Saturday 30 June 2012

Donaldson Holds Slim Irish Lead

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Jamie Donaldson hit a third-round 69 to take a one-shot lead at the Irish Open at Royal Portrush.

The Welshman, without a European Tour win in 244 starts, moved to 12-under to lead from England's Anthony Wall.

Frenchman Gregory Bourdy, the overnight leader, fell well off the pace after shooting an eight-over 80.

Jamie Donaldson's last tournament win was at the Mauritius Open in 2008

Ireland's Padraig Harrington and England's Mark Foster are two shots off the lead, while Rory McIlroy's 71 leaves him on six under par.

Donaldson said: "You've got to keep trying and it's one shot at a time, one hole at a time.

"The only person I am playing against, I suppose, is myself. I've got to stay out of my own way.

"Obviously Padraig Harrington is a class player, but it's me versus me really."

The field will return for the final round on Sunday, with Wall looking for a first win in 364 tournaments.

The 37-year-old, who is staying at a caravan park, called his 67 "probably the best round I've ever played".

"It's quite a posh caravan - it's got running water, it's got gas," said Wall.

"I didn't want to stay in town because it was going to be quite boisterous.

"I knew we would have a bit of fun and it's been nice to relax. Half the time you seem to be on your own and you're sort of killing time."

Tales of Camelot Continue at Curragh

Odds on favourite Camelot maintained his unbeaten record in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh - but was given a scare by Born To Sea.

Aidan O'Brien was winning the Classic for a remarkable seventh successive season and his latest star colt was always cantering under the trainer's son Joseph.

However when he was let down over a furlong out he jinked left and Johnny Murtagh attacked aboard the eventual runner-up.

For a stride or two he looked a genuine threat but Camelot soon had his measure and went on to win with authority by two lengths.

The winning trainer said: "We really felt it wasn't the right thing (to run on this ground) but he's a great horse.

"He's a real fast ground horse. We appreciate all the hard work everyone's put in, the sponsors, The Curragh - I can't say how thrilled we are to be part of it. It doesn't get any better than this. These are days you can't dream of.

"I never would have believed it could ever happen. He's by far the best we've had - we've never had anything like this.

"He had the speed to win the Guineas, the class to win the Derby and then he had to have class, courage and stamina to win today. Obviously the lads will speak about the Triple Crown now, wouldn't it be something to dream about?"

Laurent Blanc Leaves French Post

Laurent Blanc has left his job as manager of the French national team after his contract came to an end.

The 46-year-old, who has been linked with the vacant Tottenham post, took over from Raymond Domenech in 2010.

Like his predecessor, Blanc endured infighting between players which he admitted had delayed match preparations before their Euro 2012 quarter-final against Spain.

The 2-0 defeat proved to be Blanc's final match in charge.

Having guided the side to a 23-match unbeaten run, Blanc's men were defeated 2-0 by Sweden in the last group game of the competition.

Laurent Blanc lost the first two and last two games in between a 23-game unbeaten run with the country

It meant they finished second to England in Group D, and came up against Vicente del Bosque's world and European Championship-winning side in the quarter-final.

Blanc, stated before the clash: "Some players were very angry and there were words exchanged after the [Sweden] game."

And Les Bleus's campaign ended on the worst possible note after Manchester City midfielder Sami Nasri became involved in a row after the Spain loss, where he insulted a journalist for which he later apologised.

The French side also suffered criticism from previous manager Domenech, who said: "A major tournament reveals the strength of a group, a generation. The most glaring [weakness is] their inability to see anything other than their navel."

Former Bordeaux manager Blanc enjoyed a promising start to life in club management, guiding the Ligue One side to a league and cup double in 2009.

As a player, he played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe including Barcelona, Manchester United and Inter Milan.

He earned 97 caps for his country and won the 1998 World Cup, although he missed the final having been sent-off in the semi, and experienced success two years later after victory over Italy in the European Championship final.

France's next fixture is a friendly against Copa America champions Uruguay on 15 August, before they begin their 2012 World Cup qualifying campaign against Finland on 7 September.

Galway Speed is Key for Groupama

Photo: Ian Roman
Man of the moment Franck Cammas says outright speed will hold the key to success in the final offshore leg of the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race starting on Sunday -- and his Groupama crew will approach the 550-mile stage as a long in-port race.

Groupama are firm favourites for victory in Leg 9 from Lorient to Galway having won Leg 8 and the Bretagne In-Port Race on the team’s home waters of Lorient.

So focused on speed are the French team that they have subbed navigator Jean-Luc Nélias for trimming expert Laurent Pagès.

“I think the last leg is more of a longer inshore than a shorter offshore,” Cammas said.

“The track and the routing is very simple so I think Jean-Luc can give us all his skill before the start, we can prepare the navigation very well, but then I think we need a trimmer so we can be very fast. 

“The routing is for now simple, except maybe the final three or four hours, otherwise we just need to be very fast.”

With Leg 9 forecast to take less than 48 hours, a good result for Groupama, currently 25 points ahead of second-placed PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG in the overall rankings, could see them crowned overall winners prior to the Galway In-Port Race.

But the leg will be anything but easy, with rough conditions set to test the fleet right up to the finish line in Galway Bay.

“The problem in offshore racing is anything can happen on the sea, and tomorrow night it will be windy, so we have to be careful with the boat and the structure,” Cammas added.

“But for sure, I prefer to start the leg with a 25-point lead -- there is less pressure.”

Leg 9 starts at 1102 UTC.

WRC Title Not Over Yet - Solberg

Petter Solberg is convinced Sebastien Loeb can be caught in the thrilling race for this year's FIA World Rally Championship crown.

Citroen ace Loeb reached the finish of Brother Rally New Zealand in Auckland last Sunday with a 55-point margin over Solberg, the last driver to win a world title before Loeb began his record of eight consecutive championship triumphs.

“We are third, and okay Loeb is well in front, but we saw last year he retired two or three rallies in a row so it still can happen,” said Ford World Rally Team driver Solberg. “Mikko [Hirvonen, Loeb’s team-mate] is fast so hopefully it will be a very exciting second half of the year that we can really push on hard and give them a fight. But I’m more after a victory than maybe the championship podium - I have enough of them - I want to win.”

The WRC is entering its summer break ahead of the resumption of action in Finland at the start of August. The Norwegian has high hopes of success on the Jyvaskyla-based round.

“With the car and performance like it is we will be fast and we will try to get all the details right,” added Solberg.

Wiggins Claims Second in Tour Prologue

Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins underlined his Tour de France claims by taking second place behind Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) in the prologue in Liege.

Wiggins, winner of Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine in a hugely impressive build-up to cycling's biggest event, was the 11th last rider to head out on the 6.4 kilometres course.

His target time at that point was the seven minutes and 20 seconds set by Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) - but at the halfway stage he was six seconds adrift.

However a superb second phase saw the Briton cross the line 0.42 seconds in front to lay down a benchmark to the final 10 starters, including reigning champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).

But it was former world time trial champion Cancellara who maintained his outstanding record of having never been beaten in a Tour de France prologue.

The Swiss star, who was coming back after a bad fracture of his collarbone at the Tour of Flanders, set a new fastest time at the intermediate check and he kept up the momentum to cross the line in 7:13.46, fully seven seconds in front of Wiggins and the rest, to claim the first leader's yellow jersey of the race.

It was the fourth time Cancellara has won a Tour prologue, following successes in 2004, 2007 and 2010, plus his time-trial win in Monaco in 2009.

"Every victory is important but today was a special one," said Cancellara afterwards. "After a hard period in April and a hard comeback I have done what I had to do today. That’s my job.

"I felt good and I was motivated. This is a victory that I will not forget for a long time. I am enjoying what I am doing and that is why I could really put everything on the road today."

Chavanel took third, Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) was fourth and snared the young rider's jersey just ahead of Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen in fifth.

Chris Froome was 11th, meaning Team Sky top the first team classification by four seconds.

Evans lost 10 seconds to Wiggins as he came home in 13th place.

Hard luck story of the day was world time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) who was just a second slower than Cancellera at halfway before he suffered a rear wheel puncture and finished in 45th.

The first road stage proper on Sunday takes the riders 198km from Liege to Seraing, a suburb of the Belgian city, and concludes on a category four climb.

Platini Plans for EURO Crisis

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UEFA president Michel Platini has revealed that Euro 2020 could be held in at least a dozen cities across the continent.

Turkey had been favourites to host the event but their bid has hit difficulties due to a desire to host the Olympic Games in Istanbul in the same year.

And Platini has confirmed a radical alternative is now being considered, which could lead to the tournament being staged in more than one or two countries.

"The Euros in 2020 could be held all over Europe," said Platini.

"It could be either one country and 12 stadiums or one stadium in 12 or 13 cities.

"It's an idea I feel really passionate about. It will be a lot easier from a financial perspective."

Platini confirmed a final decision would be taken in January or February next year, saying: "This matter will be discussed very seriously."

As well as Turkey, there had also been talk about a three-pronged Celtic bid from Scotland, Wales and Republic of Ireland.
Great debate

Platini continued: "We are not going to wait until we know whether Turkey are going to get the Olympics.

"It creates a problem for us. We do have other candidates.

"Everyone has the possibility to host it.

"It is easier to go from London to Paris or Berlin than Cardiff to Gdansk.

"It would be four games per venue. It is a great debate.

"We are just thinking about it. I have said 12 or 13 host cities, it could be 24 or 32.

"We wouldn't have to build stadiums or airports. That could be important in an economic crisis."

Stoner Wins Dramatic Assen TT

Repsol Honda Team’s Casey Stoner took victory at an incident-packed Iveco TT Assen on Saturday as he held off the challenge from Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso.

The race started with high drama as San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista took out Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo in the first corner, putting an end to both their challenges. Lorenzo was clearly upset about the incident, which has been put under investigation by Race Direction. After this, the Repsol Honda Team pair of Dani Pedrosa and Stoner were left to lead the race at the start, with Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies in pursuit.

Two laps in it was heartbreak for LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl as he crashed out of fourth, making this the first race he has not finished in his rookie season. In the meantime, Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden had run into the gravel in the last corner, but managed to wrestle his bike back on track.

As the Hondas started to pull out a small margin, the crashes continued at the back as Avintia Blusens’ Yonny Hernandez ended his race in the gravel. With 19 laps to go Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso went past Spies into third as the pair diced for the final podium position. Dovizioso’s teammate Cal Crutchlow, who was ninth after taking avoiding action at the start was having a tricky time trying to pass the Ducatis of Hayden, Valentino Rossi and Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá.

On the same lap, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards retired with mechanical issues. With 14 laps to go, Crutchlow had passed Barberá into seventh in the group fighting it out for fifth, while Spies had made a move on Dovizioso back into third. A few laps later Crutchlow’s charge continued as he passed Rossi into sixth to hunt down Hayden, who he also passed some laps later.

Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaró retired from the race with 11 laps remaining, putting a dent in his top CRT hopes. This was followed up a lap later with Rossi entering the pits with a chunk missing from his rear tyre, which was changed before he re-entered the race. Meanwhile at the front Stoner made his move on Pedrosa as the Spaniard looked to be struggling.

With six laps remaining both Hondas looked to be slowing, yet had pulled out a seven second lead over Spies, who was lapping a second a lap quicker. Further back, Barberá saved a near crash as he diced with Hayden for sixth. Three laps before the end Dovizioso had caught up to Spies once more as the pair was involved in yet another tussle for the final podium spot. The Italian made his move going into turn 1 on the final lap, and held on until the line.

In the end it was Stoner who took the chequered flag to go equal on points at the top of the championship with Lorenzo, as Pedrosa finished second and Dovizioso took yet another podium this year. They were followed by Spies, Crutchlow, Hayden, and Barberá, whilst the CRT contingent benefited from the numerous crashes, with Espargaró’s teammate De Puniet taking eighth, in front of San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Michele Pirro and Speed Master’s Mattia Pasini. Rossi finished in 13th, 0.002 seconds ahead of Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison. Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham did not start the race, as his hand injury proved too severe to race.

Ryan and Michael Lochte in Olympic Battle

US swimmers Michael Phelps and his Ryan Lochte have set up one final meeting before London 2012.

The pair will meet in the final of the 200m individual medley at the US Olympic trials in Omaha after setting the fastest times in the semi-finals.

Racing next to each other, Lochte finished first in one minute 55.51 seconds, with Phelps easing to 1:56.66.

Phelps said: "I knew he kind of took off, so I was like I should probably save something for tomorrow."

"I kind of shut it down once the race was kind of over," he added.

Lochte - whose time was the fastest in the world this year, said: "It was just about getting a lane in the final, but the final's going to be a dog fight."

The race is the third meeting between the two in Nebraska, after Phelps beat Lochte in the 200m freestyle final, while Lochte won the 400m individual medley final.

Phelps, who has won 200m medley gold at the last two Olympics, has already qualified for three individual events and in addition to the 200m medley he has the 100m butterfly to come, while Lochte has booked his place for two events and can add two more on Saturday.

Michael Phelps
Olympics: 14 golds (six in Athens & eight in Beijing); two bronze (Athens)
World Championships: 24 golds, 6 silvers, 1 bronze

Ryan Lochte
Olympics: 3 golds (one in Athens & two in Beijing); 1 silver (Athens); 2 bronzes (Beijing)
World Championships: 11 golds, 2 silvers, 1 bronzes

Olesen Finds Portrush Route 66

Sicilian Open champion Thorbjørn Olesen produced a sensational six under par 66 to climb 49 places during The Irish Open third round.

After making the cut on the mark at two under, the Dane carded six unanswered birdies in wet and windy conditions at Royal Portrush.

That took the 22 year old to eight under par and a share of 11th as leader Grégory Bourdy of France was just starting his round.

“I played really steady and I gave myself a lot of chances for birdie and made some good putts,” said Olesen. “I’m very pleased with the round.”

Bourdy, one ahead of Mark Foster overnight, was quickly two clear as his English playing partner bogeyed the first.

As a result Foster dropped back to ten under with compatriot Paul Waring, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington and Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who eagled the second from ten feet.

The early clubhouse lead at eight under of Olesen, Scot Craig Lee (67) and Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti (68) was looking increasingly competitive as Bourdy bogeyed the third to drop to 11 under.

The Night Lippi Hauled Pirlo Ashore

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On a rainy night in the coastal town of Bari in 2009, the Republic of Ireland battled out a 1-1 draw with a ten man Italian team that played their home 2010 Group World cup bereft of style, imagination or flair. Perhaps not surprisingly as their manager, Marcello Lippi had seen Giampaolo Pazzini sent off after just three minutes of play, by aptly named German referee Wolfgang Stark, and their ryhtmn was disrupted. The Italian manager also faced the haunting spectre of his predecessor, Giovanni Trapattoni, famed in the darks arts of defensive eleven aside football in the opposite dugout. 

Obviously with only ten men left standing it was going to be a long night - even for Italy - one imagined. 

However, Lippi’s agony was to prove short lived as Vincenzo Iaquinta scored within seven minutes and Italy went into the lead. At which stage the ability on the Italian team sheet looked as if it would settle matters pretty quickly, as Fabio Cannavaro, Giorgio Chiellini, Fabio Grosso, Zambrotta and goalkeeper Guianluigi Buffon woudl take command. Regretfully for the Bari fans the game became all about protecting the one goal advantage and remained so until the bitter end. Rather than trying to impose the superiority of Serie A over the Republic of Ireland players, most of whom had no Champions League experience and only a handful even playing regularly at their Premier League clubs. 

But such is the psychology of Italian football, or perhaps just Marcello Lippi, as on that night a most bizarre decision was made – attracting minimal comment at the time – which was the substitution of Andrea Pirlo in the 46th minute. With the AC Milan player suffering from no obvious injury. 

In fact the opposite, as he had single-handedly created a number of attacking chances for Italy and forced the Irish players deep in to their half time after time. Those dinky passes over the top, combined with those whipped along the ground - that Andrea Pirlo has made his trademark over the years - becoming a nightmare for the Irish defenders – always happier just heading the ball out for a corner. 

From the moment Angelo Palombo came on, a more robust style of midfielder with less of the deft touches, the game was lost for Italy and they seemed happy to withdraw deeper into their half. 

As the clocked ticked by Lippi’s troops started to look even two players short on the field, as the Irish bombarded high balls into the box and Italy could not escape the Irish siege - with no-one able to release those quick counter attacking passes at will. Which in the 88th minute saw Irish captain Robbie Keane pounced on a half chance after the Italian defenders failed to clear a ball – giving Ireland a vital away point - and punishing Lippi for his negative thoughts. 

As a world cup winning manager in 2006 the decision by Lippi in Bari that night has always seemed unusual – but probably no surprise given the history of Italian football. 

In Ireland that April 1st result vindicated the choice of Trapattoni as the national manager by the Football Association of Ireland, as the man born in Cusano Milanino on St Patrick’s Day 1939 staved off a possible massacre– and also secured an invaluable point. But for all intents and purposes, the post match analysis sounded a trite triumphalist and the printed press rather indulgent in their assessment of those 90 minutes of football on that night. Not one capturing the  impact of Pirlo being hauled ashore at the halfway stage.

But as only sport can balance things, in the return leg at Croke Park a late Sean St. Ledger goal three minutes from time looked to have sealed the three home points for Il Trap. Only for Alberto Gilardino to finish off the last Italian counter attack just on the whistle - to share the spoils in Dublin - and leaving an Irish nation pondering a sense of defeat given that Glen Whelan had put Ireland ahead after eight minutes. 

But then again it should not have been tales of the unexpected given the Italian form at the 2006 World Cup. 

Having arrived in Germany with little expectation and plagued by a domestic match fixing scandal,  Lippi’s unlikely lads marched from their opening win in Hanover against Ghana all the way to Berlin on July 9th – despatching Ukraine 3-0, Germany on penalties and a ten man France along the way. Not forgetting the most polemic moment at the Fritz-Walter Stadion in Kaislerslautern against Australia in the round of 16, when Francesco Totti converted a controversial injury time penalty awarded by Spanish referee, Luis Medina Cantalejo aginst Lucas Neill. 

Six years on Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo are two survivors of that match and now a key part of the EURO 2012 campaign. Where Italy have deservedly reached the final  - and without controversy so far - and playing in a different,  yet the same,  style for an Italian team. 

Under Cesare Prandelli they have shown a flexibility and work rate hitherto unknown, alll built  on their fundamental principle of football - strong defending. All to great effect. 

Now though armed with the nascent Mario Balotelli, who is ready to strike at goal just on sight. and like Paulo Rossi in 1982, Toto Schillaci in 1990 or Roberto Baggio in 1994 - is a player on tournament form.  Aided and abtted by the unsung hero of the team is in many ways, Antonio Cassano, himself just back playing after heart surgery earlier in the year, running his socks off up front for his nation’s cause. Ably supported by a cast of others that Prandelli has playing an attacking counter attacking game all pleasing to the eye. With deadly effect as German coach, Joachim Loew, found out in Warsaw on Thursday night. 

But undoubtedly the player of the tournament in-waiting, Andrea Pirlo, is where Italy have their best weapon. 

A strange turn for a player discarded on a free transfer a year ago by Milan, who has since shown a level of form at 33 years of age that can only draw superlatives. Deservedly so given that his Scudetto winning season with Juventus seems to have reinvigorated the Lombardy legend, with his 120 minute display against England a lesson for any aspiring midfielder to learn from. With a special section allotted to penalty taking alone, given the way he deftly dealt with Joe Hart's shouting and screaming in the England goalmouth in Kyiv a week ago. 

In next Sunday night’s final Pirlo will play a major role again no doubt and crown an unlikely Italian victory at EURO 2012 final in Kyiv – given the pre tournament punditry. Crowning his own glittering career with another UEFA trophy no doubt, as the most outstanding on the field contributor over the past three weeks. If so, it would be very well deserved. 

Wonder what Marcello Lippi and Giovanni Trapattoni will be thinking if that happens? 

Answers on a postcard please…. 


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Sharapova Eases into Round Four

Maria Sharapova eased into the fourth round at Wimbledon with a 6-1 6-4 victory over Taipei's Su-Wei Hsieh.

The Russian world number one broke Hsieh three times in the opening set, winning it with a crunching forehand.

Windy conditions hindered both players on serve in the second set, Sharapova decisively breaking for a third time after Hsieh saved two match points.

Kim Clijsters is also through after a tearful Vera Zvonareva retired while trailing 3-6 3-4.

The Russian, who lost in the final to Serena Williams two years ago, appeared to be having breathing difficulties and left the court for a medical timeout during the second set but returned to continue.

However, after losing her serve, she conceded the match.

Clijsters, who has twice reached the semi-finals, told BBC Sport: "I heard her coughing a lot and after long rallies it took her a long time to recover.

"She's a fighter - we've had some really tough battles, so it's sad to see her have to pull out.

"I'm excited that I made it into the second week," she added. "A week ago I don't think I was expecting that, so I'm very happy with the way things have been going.

"[My injury is] stable. It hasn't got worse since my second and third match so I'm happy about that."

Next up for Clijsters is German eighth seed Angelique Kerber who reached the fourth round for the first time with a 6-2 6-3 victory over Christina McHale of the United States.

Earlier on court one, Sharapova battled gusting winds to reach the last 16.

The 2004 champion's high ball toss was affected by the conditions and the reigning French Open champion was broken twice by Hsieh in the second set but she responded well from 4-2 down to win the next four games.

"She was a tricky opponent," conceded Sharapova who will next playGermany's Sabine Lisicki.

"She changed the pace really well and her serve is really tricky. The conditions were tough, I had to face a lot out there and be patient.

"The wind was tricky but I knew I had to handle it."

Lisicki, who was beaten by Sharapova in the semi-finals last year, defeated Sloane Stephens of the United States in three sets 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 6-2.

Italy's Camila Giorgi produced a late upset on court three, beating Russia's 20th seed Nadia Petrova 6-3 7-6 (8-6).

As Le Tour begins Armstrong is Charged

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has been formally charged with using performance-enhancing drugs by the US Anti-Doping Agency.

The case will now be heard by an arbitration panel, who will decide the outcome of the hearing.

Armstrong, whose seven wins came consecutively between 1999 to 2005, could be stripped of his titles and banned from cycling if found guilty.

However, the 40-year-old denies doping, noting he has never failed a drug test.

In a statement, USADA said: "All respondents will have the opportunity to exercise their right to a full public arbitration hearing, should they so choose, where all evidence would be presented, witness testimony would be given under oath, and an independent group of arbitrators would ultimately decide the outcome of the case."

Earlier this month, Armstrong urged the USADA review board to dismiss allegations brought against him, with his legal team stating that the claims were "long on stale allegations disproved long ago and short on evidence".

They argue their client is unable to mount a legitimate defence until he is able to see the evidence against him, though USADA has said it is withholding witness identities to protect them from intimidation.

Armstrong, who survived testicular cancer prior to his record-breaking Tour wins, retired after the 2005 race, but made a comeback in 2009.

He retired for a second time in February 2011, taking up triathlon earlier this year.

The 2012 Tour de France begins on Saturday in Liege, Belgium.

R.A. Dickey Knuckles Dodgers

R.A. Dickey made yet another strong bid to start for the National League in the All-Star game. He wants very much to get the nod -- not just for himself, but for a unique group he refers to as the "Jedi Council of Knuckleballers."

Dickey, who resurrected his career several years ago with the specialty pitch, allowed three hits over eight innings to become the majors' first 12-game winner and lead the New York Mets to a 9-0 victory over the Dodgers on Friday night.

Daniel Murphy homered and drove in five runs, helping send Los Angeles to its season-worst sixth straight loss.

"I think every little boy imagines playing in an All-Star game. So in that regard, it would be a real honor, obviously," Dickey said. "But more than that, I think it would give a real legitimacy to what I do as a knuckleball pitcher. I think there are camps of people out there who don't view it as a very legitimate thing.

"I'm certainly thankful for the people who have come before me and done what I've done, because it's allowed me to have the foundation to build off of to become who I am presently," Dickey added. "I mean, I tried to be Charlie Hough. I tried to be Phil Niekro and Tim Wakefield, and it didn't work. So when I started bringing in who I was uniquely with that pitch, things started to kind of turn the corner for me."

The Dodgers' only hit over the first 6 1/3 innings was by opposing pitcher Aaron Harang, a two-out single in the second that fell between left fielder Kirk Niewenhuis and center fielderAndres Torres after some miscommunication. A.J. Ellis singled in the seventh and Tony Gwynn Jr. doubled in the eighth.

"He was throwing it harder than I'm used to seeing him throw it," Gwynn said. "He threw a lot of strikes with it. And when it's in the zone and the ball's moving like that, it's tough to make contact. It cuts, sinks, it does something different every time he throws it."

Dickey offered a much more colourful description of his primary weapon.

"The metaphor I would give is that if a traditional knuckleball is a butterfly, mine is more like a butterfly on steroids," he said. "It's more like a mosquito or a hummingbird than a butterfly, because of the velocity. It comes in and breaks late at the plate. It darts more and it's in and out of the strike zone. Phil Niekro once told me I had an `angry' knuckleball."

Dickey(12-1), who had consecutive one-hitters against Tampa Bay and Baltimore during interleague play, returned to form five days after giving up five runs in six innings against the Yankees.

"I didn't have a terrible knuckleball last time, and I didn't approach this game any differently," he said. "It just came out of my hand nice tonight, and I was able to repeat my mechanics and stay in the strike zone."

It was the fifth scoreless outing in a span of seven starts for the 37-year-old right-hander, who struck out 10 and walked one while establishing a career high for wins. He threw no more than 17 pitches in any inning and finished with 116.

Dickey has won 10 straight decisions in 13 starts with a 1.51 ERA since April 18. He finished June 5-0 with a 0.93 ERA.

In the second season of a two-year, $7.8 million contract, Dickey is the first starting pitcher in Mets history to begin a season 12-1 and the first to post at least 12 victories before the All-Star break since Bobby Jones in 1997. The franchise record for wins before the break is held by Tom Seaver, who was 14-5 in 1969 and 1970 going into the midsummer classic.

"One thing I've always tried to do for my team and for myself is to be a consistent, trustworthy product," Dickey said. "And the more often I can do that, the better."

The injury-depleted Dodgers, missing Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Mark Ellis, were shut out for the fifth time in 11 games -- including all three at San Francisco -- and have produced only two runs in their last 48 innings. They are in a 1-10 tailspin that has seen them go from five games ahead in the NL West to a game behind surging San Francisco. Los Angeles led by as many as 7 1/2 games on May 27.

Harang (5-5) gave up five runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. Three of the hits were by Ruben Tejada, who was plunked by the right-hander's 116th and final pitch. Tejada also had an RBI single to cap a four-run seventh against rookie Shawn Tolleson.

Dickey retaliated by hitting Dee Gordon on the rear end with two outs in the sixth, eliciting a warning from plate umpire Todd Tichenor to Dickey and both dugouts. Gordon, who is generously listed at 160 pounds in the Dodgers media guide, was the fourth batter Dickey has hit this season.

Murphy, who struck out with the bases loaded to end the first, came through in the fifth with a two-run double and added a three-run homer in the seventh -- just his third of the season. The other two came on Wednesday in a 17-1 rout of the Cubs at Wrigley field, ending a home run drought of 352 consecutive at-bats by Murphy.

Butt Wants Pakistan Spot Fixing Trial

Former Pakistan cricket captain Salman Butt, who was jailed for 30 months in the UK last year for spot-fixing, has called for a new trial in Pakistan.

Butt, 27, who was freed from prison last week and has since returned home, said he was wrongly convicted and would be cleared in a Pakistani court.

He was jailed along with two other cricketers for the deliberate bowling of no-balls in a 2010 Test match.

They were also given five-year playing bans, which they are appealing against.

"I don't think I got justice in the trial that sentenced me to a jail term," the Reuters news agency quoted him telling a news conference in Lahore.

"I want a trial in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, because there was no evidence confirming I did spot fixing."

He was released from Canterbury Prison last Thursday after serving seven months of his two-and-a-half year prison sentence.

The two cricketers sentenced to prison along with him, bowlers Mohammad Asif, 29, and Mohammad Amir, 19, have also since been freed.

Bolt Beaten by Blake in Kingston

Usain Bolt suffered a big upset in the 100m final at the Jamaican Olympic trials when he was beaten by Yohan Blake who clocked 9.75 seconds.

Blake stormed past defending Olympic champion Bolt - who ran 9.86 seconds - to set the year's fastest time and a personal best.

Former world record holder Asafa Powell was third with 9.88 seconds at Kingston's National Stadium.

The result sees all three men qualify for the London 2012 Olympics.

The 9.75 time also makes Blake the fourth fastest man of all time behind Bolt's world record of 9.58, American Tyson Gay's 9.69 and Asafa Powell's 9.72.

"No pressure at all... everything is good. I'm just fortunate," Blake said after beating his personal best of 9.82. "I'm the national champion of Jamaica now, I go into the Olympics like this."

Bolt was slow out of the blocks in both the final and earlier semi-final. He said afterwards of his start: "I had to ignore it. I had trouble getting out, but I kept feeling like I could not give up."

It was the first time Bolt and Blake had faced each other since Blake took the world title in Daegu last year after the Olympic champion was disqualified for a false start.

Bolt, who won Olympic gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at the 2008 Games in Beijing, had held the fastest time in the world this year after clocking 9.76 in Rome last month.

In the semi-finals, it was Powell who clocked the fastest time of 9.92 seconds, with Blake third in the same race, behind Nesta Carter.

After a slow start Bolt eventually took the lead midway in his semi-final and won in 10.01, nosing out Michael Frater on 10.02.

In the women's 100m final, defending Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce broke the Jamaican record with a time of 10.70 seconds, with Veronica Campbell-Brown second and Kerron Stewart third.

Nearly 400 Jamaican athletes have been competing for about 60 berths in London in what could be the largest athletics delegation ever sent to an Olympics by the Caribbean nation.