Grant Chapman: Six sporty things to watch this weekend, January 11-15

Do you have Yellow Fever yet?

FRIDAY

 

Blackcaps vs Sri Lanka T20
7pm, Eden Park, Auckland

For all its historical significance in rugby, Eden Park is a terrible cricket venue and this is one of the few times fans will have to set foot inside during summer.

After dismantling Sri Lanka over test and one-day formats, the Blackcaps have a chance to repeat that dose in a one-off hit-and-giggle encounter, before our guests head across the Tasman to take on Australia.

Even in ODI defeat, the Sri Lankans showed enough explosive batting ability to really threaten the home side over 20 overs and our bowlers won't have the luxury of time to ultimately wear them down.

Henry Nicholls and Ross Taylor
Henry Nicholls and Ross Taylor are back to torment Sri Lanka in the T20 format. Photo credit: Photosport

Watch for Doug Bracewell - surprisingly unused during the one-day series - to push his claims for World Cup selection as an all-rounder.

NZ Breakers vs Sydney Kings
9:45pm, Sydney

The local Australian NBL franchise rekindled its playoff hopes last weekend, upsetting Adelaide 36ers on the road and archrivals Perth Wildcats at home.

That's four wins in their last five games and with a couple of catch-up games still up their sleeves, the Breakers are now within shouting distance of the top four.

Much of that recent form has come down to American big man Shawn Long staying out of foul trouble and imposing himself on less athletic opponents.

That collective and individual momentum will be sorely tested by top-of-the-table Sydney, led by former NBA champion centre Andrew Bogut.

Andrew Bogut and Shawn Long
Andrew Bogut and Shawn Long go head to head in Sydney. Photo credit: Photosport

The Breakers only lost by one in Auckland last month and victory here would be a massive boost to their playoff aspirations.

SATURDAY

 

ASB Classic Men's Doubles Final
Noon, Auckland

Just as shot put has become the weird national sport of middle distance-crazy Kiwis, little-appreciated doubles has emerged as our improbable claim to tennis fame.

Unknown Paige Hourigan narrowly missed out on a women's doubles title in Auckland last week and our men have an even stronger claim on their crown this week.

Leading the charge is former French Open champion Michael Venus, with South African partner Raven Klaasen - the sixth-best combination in the world last year.

Wesley Koolhof and Marcus Daniell
Wesley Koolhof and Marcus Daniell celebrate victory at Brisbane. Photo credit: AAP

At the other end of the draw, former Auckland winner Marcus Daniell and Dutchman Wesley Koolhof won in Brisbane last week, so they bring that great form to the table.

Both must survive Friday semi-finals, but the prospect of a Kiwi holding the trophy aloft is very real.

Australia vs India ODI
3:20pm, Sydney

While our cricketers have been kicking butt over the past couple of months, our friends across the ditch have had to endure a terrible run of results that started against Pakistan in the UAE and have continued against India at home.

If there are two teams in world cricket that seem to genuinely hate each other, these are them.

Stung by the ball-tampering scandal - and the subsequent loss of master batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner - the Aussies are powerless to resist the tauntings of Indian captain Virat Kohli, who loves nothing more than to trample all over the 'baggy green'.

Virat Kohli and India
Virat Kohli and India celebrate their test-series victory over Australia. Photo credit: AAP

Even more delicious, the Aussies can't decide whether they should be nice guys or resort to their nasty, trash-talking default setting.

India are the top-ranked ODI side in the world, Australia have slumped to number five - behind New Zealand.

Wellington Phoenix vs Central Coast Mariners
7:35pm, Wellington

For so long the punch-line in any A-League expansion conversation, the pride of the capital have suddenly made themselves relevant with a seven-game unbeaten run that began with a controversially unlucky draw against competition leaders Perth on December 2.

That run has included victories over Sydney FC, Central Coast Mariners, Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers, and the Nix are now - incredibly - well in the top-six playoff picture, seven points clear of seventh.

OK, so we're not even halfway through the season and there's still plenty of time for the wheels to fall off, but a win over bottom-of-the-table Mariners would stretch the streak to eight - a new club record.

New coach Mark Rudan has somehow found the right buttons to push with these perennial underperformers, so it may be time for the rest of us to jump on the bandwagon.

MONDAY

 

Silver Ferns vs England
7am, Liverpool

Noeline Taurua.
Noeline Taurua. Photo credit: Photosport

There used to be a time when NZ vs England in netball would barely raise the pulse rate - that time is gone.

With the world championships looming, the international calendar gets off to an early start for the year, with a northern hemisphere quad series. 

The Silver Ferns open their account against the surprising Commonwealth Games gold medallists, with newish coach Noeline Taurua still striving to stamp her mark on this programme.

She's already shown herself to be a tough cookie, but may have gone too far in dropping former captain Katrina Grant, one of the few players to emerge with any credit from the Gold Coast debacle.

In her place, Taurua brings another former captain - Casey Kopua -  back onto the international stage, after a prolonged maternity/injury absence.  

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