Skelton excited to unleash Allmankind

Dan Skelton is looking forward to running the in-form Allmankind in the Grade Two Fitzdares Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on Sunday.

The five-year-old was a winner last time out when taking the Old Roan Chase at Aintree, also a Grade Two, by a length from the smart Itchy Feet under top-weight.

Skelton eased the horse’s workload following the run, but the bay has since returned to full work and faring well ahead of the weekend’s contest.

“It was a great weight-carrying performance by him in the Old Roan at Aintree. He has been a magical horse for us and he is only five, but it seems like he has been around for a long time,” Skelton said.

“You like to win big ones like the Old Roan and we had planned it out as well. We had planned to give him the run at Chepstow over hurdles beforehand and everything just went perfectly.

“We backed off him for a week afterwards, but now we’ve increased his work again and everything seems really good. He is much happier over two and a half miles now as well.”

Allmankind beat both Sue Smith’s Midnight Shadow and Venetia Williams’ Fanion D’Estruval in the Old Roan – form since been boosted by their subsequent successes.

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“The form of the Aintree race couldn’t have worked out much better either,” Skelton said.

“Midnight Shadow, who finished third, has since won the Paddy Power Gold Cup and Fanion D’Estruval, who was back in fourth, won at Newbury the other day.

“I can’t wait to run him in the Peterborough Chase. He is in fine form at home and I’m really looking forward to it.”

In opposition is Kim Bailey’s First Flow, who has not been seen since finishing sixth in the Champion Chase at Punchestown in April, prior to which he was also sixth in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

The nine-year-old has since had an operation for kissing spines and would benefit from any rain at the Cambridgeshire track.

“He is well, I’m happy with him,” Bailey said.

“It’s not ideal because he’s a horse that wants soft ground really, but we’ve got to run him somewhere.”

Elsewhere in the race is Colin Tizzard’s Eldorado Allen, who won the Grade Two Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on his last outing in early November, alongside Paul Nicholls’ 1965 Chase runner-up Master Tommytucker.

Venetia Williams’ Funambule Sivola came home behind Shishkin when contesting the Grade One Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April and runs for the first time this season at Huntingdon, with Warren Greatrex’s Keeper Hill also kicking off his campaign in the race.

Big Bash League returns to Sky Sports

The 2021/22 Big Bash League season gets under way on Sunday as defending champions Sydney Sixers kick off their bid for a third straight crown against Melbourne Stars at the Sydney Cricket Ground; watch every match from the tournament live on Sky Sports

Last Updated: 04/12/21 10:33am

Sydney Sixers are bidding to claim a third consecutive BBL crown

Sydney Sixers are bidding to claim a third consecutive BBL crown

Sydney Sixers are bidding to claim a third consecutive BBL crown

The Big Bash League returns to Sky Sports for the 2021/22 season with Sydney Sixers looking to win a third title in a row and a number of English players involved…

Catch the opening game on Sunday as Sixers play Melbourne Stars, live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Mix from 8am.

Read below for our team-by-team guide…

Live Big Bash League

December 5, 2021, 8:00am

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ADELAIDE STRIKERS

Last season: Fifth (lost to Brisbane Heat in Eliminator)
Best result: Winners (2017/18)
Head coach: Jason Gillespie
Captain: Travis Head

Adelaide Strikers squad

Wes Agar, Alex Carey, Harry Conway, Travis Head (c), Spencer Johnson, Harry Nielsen, Liam O’Connor, Matthew Renshaw, Liam Scott, Peter Siddle, Jon Wells, Daniel Worrall, George Garton, Ryan Gibson, Fawad Ahmad, Rashid Khan, Matt Short, Jake Weatherald

Who are their English players?

Exciting left-arm quick George Garton reunites with his former Sussex coach Jason Gillespie at the Adelaide Strikers, and the 24-year-old has also showcased his potential as a useful batting option in the middle-order.

Garton was among the leading wicket-takers in the Hundred as he helped guide Southern Brave to victory, and his impressive form for Sussex also saw him feature for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the latter stages of this year’s IPL.

Prospects for this season?

It’s been a rollercoaster period for the Strikers. Having triumphed in BBL 07, they slumped to a seventh-place finish the following season, but they have since re-emerged as a major contender.

Rashid Khan has claimed 72 wickets in 50 BBL appearances Rashid Khan has claimed 72 wickets in 50 BBL appearances

Rashid Khan has claimed 72 wickets in 50 BBL appearances

Travis Head’s participation in the BBL could rest on his battle with Usman Khawaja for the No.5 spot in Australia’s Ashes side, although with or without their captain, their hopes could largely rest on the indomitable Rashid Khan.

The 23-year-old became the youngest man to claim 400 T20 wickets during Afghanistan’s World Cup clash against New Zealand, and he boasts a staggering 6.47 economy rate in 50 matches for the Strikers. If they are to reach the play-offs for a third straight season, he will hold the key.

BRISBANE HEAT

Last season: Fourth (lost to Perth Scorchers in Challenger)
Best result: Winners (2012/13)
Head coach: Wade Seccombe
Captain: Jimmy Peirson

Brisbane Heat squad

Xavier Bartlett, Tom Cooper, Sam Heazlett, Chris Lynn, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Jimmy Pierson (c), Mark Steketee, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Williams, Marnus Labuschagne, Michael Neser, Ben Duckett, Tom Abell, Jack Wildermuth, James Bazley, Matt Kuhnemann, Max Bryant, Connor Sully

Who are their English players?

Tom Banton has pulled out due to concerns over Covid-bubble fatigue and quarantine rules in Australia, with his Somerset team-mate Tom Abell replacing him. Abell brings big hits and a medium-pace bowling option, too.

Nottinghamshire left-hander Ben Duckett has also been also snapped up. Duckett, who boasts an impressive T20 strike rate of 135.56, helped Notts Outlaws win the 2020 Blast and was the second-highest run scorer in the Hundred, hitting 232 in eight innings for the Welsh Fire.

Prospects for this season?

There are plenty of known quantities. Chris Lynn is the league’s top run-scorer, with 2,790 at the fourth-best all-time average of 37.20, and has hit the most sixes with 172 – 75 ahead of Glenn Maxwell in second.

Brisbane Heat could be over-reliant on Mujeeb Ur Rahman to take wickets Brisbane Heat could be over-reliant on Mujeeb Ur Rahman to take wickets

Brisbane Heat could be over-reliant on Mujeeb Ur Rahman to take wickets

Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman also bowls with superb variation and economy, spinner Mitchell Swepson made the T20 World Cup-winning Australia squad and seamer Michael Neser can be counted on – if he is not in Ashes action.

The intense, gladiatorial Gabba is a daunting arena for visiting players, too, as England’s Ashes squad will soon be reminded, which could count in their favour, but they will do well to reach the play-offs.

HOBART HURRICANES

Last season: Sixth
Best result: Runners-up x 2 (2013/14 and 2017/18)
Head coach: Adam Griffith
Captain: Matthew Wade

Hobart Hurricanes squad

Scott Boland, Tim David. Nathan Ellis, Peter Handscomb, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Mitch Owen, Wil Parker, D’Arcy Short, Matthew Wade (c), Mac Wright, Sandeep Lamichhane, Caleb Jewell, Joel Paris, Harry Brook, Josh Kann, Tom Rogers

Who are their English players?

With Dawid Malan playing in the Ashes, the two-time runners-up have snapped up one of English cricket’s hottest properties in the shape of Harry Brook.

The 22-year-old was a revelation for Yorkshire and Northern Superchargers last term; he boasted an astonishing 69.42 average in the T20 Blast after amassing 486 runs in 13 innings, and he was subsequently named the PCA Male Young Player of the Year.

Prospects for this season?

The Hurricanes are one of the only teams without a Big Bash title to their name, and they will be hoping to improve on their sixth-place finish last term, with net run-rate ultimately thwarting their play-off ambitions.

Matthew Wade played a starring role in the middle order for Australia at the T20 World Cup Matthew Wade played a starring role in the middle order for Australia at the T20 World Cup

Matthew Wade played a starring role in the middle order for Australia at the T20 World Cup

Matthew Wade’s T20 World Cup heroics were not enough to earn him a Test match return for the Ashes, but Wade’s loss is Hobart’s gain, as the explosive wicketkeeper-batsman can focus his efforts on creating history with the Hurricanes.

Tim David, D’Arcy Short and Brook give the two-time runners-up real strength in the batting department, and if Nepal’s spin sensation Sandeep Lamichhane produces the goods, they could be this year’s surprise package.

MELBOURNE RENEGADES

Last season: Eighth
Best result: Winners (2018/19)
Head coach: David Saker
Captain: Aaron Finch

Melbourne Renegades squad

Cameron Boyce, Zak Evans, Aaron Finch (c), Jake Fraser-McGurk, Sam Harper, Marcus Harris, Mackenzie Harvey, Josh Lalor, Shaun Marsh, James Pattinson, Mitch Perry, Jack Prestwidge, Kane Richardson, Will Sutherland, Nic Maddinson, Reece Topley, Unmukt Chand, Mohammad Nabi, Zahir Khan

Who are their English players?

Reece Topley admitted he was indebted to Melbourne Renegades for their role in rebuilding his career, and the left-armer can now repay that faith after being snapped up as the club’s first overseas signing for the new season.

Topley was a late addition to England’s T20 World Cup squad in the UAE, and with an abundance of experience in the shortest format of the game, his pace, swing and death bowling could be vital as they look to recover from a disappointing campaign last term.

Prospects for this season?

The Renegades are aiming to avoid the indignity of propping up the BBL table for a third successive season, having registered just four wins from 14 matches in a miserable 2020/21 campaign.

Renegades will be hoping Aaron Finch can return to form after leading Australia to a maiden T20 World Cup title Renegades will be hoping Aaron Finch can return to form after leading Australia to a maiden T20 World Cup title

Renegades will be hoping Aaron Finch can return to form after leading Australia to a maiden T20 World Cup title

Aaron Finch endured a tumultuous run of form last term, scoring 179 runs at an average of 13.76, and although he was not prolific during the recent T20 World Cup, he will surely be buoyed after leading Australia to a landmark triumph.

Renegades have secured the signature of Zahir Khan to feature alongside his compatriot Mohammad Nabi.

MELBOURNE STARS

Last season: Seventh
Best result: Runners-up x 3 (2015/16, 2018/19 and 2019/20)
Head coach: David Hussey
Captain: Glenn Maxwell

Melbourne Stars squad

Hilton Cartwright, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Seb Gotch, Liam Hatcher, Clint Hinchliffe, Nick Larkin, Glenn Maxwell (c), Tom O’Connell, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa, Joe Burns, Sam Rainbird, Joe Clarke, Qais Ahmad, Sam Elliot, Beau Webster

Who are their English players?

Having featured sparingly for Perth Scorchers last term, Joe Clarke became Stars’ first international signing ahead of the new season following a fruitful campaign for Notts Outlaws.

Clarke scored 44 runs in three matches during his time at Perth, although he underlined his credentials with a career-best 136 for the Outlaws during the T20 Blast, adding a further two half-centuries in a successful season across all formats.

Prospects for this season?

The Stars have been perennial contenders since the Big Bash’s inception, with eight semi-final appearances in the last 10 years. They have also lost in three finals since 2015, but the coveted BBL title has thus far proven elusive.

Glenn Maxwell will captain the three-time finalists alongside his international team-mates Adam Zampa and Marcus Stoinis Glenn Maxwell will captain the three-time finalists alongside his international team-mates Adam Zampa and Marcus Stoinis

Glenn Maxwell will captain the three-time finalists alongside his international team-mates Adam Zampa and Marcus Stoinis

However, could that be about to change? The Stars have no shortage of world-class players in their ranks, adding experienced top-order batsman Joe Burns and the prodigiously-talented leg-spinner Qais Ahmad to their ranks.

They have a talismanic leader in Glenn Maxwell, while Marcus Stoinis and Adam Zampa both played starring roles in Australia’s maiden T20 World Cup triumph, with the latter finishing the tournament as the joint second-leading wicket-taker.

PERTH SCORCHERS

Last season: Second (lost to Sydney Sixers in the final)
Best result: Winners x 3 (2011/12, 2019/20 and 2020/21)
Head coach: Adam Voges
Captain: Mitchell Marsh

Perth Scorchers squad

Ashton Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, Aaron Hardie, Peter Hatzoglou, Josh Inglis, Matthew Kelly, Mitchell Marsh (c), Lance Morris, Kurtis Patterson, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Colin Munro, Tymal Mills, Laurie Evans

Who are their English players?

Brydon Carse was scheduled to feature for the Scorchers, but his knee injury has paved the way for England seamer and T20 specialist Tymal Mills to step in as a replacement after competing in the Abu Dhabi T10. Big-hitting Surrey batter Laurie Evans has also signed up for his first taste of BBL cricket.

Prospects for this season?

There’s a certain amount of uncertainty surrounding the Perth Scorchers heading into BBL 11. Jason Roy and Liam Livingstone combined to magnificent effect at the top of the order last term, as they were denied a fourth Big Bash title by the Sixers.

Jhye Richardson claimed 29 wickets for the Scorchers last term, as they suffered defeat to Sydney Sixers in a thrilling final Jhye Richardson claimed 29 wickets for the Scorchers last term, as they suffered defeat to Sydney Sixers in a thrilling final

Jhye Richardson claimed 29 wickets for the Scorchers last term, as they suffered defeat to Sydney Sixers in a thrilling final

However, with both men missing this year’s showpiece, Cameron Bancroft, Colin Munro and Mitchell Marsh will be expected to take up the mantle, particularly given Marsh’s success at No.3 at the T20 World Cup, culminating in a match-winning 77no in the final.

They also boast the leading wicket-taker from last year’s competition. Jhye Richardson performed magnificently to snare 29 wickets in 17 matches, although he could be involved in The Ashes.

The Scorchers’ attack has been bolstered by the signing of Peter Hatzoglou, who was Renegades’ stand-out performer with the ball in BBL 10.

SYDNEY SIXERS

Last season: Winners (beat Perth Scorchers in the final)
Best result: Winners x 3 (2013/13, 2014/15 and 2016/17)
Head coach: Greg Shipperd
Captain: Moises Henriques

Sydney Sixers squad

Sean Abbott, Jackson Bird, Carlos Brathwaite, Dan Christian, Tom Curran, Ben Dwarshuis, Jack Edwards, Mickey Edwards, Moises Henriques (c), Daniel Hughes, Hayden Kerr, Nathan Lyon, Ben Manenti, Josh Philippe, Lloyd Pope, Jordan Silk, James Vince, Steve O’Keefe

Who are their English players?

James Vince returns to the Sydney Sixers after playing an instrumental role in their title-winning campaign last year. The Hampshire captain scored 537 runs in 16 innings at a strike rate of 143.58, and he also spearheaded Southern Brave to victory in the inaugural staging of the Hundred in the summer.

Vince will be joined by fellow England international Tom Curran, who was influential with both bat and ball during the Sixers’ triumph in 2019-20, snaring 22 wickets and scoring 133 runs at a strike rate of 150.

Prospects for this season?

The Sixers are targeting an unprecedented third consecutive title in 2022, and with the quality and experience at their disposal, it could take something special to deny the three-time winners, led by Moises Henriques.

James Vince was the second leading run-scorer in last year's competition James Vince was the second leading run-scorer in last year's competition

James Vince was the second leading run-scorer in last year’s competition

They boast a formidable attack featuring Jackson Bird, Ben Dwarshuis and Sean Abbott – the second-highest wicket-taker in BBL history, although Nathan Lyon is not expected to feature prominently due to his Ashes commitments.

In Vince, Tom Curran and Carlos Braithwaite, they possess world-class overseas options, while they also welcome back Josh Philippe, who was named Player of the Tournament after his exploits with the bat for the Sixers in 2021.

SYDNEY THUNDER

Last season: Third (lost to Brisbane Heat in the Knockout)
Best result: Winners (2015/16)
Head coach: Trevor Bayliss
Captain: Usman Khawaja

Sydney Thunder squad

Jonathan Cook, Ben Cutting, Ollie Davies, Brendan Doggett, Matt Gilkes, Chris Green, Baxter Holt, Usman Khawaja (c), Nathan McAndrew, Alex Ross, Daniel Sams, Tanveer Sangha, Chris Tremain, Alex Hales, Sam Billings, Baxter Holt, Saqib Mahmood, Jason Sangha

Who are their English players?

Saqib Mahmood has been snapped up by Thunder for the upcoming BBL, and the exciting Lancashire seamer will join his compatriots Alex Hales and Sam Billings under former England head coach Trevor Bayliss.

Hales is one of the most destructive openers in the short format, and finished last year’s BBL as the tournament’s leading run-scorer, while Billings, who captained Kent to T20 Blast victory this summer, scored 260 runs in 10 innings for Thunder last term.

Mahmood made his England breakthrough during July’s ODI series against Pakistan, and he also impressed during the recent PSL, claiming 12 wickets in his five appearances.

Alex Hales may hold the key to Thunder's prospects in BBL 11 Alex Hales may hold the key to Thunder's prospects in BBL 11

Alex Hales may hold the key to Thunder’s prospects in BBL 11

Prospects for this season?

It’s been a case of feast or famine for Sydney Thunder in the BBL. They memorably prevailed in the 2015/16 edition, yet they have also finished rock bottom on four separate occasions – more than double that of any other side.

However, Trevor Bayliss’ side enjoyed their best campaign since their title-winning season with a third-place finish, and Hales was instrumental in their improvement – claiming the Golden Cap after scoring a whopping 543 runs in 15 appearances, including a memorable century and three fifties.

Thunder could be without captain Usman Khawaja for large periods of the tournament, although they welcome 19-year-old Tanveer Sangha back into the fold, fresh from his prolific debut season that yielded 21 wickets at 18.28.

Watch the Big Bash League live on Sky Sports this winter!

India to tour South Africa for Tests and ODIs; T20s postponed

India’s tour of South Africa had appeared under threat due to the Omicron variant of Covid-19 but Virat Kohli’s side will now travel for Tests and one-day internationals; T20s postponed to a later date

By Reuters

Last Updated: 04/12/21 9:21am

Virat Kohli's India team will tour South Africa for Test and ODIs in December and January

Virat Kohli's India team will tour South Africa for Test and ODIs in December and January

Virat Kohli’s India team will tour South Africa for Test and ODIs in December and January

India will tour South Africa for three Tests and three one-day internationals starting this month but have postponed four Twenty20 internationals to a later date.

However, the tourists will arrive in the country a week later than originally scheduled and it is likely the first Test will start on December 26, with two more to be played in January. The series was originally set to begin on December 17.

A CSA spokesperson told Reuters the venues for the series will be finalised in the next 48 hours, with the first two Tests originally scheduled for Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Both those cities are in Gauteng province, which is the current epicentre of a surge of COVID-19 infections in South Africa following the new variant, Omicron.

Other parts of the country have been less affected and matches may be moved.

Dean Elgar is South Africa's Test captain Dean Elgar is South Africa's Test captain

Dean Elgar is South Africa’s Test captain

No reasons for cutting the T20s have been given, but it is likely to do with the later start of the Test series, which pushes the whole tour schedule out by a week.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah and president Sourav Ganguly did not respond to Reuters calls and messages.

The Netherlands opted to end their three-match ODI series in South Africa after the first game last month, although they stressed that was due to travel difficulties rather than any issues with the bio-secure environment the teams were in.

India A are currently in South Africa and completed the second of three unofficial Tests against South Africa A on Friday. The third game is set to start on Monday.

Bucks re-sign veteran Matthews

The Milwaukee Bucks have re-signed free agent swingman Wesley Matthews and waived rookie guard Georgios Kalaitzakis.  

Matthews, 35, spent last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 4.8 points and 1.6 rebounds in 19.5 minutes, across 58 appearances and 10 starts.

He featured for the Bucks during the 2019/20 season and returned for a second spell on Friday.

The 6ft 5in guard has averaged 12.6 points in 849 games in 12 seasons in the NBA.

Bucks general manager Jon Horst believes the addition of Matthews will strengthen the side, who currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference standings.

“Wesley is a proven veteran whose shooting, defense and experience will help us,” Horst said in a statement.

“He is familiar with coach Bud’s system and our team. We’re excited to have him back with us.”

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Highlights of the Milwaukee Bucks against the Toronto Raptors in Week 7 of the NBA

Matthews will wear the number 23 shirt with the Bucks.

Meanwhile, Kalaitzakis, the 60th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, appeared in nine games with the Bucks this season and averaged 1.8 points in 5.3 minutes per game.

Trail Blazers fire GM Olshey after workplace probe

Portland Trail Blazers fired Neil Olshey, the team’s president of basketball operations and general manager, on Friday after an investigation found he violated the team’s code of conduct.

The Trail Blazers announced in early November an independent probe was ongoing after they were made aware of “concerns around workplace environment by non-player personnel at the practice facility.”

Olshey, 56, had been general manager of the Trail Blazers since 2012, while he was promoted to president of basketball operations in 2015.

“Out of respect for those who candidly participated in that privileged investigation, we will not release or discuss it,” the Trail Blazers said in a statement.

“We are confident that these changes will help build a more positive and respectful working environment.”

Director of player personnel Joe Cronin will serve as interim general manager during the Trail Blazers’ search for a permanent replacement, the team said.

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Highlights of the San Antonio Spurs against the Portland Trail Blazers in Week 7 of the NBA

Trail Blazers president and CEO Chris McGowan stepped down last month after nine years in the position, with chief commercial officer and executive vice president Dewayne Hankins taking over as the team’s new president of business operations.

Portland fired longtime coach Terry Stotts at the end of last season and hired Chauncey Billups as his replacement.

That hire came amid questions about how the Trail Blazers selected Billups over more experienced candidates and concerns about sexual assault allegations lodged against him in 1997.

Billups was never charged and settled the civil lawsuit outside of court in 2000.

The Blazers are off to an 11-12 start to the Billups era, currently sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference.

Patel becomes third bowler to take 10 wickets in Test innings

New Zealand spinner Ajaz Patel is the third bowler in Test history to take 10 wickets in an innings, following in the footsteps of India’s Anil Kumble against Pakistan in 1999 and England’s Jim Laker against Australia in 1956

Last Updated: 04/12/21 8:06am

Ajaz Patel is the third bowler in Test history to take 10 wickets in an innings, after Anil Kumble and Jim Laker

Ajaz Patel is the third bowler in Test history to take 10 wickets in an innings, after Anil Kumble and Jim Laker

Ajaz Patel is the third bowler in Test history to take 10 wickets in an innings, after Anil Kumble and Jim Laker

New Zealand spinner Ajaz Patel became the third bowler in Test history to take 10 wickets in an innings as he dismissed India in Mumbai.

Left-armer Patel matched the feat of India’s Anil Kumble against Pakistan in Delhi in 1999 and England’s Jim Laker against Australia at Old Trafford in 1956.

Patel’s milestone moment came when India tailender Mohammed Siraj top-edged a slog-sweep to Rachin Ravindra on the second afternoon at Wankhede Stadium.

Patel finished with 10-119 from 47.5 overs as India were all out for 325 in 109.5 overs in their first innings.

The bowler’s other victims included Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja for ducks, as well as top-scorer Mayank Agarwal (150) and namesake Axar Patel (52).

Djokovic’s Serbia lose Croatia Davis Cup semi-final

Novak Djokovic had given his side hope after winning the second singles rubber against Marin Cilic; exit marks a disappointing end to the season for Djokovic, who had missed out on a calendar Grand Slam at the US Open, and was also dumped out of the ATP Tour finals at the semi-final stage

Last Updated: 04/12/21 8:22am

Novak Djokovic had beaten Croatia's Marin Cilic to give Serbia hope in their Davis Cup semi-final encounter

Novak Djokovic had beaten Croatia's Marin Cilic to give Serbia hope in their Davis Cup semi-final encounter

Novak Djokovic had beaten Croatia’s Marin Cilic to give Serbia hope in their Davis Cup semi-final encounter

Novak Djokovic failed to steer Serbia into the Davis Cup final as world No 1 pair Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic clinched the decisive doubles rubber to seal victory for Croatia in Madrid.

Djokovic had given his side hope of reaching the final after winning the second singles rubber against Marin Cilic 6-4 6-2.

World number 279 Borna Gojo continued his dream Davis Cup week as he came from behind to beat Dusan Lajovic 4-6 6-3 6-2 and get the Croatians off to a flying start.

Djokovic’s win ensured the tie would come down to a battle between the accomplished Croatian duo and Djokovic and partner Filip Krajinovic.

The Croatians came through a tight first set and a break for the favourites early in the second gave Djokovic and Krajinovic a tough task to keep Serbia’s hopes alive.

But ultimately the Croatians’ experience told and their 7-5 6-1 win wrapped up a 2-1 win and a place in Sunday’s final against either Russia or Germany.

It marked a disappointing end to the season for Djokovic, who had missed out on a calendar Grand Slam at the US Open, and was also dumped out of the ATP Tour finals at the semi-final stage.

Defending Australia Open champion Novak Djokovic says he has yet to decide whether he will compete at next year's tournament, after it was confirmed Covid-19 vaccinations are required for players

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Defending Australia Open champion Novak Djokovic says he has yet to decide whether he will compete at next year’s tournament, after it was confirmed Covid-19 vaccinations are required for players

Defending Australia Open champion Novak Djokovic says he has yet to decide whether he will compete at next year’s tournament, after it was confirmed Covid-19 vaccinations are required for players

But the 34-year-old said he had no regrets about the way his season had ended, and said he would learn from experiences like the “cruel” loss to the Croatians.

Djokovic said: “I gave my best for the national team, there is extra meaning and importance for me, and unfortunately it wasn’t to be this time.

“As much as it hurts me personally and as a team, these are usually the biggest opportunities to get stronger, to grow and to develop as a person and a player.

“One singles win is not enough. This kind of competition is cruel in a way because it requires you to win every single match that you play, or every single set.

“I don’t regret anything in life. I try to draw lessons from tough moments like this.

“As much as it hurts me personally and as a team, these are usually the biggest opportunities to get stronger, to grow and to develop as a person and a player.”

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Curry's bounceback night sees Warriors halt Suns' record winning streak

Stephen Curry bounced back from one of the worst shooting nights of his career and scored 23 points, and the Golden State Warriors convincingly ended the Phoenix Suns’ 18-game winning streak.

The Warriors (19-3) limited the Suns (19-4) to a season low for scoring and slipped past Phoenix for the best record in the NBA with a 118-96 victory on Friday night.

The Suns were within 83-74 following a dunk by JaVale McGee early in the fourth quarter but never got closer. Gary Payton II scored on consecutive possessions, added a breakaway two-handed dunk, then followed with a short jumper to put Golden State ahead by 20.

Three days after going 4-for-21 while missing 11 of 14 three-point tries in a 104-96 loss in Phoenix, Curry shot 8 of 20 with six threes, five rebounds and five assists.

Andrew Wiggins added 19 points as Golden State extended its home winning streak to 11. Draymond Green had nine points, nine assists and nine rebounds.

Deandre Ayton had 23 points and six rebounds for Phoenix. Chris Paul added 12 points and eight assists.

Friday night’s NBA results

  • Phoenix Suns 96-119 Golden State Warriors
  • Los Angeles Clippers 119-115 Los Angeles Lakers
  • Philadelphia 76ers 98-96 Atlanta Hawks
  • Cleveland Cavaliers 116-101 Washington Wizards
  • Minnesota Timberwolves 105-110 Brooklyn Nets
  • Boston Celtics 130-137 Utah Jazz
  • Miami Heat 113-104 Indiana Pacers
  • New Orleans Pelicans 107-91 Dallas Mavericks
  • Orlando Magic 116-118 Houston Rockets

Kennard’s late shooting lifts Clippers past Lakers

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Highlights of the LA Clippers against the Los Angeles Lakers in Week 7 of the NBA

Luke Kennard scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half and hit two clutch three-pointers in the final minutes, sending the Clippers over the Lakers.

Paul George scored 19 points for the Clippers, who never trailed and never pulled away in the city rivals’ first meeting of the season. They played a choppy, chippy game appropriate for two clubs hovering around .500 while dealing with major injury problems that have slowed the development of two rosters harbouring NBA title ambitions.

LeBron James had 23 points and 11 rebounds in his first game back from a one-game absence under the NBA’s health and safety protocols. A positive COVID-19 test kept him out of the Lakers’ blowout win over Sacramento on Tuesday, but he received a series of negative subsequent tests that allowed him to play for only the 12th time in the Lakers’ 24 games this season.

Anthony Davis had 27 points and 10 rebounds, while Malik Monk scored all of his 20 points in the second half for the Lakers, who dropped to 12-12.

Embiid stars as Sixers down Hawks

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Highlights of the Philadelphia 76ers against the Atlanta Hawks in Week 7 of the NBA

Joel Embiid scored 28 points, including a jumper with 42 seconds remaining that gave Philadelphia its first lead of the second half, and the 76ers took a comeback win over Trae Young and Atlanta.

Embiid snapped a 96-all tie with the 13-foot jumper. Seth Curry then stole a pass from John Collins. Danilo Gallinari missed a potential winning three-pointer as time expired.

Embiid added 12 rebounds for Philadelphia, which has won each of its first two games against the Hawks. Friday night was Philadelphia’s first visit to Atlanta since losing to the Hawks in last season’s Eastern Conference semi-final.

Young led Atlanta with 25 points. He failed to extend his streak of five games with 30 or more points but had 10 assists.

Stunning Garland leads Cavs past Wizards

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Highlights of the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Washington Wizards in Week 7 of the NBA

Darius Garland had 32 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, and Cleveland went on a 19-0 run spanning part of each half in a rout of Washington.

Cleveland won its fourth straight game, and this streak has been pretty emphatic. The Cavaliers beat Orlando by 13, Dallas by 18 and Miami by 26.

The Cavaliers led by as many as 36 points in the third. It was 99-72 after three before Washington cut into the margin in the fourth.

Jarrett Allen had 28 points and 13 rebounds for his sixth consecutive double-double.

Deni Avdija led Washington with 16 points.

Durant drops 30 as Nets beat Timberwolves

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Highlights of the Minnesota Timberwolves against the Brooklyn Nets in Week 7 of the NBA

Kevin Durant scored 30 points, including the clinching jumper with 11 seconds left, and Brooklyn held off Minnesota.

Durant was 12 of 13 on free throws and Patty Mills added 23 points for the Nets, who won for the fifth time in six games and improved their Eastern Conference-leading record to 16-6.

James Harden finished with 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 13 points.

Former Nets guard D’Angelo Russell scored 21 points for the Timberwolves, who have lost three of five. Naz Reid and Anthony Edwards finished with 19 apiece, and Malik Beasley had 18.

Jazz win high-scoring affair with Celtics

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Highlights of the Boston Celtics against the Utah Jazz in Week 7 of the NBA

Donovan Mitchell had 34 points and six assists to lead Utah over Boston.

Mike Conley added 29 points and seven assists for the Jazz. Rudy Gobert tallied 18 points and 12 rebounds. Utah made a season-high 27 three-pointers and shot 53 per cent from long distance.

Jayson Tatum scored 37 points to lead Boston. Dennis Schroder added 26 points while Al Horford chipped in 21 points and nine assists.

Lowry leads shorthanded Heat past Pacers

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Highlights of the Miami Heat against the Indiana Pacers in Week 7 of the NBA

Kyle Lowry scored a season-high 26 points with six three-pointers and short-handed Miami beat Indiana.

The Heat were missing four regulars, including leading scorer Jimmy Butler, but compensated with 16-of-34 shooting from three-point range, compared to the Pacers’ 9 of 36.

Heat forward Duncan Robinson scored a season-high 24 points and made four 3s. Tyler Herro had 18 points with three three-pointers.

Caris LeVert scored a season-high 27 points for the Pacers, who have lost four in a row. Myles Turner had 20 and Chris Duarte 15. Domantas Sabonis added 14 points and 16 rebounds.

Ingram stars as Pels exact revenge against Mavs

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Highlights of the New Orleans Pelicans against the Dallas Mavericks in Week 7 of the NBA

Brandon Ingram scored 24 points and New Orleans beat Dallas 107-91, two days after the Pelicans lost by 32 to the Mavericks at home while letting them set a franchise record for shooting percentage.

The Pelicans missed their first eight shots and started 2 of 20 before going 13 of 19 (68 per cent) in the third quarter and outscoring Dallas 63-43 after half-time for their fourth win in six games following a 3-16 start.

The Mavericks shot 68.7 per cent in a 139-107 win to start the home-and-home set, but surpassed the 26 misses from that outing early in the third quarter.

Luka Doncic, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds, was just 7 of 20 from the field as Dallas finished at 41 per cent (32 of 79). The Pelicans shot 42 per cent (37 of 89).

Gordon’s late shot seals Rockets victory over Magic

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Highlights of the Orlando Magic against the Houston Rockets in Week 7 of the NBA

Eric Gordon scored 24 points and his short jumper with 1.6 seconds left lifted Houston past Orlando for its fifth consecutive win.

Houston had dropped 15 straight before its winning streak. Rookie Jalen Green missed his fourth straight games with a strained left hamstring for the Rockets.

Cole Anthony scored 26 points for the Magic, who have lost eight of nine. Terrence Ross scored 18 points off the bench.

Langer: Paine could still return to Test cricket

Australia head coach Justin Langer reveals Ben Stokes’ Ashes heroics in 2019 still give him “nightmares”; Langer backs Pat Cummins to succeed as captain, saying he has wealth of experienced players to help him out against England

Last Updated: 04/12/21 7:24am

Justin Langer (left) feels former Australia captain Tim Paine (right) could still return to Test cricket in the future

Justin Langer (left) feels former Australia captain Tim Paine (right) could still return to Test cricket in the future

Justin Langer (left) feels former Australia captain Tim Paine (right) could still return to Test cricket in the future

Justin Langer feels Tim Paine could return to Test cricket in the future despite his resignation as Australia captain following a sexting scandal.

Paine, 37, stepped down as skipper following the revelations last month and is currently taking a break from the game to manage his mental health.

Alex Carey will keep wicket for Australia in at least the first two Ashes Tests, with the series starting in Brisbane on Wednesday.

England all-rounder Chris Woakes says he does not expect 'personal' issues to be used in any sledging during the Ashes

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England all-rounder Chris Woakes says he does not expect ‘personal’ issues to be used in any sledging during the Ashes

England all-rounder Chris Woakes says he does not expect ‘personal’ issues to be used in any sledging during the Ashes

Australia head coach Langer said of Paine: “When I saw him he’s obviously shattered with what’s happened because he’s been such an exemplary figure in Australian cricket, for the last four years particularly. His life’s changed, obviously.

“He absolutely loves cricket. He’s 37 and he is as fit as any athlete, certainly in our squad and we’ve got some fit athletes here. He looks after himself so well, he’s very focused so who knows if he will return.

“His number one priority at the moment is his family, as you can imagine, and that’s how it should be. But I’m not sure we’ve seen the end of him. We’ll wait and see, but that will be his decision.”

Australia's new Test captain Pat Cummins says he feels he is well-equipped to move into the role

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Australia’s new Test captain Pat Cummins says he feels he is well-equipped to move into the role

Australia’s new Test captain Pat Cummins says he feels he is well-equipped to move into the role

Australia – Ashes holders after retaining the urn with a 2-2 draw in England in 2019 – will have Pat Cummins as skipper during this winter’s series.

“Pat will get all the golden nuggets [of data] and he’s got a lot of support around him,” said Langer.

“Steve Smith’s the formal vice-captain, David Warner’s got as good a cricket brain as is in the game.

“[Pat’s] got his three best mates there, the bowlers, who will have a view on it. Alex Carey has been a captain before, he’s behind the stumps.

“He’ll be fine strategically, I think. It will be just maintaining the balance with his bowling load and then captaining and all the other commitments that come with that. We’ll keep an eye on that.”

Ben Stokes scored an unbeaten 135 at Headingley in 2019 to lead England to a remarkable one-wicket victory Ben Stokes scored an unbeaten 135 at Headingley in 2019 to lead England to a remarkable one-wicket victory

Ben Stokes scored an unbeaten 135 at Headingley in 2019 to lead England to a remarkable one-wicket victory

Langer also said he still has “nightmares” about “superstar of the game” Ben Stokes’ Ashes heroics at Headingley in 2019.

In the Amazon documentary ‘The Test’, Langer was captured furiously kicking a bin during Stokes’ remarkable 135 in the third Test at Leeds two years ago.

Stokes’ innings steered England to a one-wicket win in that memorable match and Langer is delighted the all-rounder – who also bowled a tireless spell on day three of the 2019 Headingley Test – will be involved this year.

Stokes' match-winning four at Headingley was an amazing moment, whichever angle you watch it from

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Stokes’ match-winning four at Headingley was an amazing moment, whichever angle you watch it from

Stokes’ match-winning four at Headingley was an amazing moment, whichever angle you watch it from

“He’s a great cricketer, no doubt about that. I still have nightmares about his innings in that third Test,” Langer said of Stokes, who has returned to cricket after a time away prioritising his mental wellbeing and healing a finger injury.

“I probably have more nightmares about his spell on day three of that game. He’s an unbelievable athlete and a great competitor.”

“It’s great for the game of cricket that Ben Stokes is playing Ashes cricket. We all love it as an Australian summer and it probably wouldn’t be the same without the best players playing.

“It’s nice to see and hopefully his health is good. We welcome him here because he is one of the superstars of the game.”

The hardest part of the job is selecting an Australian Test XI. For the first two years I took it quite personally, because you can’t win. There’s 20 million Australians with an opinion on the Test team.

Justin Langer

Langer said Australia are “pretty settled” on who will be in their XI for the first Test but that they would “leave a few secrets” for England.

He added: “A lot of work goes in, there’s a lot of data now, a lot of discussion, a lot of cricket wisdom around. “When it comes to the XI, I’m not being a smart Alec, but we’re not going to give away all our secrets.

“We’re pretty settled on who the XI will be, but it’s all part of the theatre and drama heading up to the first Test.

“You guys can keep guessing, the people in the pubs can keep guessing, the people watching cricket can keep guessing.”

Hamilton strikes first but Red Bull also heartened for 'two cup finals'

Day One on the new Saudi street track suggests early advantage again lies with Hamilton and Mercedes, but Red Bull encouraged by Max Verstappen’s pace and nature of debut venue too; Watch Qualifying for the season’s penultimate race at 5pm on Saturday on Sky Sports F1

By James Galloway

Last Updated: 03/12/21 11:33pm


Martin Brundle joined Anthony Davidson to analyse the Jeddah Corniche Circuit

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Martin Brundle joined Anthony Davidson to analyse the Jeddah Corniche Circuit

Martin Brundle joined Anthony Davidson to analyse the Jeddah Corniche Circuit

Lewis Hamilton said he enjoyed driving the “rapid” Jeddah street track for the first time after topping the opening day at the Saudi Arabian GP, but Red Bull also felt cause for optimism heading into what they have described as “two cup finals” to settle an astonishingly close and tense title duel.

The championship battles that have turned this year into one of the sport’s greatest seasons in recent memory will finally be settled over the next nine days, with 2021’s drivers’ and constructors’ champions to be crowned.

Verstappen has a first mathematical chance to clinch the drivers’ crown, as do Mercedes with the constructors’, this weekend but the higher likelihood remains that both championships will go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi next week.

Unless that is if Formula 1’s newest venue and its 3.8-mile wall-lined layout catches out any of the leading contenders.

On the banks of the Red Sea, the track features an array of lightning-fast corners, flat-out straights and blind apexes. Sky Sports F1’s Martin Brundle described it on Friday as being like “Silverstone with Monaco’s walls”.

Appraising the circuit after the first day of running, Hamilton said: “Rapid. Unbelievably quick, it really is incredibly fast.

“A lot of grip as well. If you can get the rhythm, it’s beautiful to drive.”

Martin Brundle watching on trackside at Turns 22-23 during Practice Two ahead of the Saudi Arabia GP

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Martin Brundle watching on trackside at Turns 22-23 during Practice Two ahead of the Saudi Arabia GP

Martin Brundle watching on trackside at Turns 22-23 during Practice Two ahead of the Saudi Arabia GP

One concern though was that the vast closing speeds witnessed in the approach to the lap’s final corner between drivers warming up for hot laps and those finishing them at full speed.

“That’s definitely a lot worse than a lot of places we go to, Monaco-esque.

“But the closing speed on other cars is definitely getting to a bit of a danger zone.”

Hamilton topped both sessions; narrowly so from Verstappen in the opening day-time one before the Dutchman slipped to fourth in the floodlit hour of night-time running. Trailing his Dutch rival in the standings, a victory is more imperative for Hamilton this weekend.

“We tried a couple of different things with the set-up,” added the seven-time champion.

Lewis Hamilton tops both of Friday's practice sessions on F1's first day on Jeddah's street track

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Lewis Hamilton tops both of Friday’s practice sessions on F1’s first day on Jeddah’s street track

Lewis Hamilton tops both of Friday’s practice sessions on F1’s first day on Jeddah’s street track

“We’re not rapid on a single lap I would say compared to the others, but my long-race pace seemed like it was not too bad. So who knows what’s going on.

“It’s definitely not in a bad place. Over a single lap they’re quite quick, so we’ve got a bit of work to do.”

Permutations: How Verstappen can be champion on Sunday

In a season where the performance pendulum has swung regularly between Mercedes and Red Bull, pre-event predictions have regularly proved incorrect. Mercedes have duly been installed as the big favourites for Jeddah, but Christian Horner saw Friday signs of encouragement for Red Bull.

“The circuit’s a little bit tighter than the data suggested,” Horner told Sky F1.

“The corners are a little bit together. So it’s not all the emphasis on horsepower we thought it was going to be. So that’s encouraging and, you can see, there’s a tenth or two between the two cars, between the drivers.

Christian Horner assesses the first day of practice at the Saudi Arabian GP and says Max Verstappen will throw everything at it ahead of the last two F1 races

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Christian Horner assesses the first day of practice at the Saudi Arabian GP and says Max Verstappen will throw everything at it ahead of the last two F1 races

Christian Horner assesses the first day of practice at the Saudi Arabian GP and says Max Verstappen will throw everything at it ahead of the last two F1 races

“On this type of circuit you can find that and that’s really encouraging for that.”

Eight points ahead in the drivers’ title race with Verstappen and five points behind Mercedes in the fight to be the teams’ champion, Red Bull remain in a strong position and Horner said Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi were now “like two cup finals”.

“I think you’ve just got to go for it,” said the Briton of a team aiming for their first title since 2013.

“[Max] has worked incredibly hard, as have the whole team, to get into this position to be here two races to the end, we’ve just got to throw everything at it.

“This is Max’s kind of circuit – high speed, walls, kerbs. So you can see he was down to a time quicker than anybody else [at the start of P1]. I spoke to him after the session and he’s certainly enjoying it.”