Sri Lanka set Australia 319 for ODI win

Australia have been set a challenging target of 319 for victory by Sri Lanka in their Champions Trophy warm-up match at The Oval.

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Stand-in skipper David Warner won the toss and elected to field and the decision looked vindicated as Sri Lanka slumped to 4-92.

However, skipper Angelo Mathews (95) and Asela Gunaratne (70no) led a fine recovery as Sri Lanka reached 7-318, with 61 runs scored in the final five overs on a scorching hot day in south London.

Australia named a 12-man squad with Josh Hazlewood not permitted to bat after bowling his 10 overs but it was Moises Henriques who was the pick of the attack taking 3-46.

Hazlewood took the first wicket when Upul Thuranga was caught smartly by Henriques for 13 to reduce Sri Lanka to 1-49 off as many balls.

Wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella was the next to depart after an entertaining 41, with his eight fours including successive ramp shots that flew to the rope off the bowling of James Pattinson.

But he was deceived by a slower ball from Henriques and Pat Cummins did well to take an awkward running catch to reduce the Lions to 2-60.

Henriques grabbed his second wicket when the dangerous Kusal Mendis holed out to Warner for five to leave Sri Lanka wobbling at 3-71.

Soon after they were four down when Pattinson’s superb delivery re-arranged Dinesh Chandemal’s stumps for 17 and he was joined back in the pavilion by Chamara Kapugedera (30) who was caught and bowled in Travis Head’s first over.

But Matthews and Gunaratne led their side’s recovery from 5-150 with a 91-run stand for the sixth wicket before the skipper was dismissed five runs short of his century as Henriques grabbed his third wicket.

Gunaratne chalked up his 50 three overs from the end of the innings and brought up the 300 with a big six off in an expensive over from Hazlewood that went for 24.

Seekkuge Prasanna was the final man out for 31 to hand Cummins his first wicket.

Hawks pip Swans in AFL thriller

A clutch captain’s goal from Jarryd Roughead delivered Hawthorn a six-point win over AFL rivals Sydney on Friday night at the SCG.

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Roughead converted a tough set shot from beyond the 50m arc with 80 seconds remaining as the Hawks triumphed 12.9 (81) to 11.9 (75).

The visitors looked to be on track for a comfortable victory earlier in the game, but the Swans launched a barnstorming comeback during the third quarter.

Sydney led by seven points late in the final term after kicking five consecutive goals, a run that Lance Franklin started with a trademark showstopper from outside the 50m arc.

Shaun Burgoyne, who slotted his second astonishing goal of the night, and Roughead ensured there was one final twist.

Franklin, who booted five goals, was awarded the Goodes-O’Loughlin medal for best on ground.

Franklin and Burgoyne were both wearing No.67 to recognise the 50th anniversary of the referendum that was a landmark achievement for indigenous Australians.

Both stepped up superbly in Indigenous Round.

Franklin moves to 10th on the list of VFL/AFL goalkickers after lifting his career tally to 819.

Franklin also dished off a handful of goals, while his pressure acts were influential in the Swans’ stirring third-quarter fightback.

The Swans, coming off consecutive six-day breaks, rallied despite having only two fit men on the bench.

Jake Lloyd was knocked out early in the first quarter, while Sam Reid also failed a concussion test after being slung to the ground by Burgoyne during the second term.

It was a spiteful match, with Sydney’s Zak Jones among many players from both sides likely to sweat on the match review panel’s findings.

Dan Hannebery and Josh Kennedy tallied a combined 68 disposals for the Swans, while Liam Shiels laid 10 tackles and had 31 possessions for the Hawks.

“It was satisfying because we had our backs to the wall and we were challenged,” Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said.

“We lost a close game in similar circumstances against Collingwood last week.

“We’ve been pretty good in clutch games in recent times.”

Clarkson was full of praise for leaders Burgoyne, Roughead and Luke Hodge but also former charge Franklin.

“Sometimes it’s a little bit hard to admire when you’re an opposition coach,” Clarkson said.

“He consistently does brilliant things.”

Swans counterpart John Longmire agreed Franklin was “enormous”.

Longmire cut a desolate figure after the game, with the Swans slipping to a win-loss record of 3-7 after the upset.

“We had some courageous efforts (when the side was down to two fit men on the bench during the second half) … unfortunately it was not enough,” he said.

“We didn’t play the footy that we wanted to.”

Thiem can dream big at French Open after recent run of Nadal matches

The 23-year-old sixth seed at Roland Garros beat the Spaniard – who has won a record nine titles in Paris – in straight sets in the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters shortly after losing a tight final to him in Madrid and another final to him in Barcelona.

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He can safely say he’s had a good preparation for the 15-day tournament in Paris.

“The win over Rafa was of course a big thing for me. I played the best player on clay three times in three tournaments,” Thiem told reporters on Friday.

“I learned a lot from those matches so I think I prepared well for this tournament.”

Thiem, who will take on Australian Bernard Tomic in the first round, has not left the top 10 of the ATP rankings since making his breakthrough when he reached the last four of the French Open last year.

“In the beginning, it’s very tough to stay there. You think more a little bit to not fall out again,” said Thiem.

“And now I’m a little bit more confident. I feel that I belong there, basically. And it’s a little bit easier for me.”

While Nadal remains the absolute favourite for Thiem, the Austrian is confident he can go far into the tournament.

“I think that Rafa is the big favourite. Novak (Djokovic) is coming, for sure, behind him. And then (Andy) Murray, you never know. He’s such a big player. He can also play amazing here,” he said.

“And after these three I think there are some players who can go very deep here, who can make big surprises and in these players I count Sascha (Zverev) and myself.”

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Trump sets up ‘war room’ over Russia ties

US President Donald Trump’s White House is preparing to establish a ‘war room’ to combat mounting questions about ties between Russia and his presidential campaign, administration officials and persons close to Trump said, addressing a scandal that has threatened to consume his young presidency.

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Upon Trump’s return from a nine-day overseas trip, the administration will add experienced political professionals and possibly lawyers to handle the Russia probe, which has gained new urgency since the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to head the investigation, the sources told Reuters.

Beyond pushing back at suggestions that Moscow is unduly influencing Trump’s administration, the messaging effort will also focus on advancing Trump’s stalled policy agenda and likely involve more trips out of Washington that will feature the kind of raucous rallies that were the hallmark of Trump’s campaign.

A person in regular touch with the White House said it needed a new structure to focus on the “new reality” that there would be continued leaks to the media, which have increased in frequency since Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey this month.

“Since the firing of Comey, that really exposed the fact that the White House in its current structure … is not prepared for really a one-front war, let alone a two-front war,” he said. “They need to have a structure in place that allows them to stay focused” while “also truly fighting back on these attacks and these leaks.”

The White House declined to comment on plans for a ‘war room’ but said Trump will be looking to build on momentum it believes it has built up during the president’s trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Europe. A White House official confirmed plans to hold more rallies.

Trump returns to Washington on Saturday from his first trip abroad as president.

“The president has had an incredibly successful trip overseas and the White House looks forward to continuing an aggressive messaging strategy to highlight his agenda when we return to DC,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, will be involved in the new strategic messaging operation, as will Steve Bannon, another top adviser who specialises in managing Trump’s populist appeal and shaping his political image, the sources said. Bannon and Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, have been laying the groundwork for the plan this week, they added.

On Thursday, NBC News and the Washington Post reported that Kushner, who held several meetings with Russian officials following the election, is a focus of the probe, making him the first current White House official to be caught up in the probe, although Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, is also expected to be part of the effort. Lewandowski, who has been seen in the White House recently, could join the administration as early as next week, a source close to him said.

Red Bull have a tight hold on their drivers, says Horner

Asked at the Monaco Grand Prix if the two drivers had performance-related elements that might allow them to look elsewhere he told Reuters: “No, none at all.

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They are both straightforward clean contracts.

“I’ve got no doubt that both Max and Daniel will be driving an RB14 next year.”

The question has become more of an issue, in a paddock where rumours are rife, as former champions Red Bull have slipped back after finishing runners-up to Mercedes last season.

They have two of the most coveted drivers while Ferrari and Mercedes have yet to confirm who will partner multiple champions and title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton respectively.

The Red Bull pair are both race winners, exciting overtakers and hugely popular among the sport’s fan base.

Mercedes and Ferrari are the only teams to have won so far this season and while Ricciardo was third in Spain two weeks ago, he was well over a minute behind race winner Hamilton.

Ricciardo started on pole position in Monaco last year and was second fastest in practice this Thursday around the twisting street circuit, where engine power is less of a factor.

But Red Bull reckoned they had the best chassis last year, compensating for a lack of grunt from the Renault engine, and they cannot say that now.

“Chassis-wise I think we are having to make up ground to our competitors,” said Horner.

“Ferrari I think have got a very strong package at the moment. Mercedes obviously are right there also and I think we’re closing the gap to them, but we’re not quite at their level yet.”

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Horner has been saying loud and clear for some time that he wants Renault, whose engines are badged Tag Heuer in the Red Bull after a previous tiff between the fractious partners, to provide an upgrade with the least delay.

When that will be remains guesswork, with Horner saying in a recent interview that he was going to church every week in the hope his prayers would be heard.

Such comments have not gone down well with Renault Sport F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul, who has chafed at “wrong communication”.

“Cyril obviously can be a bit irritable at times,” said Horner, pronouncing the word as if it were an alternative surname for the Frenchman.

“Sometimes we get mixed messages but the most important thing is that they’re working hard, they’re making progress and hopefully with the introduction of each power unit we should see incremental improvements.”

Horner did not expect any change by the next race in Canada, however.

Monaco has rewarded Red Bull in the past, with three wins in a row between 2010-12, and Horner was hopeful of another strong performance.

“Daniel has always excelled at this circuit, he’s very confident. He’s won support races here, he’s qualified on pole here, he’s led a lot of laps here. He put in an outstanding performance in 2014, same again in ’16,” said Horner.

“But Max is getting there as well. He had a bit of a scruffy day yesterday afternoon, with just traffic and red flags, but he’s in pretty decent shape.”

After Monaco, the next circuits that Red Bull can feel confident about will be Hungary and Singapore but the boss hoped for other chances as well. An upgraded engine could write another script entirely.

“Who’d have predicted we’d have won Malaysia last year or Barcelona? And we had some other great races at Silverstone, in Austria and Hockenheim,” added Horner.

“We don’t take anything for granted and we know we have ground to make up. But the whole team is massively motivated to close that gap down and I think has actually been doing a very good job over the early races.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)