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The end of an era

THE Ashes are gone. So is Australia's No.1 Test ranking and its 14-year hold on world dominance. Skipper Ricky Ponting became the first captain in over a hundred years to lose 2 consecutive Ashes series in England since Billy Mardoch. However there is still a consolation prize for Ponting that is his becoming the highest run-scorer for Australia in test cricket. But that would be a cinch compared to the humiliation of losing the Ashes.

The first test proved to be the perfect start for the series so anticipated. Contribution from all the players ensured England a good score of 435 in the first innings. But 4 hundreds from the Aussie batters took them to a mammoth total of 674. Katich, Ponting, North and Haddin shone for Australia and gave them a lead of 240 by the fourth day. The test was obviously going for a draw but some class performance from the bowlers saw the England team stumble to 252 for 9. At one point Australia were eying victory but was denied of such by some resolute batting from Panesar and Anderson and some occasional time wasting 'strategy' from the English think-tank.

The next test was also full of incidents, which England won by 115 runs. A brilliant 161 from the skipper Andrew Strauss and great bowling performance from Jimmy Anderson set a target of 522 in the fourth innings for the Kangaroos. Australia failed to break the world record and England led the series 1-0. The third test at Birmingham was drawn once again with both the teams playing evenly. Notable performances were from Clarke, who scored his 2nd century in the series and the 5-wicket haul for Anderson.

The first innings from England had all but sealed the fate of the 4th test at Leeds. They managed only 102 in the perfect batting pitch and Australia took a heavy lead when they came onto bat, thanks to great knocks from Ponting, Clarke and North. In the second innings England were bowled out for 265 enabling Australia to level the series 1-1.

So everything came onto the 5th test at the Oval. Here too the first innings total of Australia proved to be the deciding factor of the test. Replying to England's total of 332 the Aussies managed only 160. Next innings England declared on 373 setting a target of 546 runs to get in over two days for Australia. Century from Mike Hussey provided little resistance and they were bundled out for 348, handing the Urn back.

Questions have been asked on the team selection policy of the Aussies. They played with four pacers in the series-deciding 5th test where the pitch was turning and great for spinners. Captaincy of the 'Punter' also came under scrutiny and he has been asked to step down from captaincy by the media and few ex-players. But a thing to remember is that a captain is as good as his players.

This time Australia didn't have the likes of McGrath or Warne with them. Inconsistency of the proven warriors like Mike Hussey and Mitchell Johnson also made them suffer greatly. On the other hand England had a great captain in Strauss and he led from the front. Flintoff also played his part in his last test series. Good news is that he will continue playing in the shorter version of the game and we have yet to see things from him.

After the test series loss Australia now stand at 4th position in the ICC test rankings, South Africa occupying the 1st place. The cricket world is surely standing in balance at the moment.

By Jawad

Barclay's is back

THE English Premier League has opened to much debate and furore. For, perhaps, the first time in many years, people are stumped about the structure of the Big Four. Aston Villa and Manchester City are two teams being touted to finally break the stranglehold of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. With the exception of Chelsea, all of the other three teams have been dealt with blows in the transfer market and Arsenal is probably the team, which is believed to finally fall from a deceptive grace.

Arsenal's barren trophy run cannot possibly be predicted to end this year, but if the season's curtain raiser and clashes against Celtic are ominous warnings than most doubters will be proven wrong. So far, the Gunners have thrashed Everton and dismantled an almost potent Celtic side. Critics have so far have had their feet shoved up their mouths, but for how long, it remains to be seen. Many firmly believe that Arsenal just don't have the depth in squad to continue for long in this rich vein of form. The loss of Adebayor and Eboue and lack of big name signings may be a reason for such pessimism.

Manchester United on the other hand, too have lost the jewel in their crown. Cristiano Ronaldo made headlines when Real Madrid broke all transfer records to land him from United. Sir Alex did not spend all the cash he got immediately but instead contended himself with the purchases of Valencia and Obertan from Wigan and Bordeaux respectively. He also secured the services of Micheal Owen on a free transfer, a move that already seems to be paying off. However, a 1-0 set back at Burnley was met with discontentment and despite a roaring victory in the next match, many still wonder if this is United's year after all. Sir Alex may too be surely contemplating retirement at this stage and his lack of signings is seen as a signal of intent.

Liverpool, have secured the services of the dangerous Aquiliani and Glen Johnson but the loss of Xabi may be a heavy price to pay. Already having been defeated twice, Rafa Benitez's side is one very low on morale. Many predicted this to be their year, but now it seems unlikely. A miserable 3 point from a possible 9, have already dented the Kops hopes for the league this year, however much remains to be seen.

Chelsea, with Carlo Ancelotti, have already made it 3 out of 3 and they have done so in a very convincing manner. The favourites to lift the title this year around the league maybe a bit too much to ask for from the man who had trouble winning the Scudetto in 8 years in charge at AC Milan. Though he brings Champion's League Pedigree, remember that Scolari had won the World Cup, the Tinkerman was great too and Mourinho managed the Europe's most elite prized without the likes of Kaka, Pirlo and Shevchenko on rampage. Still all three failed to deliver Big A's most coveted prize. Interestingly, without Seedorf, Kaka and Pirlo, many wonder if Carletto's much hyped Diamond will have any effect in the long run. But with Drogba and Anelka forming a dangerous partnership, the elusive trophy may not be far. However, let us not dare forget the risk of African Nations Cup. Say goodbye to Kalou, Drogba, Mikel and Essien. Lack of purchases may come back to haunt the once free-spending Pensioners.

The idea of a Big Five is now being touted, mainly because of the spending spree by Manchester City. Eboue, Adebayor, Tevez, Santa Cruz and Lescott are all really good purchases and the Blue side of Manchester now boasts a formidable squad as well. Aston Villa are another team who are tipped to break into the top four followed closely by a re-emerging Tottenham Hotspurs, who have a very potent attacking line-up. Everton too remain outside bets. Hell, this early even Burnley can be favoured. What will be most interesting is not who will break into the top four, if anyone does, but rather who will fall from the upper echelons of English Football. Arsenal and Liverpool seem like two hotly betted candidates, but even now it sounds ridiculous. Nothing can be said except for in the long run. What one can predicate with real accuracy is that this will be one heck of a season. Looking forward to it.

By Osama Rahman

Archie's happy ending

ARCHIE Andrews goofy, clumsy, redheaded heartthrob of Riverdale has finally picked his ladylove to be Veronica Lodge over Betty Cooper.

The 67-year-old love triangle has finally come to a conclusion! But are the comic fans happy with Archie's decision?

Not really.

Fans are outraged that Archie chose Veronica the token poor little rich girl over Betty the sweet girl next door. They say that it seems like Archie 'went for the money' and that it seems 'extremely wrong'.

One online poll has 71 percent of 974 votes favouring the statement, "Betty is the real love of his life, is he blind?!" On Twitter, Facebook, and fan forums, few are wishing 'Archonica' hugs and kisses.

"They marry, divorce, he gets 1/2 and spends the rest of his life with Betty," tweeted one.

Said another, "I'm rightly pissed off that Archie chose Veronica over Betty. I mean, really? VERONICA over BETTY?"

Facebookers have started sites to "boycott" the marriage of Archie Andrews and Veronica Lodge. It seems many don't take this storyline lightly. Some fans have even sold their hefty Archie Comic collections in outrage over Archie choosing the wrong woman.

Over react much? This writer, however, has always been a staunch Veronica supporter and is pleased that he chose her over Betty. While Betty was indeed the all-American girl with a heart of gold, Veronica wasn't bad either. Yes she was materialistic and slightly snobby, but she too had a heart of gold and cared deeply for Archie and all her friends. It wasn't her fault that she was born and brought up in the lap of luxury. Her father worked hard to give her that lifestyle. Doesn't she deserve a happy ending too? The most important thing is, she makes Archie happy!

The proposal will take place in Issue # 600 and will deal with the engagement ONLY. Whether Archie and Veronica actually get hitched as the story plays out over several issues remains to be seen. Given Archie's history of indecision, would it be unreasonable to assume that there are more plot twists ahead?

In the story, Archie has finally graduated from Riverdale High School; in fact, he's five years older and a college graduate. He may even have gasp! an ACTUAL job when he gets engaged.

The newly betrothed heiress blogged on the topic on the Archie Comics site: “I am so excited, I am getting married to Archie,” she enthused. “There is so much to do, so many plans to make. I wonder if Betty wants to be my Maid of Honour? I bet she is so happy for me!”

Obviously Veronica posted that without reading Betty's blog, in which the heartbroken blonde writes: “I am so sad, I don't know what to say.”

As Veronica's long time best friend, shouldn't she be happy? Will their friendship endure through this storm as it has so many times in the past? These questions are yet to be answered.

The Andrews-Lodge wedding will certainly be a wedding we Riverdale fans simply cannot miss.

Congratulations archonica!

By Musarrat Rahman


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