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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Centuries from Brad Haddin, Michael Clarke put Australia on top

Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke smashed centuries as Australia took a firm grip on the second and final Test against New Zealand here on Sunday.

Haddin scored 169 en route his maiden Test century while Clarke posted 110 as Australia piled up an imposing 535 in their second innings, taking a first innings lead of 265 runs at the Adelaide Oval.

At stumps on the third day, New Zealand were 35 for no loss in the second innings with Aaron Redmond on 15 and Jamie How on 13. New Zealand were all out for 270 in the first innings.

New Zealand, who lost the first Test in Brisbane, will have to battle out to save the match.

Resuming at three for 241, Australia lost the wickets of overnight batsman Michael Hussey (70) and Andrew Symonds in the third over of the day from Chris Martin (2-110).

Hussey misguided a pull shot and was caught by Redmond and then three balls later out-of-form Symonds was taken behind the stumps by Brendon McCullum.

Haddin and Clarke then came together to stitch a 181-run partnership for the sixth wicket. Haddin scored an entertaining knock studded with 24 fours and two sixes. Clarke's 10th century took 239 balls and had 11 fours.

Haddin started tentatively and survived few anxious calls but grew on confidence as the day wore on.

The wicket-keeper, playing his ninth game after Adam Gilchrist's retirement, soon out scored his vice-captain and reached the three-figure mark in just 133 balls, hitting 16 boundaries.

Haddin kept on the tempo after the dismissal of Clarke, who gave his wicket to Iain O'Brien (3-111).

After Clarke's dismissal, Haddin added 42-runs with Brett Lee (19) and 56 with Mitchell Johnson (23).

Brief scores: New Zealand 270 & 35/0 (Aaron Redmond 15 batting, Jamie How 13 batting);
Australia 535 (Brad Haddin 169, Michael Clarke 110; Iain O'Brien 3-11, Aaron Redmond 2-47)

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Rooney’s 100th seals derby

Manchester United overcome a late surge from City to prevail 1-0; Cristiano Ronaldo is sent off for a hand ball

Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off for the third time in his Manchester United career as Wayne Rooney’s 100th goal in club football sealed a 1-0 victory for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men against Manchester City at Eastlands on Sunday. Rooney’s goal — his first in seven games — settled the 150th meeting between the Manchester neighbours and cemented United in third spot in the Premier League.

But United were forced to play the final twenty-one minutes with ten men after Ronaldo was dismissed for handling the ball from Rooney’s corner — his second booking in the space of nine minutes.

With five other players booked, United now face an FA fine for failing to control their players, but Ferguson will not be concerned by that having sealed a crucial victory. City hadn’t landed back in Manchester until early on Friday morning following their UEFA Cup tie against Schalke in Germany, and United went into this game with the advantage of having had an extra two days to prepare.

The extra freshness within the United ranks showed in the first half as the European champions dominated possession and created the best chances. Not for the first time this season, though, Ferguson’s team failed to capitalise on their early dominance and, just as happened at Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal earlier this campaign, United struggled to kill off their bitter rivals.

The visitors could have gone ahead as early as the eighth minute when City keeper Joe Hart fumbled a Rooney shot, but Darren Fletcher failed to convert the loose ball from six yards.

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Pam Shriver's Tennis Classic Auction

The Tremont Grand ballroom was bursting with people and bustling with energy as several hundred guests wined, dined and perused all sorts of silent auction items at Pam Shriver's 23rd annual Charity Tennis Classic Grand Kickoff Reception. Not bad for an event that's been around a lot longer than those it helps support through Greater Baltimore Tennis Patrons and other youth organizations.

"We support all groups for kids," said Gail Brodsky, the No. 1 junior tennis player in the U.S.

"Every kid has to have a chance to do what we do," added Ajla Tomljanovic, the No. 1 junior tennis player in Europe. The two would be playing in the classic the next night.

As always, Baltimore's tennis-playing pride and joy, Pam Shriver, was an ever-gracious hostess, warmly chatting with guests and proudly showing them photos of her children: George and twins Kate and Sam, 3.

"To think about how this event has segued into so many different phases of my life: my playing career to my retirement, to marriages and deaths and births. That's what 23 years does for you. The constants in my life have been my family and my hometown," she said. "It gives me a warm, warm feeling."

That feeling was shared by her mom, Margot Shriver. "This makes me feel good all over about how much she's done, and how much she loves her home in Baltimore even though she lives in Los Angeles," she said.

Two other attendees marveled at the Tennis Classic's longevity and continued popularity.

"I don't know how many events really last this long," said Tennis Patrons president Clinton Kelly.

"Twenty-three years. It's fantastic," said Steve Krulevitz, president of Steve Krulevitz Sports Camps. "Let's do another 23!"

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UCLA women's soccer team keeps focus for Duke

The second-seeded Bruins, praised by their coach for working solid as a unit in their last victory, will face Duke in the NCAA quarterfinal.

Before UCLA women's soccer Coach Jillian Ellis walked onto the practice field Friday, she saw her players huddled together.

They talked as a group about their upcoming opponent, Duke, in an NCAA quarterfinal at Drake Stadium tonight at 7. That meeting and the practice afterward convinced Ellis that her team carried the same focus from its 1-0 victory last week over USC in the third round of the tournament.

In that game, Ellis thought the Bruins (21-0-2) played "as determined and as focused as I've seen our team" all season.

"Never before in the entire season had our 11 players performed at one time," Ellis said. "It all came together."

UCLA has a school-record 19 shutouts this season, led by a defense that Ellis jokes has "plexiglass nailed in front of the goal."

UCLA is ranked 17th nationally in scoring (2.35 goals a game), led by junior forward Kristina Larson (11goals) and junior forward Lauren Cheney (10 goals).

Meanwhile, the Blue Devils (15-5-3) have finished with winning seasons in nine of the last 10 years but never have advanced past the NCAA quarterfinals.

Knowing the Bruins are one win away from a sixth straight College Cup semifinal spot, Ellis equated the quarterfinal game to a job interview.

"The first time, you're extremely nervous," Ellis said. "But then later on, you start to relax and show your personality. We've been here before and we'll be able to draw on that experience."

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Top 25 Rankings of the Harris Interactive College Football Poll

Today's Harris Interactive College Football PollSM shows the Top 25 results compiled from rankings submitted by the Harris Interactive panel of former coaches, players and administrators, and current and former members of the media. Alabama and Florida retain the top two spots in the rankings, while Texas narrowly edges Oklahoma for the No. 3 spot. USC again rounds out the top five.

Highlights of November 30 Harris Interactive College Football Poll

Rank Team Record Points
Previous Game Next Game Previous Week's Rank (weekend (weekend of Nov. 29) of Dec. 6) 1 Alabama (107) 12-0 2,815 Beat Auburn
36-0 SEC Championship vs. No. 2 Florida 1 2 Florida (4) 11-1 2,619 Beat No. 23 Florida State 45-15 SEC Championship vs. No.
1 Alabama 2 3 Texas (1) 11-1 2,575 Beat Texas A&M 49-9 TBD 4 4 Oklahoma 11-1 2,569 Beat No. 12 Oklahoma State 61-41 TBD
3 5 USC 10-1 2,378 Beat Notre Dame 38-3 at UCLA 5 6 Penn State 11-1 2,177 Idle Idle 6 7 Utah (1) 12-0 2,111 Idle Idle 8 8
Texas Tech 11-1 2,090 Beat Baylor 35-28 TBD 7 9 Boise State 12-0 1,937 Beat Fresno State 61-10 Idle 9 10 Ohio State 10-2 1,856
Idle Idle 10 11 Ball State 12-0 1,526 Beat Western Michigan 45-22 MAC Championship vs. Buffalo (Fri) 14 12 TCU 10-2 1,502
Idle Idle 15 13 Cincinnati 10-2 1,425 Beat Syracuse 30-10 at Hawaii 16 14 Oklahoma State 9-3 1,217 Lost to No. 3 Oklahoma
61-41 Idle 12 15 Oregon 9-3 1,076 Beat No. 17 Oregon State 65-38 Idle 19 16 Georgia Tech 9-3 1,065 Beat No. 13 Georgia 45-42
Idle 22 17 BYU 10-2 990 Idle Idle 18 18 Missouri 9-3 896 Lost to Kansas 40-37 Big 12 Championship vs. TBD 11 19 Boston College
9-3 834 Beat Maryland 28-21 ACC Championship vs. Virginia Tech 20 20 Georgia 9-3 833 Lost to No. 22 Georgia Tech 45-42 Idle
13 21 Michigan State 9-3 688 Idle Idle 21 22 Northwestern 9-3 414 Idle Idle 24 23 Pittsburgh 8-3 346 Beat West Virginia 19-15
at Connecticut 25 24 Mississippi 8-4 239 Beat Mississippi State 45-0 Idle NR 25 Oregon State 8-4 211 Lost to No. 19 Oregon
65-38 Idle 17

Number of first place votes shown in parentheses.

Other teams receiving votes: Tulsa 87; Virginia Tech 71; Iowa 60; Florida State 30; Nebraska 20; California 18; Rice 12; North Carolina 9; West Virginia 9; Kansas 6; Connecticut 5; Western Michigan 4; LSU 3; Maryland 2.

Dropped out of Top 25: Florida State.

Poll Methodology and Process

The 2008 Harris Interactive College Football Poll is comprised of former players, coaches, administrators and current and former members of the media who have committed to submit rankings for the top 25 college football teams each week. These panelists were randomly selected from among more than 300 nominations submitted by the 11 Division I-A Conference offices and the independent schools. The panel has been designed to be a statistically valid representation of all 11 Division I-A Conferences and independent institutions. Today, 113 poll participants submitted their top 25 college football team rankings. One panelist did not submit rankings due to personal reasons.

The 11 Division 1-A Conference Commissioners and Notre Dame Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick decided not to accept the Harris Interactive recommendation to apply a standard statistical practice that addresses potential instability, error or bias associated with unusual ranking patterns. This process, which began in 2005, will remain the same for the 2008 season. Each week Harris Interactive will conduct a thorough verification of the results, and the rankings will stand as submitted.

This week's rankings and other information about the poll can be found at and

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is a global leader in custom market research. With a long and rich history in multimodal research, powered by our science and technology, we assist clients in achieving business results. Harris Interactive serves clients globally through our North American, European and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms. For more information, please visit

SOURCE: Harris Interactive

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The Latest Celeb Trend: Table Tennis

There’s a new hot sport in Hollywood, but you won’t find the Beckhams attached to it — table tennis.

Known casually as Ping-Pong, celebs ranging from Susan Sarandon to Ed Norton have admitted their allegiance to the game. It hasn’t been so in fashion since “Forrest Gump” in 1994.

“I started finding out that there was this subculture of Ping-Pong and all these people that you wouldn’t expect are serious about it,” Susan told the New York Times’ Style section. “I just worked with Ed Norton, and he’s so committed that he trained in China while he was shooting a film there.”

According to the Times, the sport has also attracted such stars as Matthew Broderick, 50 Cent, the Beastie Boys and Jimmy Buffet.

There’s even a new magazine, Celebrity Ping-Pong, whose second issue is set to include interviews with popular table tennis-playing authors such as Salman Rushdie and Jonathan Safran Foer.

Part of the appeal of the game, Susan said, is its quickness — a nice break from long days on the set.

“The matches aren’t that long, so they get very emotional very fast and then they’re over,” she explained. “You can come and go as you please and still feel satisfied.”

And the trend could be a case of “life imitating art” — Christopher Walken starred in the table tennis comedy, “Balls of Fury,” in 2007.

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Weber State football: 'Cats eager to play in Montana

There's something about the Weber State players' traveling jerseys. Something about the way they fit or maybe it's because of the fact the away uniforms are brand new.
Or maybe it's just what the away jerseys mean that make the players love them so much.
"We love playing on the road," senior Bryant Eteuati said. "We couldn't ask for anything more with playing Montana there. We're better prepared and we're more focused. We feel we play a lot better on the road."
After beating Cal Poly 49-35 last Saturday in the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, Weber State will advance to the quarterfinals against conference foe Montana. And like they were against the Mustangs, the Wildcats will be on the road.
Weber State seems to play its best when it is faced with adversity. The Wildcats have won in bad weather. They have won on the road. They have won on the road in bad weather.
No game presented a bigger challenge than playing Cal Poly at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
"[Cal Poly was] the best team we've played this year," Trevyn Smith said. "But our defense showed up and [the offense] just had to our part."
Weber State prevailed in that game, setting up a rematch against the Montana Grizzlies and showdown between the two Big Sky Conference co-champs.
The Grizzlies will surely be eager to play the Wildcats again
and avenge their only loss of the season. And this time, Montana will have home-field advantage. But Weber State welcomes the challenge.
"So far, we have performed well in adverse situations, and this Cal Poly game was as adverse as you can get," Weber State coach Ron McBride said. "But that's when you get the most out of the players."
Washington-Grizzly Stadium isn't an easy place to play at. Montana averages more than 24,000 fans a game, the second-most in the FCS. It's loud and raucous, and sometimes that can change the momentum of the game for the Grizzlies.
Eteuati remembers playing there as a freshman, walking on to the field and hearing the roar of the crowd.
"People in Montana love their football. As a freshman playing there, I remember it was packed, and that's as close to USC or Florida as you're going to get in I-AA," Eteuati said. "The fans are ridiculous, and it's a great football atmosphere."
Eteuati has had great milestones against the Grizzlies. He had his first touchdown kickoff return of his career his sophomore year. He was the team's leading receiver with 74 yards on seven receptions to beat Montana earlier this season. He hopes he can create another memory against the Grizzlies this Saturday.
"We feel like we can come out and rise to anyone's challenge," Eteuati said. "After losing to Eastern and having to share the title, we didn't like that too much. But, we're focused on our next goal and we have a national championship to play for."

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On Tennis: In season full of highlights, Rafael Nadal stands out

Quicker than a line judge can bark "out," the tennis season is over.

What a year it was. Rafael Nadal ended Roger Federer's dominance, Novak Djokovic won a first Grand Slam title everyone knew was coming, and Justine Henin, one of the most-talented female players the game has ever seen, called it quits way too soon.

Focusing on the men this week, here's an end-of-term report card. Nadal is at the head of the class.

Rafael Nadal (A): Sure he's the King of Clay, but what can Nadal do on a surface other than dirt? That was the question being asked heading into 2008.

Well, after a shaky start, the Spanish lefty turned it on, predictably cruising at the French Open before ending Federer's five-year reign on the hallowed grass at Wimbledon. In an impressive display of mental toughness, Nadal kept it together in the fifth set of their epic final, serving second, despite blowing two match points in a fourth-set tiebreak. The latter was a match in itself.

Carrying the momentum to hard courts, Nadal usurped Federer as the world No. 1, captured Olympic gold and advanced to an inaugural U.S. Open semifinal, where his body finally gave way.

Roger Federer (A-): By no means was Federer as dominant as he is usually is. He wasn't too bad, though.

If he's not suffering from mononucleosis, Federer probably beats Djokovic in the Australian Open semis and makes it three in a row in Melbourne.

Who knows how the next few months would have unfolded? Would Federer have lost to Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and Radek Stepanek?

His performance in the French Open final against Nadal was, to put it mildly, utterly disappointing, especially when it might have been his last real chance of winning the only major to elude him.

The second half was much better. Federer showed grit in the Wimbledon final, too, saving one of the match points in the fourth set with an unbelievable backhand down the line.

Buoyed by winning doubles gold at the Olympics, Federer won a fifth straight U.S. Open. He also reached at least the semis of all four Grand Slams, again.

Novak Djokovic (B+): Djokovic made far too many headlines for his antics.

It began at the Australian Open, when Djokovic took offense to the crowd rooting for exuberant Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final. He withdrew from Serbia's first Davis Cup world group series in a must-win match -- after leading Russian Nikolay Davydenko two sets to one -- and retired against Federer at the Monte Carlo Masters.

The shenanigans came to a head at the U.S. Open, where Djokovic moaned about his reception and continued his love affair with injury timeouts. A year earlier, he was a fan favorite, hilariously impersonating Nadal and Sharapova.

Still, Djokovic earned the first of surely many majors, reached three Grand Slam semifinals and won the elite Masters Cup last month.

He'll learn from his mistakes.

Andy Murray (B+): Great Britain's 70-year wait for a men's Grand Slam winner is coming to an end.

Murray was the hottest player on tour from the end of July onward, going a combined 5-2 against the big three and advancing to his first Grand Slam final at Flushing Meadows.

The turning point came when the 21-year-old, who's got all the shots, rallied from two sets down against underachiever Richard Gasquet in the fourth round at Wimbledon. Murray credits his improvement to his vast entourage, which essentially replaced the one-man show of Brad Gilbert.

Andy Roddick (B-): Talk about an eventful year for Roddick.

For the first time in his career, he suffered a semi-serious injury to his serving shoulder. He cut ties with two coaches, somehow reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals despite a hellish draw and broke a few hearts by getting engaged to swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker.

The injury forced Roddick to skip the French Open and hampered his Wimbledon preparation -- a second-round exit followed in miserable fashion.

The perennial U.S. No. 1 pulled off wins over Federer, Nadal and Djokovic in the spring and was actually looking good on clay, too, hardly the surface of choice for Americans, so the timing of the shoulder setback couldn't have been worse. If healthy, count on Roddick doing better in the slams in 2009, especially now that he's working with prolific coach Larry Stefanki.

Other notables: James Blake (C+) finally beat Federer and reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal outside New York but didn't do much else. Burned out in the summer, 2009 should be interesting for the U.S. No. 2. Tsonga (A-) was the biggest revelation. Tsonga's attacking game -- and engaging smile -- dazzled fans. One can only hope the injuries stay away so they'll get more play. Fellow Frenchmen Gasquet (F) and Gilles Simon (B+) had differing fortunes. While Simon, a great competitor, broke through and finished inside the top 10, Gasquet failed to build on a promising 2007. Bailing on his teammates when they faced Roddick and Co. in the Davis Cup quarterfinals in April was particularly shameful. Argentinean Juan Martin Del Potro (B+), still only 20, figures to be in the top 10 for years. Moody countryman David Nalbandian (D) deteriorated in the majors and failed to lead Argentina to the Davis Cup title.

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New Zealand on shortlist for cricket's 2011 World Cup - report

New Zealand could find itself co-hosting the next cricket World Cup in 2011 with Australia because of the ongoing unrest in Asia according to a report in a Sydney newspaper.

New Zealand and Australia are set to host the World Cup in 2015 but the Daily Telegraph reported today that a meeting of International Cricket Council chief executives in South Africa will discuss putting other countries on standby.

That, according to the paper, could see New Zealand and Australia placed on standby to host the tournament.

India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are scheduled to host the tournament early in 2011 but the terror attacks in Mumbai last week and ongoing unrest in Pakistan has the cricket world on edge.

Already the ICC has cancelled the Champions Trophy which had been planned for Pakistan this year and the twenty20 Champions League, set for India this month, has been severely disrupted with South African and Australian sides pulling out.

Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland told the Telegraph that safety and security issues surrounding the 2011 World Cup were "bound to come up" at next weekend's meeting.

"It hasn't been talked about but that may well have changed out of this Mumbai incident but one would hope the World Cup and other events that are planned for various places in the sub-continent can go ahead as planned," he said.

"But there will be plenty of things that will need to be planned in the fullness of time," he told the paper.

ICC spokesman James Fitzgerald said there had yet to be any discussions about shifting the tournament.

"A decision would have to be made soon if that was to happen because we need a good run in to get the World Cup ready on time," Fitzgerald said.

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Jacksonville-Houston matchup a study in disappointment

If you think ESPN is disappointed with tonight's low-wattage "Monday Night Football" matchup, just imagine how the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans feel.

Those teams expected to be so much better than their current 4-7 records, so much more than an irrelevant sideshow to the NFL's main event.

Jacksonville won 11 games last season and made it to the divisional playoffs, in which it lost at New England. The Texans weren't quite as good, but they were definitely trending up, finishing 8-8 for the first non-losing record in club history.

To match that, Houston would have to win four of its last five games, a tall order considering the Texans still have Green Bay, Tennessee and Chicago on the docket.

Maybe the Texans will get a little extra spark playing on Monday night. Really, there's no way to know how they'll react, because this is the franchise's first appearance on "Monday Night Football." In fact, it's the first Monday night game in Houston since Nov. 21, 1994.
The 'Monday Night' showdown doesn't make ESPN happy, and both teams expected much more out of their seasons than their current, respective 4-7 records.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, are probably happy to be out of Jacksonville. They are 3-2 on the road but just 1-5 at home. They lost to Minnesota in Jacksonville eight days ago, turning over the ball five times.

"It was an embarrassing performance," Jaguars Coach Jack Del Rio said. "Might have been as bad as I've felt postgame."

And considering the way things have gone for his team this season, that's really saying something.

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Can Gunners conquer the fortress?

Arsenal face an uphill task against Chelsea tonight as their last win at Stamford Bridge was way back in February 2004

Arsenal’s fading English Premier League title ambitions face a make-or-break moment on Sunday when they visit leaders Chelsea for a London derby at their Stamford Bridge fortress.

A third straight league defeat could leave the Gunners in freefall and a huge 13 points behind the Blues just 15 games in. But equally, winning at Stamford Bridge — where Chelsea have been beaten just once in 89 league games — would send an impressive statement to the rest of the top flight that Arsenal are back in the race.

Despite the Gunners’ dismal league performances on the pitch and dressing-room dust-ups off it, manager Arsene Wenger is relishing the challenge. “This season we have played better against the top four,” he insisted.

“We have to go with extreme desire and express our strong points and not hide. We can play and win anywhere in the world. We know Chelsea are a great side with great players but we can beat them if we play at our best.”

And in his hour of crisis, Wenger has received support from the unlikeliest of sources going into the Chelsea clash — Blues boss Luiz Felipe Scolari. “Arsene is a coach who has been there 12 years. He’s a man that builds teams. Sells this and that, then puts in other players,” said the Portuguese. “Arsenal are very good every year. And when you change two or three players in one season, you need time. The time, I think, for Arsenal and Arsene is now. They can play very well and win many games.”

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MC Mary Kom claims fourth World title

Just four months of training after a two-year sabbatical may not be the ideal build-up for a World Championship but that is all MC Mary Kom needed as she clinched a historic fourth gold medal to become the most successful woman boxer in the world here on Saturday.

“I thank God and my husband for supporting me so much. I wasn’t confident going into the tournament. I was away from the ring for two years after my twins were born and trained for just four months before coming here,” Mary Kom, who competes in the 46kg category, said after her unprecedented feat at the fifth edition of the event.

“I lost in the finals of Asian Championship in September. I wasn’t upset but yes the confidence was slightly affected by that loss. I think my will power saw me through here. Besides things haven’t changed much in my weight category,” she added.

In a repeat of the previous World Championship in New Delhi, the Indian beat Romanian Steluta Duta 7-1 in the finals. The 25-year-old Manipuri dedicated the triumph to her little boys. “It’s difficult leaving them behind. They don’t talk at the moment but when they looked at me while leaving I knew they were wondering where mama is going,” she laughed.

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Daniel Chopra tied 29th at Australian Masters

Indian-born Swede Daniel Chopra turned in a second successive even-par 72 to be placed tied 29th after the penultimate round of the Australian Masters golf tournament here Saturday.

Chopra has a total of two-under 214 at the event while Shiv Kapur missed the cut Friday.

The Swede was off to a sedate start as he parred the first five holes but went one-over at the sixth after stumbling to a bogey. He made amends with a birdie on the eighth to make the turn even.

The backward journey also went steady and he even managed to break par on the 17th with a birdie but a bogey on the very next hole left him even-par in the end.

At the top, Australians Robert Allenby (67) and Michael Sim shared the lead with totals of 10-under 206. The duo was followed by compatriot Ashley Hall (68) a couple of strokes behind.

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Chauhan's ton put Saurashtra comfortable against Rajasthan

Opening batsman, Bhushan Chauhan's second consecutive century and his concrete foundation for the opening wicket with Chirag Pathak put Saurashtra comfortable by putting on 270 for the loss of 5 wickets against Rajasthan here at Madhavrao Scindia Cricket Ground.

Opting to bat first, Saurashtra openers Chauhan and Pathak laid solid foundation for the opening wicket by adding 154 runs and it looked at that stage that hosts again would be dominating visitors bowling but fine spell by seamer bowlers Pankaj Singh reduced the host at 154 for one to 228 for five.

However, initial breakthrough was provided by left arm leg spinner Gajendra Singh who bowled Chirag Pathak. Pathak missed his second consecutive century by 12 runs. His 88 came from 132 balls with nine fours and a six.

Sitanshu Kotak gave some support to Chauhan who was batting cautiously and added 54 runs for the second wicket before Kotak became Pankaj Singh's first victim.

Singh struck twice then after removing inform Cheteshwar Pujara (6) and skipper Jaydev Shah for naught.

Host lost three wickets in addition of just 14 runs and all the three were taken by Singh.

In between, Chauhan completed his watchfully hundred off 231 balls with eleven fours and a six.

He was batting on 111 (376m, 260b, 11X4, 1X6) and giving him compa ny was Sagar Jogiyani 20 (77m, 57b, 2X4) at the end of first day's play.

For Rajasthan, Pankaj Singh was the most successful bowler taking three wickets conceding 38 runs while spinner Gajendra Singh took two wickets giving away 104 runs.

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England players' kits left at the Taj

England's cricketers will have to bring along new kits if they return to India for next month's Test series as they had left them at Mumbai's terror-hit Taj Mahal Hotel before the abandoned ODI series.

The players left their kits for the two-match Test series, scheduled to start in Ahmedabad on December 11, at the Taj and planned to to pick the gear after the one-day series.

But the terrorist attack, which has killed nearly 200 people and left the Taj hotel shattered, meant that England were forced to return without both their kit and the Hugo Boss suits they are given for formal occasions on tour.

"If we're looking what's going on at the moment, all our cricket stuff is in storage at the Taj hotel so we'll be the first team to play a Test match in blues (one-day kit) that's for sure. So I don't know. If we do come back, we'll have to get all the logistic stuff sorted out first," captain Kevin Pietersen was quoted as saying by 'Daily Telegraph'.

"The decision to go back to London will buy us some time and if we need to fly back to India on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday next week then so be it," he added.

The English team left Bangalore early on Saturday morning for London after abandoning the remaining two matches of the ODI series. Their board had assured the BCCI that they would come back to play the Test series unless the security scenario in India does not worsen dramatically.

The BCCI has already moved the second Test from Mumbai to Chennai, besides fixing up a three-day warm-up game at Baroda from December 5-7.

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In times of terror, seek joy in sports

Sport has often provided me the escape route. Squeaking shoes on the wooden floor of a badminton court, the sound of a shuttlecock whizzing past the ear, reassured me that in the hours spent in its confines, everything else was secondary.

The mundaneness of a summer afternoon was made tolerable by a repeat telecast of an India-Pakistan cricket match on TV.

Racing downhill, bare-feet, on dew-kissed grass, gave me the biggest high.

But the last four days have been different. Filippo Inzaghi’s record-breaking goal in European competitions mattered little. I didn’t care that Chelsea still hadn’t made the last sixteen of the Champions League. In fact, blasphemous as it may sound, I even thought Bill Shankly a passionate fool for believing that football is more important than life and death.

My city was burning, people grieving for the loved ones they lost. How could I, then, seek solace in sport?

It’s in moments like these that you realise, sport may not be that big a deal after all. It may be important for the soul of a man but not as important as life itself.

By late Friday night, as some normalcy returned, and my mother stopped questioning every loud noise she heard while talking on the phone with me, I turned to sport again. Not to escape, but maybe to revive the faith.

I watched the DVD of that NatWest final at Lord’s, where Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif helped India rise from the dead. Then, I played the DVD of the World Cup final between France and Italy, rewinding the Zinedine Zidane head-butt some 10 times and each time gasping, “How could he?”

I saw Ronaldinho at his magical best, then immediately felt a sense of guilt at the happiness his genius brought me.

On Saturday, Mumbaikars woke up to feel safer than they felt in the last four days. I am glad that the ordeal is over. But, I guess, now we will all need reassurance.

I think I will find mine in sport. This weekend there is some football — matches that can turn out to be classics. Arsenal play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, hoping to stay in the race for the title. But I think more enthralling could be the game at the City of Manchester Stadium. It’s Manchester City against their old foes Manchester United.
Brazilian Robinho is at the centre of it all. In his first in-depth interview since moving to England, Robinho has revealed that over the last week he has been stopped by hundreds of people in the streets, who tell him, ‘You must beat United. This is our game. This is our day. You have to score the winning goal’.

For the City fans, this is the time for revenge against their more famed rivals. For the first time in years, they feel they can match the Devils kick-for-kick. A win on Sunday, could wipe out the hurt that taunts of ‘wrong Manchester’ have caused.

When Robinho joined City after a £32.5m signing from Real Madrid in September on a salary of £160,000 a week, we called him a mercenary.

Rob’s taken the criticism, played his best football, scored eight goals in 11 league games and brought immense happiness to thousands of City supporters. If he wins them the game on Sunday, they’ll have no greater hero.

In our tough times, let’s all seek our Robinhos.

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'I want to vault for many years' - Yelena Isinbayeva

Yelena Isinbayeva is the queen of pole vault. The Russian won the gold medal in Beijing with a World Record jump of 5.05 metres, her 24th record in all. On Monday, she was voted as the Athlete of the Year, along with Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. And Isinbayeva is not done yet. She intends to compete until the 2012 Olympics. She spoke to Joe Williams in an exclusive interview, soon after receiving her award in Monte Carlo

The first World Record you set was on July 13, 2003. 23 more have followed since. Which one of those did you enjoy the most?
Every World Record and gold medal in major championships has been great. Of course, the first record is special but also my first jump over 5 metres was very special for me.

Svetlana Feofanova has been your main opponent. After you broke her record (4.87m) in Gateshead in 2004, she bounced back the following week to reclaim the record. How do you view her as a rival?
There is no main opponent. Everyone who is in the competition is there to jump as high as possible.

How important is the competition to you? Do you monitor your rivals’ performances? Does it help motivate you to perform better?
I don’t think about the other jumpers when I compete. I just focus on myself and jump as high as possible. What others do, does not affect me.

In 2005 in London, you became the first woman pole vaulter to clear 5m, achieving the mark with a single attempt. How did that feel?
I was so happy! Clearing 5 metres has always been one of my main goals. That day, after I cleared the 4.96m, I felt that I could do it. I was so happy when it happened.

You’ve set 24 World Records (14 outdoors and 10 indoors). Is Sergi Bubka’s record of 35 World Records your target now?
I take each competition at a time. We will see what happens…

Your technique, especially the second part of your jump, is better than even the men pole vaulters. What is it that you do differently?
I have a great coach in Vitaly Petrov and I am very dedicated to what I do.

Has your gymnastics background helped you in any way in your success?
Everything that I have done in the past is behind what I do today. I think doing gymnastics as a young girl has been very good because you learn a lot about how to control your body and also how to get a strong body.

In the Russian club competitions, you represent the Railroad Military team and were recently promoted to the rank of captain. Will you serve the military after your athletics career?
Right now I only want to focus on my athletics career. I do not want to think about what to do after my career just as yet because I hope to pole vault for many many years to come.

How important is discipline in being a perfect sportsperson?
It is very important. You need to be extremely disciplined to succeed, I think, in all sports.

You are such an icon around the world. What is your message to young athletes?
Try many different sports when you are young and soon you will find ‘your’ sport. Make sure to have fun but also be disciplined and focus on what you are doing.

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Ex-England captains say team should play Tests

Former captains Bob Willis and David Gower have joined Ian Botham and Mike Atherton in urging the English team to return to India and play the two-Test series next month. Willis and Gower backed the decision to abandon the one-day series but felt if England do not return to India for the two Tests the same treatment could be meted out to them by visiting sides when such a situation arises in the country.

“If India is deemed safe before first Test in Ahmedabad on December 11 and the second in Chennai, they should go and play. Otherwise no one will come to England — teams will say we are as much a terrorist target as any country. I hope that within a fortnight, things will have settled down,” Willis said. On Friday, former captains Ian Botham and Mike Atherton had urged ECB to continue the Test series.

Willis gave an example of the England squad, including himself, continuing to tour India in 1984-85 when former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated. “England players stayed on in 1984-85 when Mrs Gandhi and Percy Norris, the deputy British High Commissioner, were assassinated.

But I can understand reluctance of any cricketer to go into areas where there have been terrorist attacks. As Westerners are being targeted, it is sensible for the team to leave,” Willis was quoted as saying by ‘The Times’.

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England decision likely in 24 hours

Will they be back? The suspense will not last too long. England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will get back to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) soon. In fact, if one were to believe a top English Board official, in about 24 hours.

An emergency meeting of the England team management comprising players, representatives of the professional cricketers association, security experts and every concerned party, will be held some time on Sunday. If not, surely on Monday morning. “We want to hold the meeting as soon as possible,” an ECB official told DNA.

Any delay in the meeting could only be because of the timing of the team’s arrival in England. The players were not scheduled to land at the Heathrow before 7.30 pm GMT on Saturday, which is past midnight in India. “We want to call them for the meeting on Sunday itself,” the English Board official said.

The ECB has been maintaining silence over the claims of the BCCI that it has got the go-ahead from them over the tour. It has also not stated anything that is contrary to the BCCI’s assertions on the status of the two-Test series. The ECB’s silence is being deemed as approval of the Indian Board’s proposal.

When asked if that is the case, the ECB again chose to stay silent. “We have seen the comments of the BCCI. We will not say anything till our meeting is over. We will make our stand clear only after that,” Colin Gibson, communications manager of the ECB, told this paper on Saturday night.

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Twenty four wickets fall on Day One at Kotla

Hosts Delhi and Orissa struggle on a green-top as a dozen batsmen fail to open account

Ishant Sharma ran in with purpose and bowled with fire, just as Delhi would have liked their star bowler to do. On a pitch tailor-made for his ilk, the pace bowler grabbed a career-best seven for 24 to save Delhi the embarrassment of conceding a huge lead in their Ranji Trophy Elite Super League match against Orissa at the Feroz Shah Kotla here.

Needing a victory desperately, Delhi prepared a green-top pitch that would guarantee a result, but on being asked to bat first, they were skittled out for a mere 78. However, Sharma, supported at best by some miserly bowling from the other end, ripped through the top order to restrict the opposition to 80.

Delhi captain Virender Sehwag was battling on 27 as Delhi finished the opening day at 38 for four in their second innings, just 36 ahead with six wickets in hand. On a windy day that saw most batsmen being bowled, caught behind or leg-before wicket if not trying a desperate shot, Sharma sent the wickets cartwheeling five times.

Former Test opener Shiv Sundar Das and P Jayachandra were among those castled by huge incoming deliveries from the beanpole, the fielders anticipating the sweet sound of ball hitting the timber and enjoying scurry to fetch the dislodged bails from far off.

Sharma, who had just two first-class five-wicket hauls prior to this match including one in a Test against Pakistan at Bangalore last year, did his best after the team management decided to play aggressively after getting back the services of their star players.

Gautam Gambhir though proved to be a big let down for the home side, getting a ‘pair’, facing only two balls in each innings. Sehwag was run out in the first innings with a top score of 17 and batted with defiance in the second to keep Delhi’s hopes alive.

Brief score: Delhi 78 all out (S Khatua 3-17, B Mohanty 3-25, D Mohanty 3-26) & 38-4 (Virender Sehwag 27*, Khatua 2-10); Orissa 80 all out (BS Pati 32, I Sharma 7-24)

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rugby Union Autumn Tests 2008 - England hope to upset All Blacks

Martin Johnson says England are looking forward to taking on New Zealand on Saturday despite going into the game on the back of two heavy defeats.

England were thrashed 42-6 by South Africa last weekend, having lost 28-14 to Australia in their previous game.

But Johnson told the BBC: "The guys have responded pretty well. It does hit your confidence when you get beat like that and you have to bounce back.

"They're just looking forward to getting out there and giving it a go."

Last weekend's defeat by South Africa was the biggest England have ever suffered at Twickenham and Saturday's encounter against the top-ranked side in the world is a daunting one.

Johnson admitted his words might sound a bit "empty" and that only a decent performance from his players on Saturday would satisfy England's worried fans.

"There's a bit of angst, a bit of frustration and a bit of tension around and there should be, we should have those feelings after how we've been beaten," said Johnson.

"What the players have done on the training field this week and how they've handled themselves has been pretty good, but it all really comes down to how they play on the field.

"New Zealand are a very good rugby team and you have to do what you do at the highest intensity and the best of your ability. We need to make sure we're in the game and make sure we don't give away soft tries and if we do, make sure we respond straight away and turn pressure into points."

New Zealand go into the game on track for a "grand slam" of wins over the four home nations, having already beaten Scotland, Ireland and Wales, but All Blacks captain Richie McCaw insisted they are not taking victory over England for granted.

"England are hurting and will want to come out and get it right," said McCaw.

So far New Zealand have not conceded a try in their Test wins on tour, or even a point in the second half of any game.

They will field their strongest available line-up at Twickenham, with centre Conrad Smith back in the starting XV after missing the victory over Wales with a groin injury.

The All Blacks' pack will be the most-capped in their history, with the starting eight having amassed 363 between them.

The England players are in no doubt they need to deliver a much-improved performance, having been booed off after their mauling by the Springboks.

England captain Steve Borthwick, whose own role has come under scrutiny, told the BBC: "We're aware of the criticism, but nobody wants to win more than the guys out there wearing the shirt.

"There was incredible disappointment [after the South Africa defeat], but we know we are improving and learning as we go.

"Last weekend was a brutal lesson but what's important is we learn from it, stick to our goals and move on. This [facing the All Blacks] is a huge challenge but a very exciting one."

Open-side flanker McCaw, who will win his 70th cap on Saturday, said he had some sympathy for England.

"We've been in a similar situation ourselves this year. We were beaten twice by the Aussies in July and it was a horrible time.

"When you get a chance to put it right, and England have a chance seven days later, that's what you have to do.

"We're expecting them to throw everything into it and they will be desperate. We have to match that intensity or else it will be a long day."

England have made three changes to the side beaten by the Boks, bringing in Toby Flood at fly-half for Danny Cipriani, who drops to the bench, and Nick Kennedy and Michael Lipman into the pack.

The athletic Kennedy will be expected to challenge the All Black jumpers at the line-out, while Australia-raised Lipman, a surprise selection ahead of Tom Rees, has the job of trying to negate McCaw's influence at the breakdown and assist Borthwick.

"You need voices, you need people to direct, work out what is going wrong and put things right on the spot," Lipman said.

"It was a little bit too quiet against South Africa but I played with Steve for a long time at Bath. We know each other very well and I will look to help him every way I can and make his job a lot easier."

Saturday's winning captain will receive a trophy from Sir Edmund Hillary's widow, Lady June, named in her husband's honour.

The Hillary Shield will be contested whenever England and the All Blacks meet in an international or Test series outside of the World Cup.

The trophy honours Sir Edmund's lifetime of achievement as a mountaineer, adventurer, humanitarian, and as Knight of the Garter. He died in January this year.


England: D Armitage; P Sackey, J Noon, R Flutey; U Monye; T Flood, D Care; T Payne, L Mears, P Vickery, S Borthwick (capt), N Kennedy, J Haskell, M Lipman, N Easter.
Replacements: D Hartley, M Stevens, T Croft, T Rees, H Ellis, D Cipriani, D Hipkiss.

New Zealand: M Muliaina; J Rokocoko, C Smith, M Nonu, S Sivivatu; D Carter, J Cowan; T Woodcock, K Mealamu, N Tialata, B Thorn, A Williams, J Kaino, R McCaw (capt), R So'oialo.
Replacements: H Elliott, J Afoa, A Boric, K Read, P Weepu, S Donald, I Toeava.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)

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Alan Shearer 'rejects Newcastle role'

Alan Shearer has turned down an invite to be on the Newcastle United coaching staff, says manager Joe Kinnear.

A week ago the 61-year-old boss said the door was "always open" for the former skipper to make a return.

"[Shearer] said it was a very kind offer but wasn't ready for it yet, and I said,'That's fine'," Kinnear said.

Having just signed a contract extension himself, Kinnear added: "There's a possibility I might bring someone else in on the coaching front now."

Former Magpies legend Shearer has been continually linked with a return to the club and admitted in September he would like to be manager.

Kinnear said last week that he was unconcerned with speculation linking Shearer the the manager's job.

"I said he would be welcome to come in any time to give the place a lift and work with our strikers," he added about Shearer, who scored 206 goals in 404 appearances.

"It was very honourable of Alan. Speculation linking him with the job is never going to go away and we're both aware of that.

"I told him he's more than welcome here and there's not a problem, there's no aggravation between us."

Kinnear arrived at St James' Park as interim boss in September following Kevin Keegan's exit.

He will now stay for another six months as owner Mike Ashley continues to try to sell the club.

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South Africa cruise to series win

South Africa needed just three days to beat Bangladesh by an innings and 48 runs and wrap up a 2-0 series win.

Shakib Al Hasan's three wickets in four balls prompted a South African mini-collapse but they ended the first innings with a lead of 179.

Bangladesh lost Imrul Kayes (5) in a brief spell batting before lunch, and three run-outs hastened their demise.

Raqibul Hasan top scored with 28 but keen-eyed fielding and a strong bowling performance saw them all out for 131.

Having resumed on 357-5 and with two players making centuries, South Africa would have hoped to have made more than only 429.

But Shakib claimed the wickets of Mark Boucher (117), and Morne Morkel and Monde Zondeki for ducks as they slid from 405-6 to 405-8, and the innings never recovered, as Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn and Ashwell Prince (162 not out) could only nudge the score forward by 24 runs.

Bangladesh had four overs to face before lunch, but it was enough time for Ntini to claim the wicket of Kayes, caught at first slip.

First innings top-scorer Junaid Siddique was targeted with a barrage of short-pitched deliveries before gloving a lifting Jacques Kallis delivery to gully for 16.

Tamim Iqbal (20) twice needed treatment after being hit on the hand before being caught out by Neil McKenzie's spectacular dive, and then captain Mohammad Ashraful was involved in two run-outs.

Hashim Amla's direct hit from backward square leg sent Mehrab Hossain back to the pavillion for a duck, and two overs later it was the captain's turn as he fell victim to Steyn's fine direct-hit throw for 21.

After Shakib Al Hasan was caught for two, Bangladesh reached tea on 96-5, but once Mushfiqur Rahim (four) was bowled by Ntini with the first ball after the restart, Bangladesh were on borrowed time.

Mashrafe Mortaza's unbeaten 23 off 21 balls delayed the inevitable, but after top scorer Raqibul was out, Zondeki polished things off by claiming the last two wickets.

Afterwards, South Africa captain Graeme Smith said he wanted to see the same kind of intensity the team had displayed in their next series, against Australia, starting in December.

"We will have all bases covered and we will be best prepared as we can be, and it will be about going out there and hopefully performing well in the field which we have done over the last year and a half," he said.

"I have every faith with every guy that comes on tour with me to do the job and produce performances to make people proud of South Africa."

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Arsenal can win league - Luiz Felipe Scolari

Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari is refusing to rule Arsenal out of the title race - even if his side beat them at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Arsene Wenger's Gunners are 10 points behind Scolari's Premier League leaders, and are down in fifth place.

But Scolari said: "Even if you're 15 points clear with five games to go, you're not champions. You're only champions at the end of the last game.

"This is a big game. Wenger's team play football, so it's difficult to win."

Scolari is looking forward to pitting his wits against his old friend Wenger in the team's first Premier League encounter of the season.

"This is the first time I'll have played against Wenger," said the Brazilian, who was appointed as Chelsea boss in June but who used to coach in Japan alongside the Frenchman in the 1990s.

"I met him for the first time in Japan - he's been my friend for 10 or 12 years now.

"I like him as a coach. If I chose five coaches in the world as the best, he'd be one of the five.

"I watched their game against Manchester United and it was one of the best games in the Premier League. This game against Chelsea will be like that as well."

Scolari goes into the game without Didier Drogba, who is serving a three-match ban for throwing a coin at Burnley fans during Chelsea's shock Carling Cup defeat.

The 30-year-old striker was back in the headlines on Monday after he reportedly met Inter Milan's sporting director Marco Branca in a Fulham restaurant to discuss a potential January transfer window move to the San Siro.

But Scolari, who left Drogba on the bench for Wednesday's Champions League draw with Bordeaux, says he believes the Ivorian is committed to Chelsea.

"Every minute in the day, I think he's happy," he added.

"He has my support every day - injured or not injured. I'm sure he's 100% committed to the club.

"All I know is that he can't play against Arsenal. I have to be thinking about the Arsenal game, not what might happen in 2010 or 2011."

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Sri Lanka dig in to beat Zimbabwe

Sri Lanka beat Zimbabwe by two wickets in Harare to extend their lead to 4-0 in the five-match one-day series.

Spinner Ajantha Mendis grabbed 6-29 as Zimbabwe were bowled out for 146, with Keith Dabengwa top-scoring with 32.

Sri Lanka lost three batsmen without scoring and slipped to 33-3 in their response, with Tawanda Mupariwa taking two wickets in successive balls.

But Jehan Mubarak's steady knock of 60 not out from 98 balls saw them pass their target with 15 balls to spare.

Sri Lanka were made to battle for the win for the second match running, after cruising to victory in the opening two matches.

The final match of the series will be played in Harare on Sunday, when Sri Lanka will be looking to secure a whitewash.

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Superb Spain take World Cup lead

Miguel Angel Jimenez and Pablo Larrazabal gave Spain a four-shot lead after day two of the World Cup.

Hitting alternate shots in the foursomes in China, the duo carded a superb nine-under round of 63 to haul themselves above Germany and Australia.

Sweden are five off the lead in fourth ahead of the United States and Ireland pair Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell.

Scotland's title defence faltered after a 73 that leaves them 17th. England are tied for 19th and Wales in last place.

Jimenez and Larrazabal, the 2008 European Tour Rookie of the Year, got off to a strong start, picking up seven strokes on the front nine with five birdies and an eagle.

They continued their impressive form on the back nine, dropping their only shot of the day at the par-five 15th.

"We complemented very well today on the golf course," said Jimenez.

"Foursomes, you know - it's the kind of thing that is very sensitive. You need to be nice and not competitive with you partner."

Germany's Martin Kaymer and Alex Cejka, who were the overnight leaders after Thursday's fourballs, carded a 68 to share second with Australia.

Scotland were 14 shots off the pace after Colin Montgomerie and Alastair Forsyth signed for a one-over-par 73.

England's Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher combined for a 74, while Bradley Dredge and Richard Johnson stuttered to a five-over 77 to leave Wales propping up the leaderboard.

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Cricketer Kabir Ali escapes terror attack

Worcestershire cricketer and former England player Kabir Ali escaped being caught up in the terror attacks in Mumbai.

Kabir was staying at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in the city, which was one of the landmarks targeted in a series of attacks by gunmen on Wednesday.

He was not at there at the time of the attacks and is expected to return to the UK soon.

He had been on holiday in India since the end of the 2008 season.

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Newcastle 17-23 Wasps - Rugby Union

Wasps won the battle of the Premiership strugglers as Dave Walder landed six penalties to give the champions just their second league win of the season.

Newcastle took an early lead as Danny Williams went over for a fine try.

Rory Clegg converted and added a penalty but five Walder penalties gave Wasps a 15-10 half-time lead.

Tom May's excellent converted try put Newcastle back in front but Walder's sixth penalty and a try from Charlie Beech secured victory for Wasps.

The two sides went into the match 10th and 11th in the table and with just three league wins between them all season.

Wasps were without a host of big names because of international calls, while Newcastle had notable absentees of their own in the form of the injured Jonny Wilkinson and Carl Hayman.

Newcastle were out of the blocks the quicker and scored a sparkling try after just four minutes.

The hosts won quick ball off the top of a line-out, 18-year-old fly-half Clegg fired an excellent pass into midfield and Tane Tu'ipulotu made a classic outside break through the Wasps defence.

The Tongan-born centre spun out a long pass to the wing and former England rugby league player Williams raced over in the corner to open the scoring, with Clegg adding a fine conversion from near the touchline.

Walder then got Wasps on the board with a penalty and although Clegg immediately replied in kind for the hosts, Wasps took control.

They dominated territory and possession and although they struggled to create try-scoring chances, four more Walder penalties saw the visitors lead at the break.

It looked ominous for the Falcons but within four minutes of the restart they had retaken the lead.

Wasps blind-side flanker Dan Leo produced a thumping hand-off but then lost the ball in contact and Newcastle countered from their own 22.

Clegg's precise chip was gathered in by May and after Steve Jones and Brent Wilson had taken the move on, May was on hand to power over the line for a spectacular 80m score.

Clegg converted to give Newcastle a two-point lead before a worrying moment as Wasps prop Pat Barnard was stretchered off after a long delay while he was treated on the pitch.

He was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure, although he was reported to be able to move his arms and legs.

Once the game restarted Wasps regained control but struggled to add to their points tally.

Walder pushed two drop-goal attempts wide but the visitors finally went back in front when Ed Williamson was penalised for a 67th-minute spear tackle.

Walder landed his sixth penalty and replacement Beech's try two minutes from time secured victory and lifted the visitors above Newcastle and Northampton into ninth.


Wasps boss Ian McGeechan:
"A win is everything, we produced some very good forward play which is why the penalties came.

"It's been very difficult playing without 12 or 13 men (away on international duty or injured) and we can now press on when we get our England boys back next week."

Falcons boss Steve Bates:
"It was a very gutsy effort.

"We will have to look at the penalty count, you cannot afford to give 15 points away for indiscipline."
Newcastle: Jones; D Williams, May, Tu'ipulotu, Rudd; Clegg, Grindal; Golding, Thompson, D Wilson, Parling, Sorenson, Williamson, B Wilson, Dowson.

Replacements: Visser for Rudd (63), Charlton for Grindal (68), Long for Thompson (51), Ward for D Wilson (63), Swinson for Parling (54).

Not Used: Perry, Davey.

Sin Bin: Williamson (68).

Wasps: Mitchell; Bishay, Lewsey, Van Gisbergen, Voyce; Walder, Reddan; French, Webber, Barnard, Skivington, Birkett, Leo, Betsen, Worsley, Staunton.

Replacements: Staunton for Voyce (67), Beech for Barnard (48), Ellis for Leo (54), Hart for Worsley (35), Hoadley for Staunton (78).

Not Used: Varley, Simpson.

Att: 5,489

Ref: Andrew Small (RFU).

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Lisa Dobriskey slams 'Russian seven'

British 1500m star Lisa Dobriskey has backed her sport's move to give longer bans to the seven Russians caught cheating before the Beijing Games.

World athletics' governing body has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the bans handed to the seven by their national federation.

The Russian federation backdated the bans to get their athletes back for next year's world championships.

"I would definitely be angry if they were able to run," said Dobriskey.

"I'd feel cheated if I had to line up against any of them in Berlin next year.

"And I speak for the majority of women's 1500m runners because it has caused quite a big stir, and not only in our event but in athletics in general."

The seven women, who include double world 1500m champion Tatyana Tomashova and 1500m indoor world record-holder Yelena Soboleva, were provisionally suspended in July, shortly before this summer's Olympics, after being found guilty of tampering with their urine samples.

The suspensions followed a year-long investigation by the sport's governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), after it had grown suspicious they were being tipped off ahead of "no-notice, out-of-competition" tests and then manipulating their samples.

A trap was sprung at last year's world championships in Osaka when DNA in samples taken from the seven did not match the DNA in their earlier samples. Five of the women were in Russia's team for Beijing.

Having denied claims of systematic doping, the All Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) caused consternation last month when it finally announced details of the bans it was dishing out.

The athletes were given the mandatory two-year bans but those suspensions were backdated to the time of those first out-of-competition tests, April and May of 2007. This meant they would be eligible to compete in Berlin in August.

The IAAF, however, wants those sanctions to start no earlier than the day the athletes were provisionally suspended. It also wants the Lausanne-based arbitration body to extend the bans beyond the mandatory two-year minimum.

"It is unacceptable that these athletes, who have committed serious and deliberate breaches of our anti-doping rules, would receive an effective ban of approximately nine to 10 months and see them eligible to compete in the summer of 2009," said IAAF president Lamine Diack.

"What is more, I consider the circumstances surrounding these cases warrants the IAAF to seek extended bans."

The 25-year-old Dobriskey, who finished fourth in the women's 1500m Olympic final in Beijing, supports Diack's stance entirely.

"It would be very damaging to the sport if they are allowed to get away with this, simply because they've obviously cheated," she said.

"They need to be punished and be seen to be punished. We need to set an example and show people who are cheating, or who are thinking about cheating, that they can't get away with it."

The Loughborough-based star said she was particularly disappointed with Tomashova, one of the favourites for Olympic gold in Beijing and an athlete she had admired for many years.

"As it stands they will have missed only one season," Dobriskey added.

"OK, I know it was an Olympic season but people miss the Olympics through injury, when they haven't done anything wrong. So I think it would be very damaging if the Russians are allowed to compete next year, and very unfair."

The other athletes in question are middle-distance runners Svetlana Cherkasova, Yulia Fomenko and Olga Yegorova, former world champion hammer thrower Gulfiya Khanafeyeva and European discus champion Darya Pischalnikova.

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Kiwi Brendon Hartley to test for Red Bull

New Zealand's Brendon Hartley will test for the Red Bull Formula One team in the wake of regular driver Mark Webber breaking his leg last week.

The Formula Three driver will join Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Buemi for testing at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain on 15 December.

Hartley, a Red Bull junior driver, recently finished third in the Macau F3 Grand Prix after starting in 20th.

The 19-year-old Hartley also set a lap record in the process.

"Brendon is one of several promising talents in the Red Bull Junior Team and an opportunity has arisen to allow him to get some time in a Formula One car," said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.

Webber broke his right leg last weekend after a collision with a car while cycling in a charity event in Tasmania.

The 32-year-old hopes to be back behind the wheel for the first test of the team's 2009 car in February. The 2009 season starts in Australia on 29 March.

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First 2012 Olympic venue unveiled - Olympics London 2012

The first purpose-built sporting venue for the London 2012 Olympics has been completed with the end of construction at Weymouth & Portland Sailing Academy.

The £15m complex, which will also host the Paralympics events, was brought in under budget and ahead of schedule.

The world-class facility will play host to 400 athletes competing in 10 Olympic sailing categories.

National Lottery has raised £375m so far for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, it was announced.

The Olympic Lottery Distributor said it had reached half of the £750m Olympics funding target it intends to raise from sales of specially-designed lottery games.

'Great news'

Ralph Luck, of the Olympic Delivery Authority, will join gold medalist Paul Goodison at the unveiling of the sailing academy later.

The British sailing team's successes at the Beijing Olympics included a haul of six medals, four of them gold.

The early completion of the venue will give Britain's competitors a chance to train "well ahead of 2012", said Lord Coe, who chairs the organising committee.

Paul Goodison, who won gold in the Laser class at Beijing, said: "We save a lot of time travelling around the world when we can get out of bed and it is here on our doorstep.

"It is a fantastic opportunity, not just for myself, but some of the youngsters to see us in 2012 and aspire to 2016."

Councillor Howard Legg, Weymouth and Portland council's special projects portfolio holder, said: "It is ahead of time, on budget and opening today.

"It is great news for the community.

"This is a real local effort, and it is not just people involved with sailing.

"We have hoteliers learning different languages to help welcome people here in their own language."

'Fantastic upgrade'

John Tweed, chief executive of Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, said: "With these enhanced facilities they [sailors] will really be able to hone their skills before the 2012 games.

"It is just a fantastic upgrade to what is already here."

A 656ft (200m) breakwater protects the new facilities with a new pier offering two yacht-lifting cranes and a pontoon providing 70 berths for race boats.

The start of construction, using 70,000 tonnes of Portland stone, was delayed to avoid disrupting the nesting season of over-wintering birds around the local coastline.

National Lottery funding will contribute a total of about £2.2bn to the Games to help fund the east London-based Olympic Stadium, a new velopark, aquatics centre, handball arena and hockey centre.

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Phil Lane ready for challenge of 2012

British Paralympic Association chief executive Phil Lane has warned that there is more hard work ahead as the team work towards London 2012.

In Beijing, Great Britain were second in the medal table behind China but Lane insists there is no room for complacency.

"We have to look at what we have achieved and be ruthless at improving standards," he said.

"We need to rise to the challenge of competing in a home Games in 2012."

Speaking at the launch of ParalympicsGB's Beijing report, Lane praised the achievements of Britain's team in China where they came away with 102 medals, including 42 golds, but warned of other nations catching up.

"This was an extraordinary performance achieved with the pressure of following a successful Olympics and in the backyard of a dominant home nation," he said.

"In what was the most competitive Games I have known, the GB team was the best prepared and best organised to leave these shores and our athletes rose magnificently to the challenge.

"But to retain our place in the medal table in the future will be a test.

"The USA have regrouped and pushed us close for second in the table, Russia are much more prominent and nations like the Ukraine, Brazil and South Africa are making huge strides.

"It means that there is more pressure on established Paralympic nations and we have to be strong and find those small margins which can keep us in front and hold off both new and old rivals."

However, with many anticipating a cut in resources when UK Sport announces the ongoing funding for Olympic and Paralympic sports next week, Lane is keen that the money is channelled in the most effective way.

He says they will need a figure in the region of £6-7m over the next four years to 'back existing winning habits and break new ground.'

"We are the envy of other nations because of what we have achieved but we want to build on our winning formula and challenge sports which didn't achieve in Beijing," he said.

Lane also added that they would be working on developing new talent and ensuring that the 2012 organisers deliver a Games current and future athletes.

But he refused to be drawn on UK Sport's hopes that the British team would be in a position to top the medal standings in London.

"There would be be no greater crowning glory than to top the medal table but we are realistic about the situation.

"We all know that if China turn up in London with the volume of numbers we know they have and with investment they will be a difficult set of opponents.

"But we will do our best to strive and if we get the funding right we will be right."

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Preview: France vs. Australia - Rugby

After a hiatus of almost three years, the national teams of Australia and France are once again gearing up to face each other in Test match rugby.

Strangely, there has been a ceasefire between France and Australia on rugby's battle fields.
The International Rugby Board's fixture schedule has curiously omitted this fixture since November 2005, when France had the laugh over Australia, courtesy of a 26-16 win in Marseille, a venue that has been a stronghold for France, especially against the Wallabies.

As has become the norm for these mid-year Tests, the touring team has sent an understrength squad out to Australia.

Of course the usual excuses prevail - France are forced to field a young, inexperienced team mostly because their top players are still involved in the French Top 14, which concludes this weekend.

It is a sad but real fact that these factors, brought on by the overload of rugby on all fronts, dilute what should be a cracking Test match.

But with players such as Clermont's Julien Bonnaire, Elvis Vermeulen and Aur鬩en Rougerie, and Toulouse's Yannick Jauzion, C餲ic Heymans, Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, and Thierry Dusautoir all playing in the Top 14 Final, France will have to take on the Aussies with the best of the rest.

And that includes two debutantes in the starting XV - wing Alexis Palisson and Biarritz prop Benoit Lecouls.

Australia on the other hand will be looking to build on their first Test experience of the season - a 18-12 victory over a determined Ireland team.

Coach Robbie Deans has spoken about the need for Australia to improve, especially in defence, after Irish fullback Robert Kearney sliced the Wallaby backline apart repeatedly.

For Deans, the Test against France will be only his second match in charge of Australia. Expect an immediate response from his charges - a coach of Deans' calibre simply won't stand for anything less.

Defensive woes aside, Australia did look good on attack in the first half against Ireland. It is a reasonably well-known fact that the Aussies do not have the world's most intimidating tight five.

For that reason, their scrum and line-outs will not be huge weapons in the foreseeable future, which means that they will not really dominate on their set-piece possession.

What it does mean though is that they are a team who will have to base their attacking game around the loose ball.

Their backline will have to be double as dangerous on the ball that they do get, and they certainly have the man at No.10 to spark that kind of quality.

Flyhalf Matt Giteau is one of the most effective backs in the game today, not only for his running skill and swerving step, but also for his vision and the way that he disrupts defences with his running angles.

All in all, Giteau is a creative spark that opens up options for Australia on attack, and also brings others into play.

There is a solid base of experience, mixed with young talent in the Aussie backline. The likes of Stirling Mortlock and Lote Tuqiri should blend well with relative newcomers like Cameron Shepherd and Peter Hynes.

Both Hynes and Shepherd proved their worth in the Super 14, and now have another chance to build their international experience.

Another plus for the Aussies is their loose forwards. In George Smith and Phil Waugh, they have two of the best flanks in the world in terms of contesting the ball at the breakdown.

What a pleasure it must be for Deans to send on Waugh on after Smith has chased himself to a standstill.

The Wallabies can also call on the mobility of Rocky Elsom at No.6, and the pure bulldozing power of Wycliff Palu at No.8.

Palu has had a fantastic Super 14 tournament, and was the steel behind the Waratahs' run to the Final.

Players to watch:

For Australia: Young Luke Burgess has certainly turned heads at the Waratahs this year. He is the clear favourite for the No.9 jersey, and is set to form a formidable partnership with Matt Giteau, who will once again be a real threat. Also look out for George Smith's industry in the loose, and captain Stirling Mortlock's direct style in midfield.

For France: Much will depend on the performance and example set by their experienced players, such as skipper Lionel Nallet, scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili and centre Damien Traille. Also look out for the rampaging physical style of French World Cup favourite S颡stien Chabal, nicknamed 'The Caveman'.

Head to head: France coach Mark Li趲emont is not scared of the unconventional, and it remains to be seen if his 'experiment' of playing Benjamin Boyet at flyhalf will work. Boyet comes up against the dynamic Matt Giteau, who will certainly be testing the French backline in every way. There will also be a battle royale on the wing, with French rookie Alexis Palisson squaring up against the imposing Lote Tuqiri. Australia will be hoping to take advantage of the understrenth French pack. Expect a battle of the front rows, as the Wallabies will hope to find a team they can shove around.

Recent results: 2005: France won 26-16, Marseille 2005: Australia won 37-31, Brisbane 2004: France won 27-14, Paris 2002: Australia won 31-25, Sydney 2002: Australia won 29-17, Melbourne 2001: France won 14-13, Marseille 2000: Australia won 18-13, Paris 1999: Australia won 35-12, Cardiff (WC Final) 1998: Australia won 32-21, Paris 1997: Australia won 26-19, Brisbane

Prediction: France will be unpredictable as always, and will probably play the match in an adventurous spirit. But Australia will be too organised and too slick for this hastily assembled touring group. Aussies to win by 13 points.

The teams:

Australia: 15 Cameron Shepherd, 14 Peter Hynes, 13 Stirling Mortlock (captain), 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 George Smith, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 James Horwill, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson. Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Dean Mumm, 19 Phil Waugh, 20 Sam Cordingley, 21 Ryan Cross, 22 Adam Ashley-Cooper.

France: 15 P鰩to Elhorga, 14 Alexis Palisson, 13 Damien Traille, 12 Fran篩s Trinh-Duc, 11 Benjamin Thi鲹 , 10 Benjamin Boyet, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Louis Picamoles, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 S颡stien Chabal, 4 Lionel Nallet (captain), 3 BenoLecouls, 2 S颡stien Bruno, 1 Lionel Faure. Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Renaud Boyoud, 18 David Couzinet, 19 Mathieu Li趲emont, 20 S颡stien Tillous-Borde, 21 Thibault Lacroix, 22 David Janin.

Date: Saturday, June 28 Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney Kick-off: 20.05 (10.05 GMT) Conditions: Fine. High 15?C, Low 12?C. Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa) Touch judges: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa), Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand) TMO: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

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Don't force players to return to India:Nasser Hussain

Kevin Pietersen and his men should not be forced into returning to India for next month's Test series if their security fears don't subside, said former England captain Nasser Hussain as he urged the ECB to take a call on the matter without delay.

England abandoned the one-day series which it was trailing 0-5, by cancelling the remaining two matches in the wake of the terror strike in Mumbai.

But both the BCCI and the ECB say they are confident of the two-match Test series going ahead as scheduled next month.

But Hussain felt the ECB should first ask the players whether they want to return to India.

"If the rumours are true and they are not intending to return, it is imperative they (the ECB officials) make an announcement to that effect as soon as they arrive back.

"If they have decided to abandon the tour for safety reasons, that shows they are taking their duty of care for the players seriously," he added.

Hussain praised the ECB for the way it has handled the situation so far and called on the administrators to continue being decisive in their decisions.

"This is exactly what the ECB needed to do -- take decisive action straightaway so the players weren't left stewing in their hotel. They have shown strong leadership but must carry on being strong when they get home," he was quoted as saying by 'Daily Mail'.

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British media lambast Modi for "insensitivity"

BCCI vice-President Lalit Modi was chastised on Friday by the British media for suggesting that England's cricketers should return to India for next month's Test series despite their heightened security fears in the wake of Mumbai terror attacks.

England abandoned the one-dayers, calling off the last two games of the seven-match series, due to the deadly terror strikes in Mumbai which left over 100 dead.

Modi, who is also the commissioner of the cash-rich Indian Premier League, had stated on Thursday that he was confident about Kevin Pietersen and Co returning for next month's two Test matches, one of which is scheduled in Mumbai.

The comments were denounced by the media here with wide-selling tabloid 'The Daily Mail' describing him as "crass and insensitive".

"It is highly unlikely England will return whatever the cost to the ECB's relationship with the Indian board and, specifically, Lalit Modi, the Indian administrator who pulls the strings here. He had earlier shown crass insensitivity by announcing that the series would go ahead as new explosions were taking place in Mumbai.

"It was as if the Indian administrator who is taking over the game was determined to make it as difficult as possible for England to make their escape, as if his insensitivity in proclaiming to Sky and the BBC that the tour must go ahead was intended to cause maximum disruption to England and the man he has very much under his thumb, ECB chairman Giles Clarke," the 'Daily Mail' said.

The 'Daily Telegraph' was equally scathing in its criticism of Modi calling him a "single-minded character".

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Cricket needs India despite blasts: Michael Kasprowicz

The mayhem in Mumbai notwithstanding, world cricket simply cannot afford to stay away from India, according to former Australia pacer Michael Kasprowicz.

The Mumbai terror attacks has already seen the India vs England ODI series being abruptly truncated while the inaugural Champions League has also been postponed.

Kasprowicz, however, believes that irrespective of what happened in Mumbai, world cricket simply cannot do away with India.

"It's impossible to describe how big cricket in India is to an Australian," said Kasprowicz, who plays in the Indian Cricket League which also was postponed following the attacks.

"They love the game and international cricket cannot afford to leave them out of the game," he told Australian Associated Press (AAP), a news agency here.

He, however, felt that now the visiting teams would put more importance on pre-tour recce, which is already a norm with most.

"It's become a very important thing in world cricket and I know as far as players and player associations are concerned it's almost naturally part of any tour these days.

"The thing is at the end of the day it's just a game and it shouldn't be anything more than that," he said.

Recalling a similar incident in his career, Kasprowicz said, "In England in 2005 we were heading to London the next day after the bombings happened and we sat down and spoke about it and a lot of us said 'that's it, time to go home'."

"It wasn't until security was increased and we were assured of our safety before the decision was made to keep the tour going," he recalled.

On his ICL career, the Australian said he was not in any hurry to take a decision.

"My next ICL season doesn't start until March and that's a long way off so I don't know what the situation will be then," he said.

"Being honest with a family you certainly have to think about these things but at this stage I don't want to be rushing into any decisions," he said.

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Shane Warne, Rajasthan Royals stand by terror-hit Mumbai

Spin legend Shane Warne and the Rajasthan Royals team today expressed shock at the Mumbai terror attacks and said they stand by the city in its hour of crisis.

"We are disappointed to not be playing (in Champions League) but right now our thoughts are with the people affected by this tragedy," Warne, captain-coach of Rajasthan Royals, said in a statement.

Warne was on his way to Mumbai for the now-postponed Champions Twenty20 League but once he heard about the attacks, he stayed put in Singapore before deciding to return home.

Royals chairman Manoj Badale also expressed shock at the attacks and said, "We are deeply saddened by the tragic incidents that took place in Mumbai on Wednesday. We think of Mumbai as a second home for the Royals, and we all feel terrible right now for the wonderful people of Mumbai who make it such a vibrant city."

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‘I got courage as Team India was praying for me’

BCCI auditor, who was trapped at the Taj hotel, recounts his horror story

It was just another night, he thought, when he checked into the Taj Palace in Colaba. He switched on the TV and watched Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar toy with the English attack. He called a friend in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) office to say how Viru was making mincemeat of the England bowlers but before he could complete the sentence he had realised that he could himself fall to the fire of the terrorists.

When his friends, who were giving finishing touches to the Champions League work, broke the news of the terror attack, he was speechless. He did not know what to do but he knew what not to do. “I didn’t want to create panic among family members. I didn’t want to tell them of my predicament,” PB Srinivasan, an auditor of the BCCI, recalled.

He dialled the reception, which advised him to stay inside. He tried to follow the developments on TV but soon the network was blacked out in the hotel.

Using his phone he kept in touch with his friends in the BCCI, among whom was Sundar Raman, the CEO of the Champions League. Then, he got a call from the Indian team’s assistant manager Russell Radhakrishnan. “The entire Team is praying for you,” Russell told Srinivasan from the Team India hotel in Bhubaneswar.

“It gave me a lot of courage and encouragement. I decided to wait till the army or commandos come to rescue my rescue,” he said. Soon, he realised that the fifth floor of the building was in flames and he was on the third floor. He lost hope and tried to escape through the emergency fire exit. But his friends in the BCCI office suggested that he open the window and switch on the lights. He did exactly that and waved for help from his room.

The fire brigade immediately came to his rescue. They evacuated him with the help of a crane. He was then given a lift to the Cricket Centre by a Good Samaritan at around 3 am. From there they went to a Union Minister’s house whose daughter has also been part of the Champions League work. In the morning he spoke to the Board bosses Shashank Manohar and N Srinivasan before leaving to Chennai thinking was it just another night.

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Shoaib Malik lacks Dhoni-style leadership qualities: Mohammad Yousuf

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's out-of-the-box thinking has earned him another admirer in banned batsman Mohammad Yousuf who feels Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malik lacks the leadership qualities of the Indian skipper.

Disappointed with the shabby treatment meted to him by Pakistan Cricket Board and especially by skipper Malik, Yousuf, one of finest middle-order batsman, rejoined the ICL earlier this month.

Although he still nurtures the desire of donningnational colours, Yousuf said he was left with no option but to join the ICL by PCB and Malik.

"There is no point in playing for a team when your captain is not supportive and doesn't want you. A captain has to lead by example with his performance like Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He should have man-management skills while dealing with seniors, but Malik lacks those qualities," Yousuf said.

The 2007 Wisden Cricketer of the Year also held former Chairman Nasim Ashraf-led PCB regime responsible for the slump of the game in Pakistan.

"The earlier PCB regime did little for the development of the game in the country, but the new set up is desperate to bring about a change."

Yousuf, who has made 6,770 Test and 9,242 ODI runs till date, also lambasted the previous selection committee and cried foul over all-rounder Abdul Razzaq and his exclusion from the national side.

"There are few players in the ICL Pakistan team like Imran Nazir, Imran Farhat, Abdul Razzaq and myself who can represent the national side at any time.

"I was shocked by Razzaq's exclusion from the Twenty20 side. He has great potential. To add to that, even after a series of good performance, the selectors dropped me from the team and that was not acceptable to me," he said.

He also lauded the new PCB regime under Ejaz Butt for appointing former skipper Javed Miandad as the Director General of the Board.

"Javedbhai was a great batsman and he is the perfect person for the job. He only can bring back Pakistan team back on track."

The prolific run-machine was in full praise for his present employed, ICL and said, "It is not fair to ban ICL players from playing for their national team. The league is only helping youngsters hone their skills and prepare themselves for the bigger platform."

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Test series should go ahead as per schedule: Ian Botham , Mike Atherton

Legendary all-rounder Ian Botham and cricketer-turned-journalist Mike Atherton have backed ECB's decision that England team should return to India to play the Test series as per schedule and said it would be a shame if the Board scraps the series.

"Terrorism is something that we as a world need to stand up against and fight. It is sadly something we've got to live with and we have done so in places like England and India for many years," Botham said.

"As far as England's cricket tour goes, they have to take advice from the people around them but I think it would be a crying shame if they are forced to call things off at the
hands of terrorists," he wrote in his column for the 'Mirror'.

"We don't succumb to it in England and I do believe that if the team have the assurances of safety and security then why shouldnt they play?" he added.

The former England captain was all praise for ECB for deciding to go ahead with the Test series despite the terror attack in Mumbai which left over 100 people dead.

"It is a difficult time for the England squad and they will feel uneasy about what has happened. I can understand why they will head home and take stock for a few days, but the news that they are planning on returning to play the Tests is encouraging."

"We have to remember what happened in 2005 when a bomb went of in England during the Ashes tour, but the Australians remained and continued with their series," Botham said.

"Our cricket team are full of character and now they will get a chance to clear their heads before the Test series is scheduled to begin," he said.

Another former England captain Mike Atherton said the decision to return home was "understandable" but hoped that the Test series would go on.

"Understandably, cricketers decided yesterday that they didn't want much to do with it all. The one-day series was abandoned and the senior players, as well as the development squad, will come home.

"So while it may seem inappropriate to say so right now, I hope the Test series in two weeks' time can still go ahead. Unless the Foreign Office advice is to stay at home, it shall certainly be going," he said.

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