The day Lewis Hamilton tried not to become world champion. Again. The year before, he'd needed only three points from the last two races. He scored two. Today he somehow managed to make the title race even tighter. Again the whole season came down to the final race - and the same one, the Brazilian Grand Prix. For a while, right at the end, Hamilton had visions of hell repeating itself. Up ahead, Felipe Massa was winning his home Grand Prix, which meant Hamilton had to finish fifth to take the title. He spent much of the race battling Sebastian Vettel for exactly that place. On the last lap, Hamilton ran wide and let Vettel through. With only a few corners to go, the golden boy was about to lose two world championships by a combined total of one point! But you couldn't have scripted the ending. Timo Glock had spent the second half of the race on dry tyres. Even when it began to rain. Then when it rained heavily, he lost a massive 19 seconds on that last lap - enough for Hamilton to catch him right at the end. Massa's Ferrari team were celebrating wildly when someone broke the news. After losing the title by a point. Hamilton had won it by the same margin. At 23, he was the youngest world champion. Behind him, fellow Brit David Coulthard slipped quietly away from Formula One after 246 race starts.
Rugby union's second World Cup final. And England should have been marginal favourites to win it. They'd shown some serious bottle by winning their quarter final against France in France ( October 19. and their semi-final against Scotland in Scotland ( October 26). Their forwards hadn't taken a backward step, and Jeremy Guscott and Rory Underwood had match-winning pace outside Rob Andrew, who was a master and commander at fly-half. Their opponents Australia had looked very impressive in beating New Zealand in the semi-finals ( October 27) but vulnerable in a thrilling quarter final against Ireland ( October 20). They'd also had a day's less rest than England, who were playing at home in Twickenham. But then the England camp made a drastic U-turn. To be blunt, they bottled it. Head coach Geoff Cooke and captain Will Carling decided that their pack wouldn't achieve enough control against the big Aussie forwards - so they switched strategies and planned to move the ball wide. Only one problem, as hooker Brian Moore explained: 'We simply had not practised a wide game.' Even when Cooke and Carling saw that Plan B wasn't working, they stuck to it. England won their share of possession in the tight, and Wade Dooley dominated John Eales at the lineout. But England kept on using their backs, who made no headway against a strong midfield defence. And Andrew didn't kick to Australia's full-back Marty Roebuck, who dropped the only high ball he faced. England did have one piece of bad luck in the second half. David Campese, who'd scored three tries in the last two matches, did his job in defence this time, knocking away a pass that would have sent Underwood in for a try. Deliberate, said the whole of England. Worth a penalty try. Just a scrum, said the referee. England were playing catch-up by then. Australia led 9-0 at half-time after their forwards scored a try from a lineout, and all England could manage were a pair of penalties by Jon Webb. If they'd stuck to their winning style, who knows? As it was, said Moore, 'We had a tactical disaster...we had blown the opportunity of a lifetime.' England lost 12-6 and had to wait twelve years to reach another final, when they had the chance of revenge over Australia but had to take it Down Under.
The same date in 2003 provided a much happier World Cup memory for England. OK, they were only playing Uruguay, but a little light relaxation was in order. Victory in the crucial match with South Africa was followed by a Samoan wake-up call - all of which meant even a narrow win over the group minnows would leave England top of the group. Naturally, narrow wasn't the operative word by the end. Uruguay had lost 72-6 to South Africa and 60-13 to Samoa, and now England dipped their bread in even deeper. Here in Brisbane, they led 42-6 at half-time, then kept their foot on the accelerator. Josh Lewsey's five tries equalled the England record, and eight other players crossed the Uruguayan line. Paul Grayson kicked 11 conversions, Mike Catt two to go with his two tries. Twenty-stone prop Pablo Lemoine crashed over for Uruguay, who weren't too dismayed by the 111-13 defeat: they'd already won their personal final by beating Georgia a few days earlier. England were on their way to the real one after avoiding the All Blacks in the quarter-finals...
...where they played Wales instead - although it was nearly New Zealand after all. The All Blacks were heavy favourites as usual. They'd thumped Wales 55-3 a few months earlier and accumulated 367 points in three World Cup group so far. But we're talking Italy, Canada, and Tonga here. Already complete underdogs, they'd all picked weakened teams against New Zealand to save their strength for more meaningful matches. So did Wales, to rest players for the quarter-finals. But New Zealand were slightly undercooked. So although they went off like a train again, they were unprepared for one of the great comebacks. When Joe Rokocoko scored a try after only two minutes, it looked like same old same old. Mark Taylor equalised for Wales, but Rokocoko's second try after fifteen minutes was followed by others from Leon MacDonald and Ali Williams, and New Zealand led 28-10. Most other teams would have given up the ghost, including Wales in recent matches. But this one bashed away at the black wall. Young flanker Jonathan Thomas kept breaking through the defence, and Shane Williams made a series of typical runs. In the last six minutes before half-time, Wales scored two tries. When Williams scored another one five minutes into the second half, they'd racked up 24 points without reply. Doug Howlett scored a try for New Zealand, only for a Stephen Jones penalty to leave Wales 37-33 ahead. But credit to the All Blacks. Fazed or not, they never stopped trusting their talent. Carlos Spencer's try put them back in front - and although Howlett's second came from a forward pass, they deserved to win - though the 53-37 scoreline was tough on Wales, who suddenly looked a much tougher proposition for England.
On the same day in the other rugby code, England also won and Wales also lost.
In a European Nations Cup match in Bradford, an England A team beat Russia 102-0, which almost matched the senior team's record score against the USA three years earlier ( October 21). They scored 19 tries, and Danny Tickle kicked 11 goals on his way to 30 points. The England A wingers Mark Calderwood and Ade Gardner scored three tries each, with Calderwood setting up Gardner's third with only four seconds left.
Over in Bridgend, Wales were picking two 38-year-olds - including former union star Allan Bateman - against the might of Australia. They were ploughed under like the rest, beaten 76-4 by a gang of Kangaroos who shared their 13 tries among ten different players. Craig Fitzgibbon kicked 11 of their 12 goals. Kriss Tassell scored a try for Wales, who'd just beaten the fledgling Russians 74-4. Now all they did was help Australia warm up for the game with England six days later.
In 2000, Wales won a rugby league match. It was only against Lebanon, only 24-22, and Wales were at home - but it was in a World Cup, so all crumbs gratefully received. Wales led 18-6 at half-time but won the try-count only four-three. One of Lebanon's was scored by their captain and star player Hazem El-Masri, who'd scored a record number of points in an international match on November 17, 1999. He also kicked three goals but was outscored by Wales captain Iestyn Harris, who added two tries to his three goals. Stradey Park in Llanelli was one of the great hotbeds of rugby union ( October 31, 1972) - but people didn't flock there for the other code. Today's match was watched by only 1,497, one of the smallest World Cup crowds ever.
On the same day in Reading, only 3,982 watched New Zealand thrash the Cook Islands. Eleven different Kiwis shared 15 tries, and Tasesa Lavea kicked 12 goals on his international debut. His total of 32 points was a new record for New Zealand, who won 84-10. But the day really belonged to Tony Iro, the Cook Islands' captain. Twelve years earlier, he'd scored two tries on his World Cup debut - for New Zealand. Later in that tournament, he also scored in the Final ( October 9). He ran in six tries for Wigan in Challenge Cup Finals and another one today. Three days later, he led the Cooks to a high-scoring draw with Lebanon in his last World Cup match.
While Wales and the Cook Islands were banging into bodies, there was a meeting of minds in London, where one of the great reigns came to an end. At the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, chess god Garry Kasparov was making the sixth defence of a world title he'd won back in 1985. But after all that time at the top, he wasn't quite so formidable or hungry. This was the 15th game of his match against Vladimir Kramnik, and he hadn't won any of them. Needing to take the last two to draw the match and keep his crown, Kasparov had a go, opening up a 40-minute lead on the clock. But Kramnik was too solid, his position on the board too equal, and Kasparov accepted the draw after 38 moves. He was the first world champion since 1921 to lose the title without winning a game. Kramnik kept it until 2007.
Britain & Ireland's darkest day against the USA. The War made this the first Ryder Cup in ten years, and after today they didn't win it for another ten ( October 5). They faced huge disadvantages before they arrived in the States. The US golf tour had carried on during the War, with unofficial Ryder Cup teams put through their paces by other star teams. Meanwhile British professionals were scraping a living under German bombardment. An American benefactor paid for their trip to Oregon and gave them food hampers to take home. But the long sea journey was followed by a four-day train ride across the USA, hardly the best preparation for what they were about to face. The British Isles had Henry Cotton in the team, but although he was still good enough to win another Open ( July 2, 1948), he did it in the absence of the leading Americans - who were all here in Portland. Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson were three of the greatest and most successful golfers of all time, and four of their other team mates had also won majors. A powerful and ruthless generation, they simply destroyed the second-raters who came all that way. Britain & Ireland should have been helped by the filthy weather conditions on the opening day, when torrential rain turned the bunkers into knee-deep ponds. But they couldn't cope in and around the greens, Cotton missing eight putts shorter than nine feet and losing his foursomes with half a round to spare. The US led 4-0 after the first day and won almost every singles match today. Snead beat Cotton 5 & 4, and only the unheralded Sam King prevented a whitewash. His 4 & 3 win over former Masters champion Herman Keiser made the final score 11-1.
Ken Rosewall was born in Sydney and became known as Muscles because he didn't have any. His serve was painfully weak at times, and there were times when he looked small and frail on a tennis court, especially in the 1974 Wimbledon final ( July 6). The power game of Jimmy Connors blew him away 6-1 6-1 6-4, then 6-0 6-1 6-0 in the final of that year's US Open. But it was amazing Rosewall was still getting that far: he was 39 by then and still beating the serve-volley mastodons. On the way to that last Wimbledon final, he saw off former champions John Newcombe and Stan Smith. British fans had a tendency to regard little Ken as a nearly man. He reached four Wimbledon singles finals and lost the lot, the first when he was only 19 ( July 2, 1954). But he didn't play there for 12 years after turning pro - which makes his achievements elsewhere all the greater. It's his longevity that stands out. He won the Australian singles in 1953 and 1955, then again in 1971 and 1972. The French Open: 1953 and 1968, the year it went Open. He came back to take the US title in 1970, having won it in 1956, when he deprived Lew Hoad of the Grand Slam. His doubles partnership with Hoad was legendary. Before turning pro, they won Wimbledon twice and the Davis Cup three times, the first when they were 18. Only Andre Agassi ever matched little Ken's return of serve, and his backhand was the best in tennis for 20 years, when muscles were no substitute for class.
In basketball, the Cleveland Cavaliers thrashed the Miami Heat by the biggest winning margin in NBA history ( December 17, 1991). Which wiped a slate clean. The Cavaliers had once been on the receiving end of the same record. In 1970, they'd only been in existence for a month when they lost 141-87 to the Philadelphia 76ers. Philadelphia didn't rely on one player to do their scoring: Archie Clark led the way with a mere 21 points, only one more than John Johnson's total for Cleveland. It was the Cavalier's 11th defeat in a row and they hadn't won a game yet. They finished bottom of the league that season.
In rugby union, legendary fly-half Hugo Porta scored all Argentina's points as they held New Zealand to a 21-21 draw in Buenos Aires. He kicked four penalties and equalled a world record by landing three drop goals. The All Blacks scored four tries, but Kieran Crowley converted only one of them.
In American football, two quarter-backs combined to set an NFL record. Billy Kilmer and Charley Johnson each provided six touchdown passes in the same game, Kilmer throwing for 345 yards as his New Orleans Saints beat Johnson's St Louis Cardinals 51-42.