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Category Archives: Best of Pickle 92

TODAY (14 December 2010) marks the 50th anniversary of the first ever Tied Test match. Australia and the touring West Indies had both fought hard to win the first Test at The Gabba in Brisbane, and with just one more eight ball over remaining it was all still to play for.

Australia needed 6 runs to win; the West Indies needed 3 wickets. True nail-biting stuff eh?

Wes Hall was to bowl the final over of the match and wicketkeeper Wally Grout was on strike. The following is a ball-by-ball review of the final, fateful over.

  1. Grout is hit on the thigh and Captain Richey Benaud calls a single. The leg-bye is taken and Australia need 5 runs to win.
  2. Benaud attempts a hook shot but is caught behind by wicketkeeper Gerry Alexander for 52. 5 runs or 2 wickets to win in just 6 balls.
  3. New man in, Ian Meckiff, cuts the ball to mid-off but no run is scored. 5 runs or 2 wickets to win off of 5 balls.
  4. Hall sends the ball down the leg-side and everybody misses it. Grout calls for Meckiff to run the bye and they do. Alexander attempts to run Meckiff out but misses the stumps. 4 runs or 2 wickets needed off of 4 balls. Australia are now a boundary away from winning.
  5. Grout fends a bouncer away to square leg, and Rohan Kanhai goes for the catch. But Hall also attempts to take the catch in his follow-through, and in the resulting mix-up (with no catch taken) Grout and Meckiff take the single. 3 runs or 2 wickets from 3 balls needed.
  6. Meckiff sends the ball to the mid-wicket boundary. He and Grout run 2 but Conrad Hunte just prevents the boundary, and his return throw is so good that it lands straight into Alexander’s gloves and he runs out fellow wicketkeeper Grout for just 2. The scores are now level; 1 run or 1 wicket from 2 balls needed for victory.
  7. No. 11, Lindsay Kline, pushes the ball to square leg and he and Meckiff set off on what they hoped would be the winning run. But Joe Solomon scooped the ball up and with one stump to aim at, hit it directly from almost 40ft away and runs Meckiff out for 2 by a matter of inches. With the scores at 737 runs each and no more fourth innings wickets left to fall, the 84 year wait for the first tied Test was at an end.

There has only ever been one other tied Test in the history of Cricket. It was the first Test of the 1986/87 Australia tour of India. This means that only two out of the 1,983 Test matches that have ever been played have ended in a tie. Don’t you think we are due for another one soon?

West Indies in Australia 1960/61 1st Test – The Gabba, Brisbane

West Indies won the toss and elected to bat

West Indies

vs.

Australia

453 (100.6 overs @ 4.49 rpo)

1st Innings

505 (130.3 overs @ 3.87 rpo)

G.st A. Sobers 132

N.C. O’Neill 181

A.K. Davidson 5-135

W.W. Hall 4-140

284 (92.6 overs @ 3.05 rpo)

2nd Innings

232 (68.7 overs @ 3.35 rpo)

F.M.M. Worrell 65

A.K. Davidson 80

A.K. Davidson 6-87

W.W. Hall 5-63

Note: This was back when Australia had 8 ball overs in their home Tests

Match Tied – Series level at 0-0 with four matches left. Australia won the series 2-1.

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YESTERDAY (2 December) the world found out that the 2018 FIFA World Cup was to be held in Russia, and the 2022 FIFA World Cup was to be held in Qatar.

They triumphed in the second round of voting by gaining the magic number of 13 votes. The joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Netherlands/Belgium received seven and two votes respectively. But England crashed out in the first round of voting, only gaining two votes (and one of those votes came from the English FIFA delegate).

How on God’s Earth can the strongest bid of them all get just two votes?! All we would need to do was to expand a couple of stadiums and we’d be laughing.  Earlier this week FIFA gave the England bid 100/100 in every one of their criteria. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said in the past that England could host a World Cup tomorrow.

So where did it all go wrong? Well I think that FIFA has been exposed as the lying and fixed organisation that it is. The English press has exposed bribery and corruption amongst the FIFA executive committee and FIFA didn’t like it. I also think that these FIFA members don’t give a damn about who they stab in the back. At least five of the committee members ‘assured’ both David Beckham and PRINCE WILLIAM (of all people) that England had their votes. England’s presentation speech was also said to have been the best but it all counted for absolutely nothing.

Anyway, Russia will be hosting it’s (and Eastern Europe’s) first ever World Cup and travelling fans can look forward to the institutionalised racism that is in Russian football. Earlier in the year Lokomotiv Moscow fans unveiled a banner aimed at their former black player and now West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie. Said banner depicted a Banana. The head of the Russian bid, Alexey Sorokin said that: “To receive a Banana is a Russian way of saying ‘you’re a failure’.”

But (and you’ll love this) a Lokomotiv fan who I shall not name replied with this: “Sorokin has told the world that there was no racism in the banner. He described the message as the Russian saying ‘to receive a banana’ signifying a big failure but not racist. I never heard of this saying before.” He continued to say: “We drew the banana as a reference to Odemwingie’s African roots. Every black in Russia is often called ‘monkey’. I believe that Russian fans are racists deep in their souls.” Can you imagine the first game of the 2018 World Cup being Russia vs. somebody like Ghana or Cameroon? I’d be pretty shocked if we didn’t see banners in the same vain as below at that game.

To show you just how fixed I think this vote was; when David Beckham, PM David Cameron and HRH Prince William were in Zurich trying in vain to boost England’s chances, Russian PM Vladimir Putin was in a meeting about Russia’s health service. When Russia was announced as the winner he immediately flew to Zurich.  I have heard that he was told 24 hours in advance that Russia had won – but don’t take my word for it. Also, England’s bid was all over the news in the days before the vote, but on the day of the vote in Russia their bid and the vote was just an And Finally segment on their news agenda. And another thing, World Cup stadia are meant to be scattered all over the host country right, yet the people in Vladivostok wouldn’t be watching any matches in their city.

Anyway, 2018 rant over, now it’s time for the 2022 rant.

Qatar of all countries! What the hell was wrong with the U.S.A.’s bid?! The last time America hosted the World Cup in 1994 it smashed attendance records and made FIFA a huge sum of money (just as England would have done in 2018, well money wise anyway). Australia would have put on a great show, just look at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney or the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. Even Japan and South Korea could have put on a good World Cup even though it would have been just 20 years since they co-hosted it together.

But no, FIFA decided to pick a country that has never ever even qualified for a World Cup and has only ever reached the Quarter-Finals of the Asian Cup once back in 2000. Qatar has only ever hosted the Asian Cup once back in 1988, but are coincidently (ha ha yeah right) hosting the tournament next month (January 2011). The national side is ranked a lowly 113th in the world between the Central African Republic and Thailand. Qatar is also an Arab country (so no drinking or sleeping around westerners) and is just half the size of Wales and has a population of fewer than 1.7 million. With all the fans and teams and reporters coming to stay for a month will everybody be able to fit on the island?

Isn’t it funny how the two countries with the weakest (in my eyes) bids yet are rich in gas and oil win the rights to host the World Cup?

Although I will say this in support for Qatar. When the World Cup has finished they will demolish the new stadia and transport them piece by piece to countries in the developing world. A great gift to the footballing world, but I thought you were meant to leave a lasting legacy in your own country?

The sad thing about all this for England is that now the next chance we have of hosting the World Cup is in 2030. China have said that they would like to host the tournament in 2026, but don’t be surprised if it is award to the Principality of Sealand (the former WW2 Mansell Sea Fort six miles of the cost of Suffolk) in the name of expanding the global game.

But justice may be done. 2030 is the 100th anniversary of the first ever World Cup in Uruguay, and nothing would give me greater satisfaction than having England hosting the Centenary World Cup.

After all, we only gave the world the game it loves.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL of Red Bull became the youngest ever F1 Drivers’ World Champion by winning last Sunday’s (14 November) Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Welcome to the club Seb!

Vettel, who took the title at the age of 23 years 134 days, won the 55 lap race in a time of 1:39:36.837 (114.324 mph). The two previous World Champions, Lewis Hamilton (2008) and Jenson Button (2009) (both McLaren) came home in second and third places respectively. Hamilton also set the fastest lap of race, a 1:41.274 (122.673 mph). The two drivers who lead the title race going into the final Grand Prix of the season, Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) and Mark Webber (Red Bull) could only finish down in seventh and eighth places respectively.

When the race got underway Vettel kept his first place by easing out Hamilton into the first corner, but Alonso lost his third place to the fast starting Button, who could still play a vital part in deciding the championship.

Here we go!

While all this was going on up front, tragedy almost unfolded before our eyes. Seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) was following his former Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello (Williams), with his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg alongside him. On the exit of Turn 6 Rosberg and Schumacher came within inches of each other and Schumacher spun 180˚ and was now facing oncoming traffic. He tried desperately to spin around, but was hit head on by the Force India of Vitantonio Liuzzi. The Force India climbed up the front of the Mercedes and only just missed Schumacher’s head. It looked worse in real-time and from the camera angel I saw it at, I honestly thought Michael Schumacher had been killed. But to my great relief, his head moved naturally in the cockpit, and before too long he and Liuzzi were walking back to the pits together. This crash naturally brought out the Safety Car for yet another appearance this season.

Michael! You are too old for this S***!

The race was back on at the end of lap 5 and just as he had done so many times earlier in the season Vettel shot off into the distance leaving his fellow title challengers to eat his dust. Rosberg and Vitaly Petrov had taken advantage of the early SC to get their pit stop out of the way and immediately began to pass other cars on old tyres.

On lap 11 Mark Webber radioed the Red Bull pit wall telling them that he had lost the grip in his rear-tyres. We saw that he was struggling for grip when he had hit the Armco at Turn 19 a few laps earlier. The Red Bull pit crew raced into the pits and Webber came in and had his tyres changed. The Australian rejoined the race in 16th place behind Toro Rosso’s Jamie Alguersuari who let him through with no trouble. This is probably because he was driving the Red Bull ‘B team’s’ car.

Alonso dived into the pits at the end of lap 15 to have his tyres changed and found himself behind Petrov’s Renault in 12th place, but more importantly he was in front of Webber who needed to beat Alonso to have any hope of winning the title.

The millions watching the race now expected Alonso to breeze past Petrov who was still a rookie and under pressure to keep his drive for 2011. But the young Russian’s Renault was proving to be as wide as the Iron Curtain and Alonso was starting to get fidgety. By lap 23 he was so fidgety in fact that he put off braking into Turn 11 too long and instead of passing Petrov, went off and would have lost his place to Webber if the Red Bull was any much closer. While all this was going on Hamilton pitted. The front three of Vettel, Hamilton and Button had seen their tyres come back to life and were still charging around the track. Hamilton rejoined the race behind the Renault of Robert Kubica who like Petrov would prove to be virtually impossible to pass.

Race leader Vettel pitted at the end of the next lap, letting outgoing World Champion Jenson Button inherit the lead. Vettel came back out on track just ahead of the third placed Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi and the Kubica – Hamilton fight. This swung the odds massively in Vettel’s favour. He was in a net first place (Button was yet to pit) and all the other title challengers were stuck behind Renaults!

Button pitted at the end of lap 39 and Vettel re-took the lead. The McLaren driver came back out in fourth place behind his team-mate Hamilton who was still behind Kubica, who didn’t pit until the end of lap 46. All the while Petrov was still preventing Alonso and Webber from getting to where they needed to finish.

Not even those ill-gotten seven points in Germany were going to help Alonso pass Petrov.

Vettel crossed the line at the end of the 55th and last lap first – his third win in the last four races – with both McLaren’s second and third. But he still wasn’t World Champion yet and his radio went silent. As we saw at Brazil in 2008 it isn’t over until the last car crosses the line, and Red Bull didn’t want him to get his hopes up. Further back Alonso tried one last ditch dive up the inside of Petrov but failed, and it was confirmed that Vettel won the title.

The 23 year-old German burst into tears when he was told over the radio that he had realised his dream. What a feeling that must be.

Alonso spoiled the mood slightly after the race by angrily waving his hands at a bemused Petrov on the slowing-down lap. Yes you may have been faster Fernando, but unlike Massa, Petrov wouldn’t move for you. And why should he have? In my opinion, Petrov’s drive in this race was the best of the season, and he totally deserves a 2011 race seat.

With regards to our new Champion, the right man won I cannot deny it. Vettel won five races, took ten podiums finishes, took 10 pole positions and set three fastest laps. He would have won in Australia but his brakes failed on him, he would have come in the top two in Turkey if he didn’t have himself and Webber off and he would have won in South Korea if his engine didn’t blow up. Remarkably this is the first time in his career that Vettel has even led the drivers’ championship. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

Schumacher congratulating Vettel after the race.

But, will he defend his title next year? That is the question.

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP – Final Standings

Pos

Driver

Constructor(s)

Points

Gap From 1st

World Champion

Sebastian VETTEL (GER)

Red Bull

256

2

Fernando ALONSO (ESP)

Ferrari

252

4

3

Mark WEBBER (AUS)

Red Bull

242

14

4

Lewis HAMILTON (ENG)

McLaren

240

16

5

Jenson BUTTON (ENG)

McLaren

214

42

6

Felipe MASSA (BRA)

Ferrari

144

112

7

Nico ROSBERG (GER)

Mercedes

142

114

8

Robert KUBICA (POL)

Renault

136

120

9

Michael SCHUMACHER (GER)

Mercedes

72

184

10

Rubens BARRICHELLO (BRA)

Williams

47

209

11

Adrian SUTIL (GER)

Force India

47

209

12

Kamui KOBAYASHI (JAP)

Sauber

32

224

13

Vitaly PETROV (RUS)

Renault

27

229

14

Nico HÜLKENBERG (GER)

Williams

22

234

15

Vitantonio LIUZZI (ITA)

Force India

21

235

16

Sébastien BUEMI (SUI)

Toro Rosso

8

248

17

Pedro DE LA ROSA (ESP)

Sauber (1-14)

6

250

18

Nick HEIDFELD (GER)

Sauber (15-19)

6

250

19

Jamie ALGUERSUARI (ESP)

Toro Rosso

5

251

20

Heikki KOVALAINEN (FIN)

Lotus

0

256

21

Jarno TRULLI (ITA)

Lotus

0

256

22

Karun CHANDHOK (IND)

HRT (1-10)

0

256

23

Bruno SENNA (BRA)

HRT (1-9, 11-19)

0

256

24

Lucas DI GRASSI (BRA)

Virgin

0

256

25

Timo GLOCK (GER)

Virgin

0

256

26

Sakon YAMAMOTO (JAP)

HRT (10-14, 16-17)

0

256

27

Christian KLIEN (AUT)

HRT (15, 18-19)

0

256

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP – Final Standings

Pos

Constructor

Engine

Points

Gap From 1st

World Champions

RED BULL (AUT)

Renault

498

2

MCLAREN (ENG)

Mercedes

454

44

3

FERRARI (ITA)

Ferrari

396

102

4

MERCEDES (GER)

Mercedes

214

284

5

RENAULT (FRA)

Renault

163

335

6

WILLIAMS (ENG)

Cosworth

69

429

7

FORCE INDIA (IND)

Mercedes

68

430

8

SAUBER (SUI)

Ferrari

44

454

9

TORO ROSSO (ITA)

Ferrari

13

485

10

LOTUS (MAL)

Cosworth

0

0

11

HRT (ESP)

Cosworth

0

0

12

VIRGIN (ENG)

Cosworth

0

0

More F1 2010/11 blogs will follow between now and Christmas.

Fernando Alonso celebrates winning the first ever (South) Korean Grand Prix.

FERNANDO ALONSO of Ferrari won his third Grand Prix in four in what was a highly eventful first ever Korean Grand Prix (24 October). The 2005 and 2006 World Champion won the 55 lap race in a time of 2:48:20.810, at an average speed of just 68.350 mph! This is because the race was suspended for over 45 minutes due to torrential rain and standing water on a newly laid track surface. Alonso also set the fastest lap of the race with a lap of 1:50.257 (113.919 mph), which was almost 15 seconds slower than Sebastian Vettel’s (Red Bull) pole time. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton finished in second place, while Alonso’s team-mate Felipe Massa came home in third.

The race’s original start time of 15:00 local time was put back by ten minutes as the race stewards debated over whether or not the race should start under the Safety Car. This ended up being the case, and the SC took Sebastian Vettel and the other drivers around for three laps before the race was red flagged because it was descending into a farce. Alonso radioed the Ferrari pit wall telling them: “These are the worst conditions I’ve ever driven in.

And they’re off…kind of.

As I mentioned earlier the race was suspended for over three quarters of an hour before the rain eased up enough for the SC to lead the cars around again. This was the situation from laps four to the end of lap 17. In my opinion they should have been racing at least two or three laps earlier. Hamilton told the McLaren pit wall that: “It’s almost good enough for inters.” [intermediate tyres] just before the SC came in.

The race started for real at the end of lap 17 with Vettel leading from his team-mate Mark Webber and Alonso. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) passed Robert Kubica (Renault) at the first corner, and his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg overtook Hamilton at Turn 3 after slipstreaming him on the long straight between Turns 2 and 3. Schumacher meanwhile spent the rest of the lap hassling reigning World Champion Jenson Button (McLaren) and Massa.

But there was to be potentially championship deciding drama on the next lap. Mark Webber – who was leading the championship going into this race – took too much curb exiting Turn 12 and slid across the track and into the wall before bouncing back across the road. Alonso missed the Red Bull, but Nico Rosberg was not so lucky. He tried to squeeze his Mercedes past the Red Bull but didn’t quite manage it, and was taken clean out by Webber who would not be adding to his points total in South Korea. This crash brought out the SC for its third stint in only two racing laps.

Will this cost Mark Webber the title?

Normal service was resumed at the end of lap 23 with Vettel leading from Alonso and Hamilton. Further down the field Schumacher passed Button at Turn 3. Button decided to gamble and pit for inters on lap 27. But unlike in Australia his gamble didn’t pay off as he was unlucky enough to exit the pits right in the middle of a mid-filed scrap.

Lap 29 saw Sébastien Buemi (Toro Rosso) punt off Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus. But whereas Kovalainen would finish the race Buemi wouldn’t. His race ended just two laps later when he T-boned Timo Glock’s Virgin car at Turn 3. Glock was also forced to retire and the SC came out yet again.

The leaders seized this opportunity to pit with: Hamilton, Massa and Schumacher all going for inters. Race leaders Vettel and Alonso pitted for inters in the next lap, but Alonso’s pit-stop was slow and Hamilton took second place away from his former McLaren team-mate while he was exiting the pits.

Racing got underway again at the end of lap 34. Hamilton went wide at Turn 1 allowing Alonso to retake second place. Massa fancied a run at Hamilton down the straight but the Englishman was wise to what the Brazilian was intending to do at Turn 3, and legally blocked him from trying anything.

Jenson Button’s race went from bad to worse when Adrian Sutil forced him off track on lap 36, causing him to lose yet more places and ground in the title race.

Renault’s Vitaly Petrov had a heavy shunt at the last corner on lap 40 wrecking his car. The replays showed that the impact was indeed hefty, yet to my sheer annoyance Petrov was left there to make his own way out of the car and back to his pit. Absolutely nobody went up to his car to see if he was hurt or not, or to help him back to the Renault garage. What if he was hurt or passed out while walking? Who was there to help him?!

My mood was much improved however when – at the start of lap 46 – the Renault engine in Vettel’s Red Bull began to sound ill. The same had happened to him while he was leading in Bahrain, and just like in the season’s first race Alonso passed him for the lead. Vettel continued to slow through Turns 1 and 2, and just a Hamilton pulled out to take second his engine went BANG! 😀 After parking his car at a marshal’s post on the straight the German grabbed a fire extinguisher to put out the flames that where engulfing the engine just like Heikki Kovalainen did in Singapore. Once again Red Bull failed to take advantage of their epic qualifying speed and their superior race pace.

Will this cost Sebastian Vettel the title?

A lap later Sutil ended his race by crashing into Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber whilst trying to outbrake him at Turn 4. It later came to light that Sutil knew he had brake problems and was fined $10,000 (£6,400) for dangerous driving. Personally I’d have banned him from the Brazilian Grand Prix to send a message out to the drivers that such actions are both intolerable and stupid. Sutil and Buemi have also been handed five-place grid bumps for the Brazilian GP for causing their respective crashes.

Back to the race now, and a new problem…the light. Because we westerners don’t want to get up too early in the morning on a Sunday the power/s that be decided to start the race at 15:00 Korean time. That coupled with the slow race pace and 45 minute delay meant that the Sun had pretty much set over the track, and the drivers were out there in near darkness. Hamilton didn’t mind this at all mind you.

McLaren pit wall: “Lewis, how is the light?

Hamilton: “Light’s good!” 😉

Now, I’ve always gotten up for races and qualifying ever since I was a small boy. True fans would get up to watch the race no matter how early it is. Here’s an idea for a regulation next year: All races with the exception of Singapore and Abu Dhabi will start at 14:00 local time. Not 15:00, 16:00 or 17:00, 14:00. Singapore will start at 20:00 local time, Abu Dhabi at 17:00 local time. What do you reckon?

Anyway, Alonso managed to navigate his way through the darkness to win the longest Grand Prix since Monaco 1960 (Lotus’s first win). He now leads the championship by 11 points from Webber, 21 from Hamilton, 25 (a race win) from Vettel and 42 from Button who finished down in 12th place.

The next race is Brazil at the weekend. The Interlagos circuit has seen the last five championships decided, and can see this run continue in favour of Fernando Alonso if:

  • He wins, with Webber no higher than 5th.
  • He is 2nd, with Webber no higher than 8th, as long as Vettel or Hamilton don’t win.
  • He is 3rd, with Webber no higher than 11th, as long as Vettel or Hamilton don’t win or come 2nd.

Red Bull can win their first ever Constructor’s Championship if they finish first and second. But this is F1 2010. Absolutely anything can happen.

DRIVERS’ STANDINGS (17/19 GPs)

Pos

Driver

Constructor(s)

Points

Gap From 1st

1

Fernando ALONSO (ESP)

Ferrari

231

2

Mark WEBBER (AUS)

Red Bull

220

11

3

Lewis HAMILTON (ENG)

McLaren

210

21

4

Sebastian VETTEL (GER)

Red Bull

206

25

5

Jenson BUTTON (ENG)

McLaren

189

42

6

Felipe MASSA (BRA)

Ferrari

143

88*

7

Robert KUBICA (POL)

Renault

124

107*

8

Nico ROSBERG (GER)

Mercedes

122

109*

9

Michael SCHUMACHER (GER)

Mercedes

66

165*

10

Rubens BARRICHELLO (BRA)

Williams

47

184*

*Can’t win title.

There are 50 points still available

CONSTRUCTORS’ STANDINGS (17/19 GPs)

Pos

Constructor

Engine

Points

Gap From 1st

1

RED BULL (AUT)

Renault

426

2

MCLAREN (ENG)

Mercedes

399

27

3

FERRARI (ITA)

Ferrari

374

52

4

MERCEDES (GER)

Mercedes

188

238*

5

RENAULT (FRA)

Renault

143

283*

6

FORCE INDIA (IND)

Mercedes

68

358*

7

WILLIAMS (ENG)

Cosworth

65

361*

8

SAUBER (SUI)

Ferrari

43

383*

9

TORO ROSSO (ITA)

Ferrari

11

415*

Yet to Score

LOTUS (MAL), HRT (ESP), VIRGIN (ENG)

Cosworth (All)

0

426*

*Can’t win title.

There are 86 points still available

WORLD CUP oracle Paul the Octopus has died at the age of 2 years and 10 months in his tank at the Oberhausen Sea Life Centre in Germany. He passed away peacefully in his sleep. 😦

Over the course of this summer’s FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Weymouth hatched Paul became the most famous animal on the planet. He outshone every single player and event at the tournament by predicting the winner in all seven of his adoptive country’s matches. This included Germany’s shock loss to Serbia (0-1) in their second match and their eventual elimination to Spain (also 0-1) in the Semi-Finals.

Everybody wanted to know who Paul thought would win the Final, and his prediction was broadcast live around the globe. He chose Spain over the Netherlands, and the Spanish went on to beat the Dutch 1-0 after extra-time in the Final (a.k.a. – The Battle of Johannesburg).

The odds of correctly predicating the winners in all eight matches have been given at 256/1.

It is also heavily rumoured – although denied by his keeper – that Paul correctly predicted four of Germany’s six matches in Euro 2008. He is reported to have gotten wrong Croatia’s win over Germany and Spain’s win over Germany in the Final.

Needles to say, Paul made several enemies as a result of his predictions. When Spain beat Germany the German newspaper Westfälische Rundschau accused him of betrayal. I take it they didn’t know he was English. The Spanish government then stepped in with their PM, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero offering him safe-haven in Spain. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used a speech in Tehran to publicly attack Paul, saying that the west was using him as a propaganda tool. Err, Mahmoud…he’s just an Octopus.

The Sea Life Centre retired Paul the day after the Final, and presented to him his very own replica World Cup trophy and an extra portion of his favourite food – and prediction making tools – mussels.

But Paul kept himself busy in his retirement, and in August he became an official ambassador for England’s 2018 World Cup bid.

Alas, he would not live to see if his home country would be awarded the tournament. Octopuses rarely live beyond the age of 2, so he actually had a long life by his species standards.

P92: “Rest in peace Paul. You were the best thing to come out of what was a pretty dyer World Cup.”

Zakumi (from Jo’burg): “Hey it wasn’t that bad. But seriously, Paul if you can hear me up there in that big fish tank in the sky, we will miss you terribly.”

P92 (raises a full glass): “To Paul.”

Zakumi (raises glass): “Here here, to Paul.”

RIP

TODAY (10 October), Pink Floyd’s fifth studio album Atom Heart Mother is 40 years old. It was recorded from between March and August 1970 at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London, and reached #1 in the UK album chart – the first such achievement by a Floyd album.

The album cover is a simple picture of a Cow named Lulubelle III. The picture was taken by the album cover genius that is Storm Thorgerson. The band wanted to break away from the Psychedelic Space Rock image they had been given, so they asked Thorgerson to put “something plain” on the cover.

The album itself runs for 52 minutes and 44 seconds and features five songs. The entire first side of the album is taken up by Pink Floyd’s longest uninterrupted song, Atom Heart Mother (Suite). The six part instrumental piece comes in at 23:44, and was written by all four members of Pink Floyd: Roger Waters (bass), David Gilmour (guitar), Richard Wright (keys) and Nick Mason (drums), along with composer Ron Geesin. The six parts of the suite are: Father’s Shout (0:00 – 2:54), Breast Milky (2:55 – 5:26), Mother Fore (5:27 – 10:12), Funky Dung (10:13 – 15:29), Mind Your Throats, Please (15:30 – 19:13) and Remergence (19:14 – 23:44). Also in the studio with Pink Floyd when this song was recorded where the Abbey Road Session Pops Orchestra and the John Alldis Choir. I can’t write anything other than it will blow your mind every single time you here it.

The drum and bass parts were all recorded in one take, and the piece itself actually went through a number of different working titles including: Theme From an Imaginary Western, Epic and The Amazing Pudding. The latter became the name of the Pink Floyd magazine from 1983-93. The name Atom Heart Mother (Suite) was finally decided upon when Ron Geesin gave Roger Waters a copy of the 16 July 1970 Evening Standard newspaper and told him that the song title would be in there. Waters spied an article about a pregnant woman who had been fitted with a pacemaker. The articles’ headline was: “Atom Heart Mother Named”.

Film director Stanley Kubrick wanted to use the suite for his film A Clockwork Orange but the band turned him down (but this hasn’t stopped people from making ‘what if’ videos on the internet – see below). Years later Kubrick would deny Waters audio from 2001: A Space Odyssey for his solo album Amused to Death.

The second track on the album is the Roger Waters composition If. This gentle acoustic track (in my eyes) can be seen as the embryonic stages of Waters concocting the character ‘Pink’ who would be unleashed nine years later on The Wall.

We then have the song Summer ’68 which was written and sung by late keyboardist Richard Wright. It is about a one night stand and the return to habitual life. There are also lyrics that reference the down side of touring: “My friends are lying in the sun, I wish that I was there…

But the fourth track of the album is the one that takes the biscuit. I my opinion, Fat Old Sun is the best song that David Gilmour has ever written. It starts of so gentle and peacefully, before launching into an awesome but never overblown guitar solo. Gilmour also played bass and drums in the studio for this track.

Unfortunately the last track on the album is one of the very few Pink Floyd songs that I don’t like. Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast is more of a recorded jam session than a song. It is just plain weird. But Pink Floyd were experimenting at this time, and occasionally when you experiment you get turned an odd shade of green.

So summary, a fantastic but yet sadly overlooked album (no song off it made the ‘best of’ album sadly), with three excellent individual works and perhaps the most unique track in rock history.

I WOKE up at 4:45am to watch the qualifying session for this year’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, only to be told by my Dad that it might not happen because of torrential rain.

And sure enough, no cars went out on track at all because it was just raining too much, and the cars would handle like boats. Qualifying will now take place at 10am local time, or 2am UK time! This will give me just under three hours sleep before the live programme begins at 6am UK time, with the race starting at 7am.

This is not the first time that Suzuka has experienced qualifying on the morning of the race. Back in 2004, typhoon Ma-on caused qualifying to be pushed back a day as it came within around 25 miles of the circuit.

The weather forecast for Suzuka tomorrow is for it to be clear, but if no qualifying takes place at all, then the grid will be decided by car number order, meaning a McLaren front row lock-out!

Well no actually. The Woking based outfit have had to change Lewis Hamilton’s gearbox, and the 2008 World Champion will take a five-place grid bump. 😦

But on a lighter not as you can see below, some of the drivers and mechanics busied themselves by taking photos and racing little paper boats down the pit lane.

Sebastian Vettel trying his hand at photography

YESTERDAY (30 August) a piece of footballing history faded out of living memory with the death of the last surviving player from the very first World Cup in 1930.

Francisco Varallo passed away at the grand old age of 100 in La Plata, Argentina – the capital city of the province of Buenos Aires and the place of his birth.

Francisco Varallo

He was nicknamed ‘Canoncito’ or ‘Little Canon’ for his power shots, and with said powerful shot scored 181 goals for his club Boca Juniors. This record was only broken this year by Martin Palermo.

As an Argentina international he played 16 matches and scored seven goals. His only World Cup finals goal came in his country’s 6-3 win over Mexico. Varallo played in the very first World Cup Final against arch rivals and host nation Uruguay.

His side lost the match 2-4, and he said that the loss made him angry a full 80 years after the event.

But he did enjoy winning four Argentina league titles. One with Gimnasia de La Plata in 1929, and three with Boca Juniors in: 1931, 1934 and 1935. Varallo also won the 1937 South American Championship with Argentina in 1937.

He retired from football in 1940 at the age of 30, still feeling the effects of a bad knee injury which saw him miss virtually the whole of the 1938 season.

Varallo later became a coach in the lower divisions in Argentina, and in 1994 became only the second player to be awarded the FIFA Order of Merit.

A sad day for World Cup enthusiasts the world over.

R.I.P.

FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, has said that he is considering scrapping draws in the group stages of future World Cups. Under these new proposals, all group matches that end in a draw after 90 minutes will go straight to penalties, assuring a winner in every match.

Now I’m not Blatter’s biggest fan, but I’m going to have to side with him on this one. During the World Cup in South Africa we saw the fear of losing outweighing the will to win. Managers would quite happily settle for a draw in their opening or last group game if that is all that was needed.

In the 48 group matches in South Africa there were 14 draws (29% of matches). Of these 14 draws there were: six 0-0s, six 1-1s and two 2-2s.

2006 saw just 11 group games ending all square, 2002 had 14 draws (but Uruguay came from 0-3 down to draw 3-3 with Senegal) and 1998 saw 16 draws. Just think, with penalties at the end of these matches some teams that didn’t advance form their groups may have done so with the extra points.

FIFA do already use a similar no draws rule in the Beach Soccer World Cup. If a group game ends with the scores the same after the full-time whistle both teams play a period of extra-time, and if the scores are still tied they play a sudden-death penalty shoot-out. The winner is awarded two points instead of three and everybody except the losing team goes home happy.

This wouldn’t be first time that FIFA have played about the group stages in the World Cup. There most recognisable piece of tinkering came in Switzerland ’54. Each group consisted of four teams – two seeded and two non-seeded. But the two seeds didn’t play each other and neither did the two non-seeds, meaning each country only played two group games instead of the normal three. Also, any of these games ending level after 90 minutes were followed by 30 minutes of extra-time. Only then if the scores remained level did each side take away a point. This actually happened in the England vs. Belgium game in the 1954 World Cup. The score at the end of normal time was 3-3, and the match ended 4-4.

As I’ve said earlier, I’m all for the idea of penalties at the end of a drawn group match because the fans don’t want to watch a dull 0-0 – Brazil vs. Portugal for example, and because the law of averages states that England will win on penalties again eventually.

But what I am not a fan of is Blatter’s plan of bringing back the awful ‘Golden Goal’. This rule states that the first goal in extra-time wins the match for the scoring team. But could you imagine the outcry if the ‘Golden Goal’ rule had been used in the 1966 Final? Geoff Hurst’s crossbar goal would have won the World Cup, and we never would have heard those immortal words from commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme: “And here comes Hurst. He’s got… some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over. It is now! It’s four!

We also would have not witnessed what has been dubbed: ‘The Game of the Century’. This was a 1970 World Cup Semi-Final between Italy and West Germany at the Azteca Stadium (Mexico City) in front of a crowd of 102,444 people. Italy took the lead after just eight minutes, and West Germany equalized in injury-time at the end of the second half. West Germany then took the lead in the 94th minute and the win if the match had the ‘Golden Goal’ rule. But Italy scored on 98 and 104 minutes to take a 3-2 lead, only for West Germany to score in the 110th minute to make it 3-3. But Italy scored just a minute later whilst the TV cameras still showed replays of West Germany’s third goal. Italy won the ‘Game of the Century’ 4-3 after extra-time.

So, to sum up. It’s a ‘yes’ for no more draws in the group stages, but a ‘no’ for the return of the ‘Golden Goal’.

THE first ever Korean Grand Prix is due to be held over the weekend of the 22-23-24 October this year at the brand new Korean International Circuit.

Some people have voiced concerns about the track not being built or ready to hold the GP in time. But organisers have said that they are confident the race will go ahead.

However, if I was a Formula 1 driver I wouldn’t fancy going to South Korea at all. Not because the track may or may not be up to scratch, but because of the ever increasing likeliness of there being a full scale military conflict between the South and it’s paranoid twin: North Korea.

Ever since the South accused the North of sinking one of its submarines in March – which killed 46 South Korean sailors – relations between Seoul and Pyongyang have gotten nasty.

South Korea has been conducting anti-submarine exercises with the United States, much to North Korea’s annoyance. On Monday (9 August) Seoul claimed that the North fried more than 100 rounds of artillery into the Sea of Japan near the border.

Personally, I’m terrified of what North Korea might be planning next. They would like nothing better than to start up the Korean War again. They would probably lose, but the rest of the world doesn’t know if they have an ace card up their sleeves in the form of a powerful nuclear weapon.

What if, when the F1 circus descends on South Korea for its biggest single sporting event since the 2002 World Cup, North Korea decides to fire whatever it may have at the circuit? It doesn’t even bear thinking about.

What would you do if you were a driver? Would you go to South Korea for a major international sporting event (which is new to the country) when it is on the verge of war with its neighbour and twin? Or would you try and get a drive for HRT and pray that they decide not to use you for the race?