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Dhananjaya leads Richmond to limited over title

March 27, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By M. Shamil Amit

Dhananjaya Lakshan led the way with a 53 ball knock of 62 that included 12 boundaries and was also associated in a valuable 88 run stand for the second wicket with Adithya Siriwardena as Richmond emerged champions of the Under 19 Division One limited over tournament with a convincing eight wicket win over Thurstan in the final played at Campbell Park on Sunday.

Richmond 2

 

Richmond in pursuit of a revised target of 139 runs in 43 overs raced to victory in the 26th over. They underwent an early setback losing their first wicket with the score on four before the match winning partnership between Dhananjaya and Adithya. Thereafter an unbroken stand of 38 runs for the third between Adithya and Thaveesh Abishek saw them through to victory.

Earlier in the day Thurstan skipper Kasun Abeyratne winning the toss and electing to take first lease of the wicket saw his side loosing four quick wickets with the score on 59 in the11th over.

They recovered through a sixth wicket partnership of 52 runs between Charana Nanayakkara and Nipun Lakshan, but the late order batting failed to make any impression and at the halfway stage of the innings they were struggling on 112 for 7 before losing their last three wickets for the addition of just 29 runs being bowled out for a low score of 141.

Richmond’s hero Dhananjaya Lakshan was adjudged the man of the match for his knock of 62.

Scoreboard

Thurstan innings
Kasun Abeyratne lbw b Udeeshana 00
Yeshan Wickramarachchi lbw b Wijesiri 37
Im esh Viranga c. R. Wijesiri b Udeehsna 05
Sawan Prabash lbw b. T. Udeeshana 01
Nipun Lakshan lbw b Mendis 20
Charana Nanayakkara c. K. Mendis b. S. Mendis 26
Navod Samarakoon lbw b. R. Wijesiri 11
Nimesh Lakshan c Kalansooriya b Mendis 00
Thusal Madusanka b Mendis 14
Naveen Gunawardana c Mendis b Wijesiri 03
Sandaru Dias not out 00
Extras (1b, 4lb, 19w) 24
Total (all out: 38.2 overs) 141
Fall of wickets - 1-0, 2-30, 3- 42, 4 – 59, 5-111, 6-111, 7- 112, 8-126 , 9-130, 10- 141.
Bowling - Thilanga Udeeshana 5-1- 29-3, Dhananjaya Lakshan 4-0-30- 0, Avindu Theekshana 8-5-21- 0, Ravishka Wijesiri 9-0-27-3, Sandun Mendis 6-1-19-2, Kamindu Mendis 6.2-2-10- 2

Richmond innings
Kamindu Mendis lbw Nanayakkara 04
Dhananjaya Lakshan b Dias 61
Adhithya Siriwardana not out 38
Thaveesha Abhishek not out 24
Extras (1 lb,11 w, 1 nb) 13
Total (2wickets: 25.3 overs) 140
Fall of wickets – 1-4, 2-92.
Bowling – Charana Nanayakkara 4-0-29-1, Nimesh Lakshan 3-0-17-0, Yeshan Wickramarachchi 1-0-6-0, Sawan Prabash 3-0-8-0, Naveen Gunawardana 8-0-35-0, Thusal Madusanka 1-0-10-0, Sandaru Dias 5.3-1-34-1

Dutch suffer World Cup shock, Ronaldo in 70-goal landmark

March 26, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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The Netherlands’ hopes of reaching the World Cup finals suffered a major setback on Saturday when the three-time runners-up slumped to a shock 2-0 defeat to Bulgaria.

Robben

The loss left the Dutch six points behind Group A leaders France, who beat Luxembourg 3-1, and down in fourth spot, three back from Sweden and two off Bulgaria with just the group winners guaranteed a place in the 2018 finals in Russia.

“What can I tell you? We came here with good intentions, but it has become a nightmare,” Dutch skipper Arjen Robben said.

Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo took his international tally to 70 goals as European champions Portugal beat Hungary 3-0 to stay in second spot behind Switzerland in Group B.

Belgium needed a goal two minutes from time by Romelu Lukaku to salvage a 1-1 draw against nine-man Greece as they stayed two points clear in Group H, although Roberto Martinez’s team lost their 100 percent record in the process.

In Sofia, Bulgaria stunned the Dutch with two goals in the first 20 minutes, both coming from Spas Delev.

Delev pounced on a mistake by 17-year-old Matthijs De Ligt, Holland’s youngest debutant since 1931, who misjudged a pass and allowed the striker to slot the ball past Jeroen Zoet.

Delev then made it 2-0 when he unleashed a stinging right-foot drive past Zoet.

The Dutch dominated large parts of the rest of the game but were thwarted by a solid Bulgarian defence while goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov pulled off a super save in the second period to deny Davy Klaassen.

Group A table-toppers France, the 1998 champions and last year’s Euro 2016 runners-up, saw Olivier Giroud open the scoring in Luxembourg just before the half-hour mark.

Luxembourg levelled after 34 minutes thanks to Aurelien Joachim’s penalty, his country’s first goal against France in 39 years.

But the minnows’ joy was short-lived as Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann restored France’s lead, also from the spot, just four minutes later.

Arsenal star Giroud scored his second of the evening after 77 minutes after being set up by Benjamin Mendy.

“With us, Olivier often scores goals even if he is having a difficult time with his club. We gave him the crosses and he was very efficient,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.

In Lisbon, Portugal saw off Hungary, a team they shared six goals with at Euro 2016.

The win kept Portugal in second place in Group B, three points behind Switzerland, who earlier preserved their 100 percent record with a fifth win in five games, a 1-0 home victory against Latvia.

Porto striker Andre Silva opened the scoring after 30 minutes, converting a pass from Raphael Guerreiro for his fifth goal in six games for Portugal.

Six minutes later, skipper Ronaldo doubled the lead with a superb left-footed finish and the Real Madrid superstar made it 3-0 on 65 minutes with a clever free-kick for his 70th international goal.

“We want to go the World Cup so we have to win our next five matches, they are all finals,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos.

Belgium stayed top of Group H but only after struggling to a 1-1 draw with Greece.

Missing the injured Eden Hazard, Belgium lacked a creative spark in Brussels and they were made to pay when Greece grabbed the lead just 20 seconds into the second period when Benfica striker Kostas Mitroglou latched on to a long ball to fire home his third goal of the qualifying campaign.

Greece were reduced to 10 men after 65 minutes when Panagiotis Tachtsidis was red carded for a crude lunge on defender Toby Alderweireld.

Everton striker Lukaku drove home from close range in the 89th minute to grab a share of the spoils before Georgios Tzavelas was sent-off in injury time.

“I feel a lot of frustration. With the amount of individual talent we have at our disposal, we have to show more,” said Martinez.

Earlier on Saturday, Sweden crushed Belarus 4-0 to move to 10 points in Group A, three behind France, with Emil Forsberg scoring twice.

In Group H, Bosnia-Herzegovina also went on a goal spree with a 5-0 win over minnows Gibraltar, who have now conceded 22 goals in five games.

Perfect Crusaders march on, Jaguares beat Reds

March 26, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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New Zealand’s Canterbury Crusaders won their fifth-straight game to be one of only three unbeaten teams in this season’s Super Rugby as Argentina’s Jaguares won again this weekend.

Jaguares

The seven-time champion Crusaders whipped the hapless Western Force of Australia 45-17 to stake their claim for this year’s southern hemisphere provincial crown.

Fellow Kiwis Waikato Chiefs and South Africa’s Western Stormers are also yet to lose with the Stormers denying Japan’s Sunwolves 44-31 in Singapore while the Chiefs had a bye.

Across in Buenos Aires the Jaguares won for the fourth time this season, downing Australia’s Queensland Reds 22-8 to lie just one point off the lead held by the Golden Lions in the Africa 2 conference.

The Lions overpowered the endangered Southern Kings 42-19 in an all-South African derby in Port Elizabeth, while the Coastal Sharks won a high-scoring derby 38-30 over the Central Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

There was little joy for the beleaguered Australian hopes with the ACT Brumbies succumbing to an 18-13 loss at home to New Zealand’s Otago Highlanders, while the NSW Waratahs won a thrilling derby with a last-minute try 32-25 over the Rebels in Melbourne.

In the remaining game, the Blues downed South Africa’s Northern Bulls 38-14 in Auckland, while the defending champions Wellington Hurricanes had a bye.

The Crusaders posted seven tries to two and kept the Force scoreless in the second half to make it five wins from five this season.

It was a lopsided defeat the Force could have done without amid speculation the Perth club faces the axe as governing body SANZAAR look to revamp the dysfunctional competition.

The Stormers survived a​n audacious challenge from the struggling Sunwolves to maintain their unbeaten start, winning a 10-try thriller at Singapore’s national stadium.

Trailing for most of ​what was a high-paced, free-flowing match after being caught out by the Sunwolves’ innovative attack, the South Africans needed all their extra big-match experience to wear down the tournament newcomers, who faded badly in the last quarter of the match.

“The Sunwolves are a smart side and they’re very well coached,” Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said.

“We knew it was going to be tough but they still surprised us with some of the things they did, especially when they kicked in behind us.”

The Jaguares fortunes continue to improve this season with a side-stepping try by winger Ramiro Moyano the highlight of a bruising battle with the Reds.

Democratic Republic of Congo-born Madosh Tambwe scored his first Super Rugby tries as the Lions pounded the Southern Kings.

Tambwe took just four minutes to score, intercepting a pass before collecting a pass on the tryline to dot down for his second try.

Teenager Curwin Bosch proved an outstanding back-up for injured skipper Patrick Lambie, kicking 18 points in the Sharks win over the Cheetahs.

The 19-year-old fly-half slotted four penalties and three conversions from eight attempts and was voted man of the match as the Sharks made it four straight wins since losing the opening game of the season.

Centre David Horwitz scored a try in the final minute to cap a second-half fightback to give the Waratahs a thrilling win over the Rebels.

The Waratahs trailed 25-6 at half-time but squeezed home on the back of four second-half tries to deny the Rebels a prized victory over their better-resourced Australian rivals.

The Highlanders returned to the ground where they knocked the Brumbies out of last season’s quarter-finals to overturn a 10-5 half-time deficit.

Otago’s victory extended Australian teams’ misery against Kiwi opposition this season with New Zealand boasting a 7-0 winning record so far this year.

A second half revival sparked by two Matt Duffie tries gave the Blues a comfortable win over the Bulls.

Wizards shine; Clippers, Raptors clinch playoff spots

March 26, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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John Wall tallied 37 points as the Washington Wizards defeated LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115, tightening the race atop the Eastern Conference standings on Saturday night.

Wall

The Wizards now trail the Boston Celtics by two games and the defending NBA champion Cavaliers by 2 1/2 for first place. Also, Cleveland’s lead over Boston is now just a half-game.

Wall delivered 18 of his 37 points in the first quarter shooting eight-of-eight from the field.

“You don’t want to go into the playoffs knowing you have to face those guys and you never won against them in the regular season,” Wall said. “To come here and win in a tough place, it’s definitely a boost.”

Bradley Beal added 27 points for the Wizards, who are now 19-7 when all five starters score in double figures.

Superstar James shook off the eye injury suffered Friday night to score 24 points, grab 11 rebounds, and hand out eight assists.

“I haven’t been in too much light the last 24 hours, I mean all day since I got home last night and today I stayed away from it because it was bothering me a little bit too much,” said James, who suffered a corneal abrasion to his right eye.

“But I kind of warmed up to it, so that’s a good sign.”

James started Saturday’s contest wearing plastic goggles but took them off with about three minutes left in the first quarter.

James needed seven assists to pass Maurice Cheeks (7,392) for 12th place in NBA history, which he reached with his first assist in the fourth quarter.

Elsewhere, Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score a game-high 28 points and power the Los Angeles Clippers over Utah 108-95.

The Clippers improved to 44-30, moving within one-half game of the Jazz (44-29) for fourth place in the Western Conference and clinching a playoff berth for the sixth season in a row.

The teams would be first-round playoff foes if they keep their spots with the superior record conveying a home-court edge in the series.

French centre Rudy Gobert scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Jazz, who lost to the Clippers for the third time in four meetings so far this season and the 18th time in the team’s past 20 meetings.

Gobert also stretched his streak of games with at least one blocked shot to 41.

Blake Griffin had 15 points, Chris Paul added 14 and DeAndre Jordan grabbed 15 rebounds for the Clippers. Joe Johnson came off the bench to score 17 for the Jazz.

- Selfish players hurt Jazz -

After the game Gobert blasted some of his teammates for putting more importance on padding their scoring stats than trying to win games. He did not mention any names.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring,” Gobert said of Utah’s fourth loss in its past five games. “That’s what it is.

“I think everybody needs to think about making plays for the team, making winning plays, before thinking about how many points we’re going to score and stuff like that.”

“There’s going to be some games where you don’t score. But are you going to take a charge for a teammate?”

In Dallas, the visiting Toronto Raptors clinched a playoff spot with a 94-86 victory over the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center arena.

Toronto won their 44th game of the season and their fifth in a row as they head home to begin an important string of four games at Air Canada Centre.

DeMar DeRozan, coming off consecutive 40-point games, and forward Serge Ibaka each scored 18 points to lead the Raptors. DeRozan was eight of 17 from the floor with six assists.

Federer, Wawrinka advance in Miami

March 26, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer survived a brave challenge from American qualifier Frances Tiafoe before emerging with a 7-6 (7/2) 6-3 victory as he got his Miami Open title bid underway.

Federer

Tiafoe, ranked 101st in the world, struggled against Federer’s serve but was strong on his own and forced a first set tie-break in which the Swiss came out on top.

The 19-year-old son of immigrants from Sierra Leone then broke Federer’s serve in the first game of the second set only for the 18-times Grand Slam winner to break back twice and run out a comfortable winner in the end.

Federer was full of praise for his opponent and said he would have gained valuable experience from the contest.

“I hope he’s going to learn a lot from a match like this just because playing on a centre court with a lot of people, under pressure, saving break points, making break points, playing breakers. That’s what it’s about, and it should feed a player like him with a lot of energy moving forward,” he said.

Federer is in fine form having clinched the Australian Open and Indian Wells so far this year and extended his record to 14-1.

The 35-year-old is looking for his third Miami title following wins in 2005 and 2006.

Federer should have met Del Potro in Miami last year but the Swiss had to pull out with an illness and he says he is looking forward to renewing his rivalry with the South American

“We’ve had some epic matches against each other: Semis at the French, Olympic semis, finals at the US Open. You name it, we’ve had some really good ones,” he said.

Reigning US Open champion Stan Wawrinka got off to a solid start, beating Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos 6-3, 6-4 at Crandon Park on Saturday.

In the absence of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, the top two ranked players in the world, Wawrinka is the number one seed and is fired up after reaching the final at Indian Wells last week, where he was beaten by Federer.

“I’m playing better tennis. I feel that I’m playing good here. I took the confidence from Indian Wells. So let’s see… When I’m playing well, when I am confident with my game, I know I can beat anybody,” said Wawrinka, who turns 32 on Tuesday.

“It has been quite tough conditions these last few days here. Raining, really windy today. It’s really windy on the court, so it’s never easy.

“I’m happy the way I was moving, the way I was playing, and my attitude in general was really positive,” added Wawrinka, who next faces Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri, a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 winner over Spain’s Feliciano Lopez.

Wawrinka will face either Malek Jaziri next after the Tunisian beat Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios also progressed on Saturday enjoying a 6-4 6-3 win over Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.

Ferrari’s Vettel masters Hamilton to win Australian GP

March 26, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Sebastian Vettel out-manoeuvred Lewis Hamilton and the world champion Mercedes team with a stunning victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday.

Vettel

Vettel won by almost 10 seconds from Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in a commanding victory of tactics and superior speed around the Albert Park street circuit.

Ferrari hadn’t won in Melbourne since Kimi Raikkonen’s 2007 victory and it was Vettel’s second triumph in Australia after winning the 2011 race with Red Bull.

It was also a major fillip for the fledgling season and the new generation of quicker cars after Ferrari’s superior pre-season test times as they chase their first world constructors’ title since 2008.

The victory was the German four-time world champion’s fourth for Ferrari and his first since Singapore in 2015 and his 43rd career win.

“A title challenge is a long way ahead. For now we are just over the moon at the start we have made here today,” Vettel said.

“I was not entirely happy with my start, there was a bit of wheel spin, but I was trying to keep the pressure on to give the message that we are here to fight.

“There was a bit of luck that Lewis came out in traffic.”

Ferrari got the better of Mercedes in the sole round of tyre changes which ultimately decided the race.

Hamilton’s early stop meant he rejoined behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen which allowed Vettel to open up a decisive gap at the head of the field.

“A big congratulations to Ferrari and Sebastian,” Hamilton said.

“In the race, I struggled with the tyres. I had to stop very early and I got stuck behind one of the Red Bulls, but that’s just the way it goes.”

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was fourth with Verstappen fifth ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa in the Williams.

Australia’s big hope Daniel Ricciardo had a heartbreaking day with gear box problems ending his race on the 29th lap after he was forced to start from pit lane when his Red Bull car broke down on the warm-up lap.

Hamilton, who went into the race on his fourth successive pole in Melbourne, got away safely and avoided trouble into the notorious right hander out of home straight.

But Kevin Magnussen in a Haas clipped the kerb and slid into the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson on the first turn. Both cars continued on in the race.

Hamilton grabbed a 1.5sec gap on Vettel after nine laps ahead of Bottas, Raikkonen and Verstappen.

Hamilton made his first pit stop after lap 17 to change to soft tyres on his Mercedes to hand the lead over to Vettel and rejoined the race in fifth spot behind Verstappen.

“Race critical that you pass Verstappen,” Hamilton was told over the team radio to which he testily responded “how do you expect me to do that right now?” as his pace slowed behind the Red Bull.

Vettel came into the pits to change tyres and rejoined the race just squeezing in ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton.

When Verstappen came into the pits Vettel had opened a six-second lead over Hamilton at mid-distance.

Ricciardo’s traumatic race came to a sorry end on the 29th lap with his Red Bull coming to a stop with lingering gearbox problems.

“Sorry mate – the car’s done,” the Red Bull team told the disconsolate Ricciardo over the radio.

Vettel extended his lead over Hamilton to over nine seconds after 41 laps with the triple world champion seemingly unable to reel him in.

Bottas was pressuring Hamilton and was only just over two seconds behind in third place with Raikkonen struggling in fourth place ahead of Verstappen.

Mercedes had no answer to the pace of Vettel, who posted a new fastest lap of 1:26.638 in the final laps of the race.

Live updates: U20 schools rugby league tournament – Isipathana College vs Royal College, S. Thomas’ College vs Science College, Dharmaraja College Vs D. S. Senanayake

March 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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18:17 – At full time. S. Thomas’ College 20. Science College 12.

18:16 – S. Thomas’ College score again to extend lead. 20-12.

18:07 – At full time. Dharmaraja College 45. D. S. Senanayake College 12.

18:03 – Full time. Isipathana 22, Royal 14

17:55 – Dharmaraja College further extend their lead with a converted try. 31-12.

17:54 – Isipathana extend their lead. Isipathana 22, Royal 14

17:49 – Science College reduce the lead with a converted try. 12-15.

17:44 – S. Thomas’ College convert a penalty to make it 15-5.

17:38 – Science College put their first points on the board with an unconverted try. 5-12.

17:30 – Isipathana take the lead.
Isipathana 17, Royal 14

17:23 – At half time. S. Thomas’ College 12. Science College 0.

17:22 – S. Thomas’ College score their second try to extend lead. 12-0.

17:21 – Isipathana hit back with a try. Royal College 14, Isipathana 12

17:12 – half time – Royal College 14, Isipathana 05

17:12 – D. S. Senanayake College hit back with a converted try to reduce the lead. 12-24.

17:10 – Dharmaraja College score again to make it 24-5.

17:09 – Dharmaraja College scores their third try to extend lead 17-5.

17:04 – Science College doing well to keep the Thomians at bay.

17:00 – Royal score a second try. Royal 14, Trinity 05

16:58 – Dharmaraja College regain the lead with an unconverted try. 10-5.

16:57 – D. S. Senanayake College equalise with an unconverted try. 5-5.

16:49 – S. Thomas’ College open scoring with a converted try. 7-0.

16:45 – Dharmaraja College open scoring with an unconverted try to take the lead. 5-0.

16:42 – Dharmaraja College vs D. S. Senanayake College kicked off now at Bogambara.

16:38 – Royal score converted try Royal 07, Isipathana College 05

16:38 – S. Thomas’ College vs Science College match kicks off

16:26 – Isipathana score unconverted try — Isipathana 05, Royal 00

Royal College vs Isipathana College match kicks off

Live updates: U20 schools rugby league tournament – Zahira College Vs Wesley College

March 24, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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17:59 – Zahira 29, Wesley 32

17:56 – Zahira 29, Wesley 29

17:52 – Zahira 22, Wesley 29

17:49 – Zahira 22, Wesley 24

17:40 – Zahira 22, Wesley 17

17:36 – Zahira 15, Wesley 17

17:18 – Halftime

17:08 – Zahira 15, Wesley 10

16:50 – Zahira 15, Wesley 05

16:37 – Wesley 03, Zahira 08

16:33 – Wesley 03, Zahira 03

16:31 – Wesley 03, Zahira 00

Lewis Hamilton ‘in league of his own’ after F1 practice blitz

March 24, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton was hailed as being “in a league of his own” on Friday as he burned off his rivals in the year’s opening practice sessions at the Australian Grand Prix.

Hamilton

The triple world champion bossed the field and held a half-second gap over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and his new Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the afternoon session.

Britain’s Hamilton followed up his field-leading fastest lap of 1 minute, 24.220 secs in the morning run with a blistering 1:23.620 in the late afternoon.

It was around one-tenth of a second off Vettel’s circuit record of 1:23.529, posted for Red Bull in qualifying ahead of his 2011 race victory.

“Hamilton is in a league of his own at the moment,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said.

“His one-lap pace was really good and he took the ultrasofts for 17 laps and was stable. I’m happy.”

Ferrari were expected to press Hamilton and the Mercedes team after superior times in pre-season testing, but on the evidence of the opening two sessions Hamilton is again the driver to beat in Sunday’s season-opener.

“I’m super-happy to be back in the car, particularly after a first day like that. It was 99 percent perfect,” Hamilton said.

“We’ve shown good form so far on both the long and short runs and we got every lap done that we wanted to. The tyres performed really well today too.

“I’ll be pushing as hard as I can to win this race.”

Hamilton’s time was more than three seconds faster than his best lap in last year’s corresponding free practice in Melbourne.

Finland’s Bottas slotted smoothly into the Mercedes team environment with a best lap of 1:24.176.

“I definitely feel like I can make a step forward tomorrow. It’ll be a busy evening for us looking through all the data to see where we can improve, but it’s a reasonable start,” Bottas said.

Ferrari improved markedly on their opening practice, with Vettel unleashing the second best lap time in FP2 with 1:24.167 while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was fourth with 1:24.525.

“We (were) very happy at testing — times looked good, but here is where it matters,” Vettel said.

“The car hasn’t changed much and it’s good to be back but we can still improve.”

The Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were over a second behind Hamilton and half-a-second off Vettel’s Ferrari.

“We can still get more out of it. This morning was promising but we tried a few things this afternoon and they didn’t work as much as we’d like,” said Ricciardo, bidding to become the race’s first Aussie winner in 37 years.

“Mercedes sure are quick but it’s more Lewis than Valtteri. I think we can be up there. Pole (position) may be a stretch but we’re in that next little group.”

Verstappen missed out on the later long runs after damaging his car’s floor when running over the gravel on the exit of turn 10.

“I had a bit of understeer, so went off the track and damaged the floor,” Verstappen said. “We tried to find a better balance and we are just a bit too slow. We are where I expected us to be.”

The second session was stopped after a big crash for Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, who lost the rear of his car on the last corner and spun into the barriers.

“I’m fine,” Palmer told his team over the radio. The shunt damaged the car’s rear suspension, while the rear wing was detached.

Palmer missed the remainder of the session, in a blow to his preparations for the weekend race.

Brazilian Felipe Massa stopped his Williams car at Turn 11 after reporting he could not engage gears, and walked back to the team garage.

The troubled McLaren team had no on-track breakdowns on the opening day with Fernando Alonso finishing in a respectable 12th place.

Brazil on brink, Messi revives Argentina in World Cup qualifiers

March 24, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Brazil thrashed Uruguay to move to the brink of the World Cup finals on Thursday as Lionel Messi got Argentina’s faltering qualification campaign back on track with the only goal to sink Chile.

Messi

A superb hat-trick from China-based midfielder Paulinho powered Brazil to a 4-1 drubbing of the Uruguayans in Montevideo to leave the five-time world champions all-but-certain of a place at next year’s finals in Russia.

The Brazilians now lead the 10-team round-robin competition by seven points after their latest win.

The top four teams in the standings qualify automatically and with only five rounds remaining, it would take a freakish set of results to deny Brazil.

Uruguay had taken the lead after only nine minutes when Brazil goalkeeper Alisson brought down Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani for a penalty.

Cavani got to his feet and drilled the spot-kick beyond the Brazilian goalkeeper to put Uruguay 1-0 up.

But Paulinho produced a thunderbolt 10 minutes later, uncorking a screamer into the top corner from 25 yards to level at 1-1.

The midfielder then stabbed home Philippe Coutinho’s shot in the 51st minute to make it 2-1.

Barcelona superstar Neymar added a third with a sublime chip in the 75th minute to effectively settle the contest.

Paulinho completed his hat-trick in injury time, turning in a low cross with his chest to cap a fine display.

Uruguay, who were missing the suspended Luis Suarez, remain in second place in the standings.

“To come here and win by any score is a great result,” Brazil coach Tite said afterwards. “Playing in this stadium and beating Uruguay is difficult for anyone.”

Uruguay skipper Diego Godin said the final scoreline was not an accurate reflection of the game.

“We trained well, we looked strong,” the Atletico Madrid defender said. “It’s a bitter result. We had chances. This doesn’t reflect the game.”

“But this is a wake-up call.”

In Buenos Aires, Argentina had entered their clash with Chile desperately needing to take all three points to revive their campaign.

And captain Messi duly delivered when it mattered as Argentina avenged last year’s Copa America Centenario final defeat to the Chileans with a 1-0 win.

Messi stroked home his penalty on 16 minutes after veteran Chile defender Jose Fuenzalida brought down Angel Di Maria with a clumsy challenge.

Last year, Messi was left distraught after missing his penalty in the shootout at the Copa America Centenario in New York.

But the diminutive maestro made no mistake on Thursday, drilling his spot-kick beyond former Barcelona teammate Claudio Bravo to secure a vital three points for the two-time world champions.

Argentina finished the game on the back foot as Chile swarmed forward in search of an equaliser — a successful rearguard action that delighted coach Edgardo Bauza.

“It was great that we won against a good team, but for me the best thing was the way we fought,” Bauza said.

The win leaves Argentina in third place overall in the 10-team qualifying competition with 22 points from 13 games.

But the defeat means two-time reigning South American champions Chile are still struggling to qualify for Russia.

The Chileans remain outside the automatic qualification places.

- Colombia back in hunt -

Colombia, the 2014 World Cup quarter-finalists, boosted their chances of qualification with a 1-0 win over Bolivia in Barranquilla.

Real Madrid star James Rodriguez bundled in the rebound from his own late penalty to claim the points.

Rodriguez rammed home his finish at the second attempt after Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe had saved the playmaker’s spotkick on 83 minutes.

Until Rodriguez’s late winner, it looked as if Bolivia had done enough to earn a point, defending in depth and frustrating the hosts at every turn.

But Bolivia’s luck ran out when Cristian Coimbra brought down winger Juan Cuadrado with a clumsy challenge to give Rodriguez his chance for glory.

Live updates: 11th Battle of the Golds – D. S. Senanayake College Vs Mahanama College

March 24, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Result: Match drawn

18:19 – Mahanama College 2nd innings 115/1 in 24.3 overs at close

P. Boteju 55*, K. Munasinghe 52

17:30 – Mahanama College 2nd innings 73/0 in 18 overs

R. Munasinghe 50*

17:06 – Mahanama College 2nd innings 14/0 in 6 overs

16:28 – D. S. Senananayake College 268 all out in 97 overs

M. Lakshan 98, N. Welikala 3/81

D. S. Senanayake College 1st innings 253/9 in 91 overs

S. Ameen 55, M. Lakshan 98, N. Welikala 3/67

14:16 – D. S. Senanayake College 1st innings 203/6 in 78 overs

S. Ameen 51 n.o, M. Lakshan 65 n.o.

12:19 – D. S. Senanayake College 1st innings 140/6 in 56 overs

S. Ameen 44 n.o.

11:39 – D. S. Senanayake College 1st innings 104/4 in 39 overs

S. Ameen 37 n.o.

Day two

17:52 – D. S. Senanayake College 1st innings 62/4 in 22 overs at close

17:34 – D. S. Senanayake College 1st innings 62/4 in 22 overs

16:34 – Mahanama College 1st innings 271/9 declared in 60 overs

N. Welikala 41, V. Gunasekara 6/100.

15:28 – Mahanama College 1st innings 239/7 in 54 overs

M. Maduranga 70, V. Gunasekara 4/81.

14:20 – Mahanama College 1st innings 179/4 in 43 overs

B. Mendis 74, M. Maduranga 49 n.o, V. Gunasekara 3/46.

12:53 – Mahanama College 90/2 in 22 overs

B. Mendis 63 n.o, K. Munasinghe 22.

11:51 – Mahanama College 67/1 in 16 overs

B. Mendis 43 n.o, K. Munasinghe 21 n.o.

10:53 – Mahanama College 1st innings 19/1 in 6 overs.

D. S. Senanayake College won the toss and elected to field vs Mahanama College.

Live updates: 117th Battle of the Blues – St. Thomas’ College Matara Vs St. Servatius’ College

March 24, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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17:40 – St. Thomas’ College 2nd innings (target 171) 20/0 in 3.4 overs at close. Result: Match drawn.

17:05 – St. Servatius’ College 2nd innings 174/6 declared in 68 overs

S. Nethmina 25 n.o, T. Prashan 38, H. Dilman 4/59.

16:08 – St. Servatius’ College 2nd innings 120/4 in 57 overs

S. Kavinda 42, K. Nuwantha 24.

 

12:56 – St. Servatius’ College 2nd innings 30/1 in 16 overs.

11:57 – St. Servatius’ College 2nd innings 25/1 in 13 overs.

11:08 – Day 3. St. Thomas’ College 1st innings 211 all out in 110.1 overs

L. Dilshan 72, T. Kavinda 30, T. Prashan 6/48.

Day three

17:34 – St. Thomas’ College 1st innings 199/9 in 101 overs at close

L. Dilshan 63*, T. Prashan 5/44

16:51 – St. Thomas’ College 1st innings 181/7 in 86 overs

L. Dilshan 52*, T. Prashan 4/42

15:33 – St. Thomas’ College 152/6 in 70 overs

R. Pavinath 43, T. Prashan 4/34

14:12 – St. Thomas’ College 1st innings 113/6 in 47 overs

T Kavinda 30, T. Prashan 4/33.

St. Thomas’ College 1st innings 11/3 in 15 overs

T. Prashan 3/6

Day two

17:27 – St. Thomas’ College 1st innings 4/2 in 11 overs at close

St. Servatius’ College 1st innings 207 all out in 76.4 overs

T. Prashan 51, M. Sadushka 3/24

16:22 – St. Servatius’ College 1st innings 134/6 in 48 overs

S. Kavinda 48, M. Sadushka 3/20.

15:31 – St. Servatius’ College 1st innings 173/7 in 61 overs

S. Kavinda 48, S. Dulshan 21.

14:22 – St. Servatius’ College 1st innings 134/6 in 48 overs. S. Kavinda 48, M. Sadushka 3/20.

13:33 – St. Servatius’ College 1st innings 99/4 in 37 overs

S. Kavinda 47 n.o, U. Ashan 21 n.o.

12:09 – St. Servatius’ College 1st innings 73/4 in 29 overs

S. Kavinda 39 n.o, M. Sadushka 3/20.

11:31 – St. Servatius’ College 1st innings 51/3 in 18 overs

S. Kavinda 26 n.o, M. Sadushka 3/16.

10:46 – St. Servatius’ College 1st innings 24/2 in 5 overs

St. Thomas’ College won the toss and elected to field vs St. Servatius’ College.

Schools rugby laws to change

March 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Shehan Daniel

Several changes, mainly aimed at player safety, could be in the pipelines for the Under-20 Schools Rugby Tournament on the recommendation of Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) through the Minster of Sports, with the tournament to be renamed as Under-19.

The changes being considered include a reduction of playing time to 35 minutes a half and a restriction of players under the age of 18 lining-up in the front-row of the scrum.

SLR Vice-President Lasitha Gunaratne said the recommendation was made so that the schools tournament will be played in line with World Rugby regulations.

“We have recommended through the Minister to make these changes to the regulations, so that it falls in line with World Rugby’s Under-19 rule variations (of the laws of the game handbook),” Gunaratne said.

“We also recommended renaming the tournament as Under-19, since World Rugby identifies Under-20 as adult rugby,” he also said.

Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association (SLSRFA) Secretary Denzil Darling also confirmed this move adding that discussions with the Sports Minister and the Education Minister were to take place before deciding which changes to implement.

“The tournament will likely be changed to Under-19 next season, as the date of births for the age group anyway fall under the ‘Under-19’ category. There have also been suggestions to restrict players only above the age of 18 to be involved in the front-row of the scrum. Some teams have players who are as young as 15, and face a disadvantage against schools with older players.

There is also an issue that some schools don’t have players, so we need to consider that. We will engage in discussions with the Sports Minister and the Minister of Education before deciding which changes to make,” Darling said.

Other regulations in the Under-19 variations to rules in the laws of the game handbook include limiting the movement of a scrum to 1.5 metres, the sanction for infringement being a free-kick and the releasing of the ball from scrum – a player must not intentionally keep the ball in the scrum once the team has heeled the ball and controls it at the base of the scrum – and the restriction on wheeling the scrum.

Mahanama in search of first victory

March 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Chris Dhambarage

Mahanama College with a superior all-round side will be looking to pull off their maiden victory in the Big Match series when they take on the traditional rivals D. S. Senanayake College in the 11th annual Battle of the Golds Inter-Schools cricket encounter on March 24 and 25 at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo.

Mahanama have enjoyed a splendid season this year where they secured the runner-up position in the Under-19 Tournament and also qualified to compete in the quarter-finals of the two-day knock-out tournament.

They are yet to taste success in the Big Match series and this time they believe they have the ingredients to make it and to conclude the season on a high note.

D. S. Senanayake College despite not enjoying the same success as their rivals have managed to remain unbeaten throughout the season having also notched up two impressive outright victories from their 14 outings.

The secret behind Mahanama’s success this year is that they have more experienced players in their ranks and each player has the potential to produce a match winning performance given the opportunity.

In fact, Mahanama Skipper and wicket-keeper batsman Malindu Maduranga is nearing the magical 1,000-run mark for the current season having already compiled five centuries and three fifties.

Stylish right-hander Neluka Hettiarachchi is another top run-getter for Mahanama with over 500 runs to his credit inclusive of one century and four half centuries.

Left-arm spinner Piyumal Sandeepa is the main strike bowler for Mahanama and will be looking to continue his good form having captured over 50 wickets during a highly successful season.

D. S. Senanayake College of course will not mind going into the Big Match as the underdogs as they have some very good talented players who are capable of rising to the big occasion.

They may not have the same track record like their opponents but they were able to make an impact this season with two stunning outright victories against Nalanda College and Trinity College respectively.

Shehzaad Ameen is the leading run-getter for D. S. Senanayake College this season with over 500 runs to his credit and has the ability to play a long innings.

All-rounder Vihan Gunasekera is another key player in the D. S. Senanayake College line-up with nearly 500 runs and over 35 wickets to his credit this year.

In addition, spinner Muditha Lakshan with 47 wickets to his name is the most successful bowler for D. S. Senanayake College and will be looking to produce another good performance.

D. S. Senanayake College of course had the honour of recording the only outright victory in the Big Match series where they triumph in 2014 under the leadership of Binura Fernando.

The teams:
D. S. Senanayake College (from): Torin Pitigala (Captain),Shehzaad Ameen, Thathsara Bandara, Vihan Gunasekara, Geethanjana Daniel, Deemantha Kaushalya, InoshaGunawardena, Shashika Gamage, Pasindu Adithya, Methsith Jayamanna, Kavindu Dilshan, Dasun Perera, Pasindu Chanaka,Muditha Lakshan, Sachintha Hettige, Kalana Hettiarachchi, Lahiru Samaranayake, Dilshan Laheer, Teron Baskaran and Yasith Samaradivakara.

Mahanama College (from): Malindu Maduranga (Captain), Kavindu Vilochana, Niduka Welikala, Heshan Nileeka, Vihan Mudalige, Harshana Vithana, Pathum Boteju, Chalitha Subasinghe, Sadisha Gamage, Pawantha Weerasinghe, Chamal Polgampola, Ashan Sandeepa, Mahelade Silva, Bishan Mendis, Pawan Ratnayake, Yasiru Kasthuriarachchi, Wathsala Perera, Vinuka Ranjana and Dileesha Thuduwage.

Rossi revs up for 10th world title tilt in Qatar

March 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Valentino Rossi will rev up for a 10th world title tilt amid a field of young rivals including new Yahama teammate Maverick Vinales as the 2017 MotoGP season roars into action in Qatar this weekend.

Rossi

The floodlit Losail Circuit in Doha will host the only night race on the 18-stop world championship calendar on Sunday.

The sandy, windswept track on the outskirts of Doha is one which the 38-year-old Italian superstar knows well, having won on four occasions in 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2015.

But the veteran Yahama rider — winner of seven MotoGP world titles and two in 125cc and 250cc — finished off the podium last year in Doha with former teammate Jorge Lorenzo taking top spot.

Rossi’s glittering 20-year career has been tempered by frustration in recent years and he has not won a world championship title since 2009.

He finished runner-up for the past three years amid a tense rivalry with Lorenzo, 29, with Rossi even accusing current world champion Marc Marquez of conspiring to help Lorenzo win the title in 2015.

Lorenzo has since moved to Ducati, leading to rising star Vinales joining Rossi at Yamaha, whilst Andrea Iannone made way at Ducati to move to Suzuki.

Vinales proved he could be a challenger to the veteran maestro as he outshone Rossi in winter testing at Sepang, Phillip Island and Qatar earlier this month.

“I’m still not very fast I have to work,” said Rossi.

But Vinales was delighted with how he handled the Yahama M1.

“If we do the same in the first GP as we did in the test, we can fight for the victory,” warned 22-year-old Vinales, who finished fourth in his second season in the top category in 2016.

A record nine drivers won a grand prix in 2016 and Rossi expects an open championship.

“I think at minimum six riders can win this year,” predicted Rossi.

“It will be very interesting this season because three top riders change bike.”

Marquez — a five-time world champion with three in MotoGP — fared less well falling of his Honda three times in Qatar practice.

“The first race of the season is always a special one because you’re a bit more nervous than usual,” said the 24-year-old Marquez.

“One of the main things to consider is the sand, which can make the surface quite slippery as soon as you get out of the best line.”

Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa — a former world champion in 125cc and 250cc — has had six MotoGP podiums but none since 2013.

“The track is very dusty and the place is quite windy, so the grip is generally not very very good,” said Pedrosa, who had his worst season in 2016 in a decade competing in the top class.

“There’s a long long straight where we typically have a headwind and therefore you need a strong engine.”

Bale seeks World Cup lift-off against Ireland

March 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Gareth Bale’s Wales hope to recapture the spirit of Euro 2016 when they attempt to revive their flagging World Cup qualifying campaign against Ireland in Dublin on Friday.

Bale

Having stunned Europe by reaching the semi-finals of last year’s European Championship in France, Wales trail leaders Ireland by four points after four games in UEFA qualifying Group D.

However, whereas Ireland are blighted by injuries and suspensions, Wales are at full strength, with Real Madrid talisman Bale fit and firing following a spell on the sidelines with an ankle injury.

“We are a very good team when we’re at our best and at our strongest,” said Wales coach Chris Coleman.

“We need these players on the pitch consistently and we’re in pretty good condition. The squad might have looked different two or three months ago.

“But we’ve got players back and I’ve picked those who have been on the front foot and are most ready for this challenge.”

Wales launched their bid to reach a first World Cup since 1958 with a breezy 4-0 home win over Moldova, but they have since run into trouble.

A creditable 2-2 draw in Austria was followed by two frustrating 1-1 stalemates at home to Georgia and Serbia, Wales being pegged back after having taken the lead in both those games.

It left them third in the group, two points below second-place Serbia.

With only the top team in each group guaranteed to qualify for next year’s tournament in Russia, it means Wales desperately need to get back to winning ways at the Aviva Stadium.

Ireland have won their last three group games, after opening with a 2-2 draw away to Serbia, but assistant manager Roy Keane knows their players will have to be at their very best to stop Bale.

“Do you not think other players and coaches have tried to come up with a plan before?” asked the former Manchester United captain.

“But the top players seem to figure it out and they’ll affect the game. Bale has done that for a number of years for Madrid and on the big occasions.

“He’s a good player and we look forward to challenging ourselves against him.”

Bale has already scored four goals in qualifying and needs two more to equal Ian Rush’s Welsh scoring record of 28 goals.

Coleman has also been boosted by the return to fitness of Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey following a calf strain.

The game could see 17-year-old Liverpool forward Ben Woodburn make his senior Wales debut.

Woodburn became Liverpool’s youngest ever goal-scorer in November when he scored against Leeds United in the League Cup and has previously represented Wales at youth level.

But Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has questioned the timing of his call-up and expressed reservations about Coleman’s failure to call him to speak about the player.

Woodburn is also coveted by England, but will not be eligible to play for anyone else once he has represented Wales in a competitive fixture.

Ireland coach Martin O’Neill goes into the game missing a host of first-team regulars.

Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark, Wes Hoolahan, Harry Arter and Daryl Murphy are all injured and Robbie Brady suspended, while Everton midfielder James McCarthy is doubtful with a hamstring problem.

Ireland are due to play tribute to Derry City captain Ryan McBride, who died suddenly on Sunday at the age of 27.

West Bromwich Albion winger James McClean, a close friend of McBride, was given leave to visit his family ahead of McBride’s funeral on Thursday.

McClean will wear the number five shirt in tribute to McBride during the game.

No England-All Blacks clash in 2017

March 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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A mouthwatering showdown between England and New Zealand will have to wait until 2018 after it was announced Wednesday that the Barbarians will play the world champion All Blacks at Twickenham on November 4.

Retalick

England coach Eddie Jones had confirmed reports in the British media indicating that the Rugby Football Union, were keen to squeeze in a match between his Six Nations champions and New Zealand on that date.

But the invitational Barbarians, in a match marking their 125th anniversary, have now received approval from the RFU, English rugby union’s governing body, to play the All Blacks on November 4.

“The Barbarians approached the RFU last month with a request to stage this fixture at Twickenham and the request has been granted, replacing a Barbarians v Australia match previously approved,” said a Barbarians statement.

England are now not scheduled to play New Zealand until November 2018, with an RFU spokeswoman telling AFP that Wednesday’s announcement meant there was no chance of the two countries meeting later this year.

Their last clash was back in 2014, when New Zealand won 24-21 at Twickenham.

Several England players are, however, likely to face the All Blacks as part of the British and Irish Lions squad heading to New Zealand for a three-Test series in June and July.

England equalled New Zealand’s record of 18 successive Test victories by a ‘tier one’ or leading rugby union nation with victory over Scotland.

After that match, the Daily Mail reported that the RFU had approached their New Zealand counterparts about the prospect of a November 4 Test clash, although the paper highlighted tensions over how the gate receipts from a likely 82,000 sell-out crowd would be split.

England’s defeat of Scotland saw them retain their Six Nations title but their attempts to break New Zealand’s record and complete back-to-back Grand Slams foundered with a 13-9 loss to Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

It was the Irish too who ended New Zealand’s run with a 40-29 win in Chicago in November.

Jones speaking after Saturday’s match in Dublin, the Australian’s first loss as England coach, said of the Lions’ prospects of a first series win in New Zealand since 1971 that the All Blacks were “there for the taking”.

England are already due to play Australia, Argentina and Samoa in November this year.

Adding another Test to the autumn international calendar led to concerns over player welfare, with England’s Premiership Rugby, which represents the country’s top 12 clubs, reportedly against releasing players for an additional fixture outside of World Rugby’s November international ‘window’ without significant compensation.

Meanwhile the Mail reported Wednesday that NZRU chief executive Steve Tew wanted the All Blacks to play the Barbarians on November 4 rather than face England outside of the ‘window’.

Westbrook’s 35th triple double powers Thunder win

March 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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NBA scoring leader Russell Westbrook unleashed his 35th triple double of the season Wednesday, powering the Oklahoma City Thunder over visiting Philadelphia 122-97 and moving closer to league history.

Westbrook

Westbrook scored 18 points, grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and passed out a game-high 14 assists to spark the Thunder, who were led in scoring by 24 points from Turkish reserve center Enes Kanter, who hit 8-of-9 from the floor and free throw line.

Westbrook needs six more triple doubles in the final 11 games for the Thunder (41-30) to match the all-time one-season record of 41 triple doubles set by Oscar Robertson in the 1961-62 campaign.

That was the season Robertson became the only player in NBA history to average a triple double for the entire season, a feat Westbrook is on pace to match.

Westbrook leads the NBA with 31.4 points a game and averages 10.5 rebounds and 10.3 assists a game as well. he ranks third in the league in assists this season and 10th in rebounds.

Oklahoma City opens a three-game road trip Sunday at Houston that also includes stops at Dallas and Orlando. In all, seven of the last 11 for the Thunder are away from home.

Bouncing back after scoring only 15 points Monday against Golden State, Westbrook went 6-of-6 from the floor and free throw line. He didn’t attempt a 3-pointer for the first time since March 14, 2016 — a span of 83 games.

Westbrook weighed in on the growing issue of stars being benched by coaches for games when healthy so they can rest, saying he prefers to play, having missed only one game for rest his entire NBA career.

“I like to play basketball so I like to go out and compete and have fun,” Westbrook said. “I look at it differently from being hurt and missing a lot of games, I embrace everything moment I have to play basketball and enjoy the time I can play.”

The losing 76ers confirmed that center Joel Embiid would have surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus. He had already been ruled out for the remainder of the season. The Cameroon standout averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots a game this season but has not played since January 27.

Gary Harris netted 21 points to lead seven double-figure scorers for the Denver Nuggets in a 126-113 home victory over the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kyrie Irving scored 33 points, Deron Williams added 19 and LeBron James had 18 for the Cavaliers (46-24), whose lead over Boston in the Eastern Conference shrank to only one game.

Isaiah Thomas scored 25 points and Avery Bradley added 18 points as the Boston Celtics (46-26) cruised over visiting Indiana 109-100. Paul George led the Pacers (36-35) with 37 points.

Charlotte reserve forward Frank Kaminsky scored 13 of his 18 points in the decisive fourth quarter to power the Hornets over host Orlando 109-102. At 32-29, the Hornets, led by 22 points from Kemba Walker, improved their slim playoff hopes while beating the Magic for the fourth time this season.

Led by Nikola Mirotic’s 28 points, the Chicago Bulls boosted their playoff chances with a 117-95 home rout of Detroit. Without suspended center Robin Lopez and injured big man Cristiano Felicio, the Bulls matched Detroit at 34-38 for ninth in the Eastern Conference, 1 1/2 games behind Miami for the final playoff spot.

Washington’s Bradley Beal scored 28 points and teammate John Wall added all 22 of his points in the second half to power the Wizards over Atlanta 104-100.

Fairytale end for Podolski as Germany set record

March 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Lukas Podolski admitted his Germany farewell could not have been scripted better after netting the superb winner in the 1-0 friendly win over England.

Podolski

It was only fitting that the Galatasaray forward should claim his 49th goal on his 130th — and final — international appearance in Wednesday’s emotional farewell.

“The way it finished up was like in a film,” said Podolski, who smashed home the winning goal on 69 minutes, then came off to thunderous applause with six minutes left.

“Dear god, or someone else, gave me a strong left foot and I used it tonight. I am proud of the last 13 years,” beamed Podolski, who will join Japan’s Vissel Kobe next season.

“It was a great game, a great result and a great way to say goodbye.”

Podolski captained the world champions to their first win over old rivals England on home soil since 1987.

The victory was also sweet for head coach Joachim Loew as it was a record seventh game without conceding a goal for Germany, a run starting since their Euro 2016 semi-final defeat to France.

It came with Loew missing first-choice players like goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus and Mario Gomez.

However, Gareth Southgate’s England had the better of the world champions in the first-half before Podolski’s winner.

Adam Lallana’s powerful shot hit the post with 30 minutes gone. Then Dele Alli forced Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen into a reflex save but it stayed goalless at the break.

Podolski turned the friendly Germany’s way with the superb winner on 69 minutes.

Andre Schuerrle laid the ball off for Podolski, whose bullet shot off his left foot gave England goalkeeper Joe Hart no chance from 25 metres out.

“Normally fairytales don’t happen in football but that was one for him,” Southgate said of Podolski’s stunning goal.

“It’s an outstanding achievement in terms of the goals and caps he has.

“It was an incredible strike, but from Joe Hart’s point of view it was pretty unstoppable.”

“But the result fulfilled a purpose for us.”

Podolski made his debut in 2004 and was ever-present during Loew’s decade in charge since taking over as head coach after the 2006 World Cup.

The 31-year-old Podolski made only two replacement appearances at the 2014 World Cup, but was an important motivating presence under Loew.

“The goal was typically ‘Poldi’, but special players deserve a special farewell like this, which was great for him,” said Loew.

“We had thought of taking him off earlier, but he said during the break that he wanted to play as long as possible.”

Loew had included just three World Cup winners — Toni Kroos, Mats Hummels and Podolski — in his starting line-up.

He fielded an experimental team as striker Timo Werner, 21, made his debut.

“We were very nervous in the first half, but some of them were playing together for the first time,” added Loew.

Both Kroos and Thomas Mueller, who came off the bench, agreed that Podolski’s farewell could not have been scripted better.

“Things like that only happen in football,” said Kroos. “Against a backdrop like that came a goal like that — unbelievable.

“That wasn’t a goal they gifted to us. It was a lovely thing for Lukas.

“We showed as a team in the second half that we still have the quality, even when a few of us are missing.”

Mueller said it was a fitting end to a fitting career.

“I could not have written a better screenplay, even if it was a bit too cheesy for me as a director,” quipped Mueller.

“It wasn’t an unusual goal for him, but he should soak up the moment and enjoy it.

“Normally, a stadium is empty ten minutes after the end of a match, but this time everyone wanted to see Lukas.

“If you have played 130 internationals, you have to have had something special.”

Hamilton looks for fast start to new season

March 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton will look to put his stamp on the new Formula One season at this week’s Australian Grand Prix, as he seeks to regain the world title following the shock retirement of reigning champion Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton

Ten years after his F1 debut at Albert Park, Hamilton arrives at the downtown circuit as the leading light of a sport now under new management and featuring wider and faster cars.

Hamilton, 32, was beaten to last year’s title by Mercedes team-mate Rosberg, who quit the sport five days later citing the intense pressures of competing.

This year, Hamilton will be face renewed competition from Ferrari and Red Bull, who are expected to close the gap on dominant Mercedes, as well his new team-mate Valtteri Bottas of Finland.

Hamilton is revelling in the new generation of quicker cars, which coincides with American group Liberty Media’s takeover and the exit of long-time ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone.

“I’m finding the car is much more physical to drive than in the past,” said Hamilton, who is seeking his fourth world title after victories in 2008, 2014 and 2015.

“It’s so much faster in the corners. The force you feel on your body and on your neck is much higher. I’ve got bruises and bumps where I’ve never really had them before.”

An overhaul of technical regulations has ushered in wider cars with broader tyres, which are expected to be noisier and provide faster racing, but also put greater physical demands on the drivers.

“Having spoken to the drivers, these machines are violent — just like Formula One cars should be,” said Mercedes chief Toto Wolff.

“The target with these new regulations was to make this generation of F1 cars the quickest in the history of the sport.

“And looking at the results from testing, we’re well on the way to achieving that. It’s something that’s never been done before and that’s a radical change.”

Hamilton and Rosberg had a fractious relationship in the Mercedes garage, but Wolff said the Briton and Bottas were “in a great place”.

“They have a respectful and friendly relationship from what we’ve seen in our team briefings so far,” he added.

Bottas is yet to win a race but he is confident of improving on his best finish of fifth around the Melbourne circuit, for his former team Williams in 2014.

“It’s a big challenge and I’ll definitely need to prove myself to a lot of people and my team that I deserve the place,” Bottas said.

“But I see it very positively. It’s a great opportunity for my career to fight for the wins and even for the championship.”

While the Silver Arrows have dominated F1, winning the drivers and constructors titles over the last three years, pre-season testing pointed to other teams pushing hard.

Ferrari topped the timesheets at testing in Barcelona, with Kimi Raikkonen fastest ahead of team-mate Sebastien Vettel.

Ferrari last won at Albert Park in 2007 through Raikkonen, who went on to win the championship that year — the last time the Italian team lifted the drivers title.

“It’s impossible to predict anything,” said Ferrari’s Vettel, a four-time champion with Red Bull from 2010-2013.

“Even the tests in Barcelona only give a basic idea where you stand.

“It is only in the first race that you will know how well you and the others have worked over the winter. We will only get real clarity after three or four races.”

Daniel Ricciardo, attempting to become the first Australian F1 world champion since Alan Jones in 1980, believes Red Bull can loosen Mercedes’ grip on the titles.

But Ricciardo, who finished third behind Rosberg and Hamilton in last year’s standings, said it would be tough to win in Melbourne.

“Can we be the quickest? I think we can. Will it be by Melbourne? Probably not,” he said. “We haven’t quite been the fastest in testing so I would say we’re not the quickest as we stand here today.”

But he added that Mercedes would have a “target on them”.

“If we can get close to them and get a few wins and somehow end up in a championship fight towards the end of the season then that’s what I want.”

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