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January 12, 2018

Sport Saturday: Patriots, Eagles, and Irish Cricket

In the run-up to the Winter Olympics, certainly there are Winter sports being contested somewhere.  Premiership and Bundesliga Soccer also is at the top of any fans list for viewing this weekend.  The big contests today are in American Football and International Cricket. 

In international Cricket, India continues their tour of South Africa, with today's start of their second test at the Super Sport Park, Centurion.  After India fell short in the first Test in Cape Town, their next challenge,  at SuperSport Park, where South Africa have their best win percentage,  would be to save the series.  In a week's time, the most anticipated series of the season could be all over unless India can do what so many believe is the impossible. The awesomeness of India's task is not just based on what we saw last week at Newlands - that South Africa's attack in their own conditions is match-winning - but on the history of the Centurion venue. 

Every subcontinent team India included, that has played there has been beaten by an innings.  Traditionally, SuperSport Park is as South African as it gets.  SuperSport Park offers South Africa everything their sporting archetype wants: plenty for bowlers who can make even the most technically sound batsmen look like amateurs.   India have the attack to challenge South Africa. They should be better rested now, having had time to recoup their energies, after they quick transfer after Sri Lanka's Tour of India, and after the Kohli Wedding Festivities.  They are also known for pulling together in the face of adversity, which is certainly a goal of their team captain.   

Though SuperSport Park has a reputation for being one of the most difficult places to bat, there have been 39 centuries in the 22 Tests played there. 

 The surface offers pace and bounce and there is often swing.  Faf du Plessis and  South Africa have their best win percentage at SuperSport, they have only lost twice there in Test matches, once to each of England (2000) and Australia (2014).    India have only played one Test in Centurion, on their 2010-11 tour. They were bowled out for 136 in the first innings and lost by an innings and 25 runs.

There are two One Day Internationals today of international note:  Pakistan continues their Tour of New Zealand, which began January 3rd and continues through the rest of the month.  So far, New Zealand has been dominant in the series.  Today they contest their third ODI, at Dunedin.

Meanwhile, the 2017–18 United Arab Emirates Tri-Nation Tournament has kicked off in Dubai.  This series, which began on the 11th, runs through the 23rd, and involves teams from the UAE, Ireland, and Scotland.  The 2017–18 United Arab Emirates Tri-Nation Series has all the matches played as One Day Internationals (ODIs).  Each team is playing the other two, in two games, resulting in six games to be played, and points to be won in the table.   The matches are in preparation for the 2018 Cricket World Cup Qualifier, to be held in Zimbabwe in March 2018.  All games are being played at the ICC Academy in Dubai. 

In the inaugural match Ireland won against the UAE by 4 wickets, and garnered two points.  In that match, Ed Joyce (Ireland) scored his 10,000th run in List A cricket. Congratulations to him.  Ashfaq Ahmed and Mohammad Boota, playing for the UAE, both made their ODI debuts.  Today's match is a repeat challenge for these two squads.   

American Football is building to a great conclusion in a few weeks, and the Weekend's NFL Divisional playoffs will determine who will play for the Conference Championship next weekend, and ultimately for the Finals in a few weeks.  Saturday will see two games, the Atlanta Falcons at the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Tennessee Titans at the New England Patriots. 

The New England Patriots seem undeterred by setbacks or feuds with staff and players of his own team, as he and the Patriots are favored in today's game.   The Titans' hopes for pulling off the upset likely depend on generating pressure on the Brady who as quarterback was sacked 35 times this season.  The offense has not been the Patriot's strong point.  The Titans may not be able to take advantage, as their defense as a whole ranked tied for fifth.

The wild card contests having been concluded last weekend, the Philadelphia Eagles play for the first time in the post season, as they were given a bye last weekend.  The Eagles tied for the best record in the N.F.L. this season, but critics are not necessarily convinced that they are the team to beat.     They earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and have played well at home.  Their defense has performed admirably this season, and they have good offensive and defensive players.  Despite all of this, commentators remain unconvinced and they are considered the underdog by many in their game against the Falcons.  They head into Saturday’s divisional round matchup against the Atlanta Falcons as 3-point underdogs.   The game should provide some good action, and is too close to call...  

1 comment:

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