Maxwell still Ashes chance despite ODI axe

Australia stand-in coach David Saker has denied Glenn Maxwell’s axing from the one-day international team is a sign his Ashes hopes are fading.

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The big-hitting Victorian was dumped for Thursday’s dead rubber in Bangalore where Australia posted their first ODI win away from home in more than a year.

“We’re just looking for people to perform and his last 20 games he probably hasn’t done that for us,” Saker said.

“In his position the way he plays he’s a big match-winner but it’s been a while since he’s done (that) for us especially in any consistent form.

“Maxi’s just got to get some numbers to justify getting picked.”

Maxwell is among a group of players vying to bat at No.6 during the Ashes with Marcus Stoinis, Hilton Cartwright and Moises Henriques all in the mix.

“None of our selection is looking forward to the summer,” Saker said.

Since the start of 2016, Maxwell has played 21 ODI innings scoring 500 runs at an average of 26.31.

Former Australia captain Michael Clarke hit out at selectors for dropping Maxwell.

“I thought these two games in particular were a great opportunity for Maxi to understand where he sits in the team,” Clarke told Indian broadcaster Star Sports.

“I thought it was a good chance to (bat him up the order) and make it clear to him … that if he doesn’t make a big score in the next two games, then you’re having a different conversation. Then he could be dropped.”

Clarke acknowledged Maxwell’s performances haven’t been up to scratch, saying Australian fans wanted such a talented player to be more consistent.

“But I think he’s too good a player to now allow him to just go back into the wilderness and go back to first-class cricket,” Clarke said.

“I think the leadership in the team needs to find a way to get the best out of Glenn Maxwell.”

Presidents Cup starts without controversy in front of three ex-presidents

A packed crowded in the grandstands surrounding the first tee warmly greeted Barack Obama, George W.

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Bush and Bill Clinton, keen golfers all, who entered via a tunnel and took their seats to the right of the first tee.

Singer-songwriter Darius Rucker then sang the U.S. national anthem as the American team members stood about 50 yards away down the fairway, standing to attention with their hands across their hearts, not even a whiff of protest in the air.

The scene was far removed from the controversy at National Football League games recently, in which many players have protested during the national anthem against racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

American veteran Phil Mickelson then stole the show by walking over and shaking hands with the three former presidents and taking a selfie.

Ceremonies over, it was down to golf, with the U.S. defending the Presidents Cup against an International team of players from the rest of the world, excluding Europe.

South African Charl Schwartzel had the honour of hitting the first shot in the opening foursomes match, in which he partnered Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama against Americans Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.

A group of about 40 International ‘fanatics’ — mainly Australians and South Africans supporting the visiting team — mischievously chanted: ‘Justin, you’ve got two first names, Justin you’ve got two first names’ as Thomas stood on the tee.

Obama, after shaking hundreds of hands and having a long chat with U.S. assistant captain Tiger Woods, departed adter the third match started but Bush and Clinton stayed until the end.

Clinton even had a few words with the media after the last match had teed off, talking about the difficultly of the first hole and the best way to play it in a strong wind.

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Smith sparks crucial run out in India ODI

Steve Smith has emerged from a torrid run in the field to cause a match-turning run out which helped Australia to a breakthrough win in India.

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The Australia skipper’s dropped catches have cost his side during the five-match series, which India won by taking out the first three games.

But he was outstanding in the field during the fourth one-day international in Bangalore, doing his finest work at backward point with Glenn Maxwell dropped for the game.

Stand-in coach David Saker singled out Smith’s efforts after a victory which snapped a 13-match winless run outside of Australia.

“That was as good a fielding display as I’ve seen from anybody in the world,” Saker said.

“It was good he brought that sort of energy to the game”

A miraculous stop from Smith caught Indian opener Rohit Sharma off guard just as we was threatening to take the game away from the visitors.

He had smashed five sixes to race to 65 off 55 balls when he ended up at the same end as Virat Kohli, forcing Sharma to make a futile dash back to the non-striker’s end.

Smith’s initial throw fell to Handscomb who got the ball to bowler Kane Richardson to whip off the bails.

It was the fourth wicket Richardson was involved with, also picking up 3-58 from his 10 overs.

“I thought Kane Richardson was outstanding at the back end of the game,” Saker said.

Richardson, Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile starved the Indian batsmen at the death, forcing mistakes which saw the run chase fall 21 runs short.

“I thought our last 10 overs was particularly good,” Saker said.

“The rest of the innings I don’t think we could have bowled as well as we could but I thought we held our nerve at the end.”

All Blacks cope with rival crowds by being best – Hansen

The teams meet at Velez Sarsfield on Saturday with New Zealand looking to retain their Rugby Championship title.

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The Pumas are seeking their first win at the 26th attempt, with one draw their closest effort 32 years ago.

The less experienced All Black players got a taste last Sunday of what to expect at Velez.

They felt the passion of Argentine supporters while attending a first division soccer match at the River Plate stadium where the All Blacks narrowly escaped defeat in 2001.

“The home crowd will be boisterous and passionate and just themselves. Some of the guys went to the soccer on Sunday and they experienced that,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen told reporters on Thursday.

“We’ve got eight guys that haven’t been here before, so a lot of them went and what I do know is the only way to keep the crowd out of it is by playing well and that will quieten them down a bit,” he said before the team’s practice.

“So (the team’s) aim is to keep them quiet, but, you know, it creates an atmosphere which is really unique and one that we enjoy.”

Hansen said All Blacks learn quickly how to handle being favourites and the pressure a hostile crowd can generate.

“It is an everyday thing when you’re with the All Blacks. When you come in to the environment, whether you are a coach, a manager or a player you know that’s expected,” he said.

“Doesn’t matter who you play, you’re expected to win and win well and the quicker you can understand that and accept that, then the quicker you can deal with the pressure.”

(Writing by Rex Gowar, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Labor ‘open-minded’ on China’s Silk Road

Labor is keeping the door open on signing up for China’s ambitious new Silk Road plan.

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One Belt One Road is the superpower’s vast infrastructure blueprint to boost trade and cut transit times by forging a connection via the ancient Silk Road land route and sea routes with Eurasia, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Sixty-eight countries have signed up for the scheme including New Zealand but Australia is holding out, mostly over national security concerns.

In a speech to the Asia Society in Sydney on Friday, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen will flag support for potential Australian involvement.

He’ll argue the scheme “will have profound ramifications for years to come”.

“We will come to office if we win the next election with an open mind as to how Australia and China can best collaborate on the Belt and Road Initiative, with a clear-eyed approach to our respective national interests,” Mr Bowen will say.

“We will examine proposals on a case by case basis including considering how the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and the Belt and Road Initiative can best complement each other.”

Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong has also spoken favourably of the scheme and believes Australia should be more confident about harnessing its opportunities.

She maintains the Abbott government’s initial reluctance to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in 2014 was “timorous and self-defeating”.

Roads, railways, high-speed train networks, maritime ports and airports are among the projects the scheme is building and funding.

It’s open to all countries, not just those physically on the ancient trade routes.

There is $1.8 trillion worth of projects already initiated.

The scheme – which is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy – is more than seven times larger than America’s Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after the Second World War.