Mitchell Starc is working his way into Australia's regular one-day cricket calculations.
Photo: Getty Images
1. Starc steers Aussies to series win
It might not be getting much attention at home with the two major football codes heading towards their finals, but Australia's attempt to wrest back the No.1 ODI ranking is slowly getting back on track in Sharjah. And the good news is that it is a couple of young tyros that are leading the charge. Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson have been doing the damage for the Aussies on a pitch that has been less than ideal for fast bowlers. Starc, who still left Australian shores very much on the fringe of the Australian team, has ensured he will be part of the forthcoming summer taking four wickets in the warm-up match against Afghanistan and five wickets in the first ODI against Pakistan. As long as the conditions stay humid enough for him to manage even just a small amount of swing he will ensure Australia's decade-long domination of Pakistan in ODIs. - BH
2. Blues fail Ratten, for the last time
After the Carlton players stamped their coach's sacking papers with their abysmal performance against Gold Coast last weekend, they get one last chance to send him off on a high note against St Kilda on Sunday. Ratten managed to improve the club's performance every year he was at the club prior to 2012 and this year's results were clearly affected by injuries. He deserves to go out with a win under his belt but the Blues' insipid displays when push has comes to shove, plus the cold and carefree reaction of captain Chris Judd to the news of Ratten's sacking suggest it won't happen. The loss will mean Ratten leaves the coaching caper with an exact 50 per cent winning ratio, having taken the Blues to 60 wins in what will be his 120th game. - BH
3. Eels do it for Hindmarsh
Parramatta has rarely displayed the attitude required to win football games in 2012, and as a consequence they'll finish the season with the wooden spoon. Despite that, there is no way on earth they won't show up for departing skipper Nathan Hindmarsh in his farewell bash against the Dragons on Sunday night at ANZ Stadium. Hindmarsh has been the heart and soul of the club since his debut way back in 1998, and has given every ounce of his energy in every game he's played. If the same could be said of the current crop of Eels players, they wouldn't be languishing in last position. It promises to be an enormous occasion, with fellow Parramatta stalwart Luke Burt also playing his last game along with Dragons veterans Ben Hornby and Dean Young. With the Eels bound to pull out a big performance, they'll have too much strike power for the Dragons, who are last in the competition for points scored this season. Hopefully a crowd of over 50,000 is there to witness it. – DR
4. Räikkönen breaks through for Belgian victory
The Belgian Grand Prix is the must-watch Formula One race of the season, and if the racing this year is anything to go by, it could be one of the all-time classics. One thing that was becoming clear before the break for the European summer was the Lotus cars' dramatic increase in pace, making them due for a win in the second half of the season. There is no better place for this than at Spa-Francorchamps, where Kimi Räikkönen has four race wins to his name. The Finn has been extremely impressive in his comeback year, but hasn't been able to secure that elusive win despite taking five podiums (second three times and third twice). He should rectify that this weekend, and with any luck, move into second in the championship. - BH
5. Arsenal's scoreless run continues
Losing last season's top Premier League goal-scorer Robin van Persie at the start of the season was always going to hit the Gunners hard but no one expected them to go goalless through their opening two games against Sunderland and Stoke City. Against a Liverpool side that has regained some much-needed confidence by holding reigning champions Manchester City to a 2-2 draw, the task of scoring will be even harder. It may not be beyond Arsenal to escape with another scoreless draw at Anfield, but the prospect of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud sorting out the Gunners' woes up forward this weekend seems remote. - BH
Saturday, 1.15pm – Hawthorn defender Grant Birchall drops by the BigPond Sports Weekend studios to review Friday night's big clash with the West Coast Eagles.
Saturday, 2.10pm – Ahead of Canterbury's minor-premiership deciding clash with the Rooster, Bulldogs' winger Steve Turner discusses finals with the BigPond Sports Weekend crew.
Sunday, 1.10pm – Collingwood's Sharrod Wellingham joins Brad Seymour and Daniel Harford in the BigPond Sports Weekend studios to analyse Saturday night's clash with Essendon.
Sunday, 5.18am – The Paralympics is now in full swing. One of Australia's leading chances is Kelly Cartwright who won gold in the recent world championships and is a big chance to back it up in the 100-metre sprint.
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