And we wondered if the weekend in between the Euros ending and the Olympics starting was going to be dull?
Sport in 2021 continues to deliver high drama and last weekend was no exception. First of all we had the British Grand Prix: a controversial crash for Max Verstappen involving Britain’s Lewis Hamilton, followed by victory for Hamilton that puts him back in contention for the championship.
Meanwhile, a wonderful Open was reaching its conclusion in Sandwich with the totally uncontroversial Collin Morikawa completing a flawless fourth round to claim the Claret Jug.
Over in Paris, the Tour de France was reaching its conclusion and the best British comeback story of the year just failed to reach its fairytale ending as Mark Cavendish was unable to break Eddy Merckx’s record for stage wins.
The Lions were completing their matches against the provincial South African sides before the first Test this weekend – and scored seven tries as they beat the Stormers 3-49.
And there was the T20 match between England and Pakistan at Headingley, which is where this column really wants to focus today.
England won the match, quite easily in the end, and significantly with two leg-spinners in the side, beating Pakistan at their own game.
But it was the performance of one of those leg-spinners with the bat, which really got sports fans going.
Liam Livingstone, who just days earlier had scored a record-breaking 42-ball hundred at Trent Bridge, sent the crowd wild with a straight six that cleared the Emerald Stand at Headingley.
It was a feat that had never been seen before and a strike that seasoned commentator David Lloyd had never seen the like before in all his years of following the game. Livingstone simply stepped up the wicket and straight drove Pakistan seamer Haris Rauf straight down the ground. The ball bounced on the roof of the 30-metre stand before landing on the Leeds Rhinos rugby league pitch behind the ground. Only a run out stopped him from adding to his 38 runs and perhaps breaking even more records.
Stuart Broad, commentating for Sky Sports, said: “I have watched it 20 times on Twitter – it is just mad! What golf club would you need to get it over that stand? I have not seen a bigger six – the height, the elevation, the distance.”
Writing in the Telegraph cricket correspondent revealed: “Livingstone has been working on his six-hitting technique with coaches Paul Collingwood and Marcus Trecothick, specifically bringing his right hip through the ball on impact to give him more power.”
It has clearly done the trick and Livinstone is now a shoo-in for England’s T20 World Cup squad for October.
Afterwards he said: “I felt like I’ve been playing well for a while. The work I’ve been doing away from the game is starting to pay off. It’s a little bit easier when you come in because there are more men out. I haven’t tried to change too much. I’ve tried harder to hit yorkers, and not overhit the ball. The harder you swing, the less far it goes.”
But why do we at Sportside highlight this feat here today? Surely we are all about participation, and does it really matter how far people hit the ball of how many records teams or individuals break?
The answer is yes, it does matter. Because Livingstone doing what he did at the weekend is an inspiration to others. It gets children interested in the sport, and wanting to get out onto the square and emulate their new hero. It gets club cricketers geared up for next week’s match on the village green. It’s fun. And that, after all, is what sport is all about.
Sport is all about superlatives – as the Olympics is about to show us this week. The Olympic motto is Citius – Altius – Fortius. Faster – Higher – Stronger. And that is the Olympic ideal, constantly striving to break records and be the best. Gold medals are given to the winners. While, all the time, the epic, international event is also about people coming together to deliver their all – a Personal Best at the Games for so many is just as good as an Olympic medal.
As Liam Livingstone showed us all this week, breaking the boundaries – whether it’s your own or international records – is what inspires us all to get out there, connect and play.