Zimbabwe leading Pakistan by 185 runs

Three late wickets gave Pakistan renewed hope after Zimbabwe had played into a strong position on the third day of the second Test at Harare Sports Club on Thursday.

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A five-wicket haul by Brian Vitori and a century stand between Tino Mawoyo and Hamilton Masakadza put Zimbabwe on top before both partners and nightwatchman Tinashe Panyangara fell in the last three overs of the day.

Zimbabwe were 4-121 at the close, an overall lead of 185 on a wearing pitch which has made stroke play difficult for batsmen of both sides.

Left-arm fast bowler Vitori took five for 61 as Pakistan collapsed to 230 all out, losing their last six wickets for 19 runs and giving Zimbabwe a first innings lead of 64.

Stand-in opening batsman Prosper Utseya was caught at midwicket off Rahat Ali for five when Zimbabwe batted again with regular opener Vusi Sibanda feeling ill.

But Mawoyo and Masakadza added 104 for the second wicket with some of the most impressive batting of the match.

Mawoyo made 58 off 165 balls before he was trapped leg before wicket by left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman shortly before the close. Masakadza followed up his first innings of 75 with 44 before he, too, fell leg before, to left-arm fast bowler Rahat Ali.

Rehman, the most impressive of the Pakistan bowlers, claimed a second wicket in the last over of the day when Panyangara was caught at short leg. Rehman took two for 20 in 15.2 accurate overs.

Earlier, Pakistan were well-placed to overhaul Zimbabwe’s first innings total of 294 until Asad Shafiq was fifth man out shortly before lunch, bowled by Tendai Chatara with the total on 211.

The match swung dramatically in Zimbabwe’s favour after lunch when Younis Khan, the mainstay of their innings, clipped Panyangara to midwicket after making a patient 77 off 223 balls with nine fours.

Rehman was leg before wicket to Panyangara off the next ball and Vitori ripped out the last three batsmen to give Zimbabwe an important lead on a tricky pitch.

Only 48 runs were scored in 28 overs during the morning’s play for the loss of two wickets, while six further wickets fell while 49 runs were scored in 22.5 overs between lunch and tea. The scoring rate picked up slightly after tea as 91 runs were scored off 36.2 overs.

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq made a laboured 33 off 120 balls before he fell victim to the second delivery with the second new ball shortly before the morning drinks break, caught at first slip off Vitori, pushing at a wide ball slanted away from him.

Nibali still leads, Kiryienka wins stage

Italian Vincenzo Nibali clung on to his narrow lead of the Tour of Spain after a gruelling 18th stage on Thursday.

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Sky’s Belarusian rider Vasil Kiryienka won the stage after breaking away at the end of the 186.5km ride from Burgos to Pena Cabarga that featured five categorised climbs, including a tricky final ascent.

Australian Adam Hansen was third on the stage, 1min 18sec down, while Chris Anker Sorensen of Denmark was second at 0:28.

Kiriyenka’s breakaway to the summit of Pena Cabarga almost cost Nibali his lead atop the general classification, now cut to just three seconds.

The Sicilian couldn’t respond to a push by the Katusha team in the final ascent, and then the attack by RadioShack’s 41-year-old American rider Chris Horner, who was sixth across the finish line.

Nibali, who finished 10th 25sec off Horner, also gave away time to Spaniards Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), now third in the overall standings at 1:10, and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), fourth at 2:24.

“Horner is very strong, it’s incredible what he’s doing at almost 42 years of age,” Nibali told Spanish television at the end of the race.

“Horner showed he’s one of the great pretenders for this Vuelta.”

Kiryienka, who bowed out of the Tour de France in July after missing the time cut on stage nine in the Pyrenees, was one of an initial 15-strong group to break away from the main peloton, and attacked in Alto del Caracol, 45km from the finish.

The 32-year-old arrived at the foot of the Pena Cabarga with 1:30 on his rivals and managed his ride-in to perfection.

Friday’s 19th stage sees the riders tackle 181km with the finish again at altitude, demanding a first-category climb to Alto del Naranco before tackling the infamous Alto de l’Angliru on Saturday’s stage.

Cane out to play own game againt Boks

The comparisons are inevitable, but All Blacks loose forward Sam Cane will concentrate on playing his own game against South Africa in Auckland on Saturday.

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The openside flanker has been called into the starting XV for the Rugby Championship clash as replacement for injured skipper Richie McCaw.

It will be the 21-year-old’s 10th cap, whereas McCaw was earning his 119th when he limped off with ligament damage in his left knee against Argentina last weekend.

“He’s the best in the world and he’s been the best for a long time,” Cane said of McCaw.

“It’s a big challenge, but it’s important I don’t go out there and try to play Richie’s game. I’ll just try and play my own game and be myself.”

Cane draws confidence from his heavy involvement in the All Blacks’ 3-0 sweep of France in June.

With McCaw away on a six-month break from rugby, Cane was on the field for all but the last eight minutes of the series.

“It’s a big help just knowing you can play at that level and you can play for 80,” he said.

“When the going gets tough, you just dig in.”

Cane’s inclusion is one of two changes to the All Blacks’ starting loose trio, with Chiefs teammate Liam Messam back from injury.

The pair join No.8 Kieran Read, who takes over from McCaw as captain.

Coach Steve Hansen has full confidence that Cane is ready for the job.

“He’s a good athlete and mentally he’s able to put things into perspective,” he said.

“It’s not easy coming in and following a guy like McCaw because you’re compared with him all the time.

Hansen echoed Cane’s view about doing things his way, but also said the loose forwards needed a platform from the front five.

English player considers challenge to FIFA transfer rules

English-born striker Joe Yoffe, 26, currently plying his trade in the Icelandic second division, is planning to challenge FIFA regulations that he says limits his freedom of movement and his ability to earn a living as a professional footballer.

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The Manchester-born player is facing an uncertain future as his contract runs out at the end of September and he will not be allowed to register for a new club until January.

Despite being able to sign for free as a Bosman player, clubs in some European countries cannot register him until their transfer windows open again in January – something Yoffe says limits his right to free movement of labour guaranteed under EU law.

Yoffe has played for lower league and semi-professional clubs in England, Spain, Canada, Australia and Ireland and says he is now considering a legal challenge to the transfer regulations to make it easier for players in his position to find new employers.

“It’s something I’ve thought seriously about and there’s a number of players in my position who should do the same,” Yoffe told Reuters, adding that he hoped legal action would not be necessary to enable him to sign for a new club

If he goes ahead with his challenge it could have the biggest impact on the transfer market since 1995 when Belgian journeyman Jean-Marc Bosman won a ruling from the European Court of Justice that banned transfer fees for players out of contract.

FIFA’s transfer rules also currently limit to two the number of clubs that players can represent in a calendar year, meaning that players such as Yoffe – who often sign for cash-strapped clubs on short-term contracts – face enforced spells on the sidelines as they wait to become eligible again.

VERY DIFFICULT

“Players at the top end of the game are so financially independent that it doesn’t really affect them,” Yoffe said in an interview at the windswept home ground of UMF Selfoss, an Icelandic second tier club based some 40 kilometers east of Reykjavik.

“But for those of us yet to reach that level, it’s very difficult.”

With 10 goals in as many games for Selfoss this season, he should be a hot property on the Scandinavian transfer market – had it not been for the existing rules.

“You come to the end of your contract and you can’t sign for three or four months for a new employer – there’s no other job out there where that would be the case,” he said.

Footballers in Scandinavian leagues, who play through their summer, often fall foul of these regulations and Magnus Erlingmark, general secretary of Swedish players’ union SFS, admitted it was difficult to safeguard the interest of all parties.

“We would like to reduce the limitations on working but then the clubs might also want to turn back the clock to the time before Bosman. It’s a difficult balance,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Erlingmark warned that decisions to change the regulations should not be made in haste, as relaxing the rules might lead to greater insecurity for players.

“It’s difficult when you can bring players in and out as one wishes – it might lead to even shorter contracts, so it needs to be looked at carefully,” he said.

“But in the widest possible sense, players who are out of contract should be allowed to sign for new clubs.”

MORE HEALTHY

The union boss declined to comment on whether international players’ union FIFPro might support Yoffe’s specific case, but said that it was something “worth looking at from an international perspective.”

Last month UEFA president Michel Platini bemoaned the treatment of players as commodities, describing the current transfer system as “robbery” and said that “something more healthy” was needed to replace it.

Despite the uncertainty of his situation, Yoffe said that he will continue playing professionally and that he hopes that his successful season at Selfoss will act as a springboard to a bigger Scandinavian club next year.

“The last couple of clubs I’ve been at have been a little bit cash-strapped, and it’s definitely made me consider whether to keep on playing the game at a professional level or to go into other employment,” he said.

“But there’s been enough good times to keep you going through the bad times. I want to be the best that I can, and you feel that you want to prove, not just to other people but to yourself too, that you can keep going and reach the level that you deserve.”

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Ainslie takes over as Oracle tactician

British four-time Olympic champion Ben Ainslie has replaced John Kostecki as Oracle’s tactician ahead of races six and seven in the 34th edition of the America’s Cup.

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American Kostecki is no longer mentioned among the crew list published on Thursday by the holders with Ainslie now listed as the team’s tactician.

The Briton had previously been second helmsman for the American team.

Kostecki, 49, has seemingly paid the price for Oracle’s tactical errors in losing four of five races to challengers Emirates Team New Zealand thus far.

The 36-year-old Ainslie, who has won three Olympic sailing golds in the Finn class as well as one in the Laser class, was on board Oracle’s AC72 catamaran during a training run on Wednesday, while Kostecki was nowhere to be seen.

Philippe Presti, the American team’s French coach, had indicated to AFP on Wednesday that some “surprises” could be expected when Oracle announced their team on Thursday morning.

Oracle elected to use its postponement card to delay Tuesday’s second scheduled race after the Americans were beaten convincingly by their Kiwi opponents in the fifth race of the best-of-17 contest.

Oracle won the start of Tuesday’s opening race and led the first two legs, but a bold attempt at a foiling tack saw them slow dramatically and they ultimately finished over a minute behind Team New Zealand.

The responsibility for the blunder, acknowledged by Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill, was attributed to Kostecki.

Oracle began the finals two points adrift after a pre-regatta penalty, and have won just one race, leaving them stuck on minus one and still needing 10 more wins to retain the Cup.

Alvarez a mere ‘stepping stone’ for Mayweather

“If the game plan is to keep pressure, I can handle it,” Mayweather, 36, said during the final news conference for what could end up being the richest fight of all time.

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“If the game plan is to out-box me, nobody can out-box me. You have to be able to out-match me mentally, and I’m the strongest mental fighter in the sport of boxing. I’ve been here before so I know what it takes.

“He’s 42-0, but he hasn’t faced 42 Floyd Mayweathers because he’d be 0-42. I’m at the pinnacle. I’m the face of boxing,” said the American, who prides himself on lightning hand speed and agile movement around the ring.

Widely regarded as one of the best defensive fighters of all time and long renowned for his trash-talking, Mayweather has compiled a flawless professional record of 44-0 with 26 knockouts.

“Career-wise, I’m OK, no matter what the outcome is,” he said. “I never worry about the outcome. When I go into any fight, I’m not focused on the money or anything.

“I’m focused on going out there, performing well, and giving the fans what they want to see – excitement. That’s what it’s all about; it’s about the fans winning.

“September 14 is just another stepping stone, another opponent to me. But he knows he’s facing Floyd Mayweather; I’m facing just another opponent.”

Mayweather, who is nicknamed “Money” for his flamboyant and often extravagant lifestyle, is guaranteed a record $41.5 million from Saturday’s fight while the 23-year-old Alvarez will earn $12.5 million, by far the biggest payday of his career.

RECORD LIVE GATE

Billed as “The One,” the heavily marketed bout has already produced a record live gate of $19.91 million and could approach record revenue from its pay-per-view buys.

“I can turn any fighter into a star,” said Mayweather, who dominated fellow American Robert Guerrero with sublime defense and a steady parade of right hands in his most recent bout, in May, to retain his WBC welterweight championship.

“I don’t worry about running out of opponents. I’ve got guys under my banner I can turn into stars and fight.

“It’s about being entertaining. I feel like if I didn’t step up to the plate and speak my mind or be flashy and flamboyant then I probably wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in right now. I think it’s a gift.”

For his part, Alvarez is excited about the prospect of becoming the first professional boxer to beat Mayweather, especially given that the fight scheduled for 12 rounds will be contested on Mexican Independence weekend.

“I don’t care about his record,” said the Guadalajara-born boxer, (42-0-1, 30 KOs). “I’m not coming to make a good fight, I’m coming to win.

“When you fight Floyd you have to be ready for every aspect of a fight. You have to be able to adjust mentally as well as physically. I have to be very, very smart and ready to change my plan at any time.

“I’ve studied him. I know his style and I know what he’s going to do. I’m confident I will win because I know everything about him. I’ve prepared for everything.”

Asked whether he felt the weight of pressure and expectation from his fans in Mexico where he enjoys rock-star status, Alvarez replied: “There’s no pressure whatsoever. It’s motivating to have all of Mexico rooting for me.

“You’ll see how I do it. You’ll see how I beat him. I’m calm and I’m just ready to fight. I’m ready for the best Floyd possible.”

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Lake Forest, Illinois; Editing by Frank Pingue)

Oracle taps British sailing royalty to save America’s Cup campaign

The most successful Olympic sailor of all time, Ainslie will sail as the tactician aboard the 72-foot catamaran in place of American John Kostecki.

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Earlier this week a tactical blunder by Kostecki cost Oracle a lead, allowed the Kiwis to cruise into a commanding fourth victory, and prompted the American team to call for an unusual time-out.

“It’s clear we need to improve performance, and with that comes changes,” Kostecki, 49, said. “I’ll fill whatever role is best to help us win.”

Government-backed Team New Zealand needs to win five more races to take the 162-year-old trophy back to its sailing-crazed island nation, while software mogul Larry Ellison’s Oracle team still needs to win 10 races to hold onto the Cup. Oracle started the regatta two points behind because of an unprecedented jury-imposed punishment for illegally modifying the team’s smaller, prototype boats sailed in warm-up races.

“I’m happy to step up and do what’s best for the team,” Ainslie said in a prepared statement. The 36-year-old sailor has been at the helm of Oracle’s second yacht during training matches.

Though Oracle flies the American flag, substituting Ainslie for Kostecki leaves only one U.S. sailor on the team, trimmer Rome Kirby. All but two of the Kiwi sailors hail from New Zealand.

Oracle’s devastating loss on Tuesday prompted the team to play its so-called postponement card and cancel a second race of the day so it could regroup. The only crew change was the promotion of Ainslie – a record five-time Olympic medallist knighted by the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace in March.

A supreme tactician, Ainslie is known for bouncing back from bad races. His work as a sparring partner for Team New Zealand’s skipper Dean Barker in Valencia, Spain, in 2007 could help him in the races for the America’s Cup trophy. Ainslie has set winning the “Auld Mug,” as the Cup is called, as his primary goal.

“I think this Cup is still winnable for Oracle,” he said in an interview earlier this week with British broadcaster Sky Sports. “We’re obviously in a very difficult situation.

“If we can change the momentum of this series, then anything’s possible.”

Ainslie made his mark in his 1996 Olympic debut earning a silver in the Laser dinghy class. That made him, at 19, the Britain’s youngest Olympic sailing medallist.

Four years later, in Sydney, he won gold, and did so again in Athens in 2004. He took his fourth gold and fifth Olympic medal in London last year.

Oracle was winning the race against powerhouse New Zealand on Tuesday when it tried to do something that has never before been done — to lift its foils out of the water while tacking. The team bungled the manoeuvre, almost stopped dead and gave up an eight-second lead.

The international jury that punished Oracle in the biggest cheating scandal in Cup history also expelled Kostecki’s brother-in-law, first-choice Oracle wing trimmer Dirk de Ridder for making illegal boat alterations.

Kostecki grew up sailing on San Francisco Bay and was hired as Oracle’s tactician at least in part for his insider knowledge.

Ellison won the world’s oldest sporting trophy in Valencia in 2010 and with it the right to choose his home San Francisco Bay waters as the venue and the fragile and hard-to-handle twin-hulled yachts with 13-story rigid wing sails as the vessels.

Sailors have criticized the Oracle chief executive’s decisions, particularly after British Olympic gold medallist Andrew “Bart” Simpson was killed when the AC72 of Sweden’s Artemis Racing capsized during a May practice exercise.

Ainslie grew up sailing with and against Simpson in British youth squads. Losing Simpson was crushing for Ainslie. He delivered a tribute at his friend’s funeral.

(Editing by Alden Bentley)

Bulldogs say they can go all the way

Desperation is the key to NRL success.

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That’s the unorthodox proverb for Canterbury players heading into a finals campaign looking to go one better than last year’s grand final berth.

But unlike their minor premiership-winning ways of 2012, it’s do or die for this year’s Bulldogs.

Forced to settle for sixth spot on the ladder, they face Newcastle in an eliminator at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.

“Everyone’s going to be desperate,” prop James Graham said on Thursday.

“And Newcastle will be as well so it will probably bring out the best in them.”

Fellow forward Josh Jackson agreed: “We’re definitely playing like it’s our last game, because it potentially could be.

“But we’re more excited than nervous.”

The squad returns to near full-strength after giant forward Sam Kasiano and elusive fullback Ben Barba made their returns from long injury layoffs last week.

“They’ll be good there for us,” Jackson said.

“Benny’s one of those blokes who can tear a game open.”

Canterbury lost both their clashes with Newcastle this season, having copped a 44-8 thumping in May along with an 18-12 defeat in July.

On and off-field tribulations have ensured a less-than-smooth passage to the finals.

Injuries and suspensions ravaged them in the early weeks, while the dramas surrounding 2012 Dally M Player of the Year Ben Barba created distracting headlines.

A mid-season streak of seven wins from eight games propelled them up the ladder, though they lost three of their last five including a shock loss to Brisbane.

Coach Des Hasler was scathing over his squad’s sloppy display against the Broncos during which they completed only 65 per cent of sets, something Graham conceded was an issue.

“(It’s) probably not just this week, probably for a majority of the year to be honest,” Graham said.

“We know we need to improve our ball control and we’re going to have to complete a lot better than what we did (against Brisbane).”

But Graham was determined none of it has dampened belief they can still take home the premiership against the odds.

“On the league table it says that we’re not (the best performed) but I think the belief in this team, without getting too far ahead of ourselves going past this Sunday, we believe there’s no reason why we can’t go all the way.”

Kyrgios honoured by Davis Cup call-up

Rising Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios says he’s pumped and ready for a first taste of Davis Cup after his surprise selection for the World Group playoff against Poland.

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The 18-year-old became the 103rd player selected for the 28-time champion Davis Cup nation after captain Pat Rafter handed him a late call up-for the crunch tie, starting in Warsaw on Friday.

Kyrgios replaces Marinko Matosevic in the four-man squad after impressing Rafter in training over the past fortnight.

While Kyrgios is no guarantee to play a match as Australia bids to return to the competition’s top tier for the first time since 2007, his selection represents a huge vote of confidence from Rafter.

At 18 he is not the youngest to be picked for Australia but he’s among the most inexperienced, having only just shifted his full focus from juniors to the senior tour.

The former world No.1 junior made a remarkable senior grand slam debut when he upset Czech veteran Radek Stepanek in the first round of the French Open and his Davis Cup selection continues a rapid rise.

“Honoured to be selected for the Australian DavisCup team, I’m told I’m the 103rd player to represent Australia. Pumped and prepared!,” Kyrgios wrote on Twitter.

Rafter said earlier this week he had been highly impressed by Kyrgios but indicated it may be too soon to include him.

“I just don’t know how his legs are going to hold up over five sets on clay in the brutal Davis Cup environment,” Rafter told AAP.

“But talent wise, he’s up there. It’s fantastic.”

With Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic leading Australia into battle against a Poland side missing injured leading light Jerzy Janowicz, Rafter would ideally be hoping for an early victory – allowing for Kyrgios to make his debut in a dead rubber on Sunday.

Kyrgios’ selection comes as a blow to Matosevic, who is still to prove himself under pressure at the top level.

The talented 28-year-old extended his grand slam duck to 11 matches with a first-round loss at the US Open, admitting he was being plagued by doubts.

“He’s so impressive in training, he works harder than anyone,” Rafter said of Matosevic.

“He prepares himself well. He’s just got his own mental demons he has to overcome.”

Hewitt, coming off his run to the last 16 at the US Open, will face world No.70 Lukasz Kubot in the opening singles match on Friday (starting 2400 AEST).

Tomic will then take on 113th-ranked Michal Przysiezny, who replaces world No.14 Janowicz.

Wimbledon semi-finalist Janowicz on Thursday succumbed to an ongoing back problem that hampered him during a short first-round exit at the US Open.

Hewitt will team up with Chris Guccione in the doubles on Saturday.

NASA’s Voyager exits solar system

Never before has a human-built spacecraft travelled so far.

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NASA’s Voyager 1 probe has now left the solar system and is wandering the galaxy, US scientists said Thursday.

The spacecraft was launched in 1977 on a mission to explore the outer planets of our solar system and to possibly journey into the unknown depths of outer space.

“This is the first time that humanity has been able to step outside of the cradle of the solar system to explore the larger galaxy,” Marc Swisdak, an astrophysicist at the University of Maryland, told AFP.

The precise position of Voyager has been fiercely debated in the past year, because scientists have not known exactly what it would look like when the spacecraft crossed the boundary of the solar system – and the tool on board that was meant to detect the change broke long ago.

However, US space agency scientists now agree that Voyager is officially outside the protective bubble known as the heliosphere that extends at least 13 billion kilometre beyond all the planets in our solar system, and has entered a cold, dark region known as interstellar space.

Their findings – which describe the conditions that show Voyager actually left the solar system in August 2012 – are published in the US journal Science.

“Voyager has boldly gone where no probe has gone before marking one of the most significant technological achievements in the annals of the history of science,” John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement.

The twin spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, were launched in 1977 on a primary mission to explore Jupiter and Saturn.

Voyager 2 travelled on to Uranus and Neptune, before the duo’s mission was extended to explore the outer limits of the Sun’s influence.

The spacecraft is expected to keep cruising for now, though the radioisotope thermo-electric generators that power it are beginning to run down.

Voyager’s instruments will have to shut down permanently in 2025.