Month: February 2019

Controversy as Australia go 2-0 up in series

England were 141 for three, chasing a daunting 310 to win, when Ben Stokes was given out by the TV umpire for 10 ‘obstructing the field’ for stopping paceman Mitchell Starc’s shy at the stumps with his left glove while out of his crease.

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It was harsh on Stokes as he appeared to be acting more in self-defence than trying to prevent being run out.

The all-rounder had joined captain Eoin Morgan in the middle after James Taylor’s promising innings of 43 ended when he nicked Mitchell Marsh to Matthew Wade.

The Stokes decision, and another collapse that included a duck for Jos Buttler, left England in trouble but Morgan responded with a flurry of huge hits before holing out for 85 to end the match.

Pat Cummins had the England skipper caught by Glenn Maxwell as the paceman finished with four for 56.

Morgan was clearly angry, with the performance of his outplayed team and with opposing captain Steven Smith for not withdrawing the Stokes appeal.

“If the guy throws the ball in your direction from five yards then all you can do is flinch, you don’t have time to think,” said Morgan.

“The decision was made and I certainly feel it would have been different if we were fielding.”

Smith disagreed.

“It was blatantly out. The ball wasn’t going to hit him, Stokes was out of his crease, he put his arm out and got in the way of the ball,” he said.

After a rain-delayed start that reduced the match to 49 overs per side, Australia suffered a blow when David Warner was struck on the thumb by a venemous Steven Finn ball in the opening over and was forced off.

Warner suffered a fracture and will miss the last three matches.

Finn bowled Joe Burns for 22 before George Bailey and Smith set about building a solid platform.

The pair had put on 99 for the second wicket when Bailey went for 54, bowled by a turning Moeen delivery.

Smith was out for 70 but Maxwell, Marsh and Shane Watson then smashed 96 came off the last 10 overs.

Marsh was particularly cavalier, belting seven fours and three sixes in a 31-ball 64. Stokes was the pick of England’s attack with three for 60.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman,; Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Flashpoint overshadows Aussie’s win

Post-Ashes hostilities reached a flashpoint at Lord’s on Saturday, with England skipper Eoin Morgan accusing Steve Smith of acting against the spirit of cricket in Australia’s controversial win at Lord’s.

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Australia took a 2-0 lead in the five-match one-day series with the 54-run victory, which threatened to boil over following a decision to give England allrounder Ben Stokes out on the little-used ‘obstructing the field’ law.

Chasing Australia’s total of 7-309, England were 3-141 in reply when the match’s defining moment arrived as Stokes stuck out a hand to deflect a shy at the stumps from Australian quick Mitchell Starc.

Morgan argued that Stokes, who was on 10, was simply interested in self-preservation rather than having any intention of protecting his stumps.

“I feel that the ball was thrown so fast that you can only react in a way that defends yourself and he put his hand up to protect himself and followed the ball,” he said.

“How you can interpret is open but certainly I didn’t think it was deliberate.”

Wicketkeeper Matthew Wade and Starc immediately appealed and umpire Kumar Dharmasena referred the decision to the third umpire Joel Wilson, who saw enough evidence to give Stokes his marching orders.

Smith could’ve retracted the appeal and recalled Stokes, but he chose not to – a move which infuriated Morgan.

“Certainly, I think it would’ve been a lot different if we were fielding,” said Morgan, who also revealed he’d Dharamasena had told him the on-field umpires didn’t believe it to be out.

The opposing captains held spirited discussions during and after the match, but ended up with vastly differing views.

The Laws of Cricket state a batsman must be trying to “wilfully attempt to obstruct or distract the fielding side” to be dismissed obstructing the field – a point Smith remained firm on when challenged over his appeal.

“The way I saw it was he was out of his ground and he wilfully put his hand out which is the rule I’ve been told and he got given out by the umpire,” Smith said.

The dismissal triggered a collapse of 5-46 and played a major role in England being bowled out for 245, though a 55-run partnership between Morgan (85 off 87) and Liam Plunkett pushed Australia to the end.

The incident enraged the typically sedate Lord’s crowd, who booed loudly for a solid half-hour after the incident and hurled abuse following Starc’s every involvement for the rest of the match.

Starc responded to the boos by clean bowling Plunkett to end England’s resistance and silence the crowd.

Even former greats from each nation were divided on the situation – though not necessarily falling in line with their captains.

“He is perfectly entitled to (leave it to the umpires),” said former England skipper Michael Atherton.

Champion Australian legspinner Shane Warne felt differently.

“The correct decision was made by the umps re Stokes even though I didn’t like it,” he said in a Tweet which he later deleted.

“Cricket would’ve been the winner if Smith called him back.”

Controversy aside, the win was well received by Smith and coach Darren Lehmann after Australia battled back despite the loss of David Warner to a broken thumb on the match’s second ball – with the opener facing a four-to-six week recovery.

Luckless allrounder Shane Watson, who clubbed sixes into the top tier of both the Lord’s Pavilion and the Tavern Stand in an exciting cameo, also failed to finish the match after straining a calf muscle.

Australia’s innings was defined by a blistering half-century to man of the match Mitch Marsh which carried them past 300 after Steve Smith (70) and George Bailey (54) had set the platform.

Pat Cummins claimed 4-56.

Ghana, Senegal win but South Africa suffer shock

There was an historic first-ever victory for South Sudan, who beat Equatorial Guinea 1-0 at home after failing to win in their first 11 internationals since becoming the world game’s newest nation four years ago.

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A late free kick from Mubarak Wakaso handed Ghana a 1-0 win over Rwanda in Kigali and a second successive win in the preliminaries for the 2017 finals in Gabon.

Cheikhou Kouyate and Sadio Mane scored either side of halftime to give Senegal a 2-0 away victory in Namibia and maintain their 100 percent record in Group K.

But Nigeria were held to a goalless draw away in Tanzania in a disappointing start for new coach Sunday Oliseh with debutant English-born goalkeeper Carl Ikeme proving the difference between a single point and defeat for the visitors.

South Africa suffered a major setback in Mauritania, ranked by FIFA some 40 places below them, as goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune dropped a free kick into his own net in the opening five minutes before the visitors’ debutant defender Siyabonga Zulu was sent off.

Despite being down to 10 men, South Africa equalised only to give away two late goals in a 3-1 defeat which marks the biggest scalp in Mauritania’s limited international history.

Tunisia lost 1-0 away in Liberia, who were celebrating a return home as they hosted their first full international since the end of the Ebola crisis. Francis Grandpa Doe, whose recall to the squad had been criticised, got the game’s only goal.

Joel Mogorosi’s strike handed Botswana a 1-0 home win over Burkina Faso, who were Nations Cup runners-up in 2013.

Nordin Amrabat, Youssef El Arabi and Nabil Dirar scored as Morocco won 3-0 away in tiny Sao Tome e Principe and Fode Dore got a hat trick as Congo emerged 4-2 winners in Guinea Bissau.

A further 12 games are scheduled for Sunday as teams continue the qualification process for the tournament in Gabon. The winners of the 13 groups plus the two best-placed runners-up qualify for the finals.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Toby Davis)

Aussie Brunker outclassed by Warrington

Australia’s Joel Brunker has failed in his attempt to win the Commonwealth featherweight title, losing on points to hugely impressive Englishman Josh Warrington in Leeds.

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The gutsy western Sydney fighter went into the contest with a 28-1 record and fully confident of victory to potentially set up a rematch with Welsh IBF champion Lee Selby, the only man to beat him.

Brunker started well in the early rounds, having some success with some decent body shots but once the Yorkshireman started to find his groove the result was never in doubt.

He was completely outclassed by Warrington, who dealt comfortably with the 29-year-old’s aggressive approach to extend his unbeaten record to 22-0 in front of his delirious supporters in his home town city.

Warrington paid full respect to Brunker by not playing into his hands and going toe-to-toe with the durable Australian and subsequently his limitations were exposed as he battled gamely to take the fight to the distance, failing to win a single round.

The latter rounds were merely about self-preservation for Brunker who was protecting a nasty cut above his right eye, but he bravely went the distance.

However, all three judges scored the fight 120-108 in favour of Warrington.

It was a second successive defeat on British soil for Brunker after his loss to Selby in November and it leaves the 2004 Olympian’s career at the crossroads with little chance of a rematch against Warrington or Selby, or a fight with WBC champion Gary Russell Junior.

“It was a great win for me, Joel is a world class fighter who makes it hard for you,” Warrington told Sky Sports.

Swiss seal ‘crazy’ win with remarkable late rally

Milivoje Novakovic and Bostjan Cesar netted either side of halftime as Slovenia took control of the Group E game against the error-prone hosts who were jeered off at halftime.

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But two goals from Josip Drmic, including the winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time, and one by fellow substitute Valentin Stocker gave the Swiss a memorable victory.

Breel Embolo, 18, the other Swiss substitute, also played a key role in the first goal as coach Vladimir Petkovic’s second-half changes paid off handsomely.

“It was a crazy game where we had the bit of luck that we didn’t have in Slovenia,” Petkovic told SRF television, referring to Switzerland’s 2-0 defeat in Maribor in October.

The win left the Swiss second in the group and clear favourites to follow England through while Slovenia must now battle for third spot, and a place in a two-legged playoff, alongside Estonia and Lithuania.

Petkovic’s men have 15 points from seven games while Slovenia are fourth on nine points, below Estonia (10) who beat Lithuania (six) by a 1-0 margin. England (21) qualified after crushing San Marino 6-0 earlier on Saturday.

The Swiss dominated the first half but struggled to create openings and were then caught on the break as Novakovic dinked the ball over Yann Sommer on the stroke of halftime.

Cesar headed in from a corner three minutes after the restart to leave the Swiss floundering and Sommer prevented a third with a superb stop denying Josip Ilicic.

Swiss frustration showed as Ricardo Rodriguez and Xherdan Shaqiri wasted good attacks with poor crosses.

Stocker came on in the 80th minute and, almost immediately, the three substitutes combined to put the Swiss back in the match.

Stocker fed Embolo, his clever flick set Drmic clear and he held off his marker to beat Samir Handanovic.

The Swiss were level four minutes later when Shaqiri pulled the ball back and Stocker levelled.

Then, in the last move of the game, Slovenia lost possession as they tried to play out of their own half.

Switzerland poured forward and Fabian Schaer’s shot was deflected into the path of Drmic who grabbed the winner.

(Writing by Brian Homewood,; Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Hoffman leads as Spieth misses cut at Deutsche Bank

He posted a 12-under 130 halfway total, with Brendon de Jonge of Zimbabwe (68) the closest pursuer on nine-under.

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Australian Jason Day, who has won three times in his last four events, including the PGA Championship, sat six shots back in a tie for 10th after successive 68s.

Masters and U.S. Open champion Spieth missed his second straight cut with a 73 for his fourth above-par round in a row.

It is the first time in his pro career that the 22-year-old Spieth has missed successive cuts.

With the PGA Tour taking a one-week break before the third event of the FedExCup playoffs, the BMW Championship near Chicago, the world number two plans to forget about golf for a few days before getting back to work.

“I’m going to take some time away, probably it’s going to be good for me to take four days and not touch a club,” he told reporters, largely blaming his putting for the six-over 148 total.

“I don’t feel it’s far off, even though my scores have been far off. It’s almost been like a bad dream, like I have to wake up and get the putts to go in again.”

Hoffman, a three-time PGA Tour winner who was on the leaderboard for a long time at the Masters this year before finishing equal ninth, started well with eight birdies on his opening 14 holes, including a near hole-in-one on the par-three 11th, his second hole.

“This is one of those courses that when you get up on the tees it sets up well visually for me,” American Hoffman said. “I also tend to make a few more putts on these greens.

“I’m in a nice position after two days, but obviously we have a lot of golf left.”

Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy was among those with a lot of ground to make up after the world number one shot 74 to fall 14 strokes behind.

(Reporting by Tim Wharnsby in Toronto. Editing by Andrew Both)

Blues coach urges bold AFL recruiting

Outgoing Carlton coach John Barker wants some adventurous recruiting at the struggling AFL club to fix an alarming lack of depth on their player list.

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The Blues’ 57-point loss to Hawthorn and Brisbane’s surprise win over the Western Bulldogs on Saturday meant Carlton finished last for the fourth time since 2002.

It means they will have the No.1 draft pick, with tall defender Jacob Weitering and key forward Josh Schache the main candidates.

Barker was asked after Saturday’s season-ending loss whether the Blues should go for a defender or forward with the top pick.

“We need to be bold,” he said.

“We’ve talked a lot about what’s required … for the team.

“We need both, to be candid.

“What you saw over the last six or seven weeks, when we started to lose senior players, was a good look at what our depth looks like.

“And there’s a helluva lot of work to be done with our depth.”

Barker also remains confident that ruckman Matthew Kreuzer will stay at Carlton.

Kreuzer is about to be out of contract and has been non-commital about his future.

Barker said Kreuzer, Patrick Cripps, Sam Docherty and Dylan Buckley were the sort of young players who could be the foundation of Carlton’s rebuilding.

“He’s a very good player, he’s important to the club and I think he’s a Carlton person – and will be, going forward,” Barker said of Kreuzer.

Barker took over when Mick Malthouse was sacked and has earned widespread praise for his work.

He narrowly missed out on staying senior coach, with Brendon Bolton winning the job.

Barker will finish at Carlton in the next couple of days and then spend time with his family before deciding on his future.

“What I need is a little bit of clean air,” he said.

Barker also remains keen to become an AFL senior coach.

“It’s a massive task, it’s a massive job, but it’s one I think I’m up for,” he said.

Barker also had high praise for Andrew Carrazzo, who was their best player in his retirement game.

“He’s a warrior, always has been,” Barker said.

“There’s a lot of talk in AFL, but we see through action what people stand for.

“He talks with what he does.”

Court date won’t affect Tomic’s Cup hopes

Davis Cup captain Wally Masur is leaving Bernard Tomic hanging as he ponders his options for Australia’s looming semi-final showdown with Great Britain.

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Tomic is available for selection again after serving a one-tie ban for his attack on Tennis Australia bosses Steve Healey and Craig Tiley at Wimbledon.

Tomic, who has carved out an impressive 14-2 singles record in the competition, says he is desperate to play in the indoor hardcourt tie in Glasgow from September 18-20 and Masur could certainly do with the Australian No.1 back in his ranks.

The trouble is, five doesn’t go into four and the skipper must accommodate his first-choice doubles pairing of Sam Groth and veteran leader Lleyton Hewitt, who also proved Australia’s last-day singles heroes in a quarter-final Houdini act against Kazakhstan.

Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis are the other contenders but it remains to be seen how Masur will respond after Kyrgios’ meltdown against the Kazakhs and the subsequent turmoil the 20-year-old has been engulfed in over the past month.

“Absolutely I’m ready to play and it’s going to be a huge opportunity playing in the semi-finals to get in the final and we have a big chance,” Tomic said after his 6-4 6-3 6-1 third-round US Open loss to Frenchman Richard Gasquet at Flushing Meadows.

“We need our best players there. If I have the opportunity, I’m always ready to play these ties.

Tomic is facing court charges in Miami on the day after the semi-final for allegedly resisting a police officer without violence and trespassing while partying in a $US7000-a-night penthouse during the July weekend of Australia’s win over Kazakhstan.

But the world No.24 told AAP he wasn’t required to be at the court hearing and that any legal concerns hanging over his head would not impact on availability to take on Andy Murray’s Brits.

Hoping for a warning or probation from the US courts, Tomic vowed to give it his all for Australia if picked.

“Obviously the situation with Wimbledon, I didn’t get the chance to play and it was a bit complicated and then I went to Miami and then obviously had the situation where I got arrested,” he said.

“But after that I won my third title (in Bogota), so I remember that was a good and bad moment for me.

“But I’m very, very positive to play Davis Cup. It’s the biggest thing for me and that’s what I got out of Lleyton, of cherishing Davis Cup the most.

“And for me when I step on that court for Davis Cup, it’s different than any other tournament or any other match.

“I play my best tennis at Davis Cup so I’m ready.”

Masur, though, has all his charges on tenterhooks after of his team announcement on Tuesday.

Tomic is making no secret that he’s had discussions with Masur in New York, but says he remains in the dark.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” he said.

“And no one knows yet. That’s the interesting thing.

“We will see, I think, in the next 24, 48 hours for sure.

“But for sure I have to have a few more meetings with a few more people yet.

“I’m not the boss in this so I can’t speak yet, but there’s some interesting things for sure that will come out in the next day or two.”

Norway freedom of speech prize for Snowden

Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden says he has “no regrets” about disclosing mass surveillance programs that forced him into exile, as he received a Norwegian freedom of speech prize.

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“We will honour you as the most important whistleblower of our times,” said Hege Newth Nouri, head of the board of the Bjornson Academy, on Saturday.

The Bjornson Prize award is worth 100,000 kroner ($A17,122).

Nouri said she hoped Snowden would be able to receive his diploma and statue next year – in Norway.

She said an empty chair on the stage in Molde, western Norway, symbolised that the organisers had failed to secure guarantees Snowden would not be arrested and possibly be extradited to the United States.

In its citation, the jury said Snowden had “shown how the electronic integrated information world can be a threat to personal integrity, and also might pose a threat against freedom of expression”.

Snowden, who has asylum in Russia, is wanted by the US government on espionage charges for exposing extensive telephone and internet data-collection programs used by the US National Security Agency.

In an interview conducted via videolink from Russia, Snowden said he loved the United States and his actions were not anti-American.

“I knew the consequences of my actions when I took them,” he said.

“I honestly never expected to be free today, I expected to be in prison, I didn’t expect to get awards, I expected my reputation to be ruined because a number of incredibly powerful officials around the world were personally embarrassed because of these revelations.”

Snowden said Russia was not his planned destination, but that he had no other option after his passport was cancelled and he did not receive replies from 21 countries where he applied for asylum.

The prize was named after Bjornstjerne Bjornson, a Norwegian author and 1903 Nobel literature laureate.

Not even idol Woods can lift Nadal, who vows to fight on

Nadal was 151-0 in grand slams when winning the first two sets, but his perfect record ended when he could not stave off the comeback of inspired Fabio Fognini, who prevailed 3-6 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-4 in a match that ended in the wee hours on Saturday.

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“If you hit the ball a bit shorter, the opponent has more space. If you hit the ball with a little bit of less confidence, then there is not as much topspin like used to be,” he said after his upset loss to the Italian.

“If you hit shorter … the opponent takes the ball earlier, so it looks like you are slower.

“Is easy to understand, easy to explain. Difficult to change. But I going to do it.”

The third-round defeat put a sour end to a sub-par season for Nadal, 29, whose record run of winning at least one grand slam title for 10 straight years was snapped.

He went as far as the quarters at the Australian and French Opens and was ousted in the second round at Wimbledon by an opponent ranked outside the top 100.

“I accept that was not my year and (will) keep fighting till the end of the season in a positive way for me. I know what I have to do and I’m going to work on it,” said the proud Spaniard, seeded eighth at Flushing Meadows.

Nadal, who has been slowed in recent years by injuries, insisted he was healthy this season and retained his passion for the game.

On Friday night, he was cheered on by golfer Tiger Woods, who sat in his box.

Former world number one Woods has also dealt with injuries, most recently needing back surgery, and has been struggling to regain form.

“For me, (as) a sportsman he’s a big example. His attitude on the golf course for me always was a big inspiration,” Nadal said.

“When I saw him play, when I saw his attitude, I see the eyes that he has when has the difficult shot, the decisive shot. Is very special.

“I don’t see a lot of sportsmen with that self-confidence, with that intensity on his face when he had to hit the important shot.

“So for me, he’s a great example, great inspiration. I always say the same. I don’t have idols. But that’s the closest thing that I have: Him.”

Nadal said he believed he could regain his superiority on the court. “It’s not a big story,” he said. “Is just improve small things that make a big difference.”

The Spaniard has been stuck on his total of 14 grand slams, the same number of golf majors that Woods has been stalled on since 2008.

Asked who he thought had the best chance to win number 15, Nadal said: “I hope we make that happen next year, both (of us).”

(Editing by Andrew Both)