Bowlers struggled in Birmingham: Clarke

Australia’s pacemen exceeded expectations with the bat in the third Ashes Test, but failed to have the same impact with the ball.


The tail added 97 runs on day three at Edgbaston, giving themselves something to bowl at by setting England a target of 121.

Realistically, the touring bowlers never had enough runs to play with in either innings.

But Michael Clarke felt they could have performed a lot better.

“We had perfect bowling conditions. Overcast, a little bit of rain around and we just couldn’t hit the areas consistently,” Clarke lamented.

“The ball swung and seamed for the whole game.

“We had to be better than what we were.”

Mitchell Johnson started day two with a sensational over, removing Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes with searing bouncers.

Johnson was lively throughout the contest, while Mitchell Starc dismissed Alastair Cook on Friday giving his side hope of an unthinkable victory.

Australia’s quicks failed to match the control and consistency of Jimmy Anderson and Steve Finn, who bagged six-wicket hauls in the first and second digs respectively.

It was in sharp contrast to a polished display at Lord’s, where Johnson, Starc and Josh Hazlewood were able to let rip with a first-innings total of 566 on the board.

“I don’t think we executed as well as we did at Lord’s, certainly in the first innings,” Clarke said.

“It is a tough one because you see both sides, you see the way we bowled here and Cardiff wasn’t good enough.

“You see the way we bowled at Lord’s and that was as good as any attack you will see in world cricket.”

Pat Cummins and Peter Siddle are waiting in the wings and selectors may be tempted to tweak the attack for the fourth Test, which starts in Nottingham on Thursday.

Hazlewood struggled to keep the runs down in Birmingham, but he is the leading wicket-taker of the series with 14 scalps.

Starc scored 58 on Friday.

He faced 108 balls in that knock, more than any other Australian batsman in either innings save for Peter Nevill’s 59.


I can still win, says Woods after taking route 66

It matched his best score of the year, a four-under 66 in the opening round of the Greenbrier Classic earlier this month, but was the lowest with regard to par during his 2015 campaign.


Woods, the tournament host, birdied six of his last 13 holes to rocket into contention with an eight-under total of 134, his final birdie of the day coming at the par-five eighth where he drained a 35-footer before celebrating in roundhouse style.

“I feel like I can still compete, I feel like I can still win,” the former world number one told reporters after mixing six birdies with a lone bogey at the par-five 14th, his fifth hole of the day, to finish one stroke off the early lead.

“A year-and-a-half ago, I won five times … so it’s not that long ago that I was player of the year. I know now my ranking’s awful but it’s a matter of I was away from the game for a long period of time, plus playing poorly compounded it.

“I just need to keep playing and keep plugging along and eventually I’ll come back up (the rankings).”

Woods, whose world ranking has plummeted to a mind-boggling 266th, has recorded three missed cuts, a withdrawal and one top-25 finish in eight starts on the 2014-15 PGA Tour.

He shot his worst round as a professional, an 85 at the Memorial tournament last month, and has since missed the cut at the U.S. Open and British Open — the first time in his career he has done so at consecutive major championships.

“I have been through this before,” said the 39-year-old American. “You make changes to the game, it takes a little time sometimes. You’ve just got to be patient with it.”

Asked how it felt being back in contention heading into the weekend, Woods replied: “I’m in a good spot. I’m looking forward to the weekend and I’m looking forward to getting after it.”

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)


Hull give Steve Michaels new contract

Hull have given Australian winger/centre Steve Michaels a new contract for the 2016 Super League season.


Hull have also confirmed that overseas pair Jordan Rankin and Setaimata Sa will be released at the end of the season as part of a shake-up of Lee Radford’s squad.

The 27-year-old Michaels has started all but three of the Black and Whites’ 26 matches since joining them on a one-year deal from Gold Coast Titans at the start of the season.

Hull coach Lee Radford said on Friday: “He was a bit of an unknown quantity to some when we announced his signing last year but he’s been a great addition to the squad and over the last six performances he’s really started to shine and show us his true credentials.”

Stand-off or full-back Rankin, who joined the club from Gold Coast Titans two years ago, is expected to return home after Radford announced that Jamie Shaul will be his first-choice full-back in 2016.

Sa, the former Catalans Dragons centre or second rower who joined Hull from London Irish 18 months ago, will also leave the club when his contract expires in November.

“Jordan has been a fantastic acquisition for the club and an absolute pleasure to coach while he has been here,” Radford said.

Radford said Setaimata was a model professional and had “some really great games for us”.

“Like Jordan, should we have infinite cap space and quota spots then we would retain him in our squad at the drop of a hat.”

Also on the way out of Hull are winger Tom Lineham, who is joining Warrington, and prop Mickey Paea, who is returning to the NRL while Scott Taylor, Frank Pritchard and Carlos Tuimavave are confirmed recruits for the Black and Whites, who are tipped to re-sign Danny Washbrook from Wakefield and are being linked with Melbourne winger Mahe Fonua.


Einstein’s gravitational waves detected

Scientists say they have for the first time detected gravitational waves, ripples in space and time hypothesised by physicist Albert Einstein a century ago, in a landmark discovery that opens a new window for studying the cosmos.


The researchers on Thursday said they detected gravitational waves coming from two black holes – extraordinarily dense objects whose existence also was foreseen by Einstein – that orbited one another, spiralled inward and smashed together.

They said the waves were the product of a collision between two black holes 30 times as massive as the Sun, located 1.3 billion light years from Earth.

The scientific milestone, announced at a news conference in Washington, was achieved using a pair of giant laser detectors in the United States, located in Louisiana and Washington state, capping a long quest to confirm the existence of these waves.

The announcement was made in Washington by scientists from the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

Like light, gravity travels in waves, but instead of radiation, it is space itself that is rippling. Detecting the gravitational waves required measuring 4km laser beams to a precision 10,000 times smaller than a proton.

The two laser instruments, which work in unison, are known as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

They are able to detect remarkably small vibrations from passing gravitational waves.

After detecting the gravitational wave signal, the scientists said they converted it into audio waves and were able to listen to the sounds of the two black holes merging.

“We’re actually hearing them go thump in the night,” MIT physicist Matthew Evans said. “We’re getting a signal which arrives at Earth, and we can put it on a speaker, and we can hear these black holes go, ‘Whoop.’ There’s a very visceral connection to this observation.”

The scientists said they first detected the gravitational waves on September 14.

“We are really witnessing the opening of a new tool for doing astronomy,” MIT astrophysicist Nergis Mavalvala said in an interview.

“We have turned on a new sense. We have been able to see and now we will be able to hear as well.”

The LIGO work is funded by the National Science Foundation, an independent agency of the US government.

Einstein in 1916 proposed the existence of gravitational waves as an outgrowth of his ground-breaking general theory of relativity, which depicted gravity as a distortion of space and time triggered by the presence of matter.

But until now scientists had found only indirect evidence of their existence.

Scientists said gravitational waves open a door for a new way to observe the universe and gain knowledge about enigmatic objects like black holes and neutron stars.

By studying gravitational waves they also hope to gain insight into the nature of the very early universe, which has remained mysterious.

Everything we know about the cosmos stems from electromagnetic waves such as radio waves, visible light, infrared light, X-rays and gamma rays.

But because such waves encounter interference as they travel across the universe, they can tell only part of the story.

Gravitational waves experience no such barriers, meaning they can offer a wealth of additional information.

Black holes, for example, do not emit light, radio waves and the like, but can be studied via gravitational waves.


‘Part Chauncey Gardiner, part Donald Trump’ – watching the Barnaby juggernaut

The National Party has been experiencing the Barnaby juggernaut.


But first let’s talk about the leader who resigned, Warren Truss, and a bit of history about the party itself.

The National Party prides itself on being a party full of respectful upstanding citizens. And they are. Mostly male, but also with some strong women in their ranks, they represent a part of Australia that many of us may recognise from days gone by. But did those days ever really exist? Are they in fact in our imagination? Our image of the “Nats” equals old fashioned respect for authority, hard work, discipline and country life.

These days they have evolved from the Country Party that they were into a party supporting regional Australia, in essence life away from the capital cities. They are farmers and city folk who call country regions home. If the Liberal Party is full of career politicians, lawyers and small business people, the Nationals are farmers, accountants and country doctors.

So imagine how a party like that has felt over the last few years as Barnaby Joyce, a maverick and unpredictable type of politician with a huge public profile, began to push his leadership credentials. A lot of them didn’t like it. This isn’t how it is done in the old National Party some said. So as Barnaby Joyce pushed, a significant minority of Parliamentary party members had another movement going, let’s call that the “Anyone but Barnaby” ticket.

‘As far as the public is concerned Barnaby Joyce is about the only National Party member with a profile.’

Warren Truss is respected across the Party and is an old fashioned type. He resigned to Parliament in his own way and essentially to his own timing (although rushed a bit at the end due to political events outside of his control). Barnaby Joyce had the numbers for leadership and was the only candidate. He becomes the party leader and when sworn will be the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.

But the Barnaby experience hasn’t been an easy road for the Nats. Barnaby Joyce is known around the country just by his first name: Barnaby. And a significant minority of the party are unhappy about the way he has pushed his way to the front. But today they accept it. They will move on.

In the Parliament during his resignation speech Warren Truss showed the credentials of loyalty and respect his party love in him. He paid tribute to his wife and family and the Australian public.

 ‘Part Donald Trump without the money.’

“It has been a great pleasure and privilege to be a member of the federal parliament. Next month it will be 26 years since I was first elected to the parliament, and 40 years since I was first elected to public office, as a member of the Kingaroy Shire council. In my early years, I was always talked about as the youngest national president of the Council of Rural Youth, the youngest councillor, the youngest mayor, but now that I am numbered amongst the oldest I think it is time to go.”

He joked that when he became leader after the 2007 election loss no one wanted the job as National Party leader. Now everyone wants it he said.


Warren Truss did delay his departure announcement as some on his side tried to boost support for the “Anyone but Barnaby” ticket, but they were not able to get enough support. Barnaby Joyce has the numbers and what is more as far as the public is concerned he is about the only National Party member with a profile.

He is an unusual politician that is for sure. The man who captured international headlines when he threatened to put down Johnny Depp’s dogs, was also dumped as Shadow Finance Minister during the coalition’s time in opposition. He is part Chauncey Gardiner (the classic lead role in “Being There’ played by Peter Sellers), part Tim Fischer (National Party leader 1996-99), part Donald Trump without the money. He does not want to be a boring politician so he pushes the envelope. Sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he doesn’t.

In a Sydney Morning Herald report last year, Barnaby Joyce talked about his connection with Australian voters. “When people see me at the airport, they say, ‘G’day, Barnaby,’ ” he reports. “They talk to you with a sense of familiarity, as if they really do know you.” He believes he has a special connection with Australians.

His leadership is likely to be memorable but bumpy.



Treasury modelling shows only minor gains from GST hike

Income tax cuts and increasing the GST rate to 15 per cent would deliver only “negligible” economic growth gains.


That’s according to extracts from Treasury advice obtained by AAP that was handed to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison last month and a key factor why the government is no longer pursuing a GST rise from 10 per cent.

Senior frontbencher Christopher Pyne, lampooning the opposition in parliament on Thursday, said their “not very scary campaign” had fallen flat.

“Labor has spent six months wasting time talking about a tax that is not going to be introduced,” Mr Pyne said.

The modelling undertaken by Treasury and two independent consultants – KPMG and Independent Economics – found that increasing the GST would, by itself, reduce GDP.

The impact on inflation would see a significant portion of the revenue raised – some $30 billion – automatically spent because pensions and welfare payments are indexed to CPI.

That would reduce the scope for cutting personal income taxes and limit the gain needed to make the result of the tax mix switch GDP-positive.

Indeed, one scenario modelled shows that increasing the GST rate to 15 per cent and broadening it to water and sewage from 2017/18 – which is currently exempt – would raise $35 billion, but would be more than absorbed by $30 billion of tax cuts and $6 billion in household assistance.

On these assumptions, Independent Economics found this would add just a minuscule 0.18 per cent to growth, while KPMG was only marginally higher at 0.3 per cent.

However, a separate ministerial brief from Treasury at the start of this month indicated that the government cannot sit back and do nothing.

Bracket creep – where individuals are forced into higher tax brackets due to wage inflation and productivity – will be a 0.55 per cent drag on growth by 2020/21.

Suggestions this could be resolved by indexing personal income thresholds to CPI would remove the effect of inflation, but Treasury says average tax rates would still continue to rise as a result of productivity.

But it says indexing income tax thresholds to average taxable income would eliminate bracket creep completely as it would respond to the impact of both inflation and growth in real incomes.


Black US lawmakers endorse Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus, a much-needed boost to her campaign as it competes for the important black voting bloc in South Carolina’s primary this month.


Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have built strong ties to the African-American community over the past decades.

Several lawmakers on Thursday cited Clinton’s long history of not only working on issues important to black Americans, but on getting Democrats elected and advancing the party’s agenda.

“Mrs Clinton has demonstrated her leadership skills. She has laboured in various capacities all of her adult life and now she is ready to serve our country by occupying the highest office in our country,” said US Representative GK Butterfield.

The group’s backing will be important as Clinton seeks to recover from Tuesday’s stinging loss to US Senator Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire primary.

Black voters make up a large bloc in the Democratic primary in South Carolina and will be increasingly significant to the Democrats as the presidential contest moves from Iowa and New Hampshire to more demographically diverse states.

The Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee planned to send a dozen members to South Carolina to campaign for Clinton over the weekend in advance of the state’s February 27 Democratic primary.

Sanders, fresh off his victory in New Hampshire, had breakfast on Wednesday with one of America’s most prominent civil rights activists, Rev Al Sharpton, recognising the need to broaden his base to mount a long-term challenge to Clinton.


Joyce sees similarities with PM Turnbull

They have their obvious differences, but new Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce insists there is no gulf between himself and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.


Joyce, elected unopposed to replace the retiring Warren Truss, believes “in a funny way” there’s a real similarity, given they both made their “own way in the world”.

“That means that both Malcolm and myself see the world through the prism of practicality and making sure we’re not tied to any philosophy but tied to a desire to do the very best for the nation,” he told ABC radio on Friday.

Mr Joyce acknowledged there would be times when the coalition partners did not agree on every issue.

“We’re a business partnership, not a marriage,” he said.

The incoming deputy prime minister confirmed a fourth cabinet position is on the cards for the Nationals.

But any other changes to the coalition agreement will be reviewed by deputy Nationals leader Fiona Nash and Senate leader Nigel Scullion.

Mr Turnbull congratulated Mr Joyce and Senator Nash in a brief meeting on Thursday night, saying he was excited to work with both of them.

“I’m very pumped up, I think it’s a great result and I think this will be a very formidable team. We haven’t got long to go to the election,” the prime minister said.

Senior Liberal Christopher Pyne said the new partnership would be good for Australia because they represent all sides of the political spectrum.

“They’re yin and yang in politics,” he told the Nine Network.

Mr Joyce has vowed to be a champion for regional Australia and build on the work of the party’s “most recent giant” Warren Truss.

He becomes the 13th leader of the Nationals, while Senator Nash is the first woman in a leadership role.

She will join five Liberal female MPs in the cabinet.


IMF chief Lagarde unchallenged in job

Christine Lagarde was virtually assured of a second term leading the International Monetary Fund when nominations for the job closed with no challengers.


The IMF said Lagarde, the first woman to lead the IMF, was the only person nominated for the position. It added that the board will now hold meetings with Lagarde and aims “to complete the selection process, as soon as possible”.

The US Treasury Department supported her re-appointment, adding to earlier endorsements and other signals of support from China, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Mexico.

“Christine Lagarde has done an exceptional job leading the IMF for the last five years, guiding the fund at a critical time for the global economy,” US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement.

“I’ve seen time and again her ability to bring people together on major global issues and drive toward solutions,” Lew added.

Lagarde’s lock on the job marks a stark contrast to 2011, when former IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s resignation amid a sexual assault scandal prompted several big emerging market countries to back their own candidate for the job, which has been traditionally held by a European.

In that contest, Lagarde, a former French finance minister, won out over Mexican central bank governor Agustin Carstens.

During her tenure, Lagarde has overseen the IMF’s handling of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis and steps by the IMF to give a greater voice to China, Brazil and other big developing countries. In a major nod to Beijing’s growing clout, the fund included the yuan in its benchmark basket of currencies last year.

In December, the Fund also won approval by the US congress of a landmark reform program that shifted more voting power to emerging markets and expanded the IMF’s lending resources.

But Lagarde faces one potential complication – a French court in December ordered her to face trial for negligence over her role in a payout of some 400 million euros ($A641.23 million) to businessman Bernard Tapie when she served as France’s finance minister.

Lagarde has vowed to appeal the trial order and has said she acted in the best interests of the French state and in full compliance with the law. The IMF board has reaffirmed its confidence in Lagarde’s ability to effectively carry out her duties.


Anderson facing injury heartbreak

England look set to be without talismanic paceman Jimmy Anderson for next week’s fourth Ashes Test at Trent Bridge after he suffered a suspected side strain on a day of dominance from the home side.


Anderson pulled up midway sharply after bowling the third ball of the 33rd over, then aborted his run-up for the fourth and immediately left the field looking in some discomfort on his 33rd birthday.

An ECB official would only say that England’s leading wicket-taker had a stiff side and would be assessed in the morning.

The loss of Anderson, who took 6-47 in a brilliant spell that ripped through the Australian batting line-up on day one, grabbed the vital wicket of David Warner, who was the only member of the Australian top order to score any meaningful runs with a fine knock of 77, in the second.

Anderson is something of a track specialist at Trent Bridge, a ground he rates as his favourite in Test cricket and averages 19 with the ball.

He was the destroyer in chief at the Nottinghamshire venue when the sides last met there in the 2013 series, finishing with a 10-wicket haul as England won by 14 runs.

England great Ian Botham said he would be surprised if Anderson would be fit for the fifth Test at The Oval, never mind next week’s Test and predicted a long spell on the sidelines for the Lancastrian.

“The way he pulled up in the run-up tells me he’s not just right,” Botham said on Sky Sports.

“If it’s an intercostal, we won’t see him again in this series. You can’t sneeze, can’t cough, can’t laugh. You have to let it heal.”

Finn, who took 5-54 on a strong return to Test cricket after a two-year hiatus, said Anderson would have had to have been in real pain to pull up hurt mid-over.

“For Jimmy to walk off halfway through an over it can’t be too good,” Finn said.

“Who knows, with some magical medical healing and some rehab, I just don’t know.”

Should Anderson be ruled out, Mark Wood, who missed this Test with an ankle injury is likely to return.

Chris Woakes would also be in contention as would rookie quick Mark Footit, who was deliberately left out of Derbyshire’s match with the Australians last week.


Webb in British Open shocker

Australian great Karrie Webb has made a disastrous start to the Women’s British Open and is second last after the opening round.


Webb had a quadruple bogey, two double bogeys and three bogeys along with three birdies in an eight-over-par 80 on a sunbathed Turnberry to be 15 shots adrift of leader Hyo Joo Kim of South Korea in the fourth women’s major of the year.

The 40-year-old Queenslander has won the event three times, including once on this course in 2002, but that counted for little as she set herself a mighty battle just to make the cut.

Teenage countrywoman Minjee Lee fared far better and led the six-woman Australian contingent with a three-under 69 to be tied 14th.

Stacey Keating shot a 71, Rebecca Artis had 72, Su-Hyun Oh 77 and Sarah Kemp 79.

Kim produced the shot and the round of the day to lead by one stroke from New Zealand star Lydia Ko and American Cristie Kerr.

She shot a 65 to raise her hopes of adding a second major to her victory in the Evian Championship in France last September.

At Evian, the 20-year-old shot a 10-under 61 in the first round – the joint lowest round in major championship history – and she again proved to be an opening day specialist with a flawless round of five birdies and an eagle.

The eagle came at the 449 yard 14th where she hit a second shot to inside a foot.

“I almost made an albatross,” said a delighted Kim, who has won six times on the Korean LPGA Tour and wasn’t even a member of the LPGA when she won the Evian title.

New Zealand’s Ko set her alarm for 3.30am to meet her 6.40am tee time – she admitted she pushed the snooze button a few times – but was wide awake by the time she teed off.

In a fast start, she birdied four holes in a row from the second and added others at the seventh, tenth and 14th. Her only error was a bunkered tee shot and a four at the short sixth.

Ranked No.1 in the world at the start of the year, 18-year-old Ko has two more chances – this week and the Evian Championship in September – to outdo Morgan Pressel and become the youngest ever winner of a women’s major.

The American won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship when she was two months short of her 19th birthday.

“I don’t think too much about records,” confessed the Kiwi who has already said she will retire from golf at the age of 30.

“But my goal is to win one major in my career.

“This was my lowest round in a major so it was a nice solid start. I tried to take advantage of the good weather and the par fives.”


England crowds can add pressure: Warner

Raucous English crowds make things harder, but also help Australia according to David Warner.


Warner scored 77 on day two of the third Ashes Test, when the rest of Australia’s top six failed to reach double figures.

The Edgbaston faithful erupted during a shocking collapse of 4-30, with Steve Finn snaring all four wickets to fall.

Warner, who struck 11 boundaries – most of them off the middle, admitted the carnival-like backdrop may have played a part.

“It’s a totally different atmosphere to Lord’s,” Warner said.

“You’ve got the crowd roaring and a bowler bowling very well.

“The crowd is singing and they’re always going to be behind the English.

“Sometimes it is hard … you do feel that pressure.

“It is helpful (for England), especially when they’ve got their tail up.”

Warner added the liquored-up locals can also have a motivating effect on some players.

The opener nominated Mitchell Johnson’s opening over on Thursday, in which he dismissed Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes with incredible bouncers, as a prime example.

“When you get the crowd going against you a little bit, it does fire people up,” he said.

“Jonno came away from yesterday being hammered by the crowd.

“He bowled those two ripsnorters.”

Warner conceded his side was on the back foot after losing three wickets in the first hour of the match, but suggested England’s bowlers deserve a lot of credit.

“Probably six or seven of us got out to genuinely very good balls,” he said.

“If you don’t start well on day one after winning the toss and batting, you’re sort of chasing your tail.”


Races to watch at world swim titles



World champion James Magnussen (shoulder) may be absent but Australia will still have a huge presence in the blue riband sprint event thanks to Pan Pacific gold medallist Cameron McEvoy.


The Gold Coast physics student is hugely underrated but appears primed to upstage a world class field featuring Olympic champion Nathan Adrian of the US and warm hometown favourite Vladimir Morozov.


Unbeaten over 100m since late 2012, Australia’s defending world champion Cate Campbell will be looking over her surgically repaired shoulder in Kazan. She is aiming to become the first woman to defend the 100m world title in 40 years after what looked set to be career limiting shoulder surgery late last year. Those out to defy her making history include her younger sister Bronte, Holland’s Femke Heemskerk, Swedish superstar Sarah Sjostrom and Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo.


He may be the world’s No.1 ranked 400m and 800m swimmer in 2015 but young gun Mack Horton is expected to shine in the 30-lap epic event that Australia once owned. Horton has impressed no less than comeback king Grant Hackett – a dual 1500m Olympic champion – at training. However, he will need all the tips he can get from teammate Hackett to oust China’s Olympic champion Sun Yang in Kazan.


Australia’s Emily Seebohm finally turned the tables on American Olympic and world champion Missy Franklin at last year’s Pan Pacific titles. However, the real test looms in Kazan. Franklin has fully recovered from the back spasms that all but derailed her Pan Pacs campaign and will again have her great rival Seebohm in her sights.


Quietly spoken Emma McKeon looks set to make some major noise in this event after dominating the Glasgow Commonwealth Games with four gold. She may also have an eye on threatening the 200m freestyle title but golden girl McKeon appears the woman to beat in the ‘fly despite Sjostrom looming large.