Four months from the Ashes and Australian cricket is a global laughing stock after four players were dropped from this week's third Test in India for not handing in their homework – with the most senior, the vice-captain Shane Watson, returning home.
Coach Mickey Arthur and captain Michael Clarke dropped Watson, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson and Usman Khawaja after they failed to submit personal presentations on how Australia could improve on its poor showings in the first two Tests. Johnson and Khawaja apparently forgot, while Watson and Pattinson failed to respond. None are thought to have claimed their submissions were eaten by a dog. Meanwhile in Dunedin, England staged a low-key cricketing Dunkirk, drawing the first Test against New Zealand despite a 300-run first innings deficit. Beanpole paceman Steve Finn became beanpole blocker Steve Finn, batting almost five hours for his maiden first class 50. In the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle, Mohammad Ashraful and Mushfiqur Rahim put on 261, Bangladesh's record partnership for any wicket. And there was more bad news for the hosts: Lasith Malinga will be disciplined by the Sri Lanka board after being "gruff" with journalists and experiencing a personal meltdown on a local talk show. From slinger to whinger.
England eye grand slam
England's Six Nations season continued its mud-bound wrestle towards an apparently inevitable grand slam grudge match (this is England: every match is a grudge match) against Wales at Cardiff. A slightly painful 18-11 defeat of Italy at Twickenham means Stuart Lancaster's resurgent Red Rose is one victory away from a first slam in 10 years. Wales need to win by 10 points to take the crown after coming out on top in a terrifyingly chilly duel of the giant clumping boots at Murrayfield between Leigh Halfpenny and Greig Laidlaw. France and Ireland played out a joyless 13-13 draw, notable, if it all, simply for being a draw.
Shades of blue for FA Cup
The weekend's FA Cup ties raised the appealing oddity of an all-blue last four. Manchester City thrashed Barnsley 5-0, Carlos Tevez scoring a hat-trick shortly after being arrested for driving while disqualified. Wigan swatted Everton aside and Millwall and Blackburn and Manchester United and Chelsea are all heading for replays. Meanwhile in the oddly tension-free Barcelona-ville that is the upper reaches of La Liga Lionel Messi has managed to locate a record not already the property of Lionel Messi: a goal against Deportivo made it 17 scoring league games in a row, breaking a 70-year-old mark, and continuing a run that could frankly just carry on for ever – or at least until an upgraded model is sent back from the future to retire him.
Sky's the limit
Cycling's yellow dawn continues, emerging Team Sky kingpin Chris Froome leading Italy's Tirreno-Adriatico in the final stages while teammate Richie Porte produced a stirring climb up Col d'Eze to win the Paris-Nice race ahead of American Andrew Talansky. "It's just an honour to have my name up there with all the big champions like Wiggins," Porte brown-nosed afterwards.
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