I’ve never seen a coward captain like Misbah, says Akhtar

“I have not seen a more coward and selfish captain than Misbah,” the 39-year-old Akhtar told the Geo News TV channel.

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“He is not willing to bat up the order to protect the other players at a time when he needs to show inspiration.

“He is happy with his own runs and I don’t know what coach Waqar Younis wants. He has no game plan or direction for the team,” added the man known as the Rawalpindi Express, who won 46 test caps and played in 163 one-day internationals.

Misbah, 40, has been a successful test captain since taking charge in 2010 and has also led the one-day squad since 2011.

He batted at number five against West Indies in Christchurch on Saturday but made only seven as Pakistan were bowled out for 160 to slump to their second straight defeat in the competition.

Former test captain Ramiz Raja also believes it is time for senior batsman Younus Khan to step down after failing in the opening two World Cup matches.

“I beg of Younus. Thank you for your services to Pakistan cricket but please leave this ODI side now,” said Ramiz.

“I think Younus should tell the management he should be rested. Our fielding has also been a joke but we need just one good match to get back on the winning track.”

Irate fans also vented their anger.

In Multan angry supporters carried out a mock funeral of Pakistan cricket, offering prayers around a bed of cricket bats and smashing television sets with sticks on the roads.

“This is a joke we arrange for special sittings to watch the match together and we stay up all night praying for their success and they perform like a third-rate team,” Pakistan fan Zamir Ahmed said.

Another former captain Mohammad Yousuf called for wholesale changes after the World Cup.

“The problems ailing our cricket will not go away unless we produce better batsmen and the management is reshuffled,” Yousuf said.

Former test spinner Saqlain Mushtaq was also scathing in his criticism.

“We went to pieces against a West Indies side hit by internal issues so what can we expect from this team in the remaining games?,” Saqlain said.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Bunnies ready to battle St Helens in WCS

South Sydney admit they will have to overcome the fear of the unknown if they are to be crowned world champions on Monday morning.

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For the first time ever, the Rabbitohs will contest a World Club Challenge when they face St Helens at Langtree Park, the final match in a World Club Series format which has also included St George Illawarra and Brisbane.

And while prop Thomas Burgess is the only player to have set foot on St Helens’s home ground, South Sydney’s newly-installed captain Greg Inglis accepts there are also unknown elements in the opposition lineup.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys who probably don’t even watch Super League,” the champion fullback admitted.

“But we’ve got to keep working hard and doing our homework on them.”

Inglis said the Saints’ crafty hooker James Roby was one player who would require special attention from the Rabbitohs’ defensive line, with the club well aware of his dangerous runs from dummy half.

“I think James Roby is one of the key players for them,” he said.

“If he can get their forwards going forward, they’re going to be hard to top.”

The St Helens lineup has a sprinkling of former NRL talent, including giant former Roosters and Penrith prop Mose Masoe, new signing Atelea Vea and journeyman playmaker Travis Burns.

But their local players were snubbed by international selectors last year.

“It just goes to show you don’t have to be in rep sides to win a comp,” Inglis said.

“Every man who takes that field is a danger. And the brand of footy, because they play so well together, just makes it even more dangerous.

“We know we’ve got a challenge ahead of us.”

Coach Michael Maguire was in charge of Wigan when they lost the 2011 World Club Challenge to St George Illawarra.

He says becoming South Sydney’s very first world club champions would give this playing group a special piece of the club’s proud history.

“We’ve got a very historic club and to be a part of Souths is very special, and to coach is a very special thing to as well,” Maguire said.

“But to be the first team that’s been across here in the World Club Challenge would be something else.

“I see the World Club Challenge as a great honour and the trophy there that’s available is a big one that we want in our cabinet.

“For us, we’re looking forward to ripping in on Sunday.”

A World Club Challenge title would leave the Rabbitohs’ trophy cabinet at bursting point – as well as winning last year’s NRL premiership, the club also holds the Charity Shield and last month won the Auckland Nines.

“Yeah we’ve won some trophies recently, but you put a lot of hours of hard work to get the opportunities we’ve got,” Maguire explains.

“We make sure we’re continually improving in what we’re doing.”

Jennings brothers something special: Idris

Jamal Idris is an unabashed member of the Jennings brothers fan club and expects the Penrith dynamos to put pressure on him and his backline teammates throughout the 2015 NRL season.

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Idris made a successful return from back surgery in the side’s 30-22 trial loss to Parramatta at Pepper Stadium in Penrith on Saturday afternoon.

While Idris’s comeback, just more than three weeks after going under the knife, was a positive sidenote for Ivan Cleary’s men, the performances of George and Robert Jennings emerged as the good news story of the match.

Captain Peter Wallace has already declared he expects the pair to make their NRL debuts this year and branded them the pre-season standouts of the squad.

George, 21, looks to have the inside running for the wing position made vacant by Josh Mansour, who is recovering from a shoulder injury and is due back in round 4.

He scored two tries against the Eels on Saturday night and at times looked almost identical to his older brother, Sydney Roosters and NSW flyer Michael.

While Robert, 19, scored a memorable try when the fleet-of-foot winger touched down with a one-hand put-down in the corner just minutes after coming on in the second half.

“(George) is strong isn’t he? People underestimate his strength. He’s outstanding,” Idris said.

“I’m a big fan of both the Jennings boys. They’re good players.

“They have this weird strength about them. They get in contact and these blokes that are bigger than them are being shrugged off.”

Idris, at 24, is no withering veteran whose best is far behind him, yet he admits to looking over his shoulder at the young talent coming through the grades.

He said he came out of his playing return feeling good and was raring to go for round 1 after pushing himself in his recovery.

He said he would be right for their season opener against the Bulldogs in a fortnight and was anxious to get back out on the field.

“I’m pretty stubborn and I started running as soon as possible,” he said.

“Then I started getting moving again and I slowly worked my way into training.

“I don’t like sitting on the sideline while the boys are doing ball work and fitness so I said ‘bugger it, get me out there’.”

Cure cycles to worlds 10km scratch silver

Tasmanian Amy Cure has won silver in the 10km scratch race at the track cycling world championships to go with the gold and bronze she’d already collected in Paris.

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Cure rode a tactically astute race on Saturday night (Sunday morning AEDT) at France’s new national velodrome but couldn’t come around Dutch rider Kirsten Wild who took the win.

France’s Pascale Jeuland crossed the line third but was later relegated meaning Canada’s Allison Beveridge was awarded bronze.

Cure was perfectly positioned in second wheel behind Wild on the final lap but lacked the power to come around her stronger rival.

The Tasmanian had already won gold in the team pursuit on Thursday when the Australian quartet obliterated the world record by almost three seconds.

She followed that up with bronze in the individual pursuit on Friday behind fellow Australian Rebecca Wiasak, who won the rainbow jersey on debut.

Cure, 22, won the points race at the 2014 world championships in Colombia but couldn’t defend her title this week due to a schedule clash with the team pursuit.

Australia has reached the podium on eight occasions in the women’s scratch race but never won.

Cure later said she didn’t have quite enough in the tank to beat Wild on Saturday night.

“I knew when she came around me I had to get on her wheel if I wanted any chance to podium,” the 22-year-old told AAP.

“I got on her wheel and tried to hold it and come around in the end but she was just too strong.

“She rode an awesome race so full credit to her, she deserves the win.

“I’m happy with the silver.”

Cure went to Paris focused on winning the team pursuit and said it was an added bonus to take home individual silver and bronze as well.

“I trained so hard for the team pursuit and that training has really helped me in both the individual pursuit and the bunch race,” she said.

“I went out there with nothing to lose and everything to gain and just gave it 100 per cent.”

Lewandowski, Robben score twice in Bayern rout

Poland international Lewandowski, yet to deliver the goal rush that was expected after he joined from Borussia Dortmund this season, has not been an automatic starter.

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Coach Pep Guardiola publicly backed the striker on Friday, saying he did not always play because of different systems.

Lewandowski, a late substitute in the goalless draw at Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League this week, opened the scoring in the 24th minute by pouncing on a superb flick from Robben.

Then, in true centre forward fashion, he tapped in a Franck Ribery cut-back 13 minutes later. Paderborn’s fate was sealed when Florian Hartherz was sent off after 62 minutes and Robben converted the resulting penalty.

Ribery and Mitchell Weiser were also on target before Robben notched his 16th league goal of the campaign to equal his best tally for the club and climb to the top of the Bundesliga scorers’ list.

“We were very serious today and allowed hardly any chances,” Guardiola told reporters. “It was at times hard to play against a five-man defence.”

Bayern, who have amassed 14 goals in their last two league games, have 55 points from 22 matches.

KEEPER STRIKES

Elsewhere, Werder Bremen stunned fourth-placed Schalke 04 as a last-minute equaliser from Sebastian Proedl snatched a 1-1 draw.

Schalke, beaten 2-0 in the Champions League by Real Madrid in midweek, took the lead through Max Meyer before Proedl levelled after meeting a free kick with a powerful header.

Marwin Hitz became the third goalkeeper in Bundesliga history to score from open play as he produced a stoppage-time equaliser to secure Augsburg a 2-2 home draw with Bayer Leverkusen.

Leverkusen, in sixth spot on 33 points, twice let the lead slip in their last game before they meet Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 next week.

New Mainz 05 coach Martin Schmidt enjoyed a winning Bundesliga debut as his team eased past Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1 to climb up to 11th on 25 points.

Hanover 96 drew 1-1 at Cologne to remain 10th but will be without Joao Pereira next week against Stuttgart after he was sent off in stoppage time.

Second-placed VfL Wolfsburg, on 44 points, are in action on Sunday at home to Hertha Berlin.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

Sharks earn bonus point in Lions victory

Marcell Coetzee scored two tries as the Sharks claimed a 29-12 bonus-point win over the Lions in Durban on Saturday (Sunday AEDT).

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Akona Ndungane and Cobus Reinach also touched down for the home side with Patrick Lambie kicking a penalty and three conversions in the victory.

Marnitz Boshoff scored all of the Lions’ points from the penalty tee, with the visitors reduced to 10 men for the last four minutes of the match when number eight Warren Whiteley was sent to the sin bin.

The victory is a nice rebound for the Sharks from their opening round defeat and they will be buoyed after they outscored the Lions by four tries to none.

It was the Lions who took the lead, though, through the boot of Boshoff in the second minute but it was quickly cancelled out by Lambie, who reached the 600-point mark in Super Rugby with a successful penalty kick in the eighth minute.

Ndungane then scored the first try of the night after catching a cross-field kick from Lambie, who missed the conversion.

Reinach was awarded a try by the Television Match Official in the 29th minute after going over from the base of a demolished scrum, with Lambie adding the extras to put Sharks 15-3 ahead.

Boshoff cut the deficit with his second penalty before the break, with another score 10 minutes into the second half putting the Lions six points adrift.

The fly-half’s fourth successful kick put the Lions 15-12 down but Coetzee barged over in the 63rd minute with Lambie slotting the conversion to give the hosts some breathing space.

A try was ruled out for the Sharks when SP Marais was deemed to have been offside, but the Lions’ loss of Whiteley a minute later to the sin bin after he tapped the ball out of Reinach’s hands led to the bonus point try for the hosts.

A dominant maul from the Sharks ended with Coetzee scoring a second try, with Lambie again on target with the extra two points to wrap up the victory.

Ferguson ready to roll in NRL: Robinson

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has declared Blake Ferguson is ready to end his 22-month self-inflicted rugby league exile when the tricolours kick off their NRL premiership campaign in two weeks.

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Ferguson enjoyed his first top grade hitout in almost two years in the Roosters 36-6 win over Manly at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday night.

The former NSW winger looked understandably rusty at times but carried the ball with vigour and defended strongly, enough to suggest to Robinson he is ready for the Roosters’ round one clash with North Queensland.

“He played almost the whole game bar the final couple of minutes because of a slight ankle complaint but he had some nice, physical carries and also his defence was quite physical too,” Robinson said.

“He had some nice combinations with Mitchell Pearce and Shaun Kenny-Dowall there so that was good and I’d say it was a good step up from his game with Wyong a fortnight ago and now he’s ready for the big one.”

Ferguson played his first game since 2013 two weeks ago in a Roosters’ lower grade trial and Robinson said he was progressing as well as he had hoped.

“I think definitely after 18 months of not playing, it’s a big ask for him to get straight back into footy and I think he’s had two games where he’s done really well coming back into,” Robinson said.

“He’s always had class but it’s a matter of ‘is he going to combine well, is he going to run well, how is his timing?’ and all that so I think he’s had a fair start to his return.

“People will say his footy will get better as the year goes on but I think he’s really well-placed to start the season well.”

Chelsea held in Bridge storm, five-star City cut gap

Leaders Chelsea offered a chink of light to City after a stormy game at Stamford Bridge where Nemanja Matic was sent off for retaliating to an awful challenge from Burnley’s Ashley Barnes and the hosts were denied two strong penalty claims.

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City made the most of their lifeline, emphatically exposing Newcastle’s failings with two goals from David Silva among the highlights of a crushing victory that reduced their deficit at the top of the Premier League to five points.

It was another ominous display from second-placed City who have scored nine goals in their last two games and look back to their very best.

SIMMERING MOURINHO

In typical fashion, all of Saturday’s action, that included a 2-1 win for Arsenal at Crystal Palace and defeat for Manchester United at Swansea City by the same scoreline, was largely overshadowed by the simmering Mourinho.

It began so brightly for Chelsea as Branislav Ivanovic’s knack of scoring crucial goals looked to have set the hosts on the way to a routine win after 14 minutes.

Then an Ivanovic shot struck Michael Kightly’s arm and Diego Costa was pushed over by Jason Shackell but both penalty appeals were waved away by referee Martin Atkinson who then became public enemy number one.

Barnes flew into an ugly challenge on Matic, catching the Serbian enforcer on the shin. The Burnley player escaped without a booking while Matic, who chased the striker before throwing him to the floor, was dismissed with 20 minutes left.

Any sense of injustice may have been mitigated had the home side clung on but Ben Mee rose to power in a header at the back post and Mourinho was left to seethe.

“I am punished when I refer to these situations and I don’t want to be punished,” he told the BBC.

His mood would not have improved when Manchester City took the lead in Saturday’s late game after two minutes, with Sergio Aguero coolly converting from the spot.

Samir Nasri fired into the roof of the net for the second and Edin Dzeko, felled for the penalty, added a third after being fed by Silva.

The Spanish playmaker then scored twice in three minutes at the start of the second half.

SWANSEA DOUBLE

Manchester United will be sick of the sight of Swansea who completed the double over Louis van Gaal’s side, having also won on the opening day of the season.

There was an element of role reversal at the Liberty Stadium where United, who have frequently this season played poorly and still won, dominated but were undone when Bafetimbi Gomis deflected in Jonjo Shelvey’s long-range strike for Swansea.

United, who took the lead through Ander Herrera before Ki Sung-Yueng levelled, slipped to fourth, 13 points off the top, after only their second defeat in 20 games.

They are a point adrift of Arsenal who made it five league wins out of six by beating Palace.

A Santi Cazorla penalty and an eighth league goal of the season for Olivier Giroud allowed Arsene Wenger’s side to survive a late scare when Glenn Murray reduced the deficit in stoppage time.

Tim Sherwood’s first match as Aston Villa manager ended in disappointment as his new charges squandered a first-half lead to lose 2-1 at home to Stoke City who scored an injury-time penalty from Victor Moses to snatch the points.

At the bottom of the table Hull City moved four points clear of the relegation zone with a 2-1 win over fellow strugglers Queens Park Rangers who had midfielder Joey Barton sent off in the first half.

Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion drew 0-0.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Halep beats Pliskova in Dubai tennis final

Top-seeded Simona Halep earned her second title of the year by beating 17th-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-4 7-6 (7/4) in the Dubai Championships final on Saturday (Sunday AEDT).

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Halep benefited from a large contingent of Romanian compatriots, who constantly cheered “Si-mon-a” from the stands.

“It’s really nice to hear your name during the changeover,” Halep said.

“It’s amazing that they can come to support me. I see the love, you know.”

Halep also won in Shenzhen, China, last month, and this marked her second Premier 5 title, the highest level of WTA events after the Grand Slams. The previous was the Qatar Open a year ago.

Pliskova was playing at a career-high ranking of No.18 and the Czech will next week move up to No.12 following her performance in Dubai.

“I still can’t imagine myself, I’m 12 in the ranking,” Pliskova said. “I just hope I’m going to start to feel like I belong there.”

Despite the loss, Pliskova added five aces to her yearly tally. She has a tour-leading 149 in a tour-high 22 matches.

Pliskova surrendered her serve in the seventh game of the first set at love to give Halep the needed advantage for the set.

The Czech, who started the second set with a 2-0 lead, took an off-court medical timeout for a left hip issue after losing the advantage.

In all, there were eight service breaks leading into the second-set tiebreaker.

“I was just tying to do my best, and trying to stay in the second set,” Pliskova said.

“My serve, I wouldn’t say it wasn’t good, but she’s just great returning.”

In the second set, Halep served for the match twice, failing to take advantage of a match point in the 10th and 12th games.

“I did two double faults at 6-5, I don’t know how,” Halep said. “But in the tiebreak I was strong, and I was fighting till the end.”

At 4-4 in the tiebreaker, Halep won the final three points of the match. She took her third match point with a forehand winner into an open court.

Stormers beat Blues in Super Rugby

The Stormers claimed back-to-back Super Rugby wins as they defeated the 14-man Blues 27-16 at Newlands.

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Nic Groom and Dillyn Leyds scored the tries for the Cape Town-based side, with Demetri Catrakilis kicking four penalties and a conversion and Kurt Coleman adding a fifth penalty.

Jimmy Cowan scored the Blues’ only try with Ihaia West kicking three penalties and a conversion, but it was always an uphill struggle for the visitors after Hayden Triggs was sent off for a reported punch in the 24th minute.

Assistant referee Marius van der Westhuizen spotted the incident with Triggs which handed the advantage to the Stormers, although they may be disappointed not to have added more to their try tally with an extra man for most of the match.

The Blues took a 6-3 lead in the seventh minute thanks to two West penalties but Groom raced through after a driving maul was held up on the Blues tryline for the first try of the game.

Catrakilis missed the conversion but slotted the extras to Leyds’s try after he caught a high kick and stepped his way past the Blues defence to score.

Another penalty, this time against the Blues scrum, was kicked by the Stormers’ fly-half as the hosts took an 18-6 lead at half-time.

The opposing fly-halfs traded penalties early in the second period before Blues scrum-half Jimmy Cowan scored next to the posts to reduce the deficit to 21-16 after West’s conversion.

Catrakilis added another penalty kick from close range before he was substituted for Coleman, who closed out the match with a well-struck penalty to record a second successive win for the Stormers.