Lots of late Winter/Early Spring sports here at SR, or in the south, Late Summer/Early Autumn...
In the Cricket world, Australia continues its tour of South Africa, with a 2nd Test at St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9th -13th. At stumps, after the second day of play, Australia is leading convincingly. Hosts South Africa trail by 204 runs with 9 wickets remaining in the 1st innings. Kagiso Rabada, Faf du Plessis, and the South Africans are not cowed by this lead, as Australia chose to bat first, and their lead is actually the lowest lead in a while they have made in the first at bat in their international test matches. So, today's (tomorrow's) next meeting should test their mettle. Meanwhile, England continues their tour of New Zealand with a 5th ODI at Hagley Oval, Christchurch.
In other Cricket news, the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 is taking place in Zimbabwe. The national teams of ten countries are playing between last Sunday and March 25th to be able to compete with the automatic qualifiers in the 2019 Cricket World Cup. Countries competing include the West Indies, Afghanistan, hosts Zimbabwe, Ireland, the Netherlands, Scotland, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Nepal and the United Arab Emirates. The tournament beings with Round Robin, in group play, and then continues through knockout, following the One Day International Format. Saturday's matches include the West Indies playing Ireland at the Harare Sports Club, and Zimbabwe playing Hong Kong at the Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo.
This weekend is the fourth meeting of Six Nations Rugby, which is played each February and March on select weekends. Ireland, who is so far undefeated in the tournament, hosts Scotland at the Aviva Stadium. Scotland is doing well in the tournament, also, having won lost against Wales the first week, they have rebounded to beat England and France. Today, France will host England today at the Stade de France. France, having lost their first two games, beat Italy last week. England, having won their first two matches, lost to Scotland last week. The answer on whether Ireland can run the table will be better answer after today's games.
In European Soccer, in the Premier League, Manchester United vs. Liverpool should be a hard fought match. United showed great character to come from two down at Crystal Palace at Monday and win, but the result flatters a performance that for the large part was disappointing. Liverpool are a better side than Palace and with Mohamed Salah continuing to excel, Jurgen Klopp's men are well poised to exploit the fact that United are misfiring at present. in the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich will meet Hamburg in a match today.
Sunday is NCAA Mens' Basketball selection Sunday for the teams which will take part in the annual dance, the tournament to determine number one. So, today is chock full of semifinals and finals in various conferences, all wrapping up prior to the selection who tomorrow afternoon. In the Ivy League Basketball Tournament, Harvard takes on Cornell in the first semifinal, and then Yale takes on Penn (Pennsylvania), in the second semifinal game, all played at The Palestra in Philadelphia. Did you know Cornell is in the Ivy League?
We could not finish this article without thanking our Italian correspondent for alerting us to a tragic situation in Serie A Soccer. On Thursday, thousands gathered in Florence for the funeral of Italian Serie A star Davide Astori. The sudden death of the 31-year-old player, who captained his Fiorentina club, and played on the Italian National Squad, has sparked outpouring of grief in this football-mad country. Children wearing Fiorentina's distinctive purple formed a guard of honour outside the Santa Croce basilica in the city as Astori's coffin was carried out after the service. Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and his past Juventus teammate Giorgio Chiellini were among the mourners having flow back from London where the Turin team dedicated their Champions League victory over Tottenham on Wednesday to Astori. Chiellini after the match said: "We dedicate the win to him. He is on our minds on this day. I cried many times. He was a fantastic player." Fellow internationals Daniele De Rossi and Mario Balotelli were also among players present and the entire Fiorentina team, dressed in sober dark suits and ties, came to pay their respects.
Meanwhile, the European sporting world has been rocked by two other recent untimely deaths. 17 year old Neapolitan swimmer phenom Mario Riccio was training on Sunday afternoon when he felt pain in his arm. In a few moments his heart had stopped, and could not be restarted, not even by a defibrillator. His coach was, of course, present at his death, along with his parents and siblings, who were spending their Sunday afternoon watching his training He was already making a name for himself in Italian and European swimming, and is described as an excellent student and athlete, with good all around attitude. In France, the Tours Football Club reported the sad and untimely death of 18 year old Thomas Rodriguez. He died last week in his sleep for yet undetermined causes. Our thoughts and prayers are with their friends and families.
So as not to end on such a sad note, we call your attention to the fact that Aussie Rules Football pre season has concluded, following a nontraditional format played on a soccer field, for two ten minute halves. We will introduce more about the upcoming season next weekend. That's the surest sign of a coming Winter yet!