Latest – There will be a new champion in both the men’s and women’s Super Smash this season after the Canterbury Kings defeated the defending champion Wellington Firebirds in a nail-biting chase in Dunedin and the Otago Sparks knocked the Auckland Hearts out of the competition.
Leo Carter Photo: PHOTOSPORT
The Kings won their elimination final by six wickets, chasing down the Firebirds’ total of 190 with three balls to spare.
Requiring 31 runs off 12 balls, Leo Carter made sure the Kings progressed to the final.
Carter (44 off 30 balls, 3 x 4, 2 x 6) and Cam Fletcher (63 not out off 25 balls, 6 x 4, 3 x 6) had smashed 98 runs together off just 45 balls to book their team’s ticket to Hamilton where they will play Northern Brave at Seddon Park for the trophy.
Kings opener Chad Bowes also reached a half century, scoring 51 off 41 balls.
Earlier, the competition’s top men’s runscorer Michael Bracewell, led a powerful recovery from the Firebirds after the Kings’ Matt Henry (2-47) struck twice in the dramatic first over the match.
The power-packed captain, playing in his 50th T20 for the Firebirds and 100th Domestic T20 overall, looked to be charging towards his second T20 century this summer as he combined for the second highest partnership for any Firebirds wicket in this format, striking a 54-ball 81 in a 143-run third-wicket stand with Devon Conway.
Conway carried on to an unbeaten 74 off 55 balls – breaking the Firebirds’ record for most T20 runs in a season in the process.
In the women’s competition, Suzie Bates lead the Otago Sparks to a 29-run victory over the Auckland Hearts in the knockout final to set up a final against the unbeaten Wellington Blaze.
Otago Sparks Photo: PHOTOSPORT
Bates (75 off 62 balls) scored her fifth T20 half century of the season and broke her own record for the most runs for her team in a single T20 season, with one match still to play.
Chasing 143/5, the Auckland Hearts batters couldn’t match her power start, and lost regular wickets as the dominant southerners put the squeeze on with the ball, strangling their run chase.
The Sparks have won New Zealand’s T20 crown only once before, in 2016/17 when they beat the Canterbury Magicians in the Final; and now face the Blaze, the star-studded team that went on to win that title for the following three seasons until a blip last summer.
Coast to Coast to go ahead
Organizers of the multisport race Coast to Coast have announced they will forge ahead with the 40th Anniversary event, albeit in a significantly scaled back capacity.
Richie McCaw and Rob Nichol on the Coast to Coast run. Photo: Kathmandu Coast to Coast
After being forced to cancel the 2-day event categories earlier in the week due to the country now in the Covid-19 Red traffic light settings, race director Glen Currie has revealed the Longest Day category and the mountain run will go ahead on February 12.
“There was simply no way we could provide a safe event for the two-day athletes, support crew and spectators. But, once more guidelines and information came to light earlier this week, we became confident that we could do so at a much smaller scale.”
“Government feedback has been that they do not want events to cease altogether, rather they’re asking events like ours to restructure to minimize contact of people as much as possible and reduce the potential of a mass spread as a result of the event.”
284 competitors will now line up for the Longest Day and One Day Teams categories, starting in pods of less than 100, while 90 athletes in the mountain run, who start from a completely different section of the course will also get their opportunity to compete. This is a significant decrease from the initial 1400 registered athletes.
English rugby club drops indigenous American-themed branding
English Premiership club Exeter Chiefs will drop their indigenous American-themed branding after criticism from fans.
In a statement the 2020 English and European champions said its new branding would feature the Celtic Iron Age Dumnonii Tribe which once inhabited Devon and Cornwall.
“Times are changing and so are we — now is the time to move forward!” it said.
“We are excited to welcome in the next era of rugby within Exeter,” chairman and chief executive Tony Rowe said.
“Exeter has and always will be the most important term in our overall identity. The term Chiefs, however, is equally entrenched in our make-up, going back to over a century ago when teams in this region would regularly call their first teams that of the Chiefs. We are Exeter, we are the Chiefs!”
In 2020 the supporter group Exeter Chiefs for Change led the calls for the club to get rid of their branding.
The club subsequently dropped their ‘Big Chief’ mascot, but retained the rest of their branding including places such as the ‘Wigwam Bar’ at their Sandy Park ground.
Exeter will retain Chiefs in their name.
Djokovic set to return to court in Dubai
Novak Djokovic is set to return to action in Dubai next month for the first time since he was deported from Australia over his Covid-19 vaccination status ahead of the Melbourne Park Grand Slam.
The 34-year-old Serb, who is unvaccinated, was deported after an 11-day rollercoaster involving two visa cancellations, two court challenges and five nights in two stints at an immigration detention hotel where asylum seekers are held.
Organisers of the ATP 500 Dubai Tennis Championships said the Serb was entered for the tournament, which is scheduled to start on 21 February.
“We are delighted to see Novak back in Dubai for the 12th time when he will be seeking his sixth title and we wish him the best of luck,” said Colm McLoughlin, chief executive of Dubai Duty Free.
Djokovic’s official website also confirmed his participation in the Dubai tournament.
Singapore extends F1 deal
The Singapore Grand Prix will remain on the Formula One calendar until at least 2028.
The event, which was cancelled for the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is set to take place on 2 October as part of a record 23-race calendar this year. It will be the first grand prix under the new seven-year deal.
“Singapore holds a special place on the F1 calendar, and this extension is part of our long-term commitment to continue to grow the sport in Asia,” Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali said in a statement.
“The Marina Bay Street Circuit hosted the first night race in F1 history in 2008, and Singapore has continued to thrill fans, teams, and drivers ever since.”
Singapore has established itself as one of Formula One’s most glamorous and popular events since it made its debut.
‘Free beer’ for available cricketers
Sydney Sixers allrounder Dan Christian has offered “free beer” to anyone interested in playing for his injury- and Covid-19-hit team in Friday’s Big Bash League (BBL) final, though test cricketers need not apply.
The Sixers advanced to final of the domestic Twenty20 competition against the Perth Scorchers with a thrilling last-ball win against the Adelaide Strikers on Wednesday.
However, their could be missing a string of players for the decider. Allrounder Moises Henriques has a calf injury, Steve O’Keefe (calf) and Jordan Silk (hamstring) are doubts, and Dan Hughes (ankle) will have to prove his fitness after missing Wednesday’s match.
Adding to the Sixers woes, Josh Philippe and the Edwards brothers, Jack and Mickey, are out due to COVID-19 issues unless the Victorian state government relaxes its policy.
The Sixers have tried to add elite test batsman Steve Smith to their team but those requests have been denied by Cricket Australia.
“Shout out to anyone in Melbourne that wants a game of cricket tomorrow night,” Christian wrote on Twitter.
“My team is struggling to get 11 COVID free, fit players on the park. Warm up starts at 6.30pm at Marvel Stadium.
“Free beer afterwards, potentially out of a large cup.”
Christian ended his tweet with a dig at Cricket Australia for not allowing Smith to play, adding “no test cricketers”.