China ready with ‘Big Bang’
PICK OF THE DAY
Stay calm, ‘Super Dan’
‘Springboard diva’ set for final dive
Barca appeal over Messi
Bhajji turns it around
India-Sri Lanka Test series
SA win Test, series
Rafa secures top ranking
No. 1 in the world since January 2002, Zhang Yining has barely put a foot wrong since Athens where she won both the singles and
Mark Spitz has rounded on Olympics chiefs for failing to invite him to Beijing for swimmer Michael Phelps’ quest to break his record gold medal haul in the pool. The American expects his 36-year-old record of seven gold medals from a single Olympics will be broken by compatriot Phelps, and would like to witness the historic moment. But Spitz is not holding his breath for an invitation from Olympics organisers. “Unless I get that invite, I’ll be watching on TV,” Spitz (58), said in a recent interview with Reuters. “I don’t think it’s going to happen. It’d be nice if it did. It would seem like the right thing to do.” Phelps is in the hunt for eight gold medals in Beijing -- adding to the six he won at the Athens Games in 2004. Spitz, who will be in Hong Kong on business when the Olympics start on Aug. 8, said he had no “hard feelings” about not being invited to Beijing. “But I think that passing the baton...would have been a phenomenal idea,” he said.
Michael Phelps warned today he has never felt better as he attempts to win an unprecedented eight Olympic gold medals, but made clear he does not want to be remembered as "the second Mark Spitz". The American swimming sensation, training in Singapore, is poised to make Olympic history by bettering Spitz's record of seven gold medals at one Games. He fell short of that goal in Athens, coming away with a still impressive six gold medals and two bronze. The 23-year-old will swim the same events in Beijing that he tackled in Athens: 200m and 400m individual medleys, 100m and 200m butterflies, 200m freestyle, and three relays. But while he admits to being in his best form ever, he is riled with comparisons to Spitz. “As far as the Mark Spitz thing goes, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again -- I want to be the first Michael Phelps and not the second Mark Spitz,” he said. “I don’t mean to downplay his accomplishments by any means. For what he did, it was and still is the greatest Olympic performance of all time.
As one of the self-confessed “old fashioned” Olympians, Al Oerter will always remain in memory as the discus thrower who came from behind to win four consecutive Olympic titles between 1956 and 1968. He was chosen for the Olympic team for Melbourne where, as an “inspired” outsider, he shocked himself and his team-mate and reigning world record-holder, Fortune Gordien, with a throw of 56.36m. A near-fatal car crash in 1957 preceded a period of athletics obscurity before the 1960 Games in Rome. Oerter was true to his form, and exceeded expectations by throwing a massive 59.18m for a new Olympic record.
Beijing, August 2
The opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics will get the Summer Games -- billed as the greatest show on earth -- off to an explosive start. You should not expect anything less from the nation that invented gunpowder, and fireworks are certain to play a major role in the 3-hour spectacular that China hopes will help dispel the political controversies dogging their Olympics.
Beijing’s new national stadium, the steel-latticed ‘Bird’s Nest’, hosts the lavish opening ceremony which will draw on some 10,000 performers and could net a global television audience of more than four billion people.
The world got a tantalising glimpse of what is in store when a South Korean television crew slipped past the security cordon last week to film a secret dress rehearsal. Their footage, flashed over the internet, showed aerial artists floating over the track, kung-fu formations and humpbacked whales cavorting around the rim of the Bird's Nest.
“The ceremony will be astonishing and magnificent,” said Frenchman Yves Pepin, a multimedia events expert who has helped Zhang devise the show and has signed a confidentiality clause preventing him from revealing any content. “This will be a way for China to show the world what it is capable of,” he told Reuters. “I think it is going to be the biggest show of its type ever seen.” The Games signal China’s ascent from poverty and isolation to a place at the summit of the global community. It now has the world’s fourth-largest economy. — Reuters
Beijing, August 2
Unsurprisingly, the 24-year-old lefthander, who crashed out in the first round in Athens four years ago, is confident of taking his chance of glory on home soil.
''This is the best chance for me and also for my team mates to win a gold medal ... I am in very good form right now,'' Lin told the China Daily recently. ''All of us will be in top gear coming into the Olympic Games.'' Since Athens, Lin has been number one for all but a few months of 2006 when Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei took the mantel.
But the Athens defeat and two losses to Taufik Hidayat, which cost him the world title in 2005 and Asian Games gold in 2006, raised big questions about his temperament.
The accusation was that his temper got the better of him particularly when he met tough opponents in major tournaments. His rivalry with mercurial Indonesian Taufik, who has accused Lin of arrogance, has certainly featured a string of spats.
Lin's most recent public bust-up was with South Korea's Chinese coach Li Mao in January.
During a defeat to Lee Hyun-il, Lin threw his racket in Li's direction after protesting a line call awarding a match point to Lee. Lin refused to apologise for his outburst, saying Li was insulting him in Chinese.
In April, Lin was forced to deny on his blog newspaper reports that he had punched his coach Ji Xinpeng in training.
The questions over his temperament remained even after he won the world title for the first time in 2006 and retained it last year as well as rattling off three All England titles in four years from 2004.
Yet he remains popular in China, not least because of his long relationship with women's world number one Xie Xingfang, who also won the singles title at the 2006 world championships and the All England in 2006 and 2007.
Together they are known as the ''Condor Couple'', a reference to a popular Chinese novel about an impetuous young warrior and his calm older lover.
He won his first major international title in the 2003 Denmark Open and quickly rose to be world number one in 2004 but without an Olympic title he will not be able to take his place among the game's true greats.
Fate has conspired to improve his chances in Beijing.
Taufik's title defence looks rocky as he languishes in hospital with dengue fever and Lee opens his campaign against Singapore's Ronald Susilo, the man who beat Lin in Athens.
Whatever happens, Lin will do it his own way.
''People have different characters and different temperaments,'' he told Xinhua at the Asian Games.
''But I think the most important thing is to play the game well, win, and win over the fans with victory.'' — Reuters
Beijing, August 2
''To finish my career at home in 2008 is something very, very significant and emotional,'' the Hebei-born diver said at the Asian Games when announcing her plan to retire.
Guo's good looks have made her a fixture on advertising billboards and in magazines but her high profile has also had its downside. She was kicked off the diving team the year after the Athens Games along with another Olympic diving champion Tian Liang for undertaking too many commercial activities.
Guo apologised and was allowed back, but this year has been subject to attacks from domestic media for being ''supercilious'' by ignoring the press and rude for describing one of her rivals as ''the fat Canadian''.
Her love life has long been an obsession with the Chinese media, although she has neither confirmed nor denied any relationships.
She was initially linked with Tian, who retired in 2007 rather than cut down on his commercial activities and has since married a finalist from China's hugely popular ''Supergirl'' talent contest.
Since then Guo has been frequently pictured with Kenneth Fok, the grandson of late Hong Kong tycoon Henry Fok whose 25 million dollar donation helped fund the ''Water Cube'' aquatics centre where Guo will make her valedictory performances.
Despite all the glamour, attention and criticism, though, there is no doubt that Guo is an exceptional diver as her two Olympic gold medals and eight world titles attest. — Reuters
Barca appeal over Messi
Madrid, August 2 FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, said last week that clubs must release players aged under 23 selected for the August 8-24 Olympic Games. Argentina have been grouped with Ivory Coast, Australia and Serbia in the preliminary round in Beijing. Barcelona want the forward to be available for their Champions League third qualifying round clash against Beitar Jerusalem or Wisla Krakow with the first leg to be played on August 12 or 13. - Reuters
Madrid, August 2
FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, said last week that clubs must release players aged under 23 selected for the August 8-24 Olympic Games. Argentina have been grouped with Ivory Coast, Australia and Serbia in the preliminary round in Beijing.
Barcelona want the forward to be available for their Champions League third qualifying round clash against Beitar Jerusalem or Wisla Krakow with the first leg to be played on August 12 or 13. - Reuters
Bhajji turns it around
Galle, August 2
Virender Sehwag again stole the thunder with a buccaneering 52-ball 50, posting 93 runs for the first wicket with Gautam Gambhir, who recorded a skilful 74 - his second half-century of the match. But Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, too, were in sumptuous mood, realising 56 runs for the third wicket before departing in quick succession.
The ball turned appreciably besides keeping low and flying unpredictably. But the pace off the wicket had mellowed, thereby enabling batsmen to adjust, if necessary. Either way, it made no difference to Sehwag, who with his characteristic crash, bang and wallop followed his double hundred on Friday with crisp drives on both sides of the wicket, not to mention a slog sweep off Muttiah Muralitharan for six. But no sooner had he completed his half-century, he mistimed a Chaminda Vaas off-cutter to extra cover.
By contrast, Gambhir was compact and unhurried. He worked the bad balls away exquisitely - sometimes even walking out to the quicker bowlers - and on drove Murali to reach 50, but presented a secure defence to more troublesome deliveries. Ultimately, a sharply turning googly from Ajantha Mendis hit the top of his off-stump.
Dravid, regardless of occasional uncertainty against Mendis, cut and cover drove superbly and once in a trademark fashion whipped his bête noir off the hips to the midwicket ropes.
Vaas tested Tendulkar with seven fielders on the off side, including a short extra cover and short mid off in catching positions. On the one hand he was inviting the batsman to drive, on the other he was playing on his patience. The Mumbaikar could not resist. He chased a wide, angled off-cutter to be caught at second slip.
Dravid, then, attempted to sweep Murali and was adjudged lbw by virtue of the experimental referral system. According to the graphics, the ball, firstly, pitched more outside than on off stump; and it was left unclear whether the off-break — and Murali is a prodigious turner of the ball — would have gone on to hit or miss leg stump.
A situation similar to the opening day now confronted the Indians, with two new batsmen — Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman - at the crease in low visibility. The umpires, however, abandoned proceedings before a controversy arose.
Wicket-keeper-batsman Prasanna Jayawardene became Harbhajan’s fifth victim, caught at backward short leg, while Vaas presented a leading edge to be held at extra cover — Anil Kumble’s first wicket of the series.
Jayawardene rather desisted from exploring twos or fours in his preoccupation to protect the tail, except when he once carted Harbhajan to the midwicket fence. Eventually, a bouncing and spinning leg break from Kumble terminated his vigil - Dinesh Karthik clutching on at the second attempt.
India first innings 329
Sri Lanka first innings
Vandort c Dravid b Zaheer 4
Warnapura c Gambhir b Harbhajan 66
Sangakarra c & b Harbhajan 68
M. Jayawardene c Karthik b Kumble 86
Samaraweera lbw b Harbhajan 14
Dilshan c Gambhir b Harbhajan 0
P. Jayawardene c Laxman b Harbhajan 24
Vaas c H Singh b Kumble 1
Kulasekera not out 5
Mendis lbw b Kumble 0
Muralitharan c Ganguly b Harbhajan 0
Extras: (10-b, 12-lb, 2-nb) 24
Total: (all out) 292
Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-137, 3-144, 4-192, 5-192, 6-250, 7-255, 8-291, 9-291
Bowling: Zaheer 9-1-51-1, Ishant 8-1-36-0, Kumble 36-7-81-3, Harbhajan 40.3-8-102-6
India second innings
Gambhir b Mendis 74
Sehwag c Dilshan b Vaas 50
Dravid lbw b Muralitharan 44
Tendulkar c M Jayawardene b Vaas 31
Ganguly not out 0
Laxman not out 0
Extras: (1-lb) 1
Total: (for 4 wickets) 200
Fall of wickets: 1-90, 2-144, 3-200, 4-200
Bowling: Vaas 13-4-32-2, Kulasekera 5-0-31-0, Muralitharan
21-1-70-1, Mendis 17.4-3-66-1
India-Sri Lanka Test series
The fascination of Test cricket especially when two well matched sides meet is that it is like one of those serials that are seen on Indian television. One day it is the mother-in-law who is supreme then the next day it is the daughter-in-law and the picture can change the following day again with nobody knowing who is going to win the battle of wills in the end.
While the television serials go on and on, keeping millions hooked, Test cricket has only a span of five days and sometimes with the weather playing spoilsport the result can be a draw as indeed it can be if both the matched teams do not give an inch away.
The second Test between Sri Lanka and India is well poised with India holding a slight advantage simply because Sri Lanka will have to bat last on a pitch which will not improve.
The fact that India's spin duo of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh has captured nine wickets between them is an indication that there is plenty of help for the spinners and Muralitharan and Mendis did not make India's job in the second innings easy either.
India will be hoping that Ganguly and Laxman will add valuable runs and make the target impossible for Sri Lanka to get.
The big three are under pressure alright and with two Tests gone and not a big score from them will mean more tension when the third Test approaches. Both Dravid and Tendulkar were getting back into the kind of touch which has seen them score over 10000 runs in test cricket.
Dravid had the misfortune of being dismissed by the referral method and Tendulkar fell to the canny Vaas who had been trying his patience for some time.
What Sri Lankan bowlers have shown is that even if there is nothing in the pitch just sticking to the basics can be rewarding enough. Of course when Sehwag and Gambhir are batting even that can be a problem because there is no such thing as a good ball to them for they are perfectly capable of murdering the good balls which those with a different approach would look to defend.
Sehwag has been phenomenal. Having learnt from the first Test he set out to make amends and when he decides that it is invariably a big score and by carrying his bat through the innings by curbing his natural instincts he showed a sense of responsibility that a senior member and vice captain should.
Sure, he didn't stop playing the big shots but he chose the right deliveries to do so and that's when he is not gettable by any attack in the world. Well done Viru and India will be hoping that the bowlers now finish what he started. — PMG
Birmingham, August 2
England first innings 231
South Africa first innings 314
England second innings
Strauss c Kallis b Morkel 25
Cook c Boucher b Ntini 9
Vaughan c Amla b Nel 17
Pietersen c de Villiers b Harris 94
Bell c Boucher b Ntini 20
C’wood c Boucher b Morkel l35
Flintoff c Amla b Harris 2
Ambrose b Morkel 19
Sidebottom c Amla b Morkel 22
Anderson b Kallis 1
Panesar not out 0
Extras: (b-8, lb-2, w-6, nb-3) 19
Total: (all out) 363
FoW: 1-15, 2-39, 3-70, 4-104, 5-219, 6-221, 7-297, 8-362, 9-363.
Bowling: Morkel 19.2-1-97-4, Nel 20-3-79-1, Ntini 18-4-58-2, Kallis 20-5-59-1, Harris 21-3-60-2.
South Africa second innings
Smith not out 154
McKenzie lbw b Flintoff 22
Amla lbw b Panesar 6
Kallis lbw b Flintoff 5
Prince c Ambrose b Anderson 2
Villiers c Collingwood b Panesar 27
Boucher not out 45
Extras: (b-9, lb-9, w-2, nb-2) 22
Total: (for 5 wkts; 80 overs) 283
FoW: 1-65, 2-78, 3-83, 4-93, 5-171.
Bowling: Sidebottom 10-1-26-0, Anderson 13-0-60-1, Panesar 33-3-91-2, Flintoff 20-5-72-2, Pietersen 4-0-16-0, Pietersen 4-0-16-0 — Reuters
Cincinnati, August 2
By beating Lapentti, Nadal will end Roger Federer’s four-and-a-half-year reign as world number one on August 18 at the latest, or as early as Monday if he takes the Cincinnati title.
After ending Federer’s five-year winning run at Wimbledon last month, Nadal has maintained his superlative form on the hard courts of North America while his Swiss rival has stumbled to early defeats in the two tournaments he has played since. Should Nadal lose Sunday's final he would top the rankings on August 11 while a semifinal defeat would delay his coronation for another week.
India’s Leander Paes and his Czech partner Lukas Dlouhy fought bravely but their challenge was just not enough as they were handed a 6-7, 6-7 defeat in the quarterfinals by the the second seeded pair of Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia. Meanwhile, Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles advanced in to the semis with a win over American wildcards Mardy Fish and John Isner. They won 7-5, 6-7, 12-10 to book a clash with top seeded Bryan brothers of America. — UNI
India’s Leander Paes and his Czech partner Lukas Dlouhy fought bravely but their challenge was just not enough as they were handed a 6-7, 6-7 defeat in the quarterfinals by the the second seeded pair of Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia.
Meanwhile, Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles advanced in to the semis with a win over American wildcards Mardy Fish and John Isner. They won 7-5, 6-7, 12-10 to book a clash with top seeded Bryan brothers of America. — UNI