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    Rod Lawler at Snooker German Masters

    In Defence of Rod 'The Plod' Lawler: Sometimes Slow Can Be Good in Sport

    CC BY-SA 4.0 / Martin Rulsch / Rod Lawler at Snooker German Masters
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    Neil Clark
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    The snooker tour's slowest player (no, it's not me), has been criticised by World Snooker supremo Barry Hearn, who is out to rid the sport of what he sees as the scourge of slow play.

    47-year-old veteran Rod Lawler, aka 'Rod the Plod', had an average shot time of 39.8 seconds in his first-round UK Championship match against Anthony Hamilton at the York Barbican this week. Compare that to Trepchaiya Un-Nooh's average time of 16.26 seconds, or Ronnie 'The Rocket' O'Sullivan‘s 17.82 seconds.

    Hearn believed the slow play in Lawler's match (it took more than four hours to complete six frames and Hamilton took his time too), was 'diabolical' and has promised to take action. But is slow play really such a problem?

    I first started watching snooker in the 1970s when most players were pretty slow. Part of the appeal of Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins was that there was no one really else like him. He could smoke a whole packet of cigarettes and down two pints of bitter in the time it took Cliff ‘The Grinder' Thorburn to chalk his cue. And he could clear the snooker table quicker than it took to clear the dining room table after a family meal.

    On cue. Legendary snooker player Steve Davis (right) with Neil Clark
    © Photo : N.Clark
    On cue. Legendary snooker player Steve Davis (right) with Neil Clark

    The game gradually speeded up, but surely there's still room in the sport for someone who plods along, at his own snail-like pace, like Lawler does? As the legendary six-times World Champion Steve Davis said recently, 'snooker doesn't have to be fast to be entertaining'.

    You could argue that most sports have become too fast these days. Take cricket. Again, in the Seventies, slow was the norm as five-day Test matches dominated. Was it boring? Quite the opposite.

    The most engrossing Test match I can remember in my youth was England vs. India at The Oval in 1979. Geoff Boycott took just under seven hours to score 125 in England's second innings, leaving the visitors chasing a total of 438 to win. They reached 76-0 by close of play on the fourth day but few gave them any sort of chance. Openers Chetan Chauan and Sunil Gavaskar weren't taking many risks, but concentrated on building up the score gradually. They reached 213, almost half their total- before Chauan got out. At tea, India was 304-1. They had wickets in hand so could now try and really speed up the run rate. In the end, they failed by just nine runs, but it was the most heroic failure in cricketing history. Gavaskar scored 221, occupying the crease for 7.383 hours. Forty years on, I've yet to see better Test innings. 

    You simply don‘t get matches like this any more. Cricket is too damned fast.  55 overs, 40 overs, and now Twenty20. Slogging, not the slow building up of an innings a la Boycott or Gavaskar, is the norm. Has it made cricket more interesting? It's actually made it rather dull. What made the sixes and fours so exciting was that you often went a long time without them. Now it seems every other ball goes to the boundary. The pleasure of an over of cricket when actually nothing much happens (or even a whole session if Boycott and Tavare were at the crease), is gone. So too is the contrast. To enjoy Christmas, you need eleven months without Christmas. And to enjoy Ronnie O'Sullivans of this world, we also need the Rod Lawlers.

    Racing Tips for Newcastle and Newbury

    This Saturday the top horse-racing action takes place at Newcastle and Newbury. The feature race at Newcastle is the Fighting Fifth  (2.05), in which Champion Hurdler and last year's winner Buveur D'Air, should prove hard to beat.

    At Newbury, the highlight is the 3m2f Ladbrokes Trophy, previously known as 'The Hennessy‘. The bad weather conditions in the Irish Sea mean that unfortunately the well-fancied Kemboy has been unable to make it over, leaving 13 to go to post at 3.00 for the prestigious event. Second season chasers who ran in the  RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival are favoured by the stats. Elegant Escape, representing the 2016 winning trainer Colin Tizzard, ticks most of the right boxes and looks sure to be there or thereabouts.  Black Corton has plenty of weight, but was fifth in the RSA and is another for the each-way short-list, along with course winner Ms Parfois who only carries 11st 1lbs. The best of the outsiders could be 25-1 shot Flying Angel, who was placed in a handicap hurdle on heavy ground at odds of 25-1 on his only previous visit to Newbury, and whose trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, won last week's big race at Haydock. Later on, Rock on Rocky is worthy of each-way support in the 3.35 race. Matt Sheppard's chaser was second in the race twelve months ago and has been running well of late.

    Football Preview

    It's Derby weekend in the Premiership, with Liverpool taking on Everton at Anfield and Arsenal hosting North London rivals Spurs at the Emirates. A resurgent Newcastle United will be hoping to make it four wins in a row against West Ham, while Man Utd, who were held to a goalless draw last week at home to Crystal Palace, will be looking to bounce back with victory away at struggling Southampton, where they've fared well in recent seasons. In Scotland, Celtic bid for their third successive League Cup in the final against Aberdeen while in the SPL, Kilmarnock, who are having a great campaign, could go second with victory at home to Hibs, who are winless in five.

    Here are my scoreline predictions. You can leave yours in the comments section below. Good luck!

    EPL

    CARDIFF 1 WOLVES 0

    CRYSTAL PALACE 1 BURNLEY 1

    HUDDERSFIELD 0 BRIGHTON 0

    LEICESTER CITY 2 WATFORD 1

    MAN CITY 3 BOURNEMOUTH 1

    NEWCASTLE 1 WEST HAM 0

    SOUTHAMPTON 1 MAN UTD 2

    ARSENAL 2 TOTTENHAM 2

    CHELSEA 2 FULHAM 1

    LIVERPOOL 1 EVERTON 0

    SPL

    KILMARNOCK 1 HIBS 0

    LIVINGSTON 0 MOTHERWELL 1

    ST MIRREN 2 HAMILTON O

    HEARTS 0 RANGERS 2

    The views and opinions expressed by the contributor do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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