We lulled them into a sense of superiority

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Aman who could not find a winner among only 31 run- ners at Kempton Park on Boxing Day is plainly one to be heeded. So now as I look into my translucent green crystal for sporting omens in 1997 the words "Highland" and "malt" appear and then fade, revealing the precise sequence of events which will make the sporting headlines next year.

January: The spirit of the New Year is set with the announcement from the selection committee of the National Portrait Gallery that they will, after all, consider installing the image of Eric Cantona, on the proviso that Damien Hirst is the artist. Meanwhile, the same committee also offer to hang the England cricket coach David Lloyd after his team lose a one- day game in New Zealand to Otago One-Armed Veterans XI. "By heck," says Lloyd in reaction. "I'm chuffed. Mint-balled. Feel like a Bury black pudding. Proud. The lads did everything right bar winning t' game. So I owe it all to them."

The month closes with a further row between the Rugby Union authorities and the players' agents which results in Harlequins taking part in the American Super Bowl in place of the Dallas Cowboys. Quarterback Will Carling agrees to a one-off pay cut.

February: In the first big fight of the year, the UBC (Undistinguished Boxing Champions) heavyweight title is taken by Lennox Lewis who easily disposes of Oliver McCall, who is later found to be suffering the same hallucinations which made him attack a Christmas tree in a hotel lobby in December 1996. McCall accuses Lewis of underhand tactics by posing as a Norwegian pine and having fewer moves. Lennox retaliates: "I switched the man's lights off. All that's important now is that Lennox Lewis gets a shot at the title. I spoke to Lennox this morning and he agrees with me. Those who suggest that my constant reference to myself and a third person is a sign of brain damage are way out of line." After the fight promoter Don King announces that the Christmas tree is looking for a rematch with McCall on his own pay-per-view channel.

March: For the first time in years the dual-forecast comes up in the Boat Race with Cambridge beating Oxford by a wide margin. Oxford are not helped by a collision with a submerged supermarket trolley under Hammersmith Bridge.

In rugby, Ireland win the Five Nations' Championship because all the other teams are too busy making Father Ted jokes.

April: Greg Norman puts last year's nightmare behind him and goes round the US Masters' course at Augusta 25 under par, but then it is pointed out to him that he has turned up a week early for the tournament and must now play with crowds and other golfers watching. The White Shark is last seen slipping into the lake near Amen Corner. Meanwhile the young black prodigy Tiger Woods manages to get admission to the Georgia course by posing as a caddie, and duly wins the trophy.

At Aintree the Grand National is won by a pantomime horse with Frank Bruno in the front and Chris Eubank in the back. After the race, both Frank and Chris announce their retirement from showbusiness.

May: John Major loses the general election and announces his retirement from politics. He applies for the job of England cricket coach. Leeds United and Wimbledon contest the FA Cup final at Wembley with touts unable to give tickets away. A goalless draw is followed by a goalless extra- time, and a goalless replay with more goalless extra-time. Wimbledon eventually win 1-0 on penalties, and George Graham criticises his Leeds team for being too cavalier.

Harlequins become the first club to win both the Pilkington Cup at Twickenham and the Rugby League Challenge Trophy at Wembley. They beat Bath plc and then Murdoch Super League team the St Helens Stranglers to lift the silverware.

June: England's first cricket Test against Australia begins on Thursday 5 June at Edgbaston, with the Aussies winning in time to make it to the Derby at Epsom on Saturday 7 June. "We lulled them into a genuine sense of superiority," says David Lloyd. "It were a belter of a game. We tonked them!"

July: Tim Henman wins the men's singles at Wimbledon just days after announcing his application for Canadian citizenship, whose agents have spotted the marked gap left by Greg Rusedski. Australia win the Third Test at Old Trafford before lunch on the first day and skipper Mike Atherton and coach David Lloyd join Henman on a plane bound for Ottawa. John Major is appointed supremo of English cricket. The British Grand Prix at Silverstone is won by Nigel Mansell who is guesting for Williams after Heinz-Harald Frentzen is arrested for speeding in Devon and detained for a fortnight.

"We will look at all our options and see what's right for Nigel Mansell," says Nigel Mansell afterwards. "The fact that we refer to Nigel Mansell both in the plural and in the third person does not mean that our ego is out of control, or that we cannot make our minds up whether to retire or not, or that we still wish to show the world of motor racing what a gap has been left by our departure."

August: In the World Athletics Championships in Athens Linford Christie announces his comeback by entering the marathon in which he finishes last. He then announces his retirement again. "Only Linford Christie can decide what he will do now," says Christie, who remains in close touch with his other self by way of small glove puppet and ventriloquism. The Rugby League World Club Challenge is won by the Brisbane Bastards who beat the Wigan Wipeouts on better alliteration.

September: In a shock result Canada beat Lancashire in the NatWest Trophy final at Lord's. The Canadian coach Chuck Lloyd says: "Ecky thump, didn't I tell you that us could play a bit! Battered 'em! Deep fried 'em!" In the world rowing championships in France somebody who hasn't heard the news shoots Steve Redgrave, fortunately only in the bottom. The injury puts paid to Steve's rowing championships but his competitive instinct sees him fly to Venice where he wins the Gondolier of the Year award.

England win the Ryder Cup without the help of any Scots, Welsh, Irish or European players who have been kidnapped by the less insane wing of the Referendum Party.

October: England are beaten in Italy in their World Cup qualifying match after Gazza makes several breaches of etiquette during a prematch audience with the Pope, having mistaken the Pontiff for Prince Naseem Hamed. In the final Formula One grand prix of the year Jacques Villeneuve clinches the world title, vying for the most famous Canadian sportsman with Lloyd, Henman and Atherton. Frank Williams immediately sacks Villeneuve for not offering to share the cost of the petrol money.

November: Sheryl Gascoigne wins the first women's middleweight boxing championship. Don King announces a championship decider between Sheryl and Pamela Anderson to be screened only on Britain's Live! TV, who have been forced to abandon their water polo coverage after several ponies drowned on air.

December: John Major is voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year despite Labour government claims of a rigged poll. All remaining sport fixtures are cancelled without notice.

Peter Corrigan is on holiday

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