From Ross Taylor to Lydia Ko, Chris Rattue analyses an entertaining week of sport.
Ross Taylor 1, Mike Hesson 0
So you've got a great New Zealand batsman, one of the very few ever, desperate to play in the T20 team. This team is spiked with rookies, some of whom are barely household names in their own street and would benefit hugely from rubbing shoulders with said legend playing against a top and notoriously tough-minded cricket nation. And these tough opponents include the best short-form bowler in the world today, whose wristy spinners are not exactly a dime a dozen in domestic cricket. And you still find a way to leave Ross Taylor out. And then the young mystery bloke you bring in bats like a chook in a dog fight and your team collapses to one of their worst T20 defeats, as the rampant South Africans make a great start to the tour. Mmmmmm. Argument over. Ross Taylor 1, Mike Hesson 0.
Speaking of South Africa's outstanding short-form bowler...Imran Tahir is the celebration king. Take him to the World Cup, the football World Cup that is, and he'd still win the celebrations contest. Tahir sports a wicked Abe Lincoln-style beard, but statesman-like behaviour ends there. He is egalitarian though. Whether he's dismissed a genius or a goat, Tahir apparently celebrates every wicket as though he's just got Donald Bradman out to complete a hat trick. The Pakistan-born spinner kisses the South African badge, runs to (possibly) adoring team mates, flings his hands in the air, communes with the turf. Try telling him it was only Luke Ronchi he dismissed. Imran Tahir has raised the bar when it comes to cricket celebrations. He makes Davey Warner's cute leaps appear very underwhelming.
This column can exclusively reveal that Super Rugby starts this week in the rugby stronghold of Melbourne, where the brilliant Rebels will play the powerhouse Auckland Blues on Thursday at the convenient slot of 9.45pm NZ time. A number of sources have confirmed the game is taking place, although a rugby union spokesperson refused to comment for "personal reasons".
A question for Dan Carter
...who admitted to making "a massive error of judgment" after being caught drink-driving in Paris. Was it "a" massive error of judgment? What was Carter's attitude to drink driving before being caught? There's no point in trying to put the question to Carter, who is controlling the PR situation through his social media.
Lydia Ko is not Lydia Ko anymore
The 19-year-old golfing wonder only just made the cut at the Australian Open, where she has a great record. Ko has not won since July, which is not a crime, but is very un-Lydia-like. What's more, her average placing since that win in Ohio seven months ago is around 25th. During that period, Thailand's world number two Ariya Jutanugarn had eight top 10 finishes from her last 10 tournaments in 2016. Jutanugarn is the best player in the world, even though Ko still holds the No. 1 ranking. Is this a blip, a slump, a slide? Fingers crossed, the old Lydia Ko will re-emerge this year, new coach, equipment, caddie et al. Prediction: Ko will be back, but she is clearly negotiating something of a re-boot in her young career.
It's nuts to claim the Warriors have the best "spine", now that the NRL has graciously allowed Kieran Foran to start playing in round three.
And this particular spine is not the one to worry about with the Warriors. The spine which causes them most problems is the one which refers to ticker, heart, guts - the things Simon Mannering has in abundance which are missing in too many of his team mates.
As for comparing the other spine, any team with Johnathan Thurston trumps Issac Luke, Shaun Johnson, Kieran Foran and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. And that's without even mentioning CAMERON SMITH AND COOPER CRONK AND ANY TWO OTHER PEOPLE at Melbourne.
Let's analyse the Warriors' spine: Tuivasa-Sheck is the real deal. So is Foran if he can deal with the crinkly bits in his head and his life - and depression is not something to be taken lightly. But Johnson is a highly-talented flake, and Issac Luke turned up a little on the porky side last year which is totally baffling and not exactly confidence-inducing.
Bottom line: if both of these spines are working, it might be an okay year for the Warriors. But those are mighty big ifs going on previous form, whereas a lot of other NRL sides have important things they can rely on.