Thursday 31 May 2012

MJ - Ewing Won't be Bobcats Coach

Charlotte Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins says the team will hire a new coach within the next couple of weeks, but it won't be Patrick Ewing.

Higgins said owner Michael Jordan informed Ewing that the team plans to hire someone other than him to replace Paul Silas.

Exactly who that is remains to be seen.

"Patrick has a lot of great qualities as a coach and he will one day be a head coach," Higgins said.

The Bobcats will interview Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw on Friday, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard. They will interview Lakers assistant Quin Snyder on June 4. The Bobcats reached out to former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, but sources say he told them he is thinking about taking next season off.

Other names in the mix for the Bobcats are Golden State assistant Mike Malone, former Utah coach Jerry Sloan, ex-Portland coach Nate McMillan and Cleveland assistant Nate Tibbetts.

Once they conclude that process, they'll narrow the list down to the final few candidates who will then meet with Jordan face to face before a final decision is made.

Charlotte did not bring back Paul Silas after a 7-59 record this season.

Will Larry Vogel Stay the Pace

Larry Bird loves his job and loves his team and in a perfect world, he'd stay put as the Pacers team president for a few more years - if that's what team owner Herb Simon wants.

After two months of speculation that Bird would cede control of Indiana's day-to-day operations, Bird told reporters Wednesday he wishes he already had a deal in place.

"I'd do it today if Herbie was here," Bird said, drawing laughter. "We've got kids working out, we've got six free agents, we've got a lot going on right now. Obviously, I want to sit down with Herb as quickly as possible. I don't like this (questions) at all. I'd like a three-year deal, but we have a handshake agreement. It's hard coming in here and not having the answers."

Simon did not immediately respond to an interview request from The Associated Press.

Though Bird is clearly frustrated with the ongoing questions about his future, it hasn't deterred him from doing his job.

He spoke at length about the need to keep his core group together, including restricted free agents Roy Hibbert and George Hill, and has already begun the prep work for the June 28 draft. He said he'd even consider bringing in a free agent if the Pacers could work it under the cap and not risk this team's promising future.

The question, of course, is whether Bird will be around to make those decisions.

"I love my job. There's only 30 of them and we've gone through some tough times. If you remember, we had to change the culture around here," Bird said. "We've got good kids in here that want to be here, that are dedicated to this city. I wouldn't want to sign a four- or five-year deal because I'm getting older. But I have to find out where we want to go."

What would it take to keep him around?

A face-to-face meeting with Simon, for starters.

Bird said he has spoken with the owner a "few times" on the phone but has not yet met with him since the season ended last week with a playoff series loss to Miami. When they do get together, Bird said he needs answers about what direction Simon wants to take the team, whether he approves of the front office's performance, or whether Simon believes the rebuilding process should be further along.

Another key factor may be getting a commitment from Simon to keep the small-market Pacers competitive in a league where some teams are willing to fork out tens of millions of dollars for the top stars.

Bird is willing to work within the financial constraints, though it would force him to build an even stronger bench.

"I'd go after anybody, but I understand his (Simon's) point of view," Bird said. "If you go after someone, you're going to pay for them."

Bird has built this team the old-fashioned way -- by drafting players (Paul George and Tyler Hansbrough) and developing them through the team structure, making shrewd decisions to trade for others (Hill and Darren Collison) and finding affordable free agents (David West).

Two weeks ago, Bird was rewarded by adding the final piece to an unprecedented trifecta, being voted the NBA's Executive of the Year. He's the first to win that award, an MVP award and an NBA championship. Bird won three MVPs and three NBA titles during his Hall of Fame career with Boston and also was Indiana's head coach for its only NBA Finals appearance in 2000.

He's been just as successful calling the Pacers' shots since taking over from Donnie Walsh in 2008.

What Bird inherited was a reeling franchise with a tarnished image thanks to a series of off-court problems. In just four years, Bird turned the Pacers from a troubled franchise that couldn't make the playoffs into one of the league's deepest, toughest teams.

Indiana led the series against the Heat 2-1 before dropping three straight and ending its deepest postseason run in seven years.

Coach Frank Vogel credits Bird for the decisions that made it all possible.

"I think as the contracts come up, you've got to take it case by case and what Larry has done here is built with a good salary cap," Vogel said Tuesday. "We don't have any bad contracts and as long as you have that, you have a good chance to sustain it."

Some think Bird may stick around in a different capacity, but Bird flatly ruled out being a consultant. Instead, Bird's preference seems to be sticking around to finish the job.

"I love this team. There is no question that this is one of the best locker rooms we've had and it's been a breath of fresh air," Bird said. "We've got to continue to get better. We can't stay pat, we need to make that next step."

MotoGP Catalunya Pre-Race Media

Thursday’s pre-race press conference for the fifth round of the MotoGP™ championship at the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya saw championship leader Jorge Lorenzo joined by Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi, Stefan Bradl and Yonny Hernandez.

Yamaha Factory Racing’s Lorenzo, fresh from a dominant victory in the wet at Le Mans, leads the championship standings by eight points at present. The Catalunya circuit has yielded success for the Spaniard in the past, where he has recorded one win and two second-place finishes in the last three years. He commented: "I’m arriving in a good state. I’m very happy, very motivated. It’s my home race. I’m from Mallorca, but have lived in Barcelona for a long time. It’s also a track where I’ve had great results in the past. I think for the 1000cc Yamaha it could be a good track. I hope we have a weekend with good conditions, but if it rains we’ll be ok as well.

"It’s [the season] been very tough with a lot of competition, especially in the front group with Casey [Stoner] and Dani. The races have a very high pace and are physically demanding. To be at the front you can’t stop concentrating, you have to be at the limit all the time, and of course not crash. To do this is always difficult, but I’m a little bit older and more experienced than the pervious years, so this can make it a bit easier."

Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa, who missed last year’s round with a broken collarbone, will be looking to close the gap to his teammate Casey Stoner and Lorenzo with a victory in front of his home crowd. He said: "I’m happy to be here. It’s been a great start to the season, although last race wasn’t so good. Last year I missed this one and had to watch it on the TV, which is not the greatest feeling. I have won here in the three classes and I aim to get a good result this time. It’s a hard track, especially for the bike and the tyres; you have to have a good set-up on the bike here. As Jorge says, it’s important to keep the pace up and be on the limit all the time."

Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi, fresh from a private test at Mugello, stated that finding pace in the dry was the main aim for the Italian outfit this weekend: "We were in Mugello last week and we were lucky with the weather. We could try some new stuff to try to improve our speed and performance in the dry. We tried a different swingarm and some improvements in the electronic system under acceleration. To understand if we have made a step we will have to wait until tomorrow. We know that in the rain we’re fast, but our target is to be faster in the dry. It’s [Catalunya] one of my three favourite tracks of the season. I love to race here and I love the atmosphere with the fans.

LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, who recorded his best result in fifth last time out is looking to not get carried away this weekend and keep progressing as he has been: "When we come to a track where we haven’t tested, Friday is always really tough for me because I only have the reference from last year in Moto2™. I need to adapt little things and try and get it together, but this track I really like. It’s a really good one for a MotoGP bike. We hope to have some good weather this weekend."

Avintia Blusens’ Yonny Hernandez, who is the first ever Columbian rider to record points in the MotoGP class, is aiming to put in a solid performance on his team’s home ground: "For me it is like home because my team is from here. I feel very good on this track and I expect to have a good race and get a good result for me, my team and for my family. I’ll try to do my best. To share the track with Valentino, Lorenzo and Pedrosa is like a dream for me."

Towards the end of the press conference, when both Lorenzo and Pedrosa were prompted about their now seemingly friendly relationship, which was far from that in the past, Lorenzo joked: "In 2003 we were enemies, in 2005 more, and then in 2008 even more. Now we can have a hug [after Qatar race]….maybe in three years we can get married."

Sir Graham Henry Joins Puma's

Former All Blacks boss Graham Henry has vowed to do all he can to help Argentina make an impact on this year's battle for southern hemisphere supremacy.

The World Cup-winning coach linked up with the Pumas this week on a short-term contract that will see him serve as a technical advisor and oversee their eagerly-anticipated entry into the Rugby Championship.

"I am excited about the opportunity to assist in a small way," Henry told reporters in Buenos Aires. "My job with the coaches is to exchange ideas, and help them improve their game."

The 65-year-old stepped down from the New Zealand head coach role following their World Cup triumph but insists retirement was never an option. "Rugby is in my blood. Coaching is like a disease. I like coaching and I like the game. Argentina is a challenge and I enjoy a challenge. I also respect the people here. They are good people, good rugby people, so this is also a privilege for me."

Looking ahead to the daunting challenge of this year's Rugby Championship campaign, Henry added: "I think we should look at this tournament as a great opportunity rather than something we are concerned about. If we are inhibited by the Championship, we will not play well. If we are excited, we will do our best."

Henry's immediate goal is to see the Pumas "score more tries" but is aware they will have to be at their best to upset any of their title rivals - Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

"Argentina are faced with a very important challenge but we need this in order to improve because we can't improve by playing the weakest, we need to play the strongest," he said. "I think that Argentinian rugby is in good shape, as they did well in the last two World Cups.

"We've begun a process, and I'm impressed with all the information that I've received from the coaches. I hope that my ideas will be useful and allow them to continue to improve. This tournament is a big opportunity. We could feel inhibited but we could also give our best."

Argentina will kick off their Rugby Championship campaign against South Africa at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in the western city of Mendoza on August 25.

Volvo Fleet Close in on Lisbon

The overall race lead is hanging in the balance as Groupama sailing team battle longstanding Leg 7 leaders Abu Dhabi for a crucial victory with just over 100 miles remaining in what has been the closest leg of the 2011-12 edition yet.

At 1300 UTC Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing were vehemently fighting to protect an 18 nautical mile lead, one that they have held since May 26 and which promises to deliver the Emirati team their first leg victory.

But while Abu Dhabi were doing enough to stay clear, Groupama's more southerly position had the potential to deliver better angles in conditions that are very much the French team’s strong suit -- close reaching.

Should the French team secure their second leg victory and finish two places clear of overall race leader Team Telefónica, who were struggling in sixth place at 1300 UTC, it would be enough to catapult them to the top spot, depriving the Spanish team of the lead they have held since the race started in October.

The high-stakes finish in what Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker regards as one of the “blue ribbon” legs of the race is keeping the double Olympic silver medallist on high alert.

“It’s quite a tricky finish all the way to Lisbon up the river against the current and the wind is forecast to go lighter, so I’m sure there’s going to be plenty of nervous moments,’’ Walker said.

“Right now, although we’re ahead of Groupama they’ve got a slightly better angle so it’s really, really close. It’s going to be right down to the wire.”

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, currently in third place, are not giving up hope of edging back into second, a position that they have been exchanging with Groupama for the past two days.

Having survived the dreaded crossing of the 200 nm wide ridge overnight relatively unscathed PUMA skipper Ken Read said it was great to be back sailing in consistent wind, with the Portuguese trades propelling the fleet.

Another challenge awaits, however, in the form of the two to four knot current that will work against the teams as they race the final miles to the Lisbon finish line.

Read said he had scoped out the waters of the finish once before, while navigator Tom Addis had been doing his usual exhaustive homework with the help of watch captain Tony Mutter, who has special insight having lived nearby.

“Let’s hope if we are behind it is as fluky as hell and if we are ahead let’s hope for a straight shot in,’’ Read said.

“It is very frustrating to go from a dominant position to a spot where you are fighting for your life.”

In fourth place CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand are expecting to gain some miles on the top three, using their position in the south, near Groupama, to their advantage.

“We should have a better angle set up down south. That is yet to play out but it seems a strong possibility," skipper Chris Nicholson said.

“We are concentrating on maximising the boat speed and will be sailing flat out to the finish. To be honest, though, that is just business as usual and it’s how we have gone around the world.”

Team Sanya are in fifth place, holding a narrow lead of about seven nm over Team Telefónica in sixth.

The first team is expected to cross the finish line at 2200 UTC. A maximum 30 points is up for grabs for the winner, which could prove vital with just 14points separating the top four teams.

Currently, Team Telefónica are on top of the overall race leaderboard with 165 points, followed by Groupama, 158, CAMPER, 152, PUMA, 151, Abu Dhabi, 74, and Team Sanya, 27.

Neymar Stars in Brazil USA Show

Neymar had a dazzling night against the United States, scoring one goal and setting up two more to lead the five-time World Cup champions to a 4-1 victory in an exhibition Wednesday night.

"We need to get an edge more nastier," said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the former German star and coach. "Maybe we're a little bit still too naive. Maybe we don't want to hurt people. But that's what we've got to do. You've got to do that at the end of the day. So we've got to step on their toes more and get them more frustrated and make a case with the referee maybe as well, for us, not only the opponent."

Thiago Silva, Marcelo and Alexandre Pato also scored for Brazil, playing the opener of a three-game U.S. tour.

Herculez Gomez, in his first start since the 2010 World Cup, scored for the U.S., which is preparing for its opening qualifier for the 2014 World Cup on June 8.

"Four-one was maybe not a scoreline that was indicative of the overall game. I think for long stretches of that game we kind of imposed our will on them," Gomez said. "I think the main difference was they were clinical in front of goal and we weren't."

Neymar, the 20-year-old Santos sensation, put Brazil ahead in the 12th minute after a hand ball on Oguchi Onyewu on Leandro Damiao's shot, a call the Americans disputed with referee Jeffrey Calderon of Costa Rica. Neymar then took a corner kick that Thiago Silva headed in for his first international goal in the 26th.

Gomez cut the deficit to 2-1 in the 45th following a fine run by Michael Bradley and cross by Fabian Johnson. But before an enthusiastic crowd of 67,619 at FedEx Field, Marcelo restored the two-goal lead in the 52nd as Jermaine Jones, Onyewu and American captain Carlos Bocanegra left him unmarked in front of the net. Pato entered in the 64th and added a goal in the 87th that the U.S. claimed was offside.

"We're the only team in the world that gets homered at home. It's unbelievable sometimes," Bocanegra said.

Klinsmann, a German who moved to California with his American-born wife after retiring as a player in 1998, said the U.S. team has to be more assertive with officials.

"You watch big teams in the world, what they do, and there's a call going against them -- Barcelona is one of them -- they come with 10 guys towards the referee," he said. "The referee is confused. He doesn't know even know who to show a yellow card."

Landon Donovan said "that's not really in our character as Americans."

"We try to play the game fair," Donovan said. "We don't really dive. We don't do those kind of things."

Brazil, which receives an automatic berth as the 2014 World Cup host, improved to 16-1 against the U.S. with a 35-11 goal difference.

Neymar, coveted by many European clubs, called it an efficient win.

"It's not every day that one can come and apply all sorts of dribbles, between the legs, over the head," he said through a translator. "It was a good test to play with a tough team like the U.S."

Brazil coach Mano Menezes used mostly a roster than can go to the Olympics -- limited primarily to players younger than 23.

"Since the beginning, I knew we could trust them, building with this team, blending them with more experienced players," he said, also using a translator. "We blended to try to well balance the different sectors, and their response was very good."

Following a 1-4-1 start under Klinsmann, the Americans had won five in a row, including an impressive 1-0 victory at Italy and a 5-1 win last weekend over a Scotland team that already appeared to be on summer vacation.

Against sixth-ranked Brazil, the No. 29 Americans played more offensively than in the 2-0 loss at the Meadowlands two years ago, when they were outshot 20-7. This time the U.S. had a 15-12 advantage in shots.

Klinsmann continued to tinker with his front line because Jozy Altidore didn't arrive until Monday and Clint Dempsey is recovering from a groin strain. Dempsey entered in the 57th minute, marking the first time he played with Donovan since Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley as coach last July.

Gomez almost got another goal in the 64th, but his header off Johnson's cross was cleared off the goal line by Romula. Three minutes later, Neymar found a streaking Pato in front of the goal, but his shot bounced off goalkeeper Tim Howard's near post.

Brazil goalkeeper Rafael Cabral, making his Brazil national team debut, had a fine double save in the 76th, stopping Gomez with his left hand, then kicking away Terrence Boyd's effort. Cabral leaped to palm Bradley's header over the crossbar in the 85th, and Onyewu headed the ball off the crossbar on Donovan's free kick.

U.S. players were angry -- but not that much, given it wasn't a game that counted.

"At the end of the day, we got caught a couple times, and that's what happens," Howard said. "The second half we mixed it up a little bit. We probably need to try to impose that will and try to turn it into a scrap earlier than we did."

England Lose Lampard to Injury

Frank Lampard has been ruled out of England's Euro 2012 campaign. The Chelsea midfielder suffered a thigh injury in training on Wednesday and went for a scan on Thursday afternoon to discover the extent of the damage.

However, Lampard and Roy Hodgson were preparing for the worst and the Football Association has now confirmed that the player, who will be 34 next month, will not be part of England's 23-man squad. Jordan Henderson had been placed on standby.

England have already had to deal with the loss of one midfielder, Manchester City's Gareth Barry, who suffered a stomach injury in Saturday's friendly win in Norway.

For Lampard, it potentially spells the end of his England career, with Hodgson expected to offer the younger midfielders a chance to prove themselves during next autumn's World Cup qualifying programme.

Henderson will be called into the England squad providing Hodgson receives approval from Uefa, which should be automatic as Lampard has suffered a fresh injury after Tuesday's deadline.

Lampard was only in his second day of training for the tournament, having joined the squad late after winning the Champions League with his club against Bayern Munich on 19 May.

Hodgson said: "It's a huge blow for the team, especially coming after the loss of another senior player in Gareth Barry. The fact that the doctor cannot guarantee Frank could take part in any of the group matches means we have to replace him in the central midfield area.

"Apart from it being a huge blow to me and the team, I'm especially disappointed for Frank himself. He has been in very good form and was looking forward to the tournament. He made a huge contribution towards us qualifying for the Euros so it is cruel to be forced out through injury just before the tournament."

Dettori Not Retiring Despite Epsom

Frankie Dettori insists he has no plans to retire from horse racing despite failing to secure a ride in the Epsom Derby.

Dettori will ride at Haydock on Saturday instead in a move that prompted a claim on Twitter he is quitting the sport.

The former Derby-winning rider lost his status as Goldolphin's only retained jockey this year.

He told the Racing Post "I've got at least five more years in me."

"I'm only 41 and would challenge any jockey to a one-on-one."

It is the first time in 20 years Dettori does not have a ride in the Derby apart from in 2000 when he was recovering after being involved in a plane crash.

Goldolphin are not fielding a runner in the race and Dettori also lost out to Mickael Barzalona for the seat on Godolphin's only entry in Epsom Oaks, the unbeaten filly Kailani.

Barzalona and Silvestre de Sousa now rival Dettori for rides at Goldolphin.

He added: "I'm a soldier in a team. I do what I'm told. The boss has the power to decide who rides and I've been a good soldier for the past 18 years.

"Mickael got the ride in the Oaks on the word of the boss (Sheikh Mohammed) and Mahmood Al Zarooni.

"Nevertheless, I then got a call from Coolmore asking if I could ride in the Oaks. The boss said I could if I wanted to. As it happened nothing came of it but it shows I'm in demand."

Dettori has produced 13 winners in his 92 rides this season.

Murray Battles Back to Win R2

British number one Andy Murray overcame a significant injury scare to reach the French Open third round with a gutsy victory over Finland's Jarkko Nieminen.

The fourth seed, who has been battling a back injury, came from behind to seal a 1-6 6-4 6-1 6-2 win but admitted afterwards he came close to quitting.

Murray struggled to serve or move around the court during the first set and called for the trainer three times.

But the Scot recovered from 4-2 down in the second and dominated from there.

Murray, who has a day off before facing Columbian Santiago Giraldo, impressed with his determination and courage to fight back.

But the opening stages of the match will raise questions about his condition going into a key phase of the season.

Murray has been troubled by an ongoing back problem that saw him pull out of the Masters Series event in Madrid earlier this month, but he insisted this was not the same injury.

"It's a completely different thing to what I had beforehand," he said. "If it was the same, then I would be really, really concerned about Wimbledon and obviously the Olympics.

"But so long as what I'm getting told by doctors and the physios is, if it is just a muscle spasm, then that's nothing to be overly concerned by.

"But they are, when they happen, very difficult to shake off, especially when it's early morning. It takes a bit of time for your body to warm up.

"But I'm not doing any permanent damage by finishing a match like I did today."

Murray admitted he was surprised to come through the match.

"I can't believe I won. I guess when you're in that position, especially in a Grand Slam, emotionally it's pretty challenging, because you're only one or two points away from having to stop.

"I couldn't believe I was in a position to win at the end of the fourth set, so I was starting to get a bit edgy. Rather than it being satisfying, it was just quite emotional."

"The guys were telling me to stop after the first set, we talked about it briefly before the match and I just decided to play. Sometimes guys can get nervous and you feel better, and a combination helped me get through."

After Murray overcame Tatsuma Ito of Japan in the first round he played down concerns about his fitness .

But he was toiling from the beginning against Nieminen.

Although he has refused to go into details about the injury, the 25-year-old was forced to pull out of the Madrid Masters at the start of the month .

After being beaten in the third round of the Italian Open , Murray hoped to be reaching his peak at this tournament, ahead of a busy period including Wimbledon and the Olympics.

But that appeared to be far from the case in the opening stages against Nieminen.

With his movement impeded, Murray's timing was also affected as he produced a catalogue of unforced errors and regularly grimaced between points before clawing his way back into the match in the second set.

With serves nowhere near the 100mph mark, Murray was clearly hampered and after being broken for a second time to go 4-0 down he took a three-minute physio break.

He managed to break back to make it 4-1 but Murray was broken once again and Nieminen closed out the first set.

Murray, who has only retired from an ATP event on one occasion , was treated for a third time, only to be broken in the first game of the second set.

But as he began to look stronger and move freely, Murray held four times, as well as breaking, to move 5-4 ahead in what proved to be the pivotal phase of the match.

Nieminen, who has won one of his 32 matches against top-five players, then failed to get a single point on his service game as Murray improbably pulled the match level.

The Finn, ranked 48 in the world, failed to cope with Murray's resurgence and lost his first service game of the third set and Murray broke again to move 5-1 ahead on the way to securing the third set.

Murray broke once again in the first game of the fourth set and cruised through.

The Scot, who reached the semi-final at Roland Garros in 2011, also had a lay-off because of a groin problem in November last year.

His next opponent Giraldo pulled off a shock to beat Bernard Tomic in three sets. Murray won their only previous meeting , 6-1 6-2, in Barcelona in April.

Sunderland's Bramble Cleared of Assault

Sunderland defender Titus Bramble has been cleared of sexually assaulting two women.

The footballer was found not guilty by a jury at Teesside Crown Court following a four-day trial.

He was accused of groping a woman in a nightclub in Yarm, Teesside, before sexually assaulting a different woman in a taxi.

The woman from the taxi, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claimed Bramble grabbed her hand twice and put it on his crotch.

He also placed his hand between her legs, she said, which made her "scared".

"He put his hand between my legs and up my dress and I told him to stop immediately," the woman told the court.

Bramble, from Wynyard near Middlesbrough, was arrested after the taxi driver drove the pair to a police station.

The woman said she locked herself in a toilet at the police station and refused to leave until the 30-year-old had been led away by officers.

But Bramble told jurors the complainant was "touchy-feely and flirty" and kissed him "passionately" in the taxi from the Cross Keys nightclub.

She also put her hand on his crotch during the journey, he said.

Bramble's defence lawyer, Ronnie Jaffa, said the woman made the allegation to "save face" after she regretted kissing him.

The other woman said she felt someone grope her bottom at the nightclub.

Because the venue was dimly lit she did not see who grabbed her, she said, but a man she later identified as Bramble was standing behind her "smirking".

She told the jury she said, "Don't you grope me like that", before finding out that Bramble played for Sunderland Football Club.

The woman said she replied: "I don't care what he does, he's not grabbing me like that."

She reported the incident after the other allegations was made.

Both women claimed to have been assaulted on September 28 last year.

The footballer, who has played for Ipswich, Newcastle and Wigan Athletic, denied all charges.

Mamma Mia More Republic Betrayal

World's Best at the Nicklaus Memorial

Celts Wilt in the Heat of Miami

LA are Kings on the Road

Torres on Target Against South Korea

KP Retires from ODI

England batsman Kevin Pietersen has announced his retirement from international limited-overs cricket.

The 31-year-old made his debut in 2004 and played 127 one-day internationals and 36 Twenty20 internationals.

"I think it is the right time to step aside and let the next generation of players come through to gain experience for the World Cup in 2015," he said.

"I still wish to be considered for selection for England in Test cricket."

South Africa-born Pietersen, who has an English mother, has been one of the most successful England batsmen of recent times since he qualified to play international cricket by serving four years in the county game.

His 4,184 one-day international runs puts him sixth in the all-time list of England batsmen, and he heads their T20 list with 1,176 runs, the only England player to pass four figures in the shortest form of the game.

Managing director of England Cricket, Hugh Morris said: "The England and Wales Cricket Board is disappointed by the timing of Kevin's decision less than four months before we defend our ICC World Twenty20 title.

"Kevin is a world class player and I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his efforts and we look forward to his continued contributions to the Test match side.
"As the programming and planning for ODI and T20 format cricket are very closely linked we have a selection policy that means that any player making himself unavailable for either of the one day formats, rules himself out of consideration for both formats.

"The selectors will now replace Kevin in both the ODI and the T20 squads."

Pietersen, who was Player of the Tournament in England's ICC World Twenty20 triumph in the Caribbean in 2010, had been expected to be at the forefront of the side again during this year's tournament, which takes place in Sri Lanka from 18 September to 7 October.

"For the record, were the selection criteria not in place, I would have readily played for England in the upcoming ICC World Twenty20," Pietersen commented.

England spinner Graeme Swann recently told BBC Sport that he thought 50-over one-day international should be scrapped.

O'Connell Out of New Zealand Tour

Paul O’Connell has been ruled out of Ireland’s tour to New Zealand after the Munster second row failed to recover from a knee injury. The Irish management had indicated that a decision would be deferred until tomorrow but O’Connell has failed to respond to treatment in London.

O’Connell, who captained Ireland in the absence of Brian O’Driscoll during the Six Nations, has already been replaced in the squad by Connacht’s Mike McCarthy. The panel travelled to New Zealand this morning without O’Connell while Stephen Ferris and Isaac Boss are also missing through injury.

“O'Connell had been undergoing rehabilitation on a knee injury in London with a view to following the Ireland squad out to New Zealand,” the IRFU explained this morning, “but he has failed to progress to the level required to allow him take an active part in the tour.”

Mike Ross and Sean O’Brien both travelled carrying knocks but coach Declan Kidney is hopeful the Leinster duo will be fit for the first test against the All Blacks on June 9th. Ireland also meet the world champions on June 16th and 23rd.

Kidney confirmed added McCarthy and Connacht prop Ronan Loughney to the panel yesterday while Ulster scrumhalf Paul Marshall was drafted in to replace the unfortunate Boss.

Kidney explained his decision to enlarge the travelling party, saying: “The extra players are cover. If you talk about props, there would be a small doubt about Mike Ross and you don’t want to wake up the morning of a Test match with three fit props; any illness or injury then and you’re going to be short (of adequate cover).

“So, Ronan (Loughney), as you saw last night, plays both sides and in Mike’s (McCarthy) case, there are three fit second rows. There might still be a doubt about Paul (O’Connell). So, we have three hookers, so we’re alright there; five back-rows so we’re okay there and three scrum-halves, so we do the best we can. There are tour agreements but the union understood the need for the extra players.”

Ireland squad: D Cave (Ulster), G D’Arcy (Leinster), K Earls (Munster), R Kearney (Leinster), P Marshall (Ulster), F McFadden (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), B O’Driscoll (Leinster, capt), R O’Gara (Munster), E Reddan (Leinster), J Sexton (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster), S Zebo (Munster); R Best (Ulster), S Cronin (Leinster), D Fitzpatrick (Ulster), C Healy (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster), C Henry (Ulster), R Loughney (Connacht), K McLaughlin (Leinster), M McCarthy (Connacht), S O’Brien (Leinster), D O’Callaghan (Munster), P O’Mahony (Munster), M Ross (Leinster), D Ryan (Munster), M Sherry (Munster), D Tuohy (Ulster), B Wilkinson (Connacht)

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Dylan Tombides Talks About Cancer

Rising Aussie football star Dylan Tombides opens up over his 10-month battle with cancer, saying he can't wait to play football again.

The 18-year-old was diagnosed with testicular cancer during last year's U17 World Cup in Mexico. Surgeries and a gruelling course of chemotherapy followed, but Tombides is now focusing on his future.

He's not completely out of the woods yet. He has to have another nine monthly blood tests before getting the all clear, but football is again a top priority and he is now back in training, setting his sights on winning a squad place at his English club, newly-promoted Barclays Premier League outfit West Ham United.

Speaking to The Daily Mail, Tombides reveals he went through some tough times dealing with the chemotherapy and praised his family for their unwavering support.

"There were times when I would just look at Mum and tell her, “I don’t want the chemo any more, I will live with the cancer”. That’s how I felt at times," he said.

"It took five to 10 days to bounce back from each chemo blast and there is no trick to dealing with it.

"My team-mates wanted to visit me but I told them not to because I couldn’t stay awake for longer than 15 minutes and couldn’t always remember what was happening."

Groupama Make Volvo Move

Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race looked set to come to a thrilling climax in the final 36 hours of the transatlantic passage to Lisbon as the fleet began to compress in a high pressure ridge off Portugal on Wednesday.

Just 49 nautical miles separated leaders Abu Dhabi from sixth placed Team Sanya as Groupama continued their climb up the rankings, slipping past PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG to take second.

At 1300 UTC Groupama were 14 nm off the lead but just 0.3 nm ahead of third placed PUMA. Overall race leaders Team Telefónica were in fourth, 29 nm from first place and two nm ahead of fifth placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand. Team Sanya remained in sixth, a further 20 nm back.

First to feel the effects of the 200 nm-wide light wind high pressure ridge moving east towards the fleet, long time front runners Abu Dhabi have been steadily closed down by the chasing pack over the last 12 hours.

“It’s a tricky period at the moment as we’ve known all along we’re going to sail into light winds and everyone is going to come catching up pretty fast,” said skipper Ian Walker.

“No one likes to lose miles and at the moment we’re losing miles to all the other boats. So it feels a bit awkward, but we’re still in the lead so it’s not all that bad."

Walker said it was going to be impossible to cover every one of their five competitors who are currently spread 50 nm on a north west to south east axis.

“I guess what you try and do is put yourself between the boats behind and the mark (finish) and cover,” he said. “But it’s very difficult to do that without losing even more miles because we don’t have the same wind direction.”

“Sooner or later we’re going to have absolutely no wind, and it’s going to be a question of who pops out first.

“We have a day and a half racing to go to Lisbon and we’re sitting here in the lead with a chance of winning the leg and we couldn’t have hoped for much more than that when we left Miami.”

After languishing in sixth place just a few days ago, Groupama helmsman Charles Caudrelier said the crew were delighted with their comeback and were now focusing on reeling in Abu Dhabi.

"A couple of days ago we thought we had no chance of victory and now it is a possibility,” Caudrelier said. “There are still a lot of things left to do but we have come right back on the leaders."

Aware that their lead in the overall race is under threat, Team Telefónica were hoping the high pressure system will reshuffle the positions in their favour.

“Given where we are now, the overall lead can change easily,” said skipper Iker Martínez. “Hopefully not, but it looks like this can happen.

“We have us a big wall in front of with no wind, so anything can happen and it looks like it’s going to be very, very close until the end of the leg.”

Martínez said their priority was to score as many points as possible and that meant finding a fast route through the high pressure.

“Once we’re inside the ridge it’s going to be difficult to get through it,” he added.

“We have to try to take as many points as we can, it is very difficult for us but we just have to try. We’ll keep fighting as always.”

Race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante said he expected the fleet to be in the lightest winds at around 0000 UTC.

“The winds will decrease steadily today, dropping to no more than six knots for around six hours overnight,” he said. “The way the boats are lined up north-south means they could all enter the lightest winds at the same time.”

Infante said the first boats should start to exit the light air zone as the sun comes up and transition into solid northerly Portuguese trade winds which will build to 15 to 18 knots on the final day.

“It should be fast reaching to Lisbon,” he added. “The leaders should reach the coast of Portugal by sunset when there could be a transition to lighter more unpredictable breezes caused by the proximity to the city of Lisbon.

“There could be a few surprises in the final stretch up the River Tagus to the finish,” Infante said. “If they arrive around midnight, a patchy and shifty northerly wind may prevail, but if they are delayed until early morning, local thermal effects could mean light offshore breezes."

Latest estimates have the leading boat crossing the finish line in Lisbon between 2100 UTC (2200 local) on May 31 and 0200 UTC (0300 local) on June 1.

Azarenka Cruises to Third Round

Top seed Victoria Azarenka eased through to the third round of the French Open with a 6-1 6-1 victory over Germany's Dinah Pfizenmaier.

The 22-year-old world number one is bidding to add the French title to the Australian Open she won in January.

Eighth seed Marion Bartoli served 14 double faults as she surprisingly lost 6-2 3-6 6-3 to Croatia's Petra Martic.

US Open winner Sam Stosur beat American Irina Falconi 6-1 6-4 and next faces 27th seed Nadia Petrova of Russia.

Stosur, who lost the 2010 French Open final to Francesca Schiavone, has dropped only nine games in her first two matches this year.

The 28-year-old Australian again looked comfortable against Falconi, ranked 112, who was appearing in the second round for the first time.

Azarenka, who lost the first set and was a point away from a 5-0 deficit in the second against world number 105 Alberta Brianti in the opening round, needed only 55 minutes to dispatch Pfizenmaier, who is currently ranked 198th.

The Belarusian is seeking to become the first woman since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win the first two Grand Slams of the season.

She lost the first game but proceeded to win the next 11 in succession against her 20-year-old opponent, who made 29 unforced errors on Court Philippe Chatrier.

"I didn't really know my opponent today, and it took me the first few games to kind of understand what she does and what kind of game she plays to adjust a little bit," Azarenka told reporters. "But after a few games I started to find my better rhythm. Definitely played much better today."

In round three Azarenka will play Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada, who beat 31st seed Jie Zheng of China 6-2 6-4.

Bartoli, a semi-finalist last year, came from a break down in the second set to level at one set apiece against world number 50 Martic but never looked comfortable on Court Suzanne Lenglen under threatening skies.

Martic, 21, served an ace on her second match point to complete victory in two hours and 12 minutes, setting up a third-round meeting with 29th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain.

Fifteenth seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia quickly advanced with a 6-0 6-2 victory over American Vania King.

Cibulkova will meet Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez for a place in the last 16 after the Spaniard beat 20th seed Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-4 7-5.

Italian Sara Errani, the 21st seed, beat Melanie Oudin of the USA 6-2 6-3 and now plays the 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic , this year's 13th seed, who beat Shahar Peer of Israel 6-2 6-2.

Former world number one Ivanovic, 24, has failed to reach the quarter-finals at Roland Garros in the last three years.

She has a favourable-looking draw through to the last eight this time, where she could face third seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.

"Even though I lost some matches I should have won or I should have put myself in a better position, I still felt always like I was improving with each week," Ivanovic said. "That gives me confidence. Now I'm starting to play a lot freer and enjoying the competition and building points."

Another former winner, the 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova , needed a second set tie-break to overcome Yung-Jan Chan in an hour and 41 minutes.

The 26-year-old world number 28 will play the winner of Radwanska against Venus Williams.