‘At least there’s sport,’ said the woman in the supermarket queue. True enough, and in a welcome sop to an embattled world elite sport has largely been saved from the wreckage of second lockdowns around the globe, leaving a great deal to look forward to and argue about.
1. The much-delayed US Masters — will Bryson DeChambeau, the American built like a brick outhouse, pummel Augusta National into submission like a pitch and putt on Bognor seafront? The Augusta committee won’t want that and will have set the course up to stop him. Should be a compelling spectacle, though I rather fancy the ever-consistent Spaniard Jon Rahm, the one-time world no. 1 who really needs a major on his CV.
2. Can Preston’s Hugh Carthy win the Vuelta a España and further bolster Britain’s extraordinary rise from perennial domestique of the Grands Tours to being their masters? Reports of the untimely death of British cycling have been greatly exaggerated: who needs Wiggins, Froome, Thomas et al when unheralded comes Tao Geoghegan Hart to snatch the Giro d’Italia? Maybe Carthy won’t do the same in Spain but he’s made a mighty impression, winning the ‘beast stage’ (with an incline of 24 per cent), and should get a podium. He’s 6ft 4in and 69kg: there’s not a lot of fat there.
3. Who knew Spurs’s Harry Kane had been taking acting lessons? His backing into poor Adam Lallana to win a penalty deserved to be penalised as much as Mo Salah’s hysterical dive against West Ham, when he fell down as if hit by a nuclear weapon before thumping the ground in faux agony. My stepcat Ted would barely have felt Masuaku’s (admittedly slightly clumsy) challenge. When will this lamentable sort of cheating be addressed? And while we’re at it, can’t Manchester United and Paul Pogba get it together? Pogba walks into any international side but can’t do it for Man U. Sort it out boys.
4. Owen Farrell is a wonderful rugby player but probably not the best captain. Maro Itoje should be the next England skipper, so why not now, going into the Autumn Nations Cup? Come on Eddie, do the deed. That was a pretty woeful Six Nations though. France deserved to win it with Romain Ntamack, a no. 10 so cool he should be in a boy band but with the speed and cunning of a panther, the tournament’s outstanding player. And can’t someone please beat the ruddy All Blacks again? It certainly won’t be the Wallabies, who played like possums at the weekend to get blown away 43-5 by the Kiwis.
5. Will the FA do more to tackle dementia and football after the death of Nobby Stiles and the sad news about Sir Bobby Charlton? Sir Bobby, however, is 83, and dementia afflicts many 83-year-olds. It’s a common misconception that balls used to be heavier than they are now. Since 1937 the weight has been 14-16oz. That’s the dry weight: the modern ball doesn’t absorb water so its weight remains constant, which might mean that Nobby and Bobby’s generation will be the last to die from this illness.
6. Don’t forget to catch the final stages of the best cricket tournament on the planet — the Indian Premier League. Sadly Eoin Morgan’s Kolkata Night Riders were cruelly denied a shot at glory in the final group game, but his ice-cool captaincy and destructive batting lit up the tournament. Morgan will be coming home alongside the galacticos of the Rajasthan Royals, where Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer were compelling viewing. Now keep an eye on the Bangalore team featuring the ultimate cricketing bromance of Virat Kohli and A.B. de Villiers. And if you want somebody to hate look no further than ‘wee’ David Warner, the objectionable Aussie who leads the Sunrisers Hyderabad. Unmissable.