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Pradeep double rocks England in Test

Nuwan Pradeep struck twice as a revamped England struggled against Sri Lanka on the opening morning of the first Test at Lord’s on Thursday.

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England, after losing the toss, were 3-98 at lunch in their first Test since suffering a 281-run defeat by Australia in Sydney that condemned them to a 5-0 Ashes series loss in January.

Pradeep had done the bulk of the damage with two wickets for 35 runs in nine overs.

England were left looking to Ian Bell to dig them out of a hole, with the experienced batsman 41 not out in his 99th Test. Joe Root was unbeaten on six.

Although the sunny blue skies above Lord’s suggested ideal batting conditions, Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews elected to field first on a greener-looking than usual Lord’s pitch.

Mathews’s decision yielded a quick reward as England lost both their openers inside the first half hour.

Australia-born Sam Robson, one of three debutants in the England side and playing on his Middlesex home ground, fell for one when he was drawn forward by a full-length Pradeep delivery that took the outside edge and wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene, diving to his right, held a fine catch.

And 1-14 became 2-22 when England captain Alastair Cook exited for 17, the left-hander bottom-edging an intended cut off Nuwan Kulasekara into his stumps.

Gary Ballance, promoted to number three in only his second Test, was on one as Bell, taking over the number four slot from the exiled Kevin Pietersen, walked in.

Bell demonstrated his class by easing first-change Shaminda Eranga through the covers for four with a textbook drive.

And the Warwickshire batsman also dealt well with Mathews, Sri Lanka’s fourth seamer, by cover-driving and straight driving the all-rounder for elegant boundaries.

Ballance looked less assured but the Zimbabwe-born left-hander brought up a fifty stand with Bell when he clipped Pradeep off his pads for four.

However, Ballance’s 73-minute innings ended when, to Pradeep’s fifth ball back, he drove flat-footedly and was caught behind for 23 to leave England 3-74.


23/01/2019 0

FIFPro slams ‘irresponsible’ conditions in Manaus

“The players deserve a quality playing surface and conditions that reflect what is meant to be the world’s premier football event.

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This is simply not the case in Manaus,” said FIFPro in a statement.

“Nobody wants to see the players and the spectacle in general suffer.”

The grass at the Amazonia arena on Wednesday was threadbare in places and discoloured in others. Near one goalkeeper’s area patches of sand could clearly be seen poking through.

Manaus, which lies at the heart of the Amazon rain forest and swelters in high heat and humidity year-round, will stage four matches, starting with England v Italy on Saturday.

Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, whose side face Honduras in another match in the city, has already complained about playing “in the middle of the jungle”, saying the decision was “almost irresponsible.”

“FIFPro’s concerns stretch to parts of Brazil, including Manaus, where heat and humidity can reach dangerous levels at this time of year,” FIFPro said.

“Putting a player in harm’s way is shockingly irresponsible and not how the game ought to be run.

“Cooling breaks are important, but when and how often they’re introduced during a match is also open to interpretation in order to ensure optimal protection for the players”

FIFA guidelines state that cooling breaks are considered when Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT), which takes into account heat, humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud cover, is above 32 Celsius.

FIFA has ruled that it will decide on a case-by-case basis whether cooling breaks are necessary at the World Cup.

However, FIFPro has argued that this is too high, quoting the American College of Sports Medicine as recommending that cooling breaks are introduced when the WBGT reaches 27.9 Celsius.

(Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond)


23/01/2019 0

Nadal slips on Halle grass

Spanish world number one Rafael Nadal suffered a shock second round defeat at the hands of German world number 85 Dustin Brown on the grasscourts of Halle on Thursday.

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The right-handed Mallorca native, fresh from his ninth French Open title last Sunday, crashed 6-4 6-1 at the hands of the lanky Brown who is still looking for his first ATP singles’ title.

“Difficult to talk about the match, I don’t know what to say. I didn’t play,” said a downcast Nadal.

“It can happen on this surface against such a opponent. This match has no value preparing for Wimbledon but the match was negative in all ways.

“Now, I’ll leave to Majorca but not sure I will play because I need to rest and then want to fly to Wimbledon Wednesday early morning,” he continued.

The 1.96m Brown, who has won two doubles titles, picked up the biggest win of his career on the back of 11 aces and a winning first service percentage of 83.

Nadal, meanwhile, forced just one break point against his opponent, which he failed to convert, while Brown broke three times on his way to victory in just under an hour.

Awaiting Brown in the quarter-finals is compatriot and 2011 Halle champion Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Earlier, Roger Federer got his Wimbledon preparations fully underway, but he looked out of sorts before finally edging Portugal’s Joao Sousa 6-7 (8-10) 6-4 6-2 in a second-round tie.

Playing for the first time since losing to Ernests Gulbis in the last 16 of the French Open, the six-time former winner of the German tournament started brightly but was soon on the backfoot against the improving Sousa.

There were no breaks of serve in the first set and it was Sousa who dominated the tie-break clinching it on his fourth set point.

Federer looked frustrated at times, but the match turned on the seventh game of the second set when Sousa’s level suddenly dipped allowing the Swiss great to pounce and secure his first break.

From then on it was all Federer with a break of serve in the first game of the deciding set sending him safely on his way into the last eight.

“I struggled a bit on return during a set and half,” said Federer. “Afterwards, it was better, more variation on second serve.

“It was slightly frustrating, but important to stay calm. Maybe I got more confidence winning this way than 6-4 6-4.

“When I came here (Saturday) to start practice it was so-so, but now it’s better. For me, it doesn’t take a lot of time to get used to the grass.”

Third seed Milos Raonic of Canada lost on Wednesday 6-4 6-4 to German wildcard Peter Gojowczyk.

Federer’s opponent in the quarter-finals will be Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan, who defeated big-serving Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-3).


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