Monthly archives: January 2019

Chalmers claims Australian Open lead

Globetrotting Greg Chalmers stands in the way of another dream final-round Australian Open duel between Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott.

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Chalmers, a two-time former champion contesting his sixth tournament in six weeks, seized the outright halfway lead with a sizzling second-round five-under-par 66 on Friday.

McIlroy is one stroke behind on a jam-packed leaderboard after carding a rollercoaster 69, the world No.1 mixing an eagle with six birdies and six bogeys.

Adam Crawford (69), Conrad Shindler (68) and in-form amateur Todd Sinnott (67) share second with the defending champion, while American drawcard Jordan Spieth (72), newly-turned professional Geoff Drake (70) and Brett Rumford (69) are two back at three under.

Scott rebounded from his first-day shocker to match Chalmers’ 67 in a flawless display highlighted by an eagle three at the par-5 14th that ignited his fightback.

After being five over for the tournament after his opening nine holes, Scott is now two under and poised for another serious challenge in his quest to atone for last year’s final-hole slip-up that allowed McIlroy to snatch the trophy at Royal Sydney.

“We had a good morning for it so I had to take advantage just for the sake of getting myself back into the tournament,” Scott said.

“Yesterday, I got off to a bad start and, in the wind, it was tricky and I didn’t scramble when I had to early in the round and it was slipping away from me.

“Today, it didn’t start much better – I was scrambling – but I scrambled well and then, all of sudden, I made eagle at 14 and momentum is on your side.”

All up, 16 players are within five shots of the lead, including another two-time champion in Robert Allenby at two under with Scott after a 69.

But the player everyone is chasing is Chalmers.

Champion in 1998 and 2011, the 41-year-old missed the cut at last week’s Masters in Melbourne and flew under the radar heading to The Australian.

But the plucky West Australian put his flop down to a poor preparation after only arriving in Australia the day before the Masters after playing successive tournaments in the US, Perth, Malaysia and Mexico.

“I’m not jet-lagged. It’s just my sixth event in a row. I’m just trying to conserve my energy,” he said.

“And ironically the more birdies I have it seems the more energy I have.”

Despite his lofty position, Chalmers insisted it was much too soon to start dreaming of joining golfing legends Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Peter Thomson, Greg Norman and Norman Von Nida in having his name etched on the Stonehaven Cup at least three times.

“It’s very early to be talking about that given who’s right behind me and who’s playing well,” Chalmers said.

“So, if we get to have that conversation, great. On Friday night, it doesn’t seem to matter that much.”

Jamie Lovemark went one better than Scott and Chalmers to snatch the course record at the revamped layout with a 65 that left the little-known American at even par for the tournament and well in the hunt heading into the weekend.

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First Test uncertain, cricketers grieve

It’s one thing to say Phillip Hughes would have wanted the first Test to proceed as planned.

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It’s another for 11 men to take the field at the Gabba a week after their close friend died.

Australia’s Test squad should have been wrapping up Sheffield Shield games on Friday and preparing to travel to Brisbane.

Instead they assembled in Sydney, still in shock over the death of Hughes.

They are stricken with grief and the merits of playing, delaying or abandoning the start of a four-Test series against India are yet to be considered.

“We haven’t broached the subject with the players yet – we will in time,” Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said on Friday.

“It’s really important to give people time and people will respond in different ways to what they’re going through.”

Sutherland noted that day one of the first Test may be under a week away, “but in other ways it’s a million miles away”.

Sutherland’s colleague Pat Howard added CA must wait until players “are in a position where they can make strong choices”.

“That’s not now,” Howard said.

Hughes’ family will obviously influence the players’ discussion regarding the first Test.

“I’ve heard the Hughes family are keen for that to go ahead, obviously that’s going to be a question for the players,” South Australian Cricket Association chief Keith Bradshaw said in Adelaide.

“We must be mindful of the players and respect the players’ feelings at this time as they try to deal with this tragic loss.”

Test players Brad Haddin, David Warner, Shane Watson and Nathan Lyon were all in the field for NSW when they watched Hughes slump to the ground after being struck on Tuesday.

When and how they will start thinking about playing the sport again is anyone’s guess.

Hughes’ funeral will also shape the movements of players and ancillary staff.

The Gabba is taking direction from CA regarding the first Test, while the ground and Queensland Cricketers’ Club have both setup tribute areas for Hughes.

Cricket Australia director Mark Taylor told the Nine Network the first Test could be the most fitting tribute of all.

“It would be great for the Test match to go ahead so people could come out and share the mourning of the loss of Phillip,” Taylor said.

“There’s a lot to be discussed over the next probably three or four days before a decision will probably be made next week.”

India will have a centre-wicket practice session on Saturday and fly to Brisbane on Monday.

Sutherland thanked the tourists for their recent support, noting their “understanding and empathy has been outstanding”.

India are set to train at the Gabba on Tuesday and expect the first Test to start two days later.

Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar was among many doubting whether that will, or should, happen.

“Nobody would be in the right frame of mind,” Gavaskar said.

Given the upcoming jam-packed schedule, it would be difficult to reschedule the first Test this summer.

It means if the match does not go ahead, it is likely to be abandoned.

LITTLE ROOM IN TEST SERIES SCHEDULE:

*Dec 4-8: First Test in Brisbane

*Dec 12-16: Second Test in Adelaide

*Dec 26-30: Third Test in Melbourne

*Jan 3-7: Fourth Test in Sydney

*Jan 12: India warm-up match for tri series in Sydney NB: The only potential slot in the schedule is Dec 19-23. Players would only have two days off after the Test in Adelaide and before the Test in Melbourne, so it will not happen.

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Qld bum-breathing turtles ‘need help’

The survival of a species of turtle that breathes out of its bottom is threatened by the construction of dams and weirs in Queensland, scientists say.

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The white-throated snapping turtle (Elseya albagula) is known for its large size and ability to extract oxygen from water via a process called cloacal respiration or bottom breathing.

James Cook University researcher Jason Schaffer says populations of the already critically-endangered turtle are diminishing in many of its known habitats such as the Fitzroy, Burnett and Mary rivers.

He says there there is nearly a 100 per cent loss of eggs and young turtles.

“Hatchling and juvenile turtles have a higher mortality in the river, coupled with a higher reliance on aquatic respiration, and so are more vulnerable to the degradation of water quality,” Mr Schaffer said.

“They are simply not surviving.”

Mr Schaffer, who has studied the turtles for the past eight years, says a major contributor is the construction of dams and weirs in Queensland.

This restricts the movement of the turtles which thrive in cool, clear flowing water.

Sedimentation and erosion from large-scale land use such as agriculture and mining and extreme nest destruction by introduced and native predators are also contributors.

Mr Schaffer says he’s concerned about the renewed interest in developing a new dam northwest of Rockhampton at Connors River, an important habitat for the turtles, and wants to see more nests and habitats protected to ensure the turtles survival.

“There are very few places left in the Fitzroy as amazing as (Connors River) in terms of being intact and clear,” he said.

The turtles live for up to 100 years and don’t start breeding until they are about 20 years old.

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Qld coroner makes smoke detector plea

A coroner wants Queensland to pass laws making it mandatory for every home to be fitted with multiple smoke alarms.

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Southeast Queensland Coroner James McDougall made the call as part of his findings from an inquest into a 2011 blaze in Brisbane’s south which claimed 11 lives.

While Mr McDougall couldn’t determine a cause for Australia’s deadliest house fire, he did state the presence of working smoke alarms in the property could have saved some, if not all, the victims.

He said legislation needed to be passed ensuring, as a minimum, that each bedroom in a house be fitted with a smoke alarm.

Mr McDougall added smoke alarms should also be installed in hallways and on every storey of a property, even if that storey doesn’t contain bedrooms.

“Legislation should be put in place as soon as possible, the effect of which is such that all places where people sleep should be provided with early warning of fire occurring at a sound level capable of waking them,” Mr McDougall said.

The coroner said any installed smoke alarms should be photoelectric alarms, which have been proven to be more effective than ionisation alarms.

Under current legislation in Queensland, every level of a home must have at least one smoke alarm, though there’s no requirement for those alarms to be in a bedroom.

Queensland Master Builders Association manager of building services Tony Mitchell welcomed discussion on the issue but said it has to be asked whether the current requirements had proven inadequate in this instance.

Smoke alarms were fitted in the property where 11 members of the Taufa family died but Mr McDougall said neither alarm was working at the time of the blaze.

“We’re happy to look at any proposal for change,” Mr Mitchell told AAP.

“But in this case there doesn’t seem to be any indication the current regulations, if they’re working, have failed anybody.”

A spokesman for Queensland’s Police, Fire and Emergency Services Minister Jack Dempsey also backed the current regulations but said the government will “carefully consider” the coroner’s recommendations.

Family members of the fire’s victims said the coroner’s inability to find a cause for the fire was disappointing.

“I lost my family. I lost everything,” Jeremiah Lale, who lost his wife and five children in the blaze, told reporters.

“I want my family, I want my wife and kids to rest in peace.

“I can’t move on now.”

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Ferguson takes comfort in Thanksgiving

A peaceful Ferguson has come together to celebrate Thanksgiving and recover from violent protests that erupted when a police officer was not charged in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager.

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Armed National Guard troops and humvees with US flags hoisted on their antennae at the shopping mall and boarded-up stores were the only outward sign of the turbulence of recent days.

There were no protesters or police on the streets of the St Louis suburb, which reeled from Monday’s decision by a Missouri grand jury not to charge a white policeman who shot dead 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9.

Residents kept out of the cold, spending the holiday with friends and family, attending church services and beautifying boarded-up stores.

“I believe God enough to know we will rebuild,” said Reverend Carlton Lee, the pastor at Flood Christian Church, which was burnt beyond repair during the violence on Monday.

Sunday service will be held in a heated tent in the parking lot, and the church, where Brown’s father reportedly worshipped, set up an online appeal for $50,000 to rebuild.

Wellspring offered a free traditional Thanksgiving lunch of turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and pumpkin pie to members of the community and a diverse group of Christians from nearby parishes who came to express support.

“We do this every year but right now with the Ferguson unrest, it just brings the community together,” said volunteer server Rhonda Johnson.

Anger over the grand jury verdict and Brown’s killing is still palpable, and protesters have vowed to continue demonstrating until justice is served.

Many say they can never accept the grand jury decision that officer Darren Wilson shot Brown in lawful self-defence after an altercation. In total, 12 shots were fired.

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McCullum belts 78-ball Test ton

Skipper Brendon McCullum hit New Zealand’s fastest Test century to lead a strong New Zealand reply after spinner Mark Craig took seven wickets to outshine Pakistan in the third and final Test in Sharjah on Friday.

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McCullum was unbeaten on 100 off 78 balls – his tenth century – as New Zealand reached 1-164 at tea on the second day, 187 behind Pakistan’s first-innings total of 351.

Kane Williamson was equally aggressive with 45-ball 44 not out as the duo punished a sloppy Pakistan attack during their 98-ball, 113-run, unbroken stand for the second wicket, lifting their efforts for a series-levelling win.

Pakistan lead the series 1-0 after winning the first Test and drawing the second.

McCullum was severe against left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar, hitting four of his five sixes off him and hitting four boundaries in one paceman Mohammad Talha over before two quick singles completed his hundred.

This was the fastest hundred ever by a New Zealand batsman, beating the 81-ball hundred Ross Taylor made against Australia at Hamilton in 2010.

In all McCullum has so far hit 13 boundaries.

Earlier off-spinner Mark Craig took a career best 7-94 as Pakistan lost their last seven wickets for 70 runs to get bowled out for 351 after resuming at a strong 3-281.

Opener Mohammad Hafeez hit a career-best 197 before he miscued a pull off leg-spinner Ish Sodhi and was caught at deep square-leg.

He hit 25 boundaries and three sixes during a dominating seven-hour ten-minute stay at the crease to better his previous highest of 196 made against Sri Lanka in Colombo two years ago.

But it was skipper Misbah-ul Haq who sparked a collapse, edging seamer Tim Southee to wicket-keeper BJ Watling in the fourth over of the day, without adding to his Wednesday’s score of 38.

Craig wrapped up the middle and lower order dismissing Asad Shafiq (11), Sarfraza Ahmed (15), Talha (nought), Rahat Ali (nought) and Yasir Shah (25) – his last four wickets coming off 25 balls.

Craig’s previous best of 4-91 came in his debut Test against the West Indies in Jamaica in June this year.

Before the start, Pakistan and New Zealand teams and officials observed a minute’s silence and wore black armbands to join in the mourning for young Australian batsman Phillip Hughes.

Hughes, 25, died Thursday from a rare head injury after being hit by a bouncer in a first-class match in Sydney, leaving the cricketing world in shock.

The New Zealand team also did not celebrate any dismissal.

The teams abandoned Thursday’s second day’s play in the third and final Test on Thursday after the tragic news of his death as a mark of respect.

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Bangladesh bag ODI win over Zimbabwe

Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah each struck a fifty to set up a 21-run win for Bangladesh over Zimbabwe in the fourth one-day international in Dhaka on Friday.

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Rahim made a fluent 77 while Mahmudullah remained unbeaten on his career best 82 as the duo helped Bangladesh recover from 4-32 to post a commendable 8-256.

Shakib Al Hasan, Jubair Hossain and Rubel Hossain then claimed two wickets each to restrict Zimbabwe to 235-8 and give Bangladesh a 4-0 lead in the five-match series.

Zimbabwe looked competitive for the first time in the series as medium pacers Neville Madziva (3-60) and Solomon Mire (3-49) put Bangladesh on the back foot with their opening spell burst.

But Rahim and Mahmudullah shared 134 runs for the fifth wicket to bring Bangladesh innings back on track.

Rahim led the initial charge before he top-edged leg-spinner Tafadzwa Kamungozi to end his 78-ball innings.

Skipper Mashrafe Mortaza hit 39 off 25 balls to ensure Bangladesh got a competitive score.

Zimbabwe made a brisk start in reply when Hamilton Masakadza (28) and Vusimuzi Sibanda (17) scored 48 runs in the opening stand.

Shakib removed both the openers in his successive overs and debutant leg-spinner Jubair bowled one-down Timycen Maruma to leave them struggling at 3-60.

Brendan Taylor and Mire each hit a fifty and put 106 runs for the fourth wicket to give them some hope but brought the hosts back into the contest again.

Jubair made Mire a catch of Mahmudullah for 52 and Rubel bounced out Taylor for 63 next over with wicketkeeper Rahim completing the catch.

Shakib finished with 2-28 while Jubair and Rubel grabbed 2-42 and 2-48 respectively.

The fifth ODI will be held at the same venue on December 1.

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Pair banned for homophobic rugby ref abuse

Two people have been banned from Twickenham for two years after being found to have aimed homophobic abuse at referee Nigel Owens, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) announced on Friday.

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“Following the RFU’s investigations into the allegation of homophobic abuse aimed at referee Nigel Owens at the QBE International against New Zealand, two people have received a ban from all matches at Twickenham Stadium for a period of two years,” the RFU said in a statement.

“In addition, they will pay STG1,000 ($A1,825) each to a charity of Nigel Owens’ choice. There is a second investigation still ongoing.”

Welsh official Owens, who is openly gay, was targeted by supporters during England’s 24-21 defeat by New Zealand at Twickenham on November 8.

The matter first came to light when a spectator wrote a letter to British newspaper The Guardian in which he accused a group of male fans of “hurling … nasty, foul-mouthed, racist, homophobic abuse” at Owens.

Owens, who is one of the sport’s most high-profile referees, had previously called for supporters to be issued with stadium bans in cases where allegations of homophobic abuse are proven.

“If someone has gone to the trouble to send a letter to the paper and say that this was disgusting and the behaviour was totally out of order, then I would think what they shouted was pretty bad and if that is the case then these people should be banned from the game,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“They need to be told that some behaviour is not acceptable, that crossing the line of what is humour and banter is a fine line, but if you cross it then you have to put up with the consequences.”

RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said: “While instances of this nature are exceptionally rare, the RFU takes rugby’s values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship very seriously, and is determined to uphold them.

“We are all guardians of these aspects of the game, on and off the pitch, and it is these values which make the sport special.”

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Cricketers set for sad Saturday in honour of Hughes

rade cricket in Sydney and Adelaide, the two cities where Hughes plied his trade as a professional cricketer, has been cancelled.

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But club and school games are otherwise set to go ahead as planned, as the cricket community continues to grieve the shock death of Hughes.

Junior players will wear black armbands and play until they reach Hughes’ not-out score of 63.

Cricket Australia has asked clubs to consider a range of tributes, including black armbands.

CA has asked the mandatory retirement score for junior players be lifted from the traditional 50 to 63.

Hughes was unbeaten on 63 batting for South Australia in a Sheffield Shield clash on Tuesday when he was felled by a lethal bouncer.

The left-hander was Australia’s 408th Test player, with the number set to be painted on cricket fields around the country.

News Corp Australia on Saturday published an emotional column from South Australia coach Darren Berry, detailing why Hughes “was universally loved”.

“His impact in our dressing room in a short space of time was enormous,” Berry wrote of Hughes, who shifted to Adelaide in 2012.

“He was a great role model for our young team and one we will all sadly miss but never forget.

“He was a charming, cheeky larrikin and someone who taught all of us plenty.”

The status of the first Test between Australia and India remains uncertain, with players mourning the death of their close friend.

They are stricken with grief and the merits of playing, delaying or abandoning the start of a four-Test series against India are yet to be considered.

“We haven’t broached the subject with the players yet – we will in time,” Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said on Friday.

“It’s really important to give people time and people will respond in different ways to what they’re going through.”

Sutherland’s colleague Pat Howard added CA must wait until players “are in a position where they can make strong choices”.

“That’s not now,” Howard said.

India’s Test squad are set to take part in a centre-wicket practice session on Saturday.

The visitors should have been wrapping up a tour game in Adelaide, but that was cancelled following the death of Hughes.

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OPEC to keep oil output target

OPEC has decided against cutting the amount of oil it produces despite a glut in global supplies, triggering a five-dollar collapse in crude prices.

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The cartel pumping out one-third of the world’s oil opted on Thursday to stick by its output target, even after prices have plunged by 35 per cent in value since June.

The 12-nation cartel “decided to maintain the production level of 30 million barrels per day” where it has stood for three years, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said in a communique.

OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah El-Badri said the cartel would sit tight before the next output meeting scheduled for June in Vienna, where it is headquartered.

“We have to wait and see how the market will settle,” he told the meeting’s closing press conference.

“As I said many times… we don’t want to panic.”

Going into the latest meeting, OPEC faced pressure from its poorer members, notably Venezuela, to cut output as collapsing prices slashed their precious revenues.

However, its powerful Gulf members rejected calls to turn down the taps unless they are guaranteed market share in the highly competitive arena, particularly in the United States, where a flood of cheaper oil from shale rock has contributed to the global oversupply.

“We should withdraw the overproduction from the market,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Rafael Ramirez told reporters ahead of Thursday’s outcome.

The OPEC decision sent world oil prices tumbling to fresh four-year lows.

New York’s West Texas Intermediate for January slumped to $US67.75 a barrel – the lowest level since late May 2010.

London’s Brent North Sea crude for January delivery nosedived to $US71.25 – also a four-year trough.

OPEC “may have come to the conclusion that a period of lower oil prices could potentially work in the group’s favour over the longer term, given the boost it should provide to the global economy and hence to demand”, said Tom Pugh, commodities analyst at Capital Economics research group.

“Nonetheless, it seems likely that there was substantial disagreement between those members of OPEC, such as Iran and Venezuela, who had been calling for output cuts, and the Gulf members who are in stronger financial positions.”

Elsewhere on Thursday, the ruble slumped to historic lows against the dollar and euro – with energy-rich Russia generating about half its federal budget revenues from oil and natural gas exports.

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