Big weekend at motocross open

Written by admin on 09/07/2018 Categories: 南京夜网

Big weekend at motocross open A Grade and B Grade riders line up for the start of the Senior Lites race. Picture: Amy Paton
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Geelong rider Layla Norton builds up speed. Picture: Amy Paton

Geelong rider Aaron Murphy at his highest point. Picture: Amy Paton

The start of the A grade and B grade Senior Lites race. Picture: Amy Paton

Horsham rider Bailey Thomas jumps the highest part of the course. Picture: Amy Paton

Horsham rider Cory Watts gives a wave as he speeds by. Picture: Amy Paton

Geelong rider Peter Kearney followed by Blue Rock MCC rider Hayden Joyce. Picture: Amy Paton

Bendigo rider Toby Frisch. Picture: Amy Paton

Bacchus Marsh rider Jordan Brown. Picture: Amy Paton

A rider passes over a peak in the course. Picture: Amy Paton

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DNA in rape cold case links Perth man to New Zealand attacks

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A police image compiled from descriptions of a serial rapist operating in Hamilton in 2007. Photo: Supplied A woman who was raped by Hamilton’s serial rapist revisits the scene near the main street. Photo: Iain McGregor/Fairfax NZ
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The press conference about the 2007 serial rapist case will be held at the Hamilton Central Police Station. Photo: Bruce Mercer/Fairfax NZ

Police have linked a man found dead in Perth with the rape of at least three women in New Zealand in 2007.

Details of the breakthrough were revealed by Detective Inspector Chris Page during a press conference in Hamilton on Wednesday.

The offender left New Zealand in 2008 at the age of 28, Page said. He had been working as a bouncer at a Hamilton bar. He was identified through DNA lodged through Interpol in 2015, which was matched to the body found in Perth.

It is only the DNA evidence that relates the man to the investigation into the 2007 serial rapist case, which Hamilton police dubbed Operation Phil. Page said that in May 2013, the same man was arrested in Australia for a non-sexual minor offence.  It was at that point DNA was taken.

The man died in non-suspicious circumstances in July 2013 – weeks after his DNA was taken – and police would not be releasing his name. However, they did say the Operation Phil file would be closed.

Operation Phil was investigating the rapes in 2007 of three women in Hamilton in as many months, all tied to the same offender.

On Wednesday morning, one of the three victims said a detective had informed her the suspect had been found dead by his own hand in Australia.

She spoke out six months after the 2007 attack in an effort to shed new light on the police investigation.

The then 43-year-old from Hamilton said the attack left her traumatised.

She was the third of the man’s alleged victims but unlike the first two, was not coaxed into a car by the young man.

Instead she said she was approached as she sat in the central business district in the early hours of a Saturday morning.

She had been drinking at home and had gone to a 24-hour cafe in the city to buy food and cigarettes when the man sat down beside her in Victoria Street.

“I said to him, do you know where to get any tinnies from? He said, yeah, come with me. He wasn’t scary looking or anything. I wasn’t worried at the time.”

The man, who was in his 20s with shoulder-length blond hair, led the woman behind a building on the river side of the street, where he suddenly demanded she get on her knees.

After sexually violating and raping the woman, he smacked her in the head and punched her in the face.

When the offender finally fled, the woman found a couple who helped her call police from a pay-phone.

In January 2008, he said police had been working through a process of elimination from a list of more than 1000 names since the attacks began in April 2007.

Family background inquiries had gone as far afield as Australia, he said, but no single suspect was believed to have fled across the Tasman.

“I’m confident we will get this guy . . .” he said then, “but it’s going to take time.”

– Stuff.co.nz

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Malaysian PM Najib Razak’s gift of millions from Saudi Arabia to be probed

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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has returned almost all the money. Photo: Lai Seng SinNajib got nearly $1bn ‘personal donation’ from Saudis
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Bangkok: Saudi Arabia says it will investigate a claim by Malaysia’s Attorney-General that embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak returned US$620 million ($881 million) to Saudi’s royal family from his personal bank account in 2013.

The failure of Saudi authorities to immediately confirm the transfer has deepened mystery about US$700 million that was transferred into Mr Najib’s personal bank account.

Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi said the money was an entirely legal “personal donation” from the Saudi family which asked for nothing in return.

But amid a furore over the escalating scandal that has engulfed Mr Najib his critics said it was implausible the money came as a personal donation.

A spokesperson for the Saudi Foreign Ministry said no further comment would be made at the moment about the claim by Mr Apandi, who said on Tuesday he had ordered the country’s anti-corruption commission to close an investigation into the money transfers.

Saudi Arabia King Abdullah died a year ago.

Mr Najib on Wednesday ignored a barrage of criticism for failing to explain key questions about the money, saying only in a statement the controversy “has been an unnecessary distraction for the country.”

“Now that the matter has been comprehensively put to rest, it is time to unite move on,” he said.

However opposition politicians are demanding to know what happened to US$61 million that, according to Mr Apandi, was not sent back to the Saudi Royal family from Mr Najib’s account.

They also want to know who specifically donated the money, why it was donated and why it took more than six months for the government to say where the money came from.

The Wall Street Journal has reported the money flowed to Mr Najib’s account through an anonymous British Virgin Islands company and a Swiss private bank account wholly owned by an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund that is intertwined with Malaysia’s heavily indebted sovereign fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, which Mr Najib established in 2009 and still oversees through chairmanship of an advisory committee.

The closest Mr Najib has come to explaining the money came in a statement issued hours after Mr Apandi’s announcement.

“I appreciate that political funding is a topic of concern to many people,” Mr Najib said, adding that opposition MPs had blocked party funding reform proposals he had initiated in 2010.

“I have instructed them to be put forward again for discussion,” he said.

Authorities in the United States and several other countries are continuing to investigate the money transfers and links to the 1Malaysia fund that is struggling to pay US$11 billion in debts and is selling off assets.

Mr Apandi’s announcement, which was greeted with widespread scepticism and derision, has intensified pressure on Mr Najib to resign, including from within the ranks of his long-ruling United Malays National Organisation.

Leading opposition MP Rafizi Ramli said the announcement had only made the situation “more ridiculous” and described the prime minister as a “clown”.

“This can only happen in fairytales,” he said.

National Human Rights Society president Ambiga Sreenevasan said Malaysians were entitled to know the reasons why Mr Apandi has shut down the investigation.

“So far as I can see, the explanation given is not enough because at the end any explanation must make sense and this doesn’t make sense,” she said.

Veteran newspaper editor and commentator A Kadir Jasin said Mr Najib may be safe from prosecution now “but despite the Attorney-General closing the case, the court of public opinion will continue to try him.”

“As for all of us, we have to do some serious soul searching if we care for this country and its future,” he said.

As well asserting that Mr Najib had received the money from the Saudi family, Mr Apandi said there was “no evidence” that the prime minister “had any knowledge” of about US$10 million that was transferred into his accounts from a company owned by the Finance Ministry known as SRC, which handles the savings of Malaysian government employees.

Mr Najib was “of the belief” that any of the money he spent had come from the Saudi royal family, Mr Apandi said.

Mr Apandi was appointed Attorney-General by Mr Najib when the incumbent attorney-general abruptly stepped down after the scandal broke last year.

In October Mr Apandi rejected the recommendations of Malaysia’s central bank to begin criminal proceedings against 1Malaysia Development Berhad for allegedly breaking foreign-exchange laws, saying there was insufficient evidence.

The fund is facing an auditor general’s probe into its affairs.

-With agencies

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Allan Border Medal: Warner savours top awards as reward for turning career, life around

Written by admin on 19/06/2019 Categories: 南京夜网

Honourable: Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja and David Warner arrive at the 2016 Allan Border Medal ceremony at Crown Palladium. Photo: Zak KaczmarekDavid Warner says winning the top two awards at the Allan Border Medal is further vindication of the work he has put in over the past two and a half years to turn his career and and life around after some high-profile stumbles.
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The result for Warner, winning Australian cricket’s top individual awards ahead of Steve Smith, completes a momentous five-month period that began with his elevation to vice-captain of the Test and one-day teams.

While Warner only only has another two days in Australia before flying to New Zealand for the looming series, he said he’d divert from his normal practice to “let it all sink in, and tell myself you’re actually doing a very, very good job”.

“It’s something that a lot of people who know me [will know] I don’t actually do often … try and applaud myself for things I’ve done. In the past two or three years I really have turned the corner, and it’s something I’m really, really proud of,” Warner said, after winning the Allan Border Medal and Test Player of the Year awards for the first time.

“I wouldn’t ever have regrets about the past. You have to learn somehow and in some way, and I’ve learned my lesson. From now, it’s onwards and upwards and still trying to be the best I can … on and off the field.”

The 29-year-old praised his wife Candice for helping to “pull my head out of my backside”, and become more disciplined.

“I owe a lot of credit to her for keeping me on that straight and narrow,” he said.

Warner also credited much of his revival, since being stood down from the start of the 2013 Ashes for disciplinary reasons, to fitness trainer Wayne Geber.

He started the home Test season superbly, scoring two centuries and a double-century against the Black Caps. A punishing regime of running and sprint training while sidelined with a fractured thumb after the Ashes provided a solid base for success.

“It was either sit on the couch and moan about my broken thumb or do something about it,” he said.

“That’s something that really held me in good stead for this summer … I thought I had to be really hungry to score and start well given the lots of half-centuries in England. Missing out in the first innings made me really hungry and determined to try and switch back on, score big runs and start the summer well.”

Warner maintained his primary focus was not individual success, but team success. If Australia can win next month’s two-Test series in New Zealand they will snare the No.1 Test ranking – and the $1 million prizemoney that goes with it.

The other men to win awards were Glenn Maxwell as One-Day Player of the Year, Adam Voges as Domestic Player of the Year and South Australia batsman Alex Ross as the Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year.

The top women’s award, the Belinda Clark Medal, was snared for the first time by Ellyse Perry, ending the two-year streak of Southern Stars captain Meg Lanning.

Perry, 25, was particularly appreciative for the influence of her father Mark, who she said had taught her to play from when she was about six, “and still helps me out to this day”.

The all-rounder led Australia for runs and wickets in the period. She said she was proud of her emergence in the batting ranks, having been given a No.4 berth in all formats, but it had not come at the expense of her fast-bowling prowess.

“It was really nice to have success with the ball and more opportunity with the bat, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed as well,” she said.

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Australian Open 2016: Raonic outguns Monfils to book semi-final spot with Murray

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Historic win: A delighted Milos Raonic is the first Canadian to make it through to an Australian Open semi-final. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Respect: Gael Monfils congratulates Milos Raonic after his quarter-final victory. Photo: Michael Dodge
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Fan favourite: Milos Raonic signs autographs after the match. Photo: Aaron Favila

 Before he can think about conquering past tormentors Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer, Andy Murray has another sizeable obstacle in the semi-finals: Milos Raonic.

Raonic overpowered the mercurial, but flighty Gael Monfils 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach his second grand slam semi-final.

Murray’s quest for an Australian Open title has foundered four times in the final at the hands of either Djokovic or Federer. This time, the Scot first has to defuse one of the most potent weapons in tennis: the Raonic serve.

Raonic is the upstart among the usual suspects in last four at Melbourne Park, with Djokovic, Murray and Federer ranked 1-3 and carrying an aggregate of 29 major titles.

But Raonic’s victory over Stan Wawrinka confirmed the Canadian’s capabilities of beating anyone on a given day. The question has long been whether he can sustain the “any given” match level for long enough to pinch a grand slam title.

Raonic is far from a one dimensional player, who can merely send down thunderbolts from a height (he’s 196cm). His serve is backed up by a hefty forehand, his volleying has improved, and his backhand, once questionable, is now more than adequate.

If Murray v Raonic is less enticing than Djokovic v Federer, it still presents as an attractive contrast between Murray, a great defender and returner of serve, against Milos the power-serving Monster.

For Raonic, whose upset of Wawrinka in the round of 16 delivered the only deviation from seedings, Murray represents a significant rise in class compared with Monfils.

In a power-laden match played under a closed roof, there were relatively few break points or long rallies. Raonic’s serve and greater reliability was enough to see him through to his second grand slam semi-final.

The Canadian broke serve only three times in the match, which was more than sufficient. Monfils made little imprint on the bionic Raonic serve, which delivered many “free” points. Too many.

Raonic said Murray loomed as a “great challenge”, that he believed he was capable of meeting. “I have it in myself to find a solution,” said the Canadian, the first male of his nation to reach this major’s semis.

Raonic also felt he had benefited from the closure of the roof.

While Monfils served okay, he simply didn’t do enough on return.

The Frenchman, who had opened in flamboyant style with a pair of aces, suffered his first, largely self-inflicted wound in the fourth game when a pair of double faults contributed to the first break of serve of the match.

Raonic does not need many breaks. His first serve averages more than 200 km/h and the quicker ones are 225-235km/h; so unless you have the reflexes of Andre Agassi, the receiver’s best option is to guess which way the ball’s headed.

Further, nearly everyone who plays Raonic (excepting Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, Murray) accepts that break points will not be plentiful and that such rare occasions must be seized.

Monfils had only one break point in the opening two sets and, importantly, managed to convert it. In the balance of play, he always seemed to lag – Raonic had more break opportunities (4) to this point and was obviously under far less strain on serve.

After the third set, any suspense ceased. Monfils had only one further break point for the remainder of the match. The Raonic serve, comparable in potency if less precise than that of his former idol Pete Sampras, was the decisive factor.

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Graham Arnold stands by defensive tactics that nearly “stifled” Victory

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Standing firm: Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold isn’t worried by criticism. Photo: Christopher PearceBoring, boring Arnie. The Sydney FC boss used to be the grumpiest man in the A-League – now he’s been labelled as a defensive grinch. Is it fair?
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Kevin Muscat certainly thinks so. The Melbourne Victory boss left no doubt what he thought of Graham Arnold’s tactics in the 1-0 win for the reigning champions at Etihad Stadium on Australia Day.

“It wasn’t the prettiest game to watch, but we were trying our hardest to make the game entertaining,” Muscat said.

“I thought, with what we had to do, the three points should have been ours without doubt. Ultimately there was one team trying to win and one team trying not to lose.”

Not too many coaches have been brave enough to take on Arnold in the verbal jousting this season but Muscat believes his team didn’t just win, but gained a moral superiority.

When contacted by Fairfax Media on Wednesday, Arnold was reluctant to be drawn into a slanging match with Muscat but was moved to defend the way his team played.

“Last year, we conceded nine goals against Melbourne Victory – three times they scored three and one scoreless. This year, in our first game, we conceded four goals and lost 4-2,” he said.

“That’s 13 goals in four games, all from playing open and leaving their front four free. So why would I do it again? It would have been crazy. I’m not that stupid to think we didn’t need to stifle them.”

The criticism of Arnold has been pointed, not only because of Tuesday’s tactics but because of the way the team played in the Sydney derby.

On that occasion, the Sky Blues sat back, absorbed wave after wave of the Wanderers’ forward thrusts, scored a goal of their own and, despite the Wanderers’ equalising in the second half, managed to conjure up a late winner.

While criticism was levelled at Sydney for the way they played on that occasion, Arnold said the result proved his decision right.

When it came time to formulating plan to stop Victory, with an attack boasting the likes of Besart Berisha, Fahid Ben Khalfallah, Kosta Barbarouses, Gui Finkler and Archie Thompson, Arnold had no quandary in using the same system that blunted the Wanderers.

“If you look at nearly all the goals that we conceded against Melbourne over the past four matches, they were turnovers of possession in our half that resulted in goals,” he said.

“They were turnovers – errors, basically – not from build-up or possession or attacking plays. We prevented them from scoring, so it worked. They only goal they got was an own goal.”

Statistically, points can be made either way based on Tuesday night – and probably depend on one’s preferred shade of blue.

In Arnold’s defence, Sydney had 50 per cent of territory on the night, meaning they were hardly locked in their own half. They also had 46 per cent of possession, had only one less shot (nine against eight) than Victory and actually had one more shot on target (three against two).

On the contrary, Melbourne Victory had 11 corners to Sydney’s one, made 106 more passes (395 to 289) and had superior passing accuracy (86 per cent to 76 per cent). Sydney were forced to make almost twice as many tackles (21 to 11) as Melbourne.

Ultimately, the story of Sydney’s season can still be told in their for and against column – 21 goals scored in 16 games (the worst of any team in the top six) and 14 conceded (the league’s best).

As it happens, the Sky Blues face Brisbane Roar on Saturday night at home, a fixture that produced arguably the worst match of the season when the two teams met earlier in the year at the same venue – a dour 0-0 draw.

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Father Rupen Datta who lost wife and three children in horror crash in India dies in hospital

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Anamika Datta died in the crash. Photo: Facebook Anamika and Rupen Datta were on a six-week trip to India with their children. Photo: Facebook
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Rupen Datta died in hospital two weeks after the horrific crash that killed his wife, three children and sister-in-law in India. Photo: Facebook

An Australian father whose wife and three children were killed in a horrific crash in India has died in hospital two weeks after the tragic accident.

Rupen Datta initially survived the crash on the Yamuna Expressway that killed his wife Anamika, their three children – daughters Neetika and Pipasa, aged 12 and 15, and son Tirvijai, 20 – and Anamika’s sister Sonia, 25, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on 10 January.

But friends and family have been plunged into mourning again after Mr Datta, restaurant owner from Adelaide, died in hospital in the Indian capital Delhi on Monday morning.

“My friend Rupen Dutta passed away this morning in Delhi,” a friend of the family told Fairfax Media.

“It’s just so sad and feels like complete waste of life … The whole family’s gone now, all 5 of them.

“RIP dear Rupen and Anamika, and the kids,” they said.

A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said consular assistance was being provided to the family of an Australian man who died in India.

“Due to privacy obligations, we are unable to provide further comment,” the DFAT spokesperson said.

Mr Datta suffered serious head injuries and was receiving treatment in hospital, a family friend said shortly after the crash, adding that “my heart is breaking for all the friends, colleagues, family”.

The family had left the Indian city of Delhi and were driving towards the Taj Mahal along the six-lane Expressway.

Mrs Datta’s father, identified by Indian police as NK Paliwal, and the driver, Shambhu Paswan, were also in the Toyota Qualis.

Mr Paliwal was taken to hospital but suffered a heart attack and died after he was told that his two daughters and three grandchildren had died in the crash, a family friend Anand Bhatia told the ABC.

Police said one of the vehicle’s tyres burst about 3.30pm, local time, causing the vehicle to crash into a safety barrier, then a road divider, before the vehicle overturned and landed on the incorrect side of the highway. A number of the victims were thrown from the vehicle in the crash, police said.

Residents of a nearby village tried to help the family before police arrived, but the two women and two girls died at the scene. Tirvijai was taken to Mathura Hospital where he died a short time later, police said.

Mr Datta, originally from Delhi, had owned the Urban India restaurant in Mile End in Adelaide’s inner west for the past 10 years, an employee said.

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China, US agree to push for UN resolution on North Korea

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Beijing: China has resisted calls from US Secretary of State John Kerry for tougher trade sanctions against North Korea, but agreed to pursue a new United Nations Security Council resolution to rein in the hermit state’s nuclear activities.
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Emerging after a four-hour meeting in Beijing they both described as “constructive” and “candid”, Mr Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi nonetheless presented sharply contrasting positions on how to respond to North Korea’s latest nuclear bomb test, as well as rising tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Describing North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme as an “overt threat, a declared threat to the world”, Mr Kerry had hoped to sway Beijing into supporting new punitive measures reportedly including bans on Chinese oil exports, North Korean mineral imports, and flights between the two nations.

“All nations, particularly those who seek a global leadership role, or have a global leadership role, have a responsibility to deal with this threat,” Mr Kerry said.

But Mr Wang said while China agreed on pushing for a new UN resolution, “our position will not be swayed by specific events or the temporary mood of the moment”.

“Sanctions are not an end in themselves,” he said. “The new resolution should not provoke new tension in the situation, much less destabilise the Korean peninsula”.

China remains a key ally and trade partner of North Korea, despite an increasingly volatile Kim Jong-un regime claiming the successful test of a hydrogen bomb earlier this month. While frequently criticised for not using its leverage more effectively, Beijing’s long-held position has been to support a diplomatic resolution, believing tougher measures could back an already dangerously volatile North Korea into a corner.

“There is zero chance that Beijing would agree to the [US] proposal,” said Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Renmin University. “It would cause China to lose all flexibility in handling North Korea and would turn it to a permanently hostile state sitting on the Chinese border.”

An editorial by the official Xinhua news agency said while exacerbating the situation on the Korean peninsula was “deplorable”, it boiled down to “Uncle Sam’s uncompromising hostility … flaring up the country’s sense of insecurity and thus pushing it towards reckless nuclear brinkmanship”.

Mr Kerry, who is also due to meet with President Xi Jinping, arrived in Beijing on Tuesday night, the final stop on an eight-day diplomatic mission which also took in stops in Cambodia and Laos. There, he called on ASEAN countries to present a united front in dealing with China’s increasing assertiveness over disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea.

In Beijing on Thursday, Mr Kerry called on China to halt its rapid programme of land reclamation and construction of airstrips, which has alarmed the region’s smaller neighbours. Mr Wang reasserted China’s position that it was doing nothing more than protecting its territorial sovereignty, and had no interest in militarising the islands.

Tensions in the strategic waters, which see $US5 trillion in world trade pass through each year, have flared persistently. Recent developments include China’s movement of an oil rig back into an area disputed with Vietnam, and warnings against a Philippines overflight.

On Wednesday, tensions came from a more unlikely source, with Taiwan’s outgoing president Ma Ying-jeou announcing he would visit the Taiwan-administered Itu Aba, or Taiping, in the Spratly archipelago on Thursday. The island is also claimed by China, the Philippines and Vietnam.

“Such an action is extremely unhelpful and does not contribute to the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea,” said Sonia Urbom, a spokeswoman from the American Institute in Taiwan, which functions as the de facto US embassy in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

Mr Ma’s office said an invitation was also extended to Democratic Progressive Party leader and president-elect Tsai Ing-wen to send a representative. The DPP, which clinched a landslide election victory earlier this month, said it had no plans to do so.

with agencies

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New Zealand to prepare decent track for NSW-WA shield match despite Blacktown pitch fiasco

Written by admin on 19/05/2019 Categories: 南京夜网

Rod Marsh joked about it but New Zealand Cricket have promised there will be no “stitch up” next week in retaliation to the Blacktown pitch debacle which ruined the Black Caps’ preparation for this summer’s Test series with Australia.
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NZ officials insist there will be no dodgy wicket for the Sheffield Shield match between NSW and Western Australia at Christchurch’s Lincoln University, which is a key plank in Australia’s preparation for next month’s return bout.

With no official tour game planned, the shield fixture is the closest thing to a warm-up game leading into the two-Test series. Test wicketkeeper Peter Nevill, Nathan Lyon and Adam Voges are playing in the match, which will be their only chance to adjust to NZ conditions.

The rest of Australia’s Test squad will be either playing in the one-day series in NZ or taking part in shield games in Australia.

The Black Caps’ preparation for the Test series in Australia was jeopardised after a four-day tour game was called off after less than four sessions due to the unsatisfactory nature of the Blacktown pitch.

The surface, described as a “jigsaw with half the pieces missing” by NZ coach Mike Hesson, was also likened to one expected in the Middle East – hardly ideal before a Test at the lightning fast Gabba.

Nevill, Lyon and Voges, however, can rest easy confident they will get a decent hit out next week with their states. The Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln University, is not Christchurch’s premier venue but is internationally accredited and is home to NZC’s High Performance Centre.

“My understanding with Blacktown is it’s difficult to get up early season there, I  think everyone regrets having scheduled there,” NZC’s cricket manager Lindsay Crocker said.

“Lincoln is a different can of beans, those difficulties don’t exist in Lincoln.”

NZC hold no grudge with Cricket Australia over the Blacktown episode, saying their counterpart had worked hard to find alternate preparation for the visitors.

“I’m not sure we were deliberately stitched up, we just couldn’t get a match,” Crocker said. “It’s not our intention to stitch anyone up here.

“I don’t think we will see anything untoward.”

Crocker said that while conditions will not be identical to Wellington’s Basin Reserve, the venue for the first Test, the pitch for the shield game would be a “typical South Island New Zealand wicket”.

“It is a good quality NZ-style pitch so it doesn’t have the massive turn of Asia or the high bounce of Australia,” Crocker said.

“Its characteristics will be easy paced and will last.”

While Australia have been dominant at home in Test cricket, they have struggled on the road with losses in England and the Middle East in the past 18 months.

Pitches across the Tasman are expected to provide more assistance to the bowlers than the benign decks rolled out for the home summer.

Australia’s preparation is far from ideal but Marsh did not believe it would be a factor in how Steve Smith’s men will fare in the Tests.

“I’m not too concerned about it because the way cricket is these days you don’t get too many tour games anyway and it’s just over three hours away,” Marsh said.

“We’re going to have a lot of our blokes in the Test team in the one day side, so they’ll play some cricket. I’m quite relaxed about it to be honest.”

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Allan Border Medal: New winners step up as David Warner upstages Steve Smith to claim top two awards

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Test player of the year: David Warner. Photo: Mark Metcalfe Superstar: All-rounder Ellyse Perry. Photo: Daniel Kalisz
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One-day specialist: Glenn Maxwell. Photo: Ryan Pierse

Warner: Awards a reward for turning life aroundBest dressed on the red carpet

If getting the vice-captaincy was a sign of just how much David Warner has matured as a person then claiming the top two awards at the Allan Border Medal was recognition of how far he has progressed as a player.

Warner arrived at Wednesday night’s ceremony in Melbourne thinking Steve Smith was a shoo-in for the top gong – and probably more. His judgement for that was not as sound as his judgement with the willow. He instead claimed the Allan Border Medal, and was also crowned Test player of the year, on a night that featured first-time winners in every category.

Even though the left-hander has been a fixture of the national team in all formats for four years this was the first time he had been honoured for his performances for Australia. The 29-year-old’s only previous gong was winning the Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year.

The votes for the Allan Border Medal come across all formats, weighted to Test, and are sourced from two groups: players, and media representatives and umpires. Warner’s votes were evenly split between the two, showing the admiration he had earned from both, for a year in which he scored a total of 1990 runs in all formats at an average of 56.86, with nine centuries and six half-centuries.

While runner-up Smith outscored Warner for the period, and scored an additional century, it was the deputy who triumphed.

The peak of Warner’s year came at the start of the summer in the Tests against New Zealand. Doubts about his capability to cope with a fractured thumb that had not fully mended were dispelled as he began the series against the Black Caps in commanding fashion, with 163 and 116 at the Gabba and 253 at the WACA Ground.

What pushed Warner in front for the Test award and top awards was earning top votes for the rain-plagued Sydney Test, for his century on the final day.

Left-arm paceman Mitch Starc finished third behind Warner and Smith for Allan Border Medal and Test Player of the Year. Paceman Josh Hazlewood and batsman Adam Voges completed the top five.

Starc was set to be rewarded for his superb white-ball form last summer, most notably in the World Cup, with One-Day Player of the Year. He nevertheless emerged without a gong after teammate Glenn Maxwell overtook him in Australia’s last one-day series for the voting period, away to England.

Starc did not poll a vote in any of his four matches. Half of Maxwell’s 28 votes for the year came in that series, taking him just past Starc.

The left-armer would have been a deserved winner, having taking 41 wickets at 16.27 in one-dayer. That is not to say Maxwell was undeserving; averaging 46 at a strike-rate of 135.86, and also contributing with the ball and in the field, showed how much the 27-year-old had, like Warner, matured.

All-rounder Mitch Marsh upstaged Smith and Warner to finish third for the one-day award.

There was no Twenty20 award, given Australia only played one match for the period.

Southern Stars captain Meg Lanning was denied a third consecutive Belinda Clark Medal by the team’s others superstar player, Ellyse Perry. The all-rounder, who scored more runs and took more wickets than anyone else in the period, comfortably claimed the top individual award for women’s cricket in Australia. Seamer Rene Farrell finished third.

Perry’s batting was at its strongest in one-day cricket, while her fast-bowling was pivotal to the Stars winning last year’s Ashes series away to England, most notably her nine-wicket haul in the Test.

The first recognition of Adam Voges’ astonishing Sheffield Shield season last year, when he plundered 1358 runs at an average of 104.46, came when he was given a Test debut at 35. The second came in him being votes by his peers as Domestic Player of the Year, ahead of Western Australia teammate and South Australia’s Callum Ferguson.

Redbacks batsman Alex Ross, whose proficiency sweeping spinners saw him surge to prominence in the Matador Cup and Big Bash League, won Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year. The 23-year-old claimed the award, also peer-voted, ahead of Victoria batsman Travis Dean and WA paceman Joel Paris.

Allan Border Medal 1: David Warner 2: Steve Smith 3: Mitch Starc 4: Josh Hazlewood 5: Adam Voges 6: Glenn Maxwell 7: Nathan Lyon 8: Chris Rogers 9: Mitch Marsh 10: Pat Cummins

Test Player of the Year 1: David Warner 2: Steve Smith 3: Nathan Lyon

One-Day Player of the Year 1: Glenn Maxwell 2: Mitch Starc 3: Mitch Marsh

Belinda Clark Medal 1: Ellyse Perry 2: Meg Lanning 3: Rene Farrell

Domestic Player of the Year 1: Adam Voges (WA) 2: Michael Klinger (WA) 3: Callum Ferguson (SA)

Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year 1: Alex Ross (SA) 2: Travis Dean (Vic) 3: Joel Paris (WA)

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Sydney Kings collect NBL wooden spoon after loss to Townsville Crocodiles

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The Sydney Kings have been consigned to their first wooden spoon in five years after a lacklustre loss to the Crocodiles in Townsville on Wednesday night.
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In a battle of the the NBL’s two bottom-ranked sides, the Kings led 48-46 at half-time but, as has been the case all season, faded away over the last two quarters to go down 96-88.

The Kings have not finished last since the 20-11 team which went 8-20 in the club’s first season back in the league after a two-year absence.

Sydney have slumped to a 5-19 record while Townsville are now out of reach at 9-15

With former NBA veteran Josh Childress playing a prominent role, the Kings started the match strongly and held a 26-25 advantage after the first quarter.

Both teams displayed deficiencies on defence in the second stanza but Sydney managed to keep their noses in front, leading by two at the main break.

Crocodiles imports Jordair Jett and Omar Samhan stepped up in the third period to give the home side a 72-70 buffer. Kings guard Marcus Thornton hit a rare three-pointer close to the buzzer, just his fourth in a stretch of 26 shots from beyond the arc, to keep the visitors in the hunt.

Townsville forward Leon Henry took out teammate Mitch Young in the fourth quarter as they went up for a rebound with Young taken off the court for treatment after his head hit the hardwood heavily.

Corey Maynard dropped a long bomb to give Townsville a 79-72 lead midway through the fourth stanza.

Childress, with strong support from centre Angus Brandt and guard Jason Cadee, kept the Kings in the contest down the stretch, drawing level at 83-83 inside the last four minutes.

A Cadee three put Sydney in front with two minutes left but they trailed soon after when Thornton was stripped one-on-one by Jett. Samhan then drained a three to propel the Crocs to victory.

Childress led all scorers with 27 points while Brandt (13) and Cadee (18) also played strongly while Jett’s 24-point haul was the top effort from Townsville.

Sydney travel further north for a Friday encounter with the Taipans in Cairns before ending their season of woe with a trip to Perth next Friday, a home clash with the Wildcats the following Wednesday and another trip to Townsville in the final round.

Townsville go to New Zealand for a clash with the Breakers on Friday, are away to Illawarra before hosting Cairns and the Kings.

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It’s just not cricket: magistrate slams Michael Varnum

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GUILTY: Michael Varnum was found to have deliberately hit an opposition player twice to the head with his bat.A MAGISTRATE has lambasted former police officer Michael Varnum for his cockiness and arrogance after finding himguilty of twiceintentionally hitting an opposing player over the head with a cricket bat.
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Varnum shook his head Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday as he was found guiltyof assault occasioning actual bodily harm after Jewells Tavern Beavers player Peter Lalor needed nine stitches and weeks of medical treatment after being hit during a match against Varnum’s Merewether side in the B5 City and Suburban competition last February.

Magistrate Robert Stone rejected Varnum’s claim that his bat had accidentally come into contact with Mr Lalor after the pair collided mid-pitch as Varnum was attempting to take a run.

Instead, the magistrate said Mr Lalor’s teammates, who played the game for fun, had given frank and honest evidence about how Varnum had lifted his bat above his head and cracked Mr Lalor on his skull as the victim lay prone on the wicket.

“They knew it for what it truly was –an intentional striking of their teammate,’’ Mr Stone said.

He had earlier remarked on Varnum’s testimony: “The accused was very sure of himself, almost cocky. He came across to me as being arrogant about his ability leaving the impression he was the best cricketer in the team.’’

Outside court, a tearful Mr Lalor said he was happy with the conviction and was still playing the game he loved.

“The worst part is my son has stopped playing but he will get there,’’ Mr Lalor said.

It was when Mr Lalor, the Beavers captain, was bowling to Varnum that the incident took place.

Varnum had hit a shot to cover and had taken off for a run when the pair collided mid-pitch.

Mr Stone said although there were some differences in evidence given by players, he found that as Varnum stumbled momentarily, Mr Lalor had fallen to the ground.

“At that point in time the accused used his bat with his right hand, raised it to shoulder height and with the face of the bat hit Mr Lalor to the top of the head and then repeated the strike of the bat to him again while stepping over him,’’ Mr Stone said.

“…it was an intentional act on each occasion.’’

Mr Stone was critical of Varnum’s testimony, who told the court he could remember when Mr Lalor had dropped a shoulder into him.

“He could remember what he said to the bowler, he could remember the collision and stepping over the bowler, he could remember grounding his bat at the crease, yet has no recall of what he did with the bat as he stepped over the bowler,’’ Mr Stone said.

“…he does not want to admit that in the heat of the moment that the bat was used to strike Lalor.’’

HURT: Peter Lalor in hospital after the incident.

Mr Lalor, who was supported in Newcastle Local Court byfamily and teammates, shed a tear after the guilty verdict was read out.

“The Beavers cricket team is the best cricket team in the world and we just play it to have fun and something like this should not be associated with cricket or sport at all,’’ he said.

MrLalor said he had recovered from his injuries and just wanted to get on with life.

“I don’t want someone else to get hurt the way that I got hurt,’’ he said.

“It was awful for my family and my kids so I just didn’twant him to hurt someone else.

“And I want people to be able to play sport for fun.”

Varnum, who played top grade for Merewether when hewon the Jimmy Dickinson Memorial Trophyfor best first grade batting average in 2006-07,did not wish to comment.

But he said he would be appealing the decision.

He is a former Newcastle police sergeant while some of his teammates are still serving officers.

Mr Lalor said he didn’t wish to get involved in what would occur to Varnum’s possible future playing cricket.

“I don’t think many people would want someone who does an act like that on a cricket field, or any sporting field for that matter,’’ he said.

“That is up to them.

“I have had enough of it now so I am happy for them to deal with it.’’

Sentencing submissions will begin in March.

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Mass rescue of kayakers in the bay

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Volunteer lifesavers helped with the rescue once the exhausted kayakers were safely on the beach.A group of 17 kayakers, some as young as five, was rescued on Australia Day in Frankston by lifesavers on a jet-ski.
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Two lifesavers patrolling just north of Frankston, at Kingston, came across the group about 4.30pm, about 90 minutes after a strong easterly wind change created rough waters on Port Phillip Bay. They found three kayaks capsized and another had sunk.

The lifeguards took the kayakers 150 metres back to shore one by one. It is understood they were several families with children from five to 15 years old.

President of Frankston Life Saving Club, Tim Cutrona, said volunteer lifesavers helped with the rescue once the exhausted kayakers were safely on the beach.

Life Saving Victoria manager Greg Scott said it was important for beachgoers to check weather forecasts.

“People need to understand beaches can be dangerous, even on days of perfect beach weather,” Mr Scott said.

Nobody was injured but ambulance officers treated two kayakers.

Kayaking is one of the fastest growing sports in Australia, with 129,700 people participating, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics last year.

However, Maritime Safety said there have been two deaths involving paddle craft since July and 10 in the past five years, accounting for a third of boating-related deaths.

Acting director Adrian Mnew​ warned that inexperience was often a factor in the spate of accidents.

“Always wear a lifejacket,” he said. “Know your capabilities and don’t put yourself at risk by going beyond them.”

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