For a nation like Afghanistan it is a huge and remarkable achievement, the entire nation will be celebrating."

Cricket has been played in Ireland for nearly 200 years, and the national team does quite well in the One Day International format.   Cricket is the most popular sport in Afghanistan, being brought there initially by the British in the 19th century.  Due to security concerns, the Afghan national team has been playing their home games at Greater Noida, in India. 

Other issues do remain, however, about how well Afghanistan and Ireland, will do in Test Cricket  the game’s longest format.  When Bangladesh was welcomed into this fraternity they took a decade to adjust.  New Zealand famously took 26 years to win their first Test, after they had been welcomed into the highest level.