Pakistan can cope with nemesis Herath

Herath has often proved to be a thorn in Pakistan’s side having taken 65 of his 237 test wickets against them in 15 matches, more than against any other country.

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“He is one of the leading wicket-takers of Sri Lanka at the moment but the confidence level of all our batsmen is very good against him,” Misbah told reporters on Tuesday.

“Ours is more or less the same batting order and the same guys who played in the last series, everybody is confident about playing him. “In the last series played in the UAE which ended in a 1-1 draw, Herath took 14 wickets at an average cost of 36.64. Pakistan has not won a test series in Sri Lanka since 2006.

“We tried our level best to get ready for this series, we had a good training camp in Karachi before we came here everybody is ready for the series,” Misbah said. Pakistan have not played test cricket since the last series against Sri Lanka ended in the UAE in January. “We worked hard on our fitness, before Ramadan we had a tough fitness camp and everybody is in good shape,” he added.

“All the players are fit that is what Waqar (Younis) as coach wants from us. “He really wants to focus on fitness and fielding it really brings something special to the team.” Misbah said his team were experienced in Sri Lankan conditions having played a lot of cricket there. “You could say these conditions are not much different from Abu Dhabi and Dubai but in Galle especially, there is a little bit of seam movement and movement in the air that’s something the seamers are really interested in,” said Misbah. “You need to bowl well and as a batsman you need to negotiate the seam bowlers really well. “Good spinners also get help on these pitches. “Both teams fancy these sorts of conditions but everyone knows that in their own conditions, Sri Lanka are a really good team, so you need to play hard, disciplined cricket to come good against them,” he said. Misbah said one of the key Sri Lankan players they will be targeting is batsman Mahela Jayawardene for whom this will be his final series before he quits test cricket. “He is one of the best batsmen in the world so we don’t want him to score runs because if an experienced player like him scores runs it will be difficult for you as an opposition to raise your game,” said Misbah. “We will be really focusing on that and try our level best to get him out early.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

Afghan soldier ‘opens fire’ at NATO troops in Kabul

An Afghan soldier opened fire on NATO troops at a British-run military academy in Kabul on Tuesday, officials said, adding that casualty details were unconfirmed and the cause of the shooting was unclear.

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“We are investigating, but it appears that an Afghan army officer opened fire,” General Mohammed Afzal Aman, the chief of staff for operations at the Afghan Ministry of Defence, told AFP.

   

“Three of our officers have been injured. ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops have also suffered casualties.

   

“ISAF have quarantined the site, allowing nobody including Afghan forces to approach.”

   

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said in a statement: “We can confirm that an incident occurred involving local Afghan and ISAF troops at Camp Qargha.”

   

As details of the incident were slow to emerge, defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi described the attacker as “a terrorist” — suggesting he may have infiltrated Afghan forces.

   

“A terrorist wearing Afghan army uniform opened fire at national army officers and their foreign colleagues and wounded several people,” Azimi said on Twitter.

   

“The ministry of defence strongly condemns this attack. The attacker was killed by the Afghan army.”

   

Western officials say that most “insider attacks” stem from personal grudges and cultural misunderstandings rather than Taliban insurgent plots.

   

Incidents in which Afghan troops turn their guns on their allies have killed scores of US-led troops in recent years, breeding fierce mistrust and forcing joint patrols to be protected by so-called “guardian angels”.

   

In London, the British ministry of defence issued a statement saying: “We are aware of reports of an incident at Qargha. The incident is under investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

   

The Afghan National Army Officer Academy was hit by another “insider attack” last year when an Afghan soldier shot and injured two NATO coalition troops over a dispute before being killed.

   

The academy is a flagship training facility that opened in October to produce a new generation of professional military leaders as US-led NATO troops end their war and the Afghan army takes on the Taliban insurgents.

   

Overseen by British mentors, the academy is loosely modelled on Sandhurst, the renowned British officer training school.

   

The Afghan military has been built from scratch since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, and it has struggled with high casualty rates, “insider attack” killings, mass desertions and equipment shortages.

   

In February this year, two Afghan men wearing military uniforms shot dead two US soldiers in the eastern province of Kapisa.

UK Muslim minister quits govt over Gaza

A British minister who was the first Muslim to sit in the cabinet has resigned over the government’s policy on Gaza.

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Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a minister at the Foreign Office and minister for faith and communities, wrote on Twitter: “With deep regret I have this morning written to the Prime Minister & tendered my resignation. I can no longer support Govt policy on #Gaza.”

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition government has drawn criticism, including from the main opposition Labour party, for not taking a tougher line against Israel over its operations in Gaza.

On Monday, Cameron said the United Nations was “right” to condemn an air strike near a school in Rafah on Sunday which killed 10 people but would not say whether he thought it was a “criminal” act.

Warsi’s parents were Pakistani immigrants and she was made a member of parliament’s upper House of Lords in 2007.

She was appointed to Cameron’s cabinet when his coalition government took power in 2010 and while she initially had a high media profile, her star had dimmed in recent years.

She was shuffled out of the full cabinet, the powerful inner circle of government ministers, in 2012.

Labour leader Ed Miliband last week accused Cameron of “inexplicable” silence over the suffering of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

“The government needs to send a much clearer message to Israel that its actions in Gaza are unacceptable and unjustifiable,” Miliband said.

“What I want to hear from David Cameron is that he believes that Israel’s actions in Gaza are wrong and unjustified, and we haven’t heard that from him.”

Warsi’s resignation drew immediate praise on Twitter from some Labour MPs.

“Very courageous of my brave friend @SayeedaWarsi to resign over this Government’s inexplicable silence and total weakness on the #Gaza crisis,” wrote Sadiq Khan, Labour’s lead spokesman on justice.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, seen as a possible future successor to Cameron, said following Warsi’s resignation that events in Gaza were “utterly horrifying and unacceptable”.

“I cannot for the life of me see why this is a sensible strategy,” the Conservative said on his show on London radio station LBC.

“I cannot for the life of me see the purpose of this. It is disproportionate, ugly and tragic and will not do Israel any good the long run.”

$100m payment ends F1 chief’s bribe trial

A German court ruled on Tuesday that Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone can pay a $US100 million ($A108.

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2 million) settlement to end his bribery trial.

Now likely to stay at the F1 helm, the 83-year-old struck an accord with prosecutors on the huge payment which then received the Munich tribunal’s blessing.

“The proceedings will be temporarily suspended with the agreement of the prosecution and the accused,” pending payment of the settlement within one week, the judge said.

The $100 million payment is reportedly the largest of its kind in German criminal justice history, with $99 million to go to the Bavarian state coffers and $1 million to a “child hospice foundation”.

Ecclestone had been asked whether he could make the payment within a week, to which he replied: “Yes”.

Ecclestone went on trial in April on charges of paying $US44 million ($A47.6 million) to Bavarian bank executive Gerhard Gribkowsky in 2006-07 to help maintain his four-decade grip on Formula One.

A settlement is allowed in German criminal cases if prosecutors, aggrieved parties and the court agree, but the Ecclestone deal has stoked fierce criticism.

Court spokesman Andrea Titz said the judges had determined that a conviction was “not particularly likely” based on the evidence presented so far. Proceedings had been scheduled to last at least until October.

Under the terms, Ecclestone will not have a criminal record and should be able to retain his control of the multi-billion-dollar F1 empire.

He has attended most of the hearings and arrived at the courthouse on Tuesday in a limousine, looking relaxed and accompanied by his young wife Fabiana Flosi.

There was angry condemnation of the legal proviso that allowed defendants to “buy” a dismissal in some instances.

Former justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger had earlier blasted the possible Ecclestone deal as galling and “not in harmony with the sense and purpose of our legal practices”.

She called on lawmakers to tighten or eliminate – the loophole, designed to expedite cases before overburdened courts, with sums based on the defendant’s financial means.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung lashed out: “the briber is supposed to be washed clean with a spectacular payment.

“The saying goes ‘money doesn’t stink’ but that’s wrong here: these millions stink to high heaven.”

Top-selling Bild denounced “the bitter impression that not everyone is equal before the law”.

Ecclestone had denied any wrongdoing, but could have been jailed for 10 years if convicted.

He was accused of paying Gribkowsky to ensure F1 shares held by BayernLB were sold to Ecclestone’s preferred bidder, CVC Capital Partners of Britain – now the sport’s majority shareholder.

Ecclestone admitted paying the money but said it was to end blackmail threats that the banker would hand over information about the Briton’s tax affairs.

Gribkowsky is serving more than eight years in jail.

CVC Capital had said if Ecclestone was convicted, he would be removed as president and chief executive of Formula One Management.

Ultra confident McIlroy wary of ‘Rory era’ talk

The Northern Irishman clinched his third career major in wire-to-wire fashion at last month’s British Open, then landed his first World Golf Championships (WGC) title at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday.

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McIlroy is especially delighted with the state of his mental approach to the game, though he is wary of any media hype that the sport is entering a ‘Rory era’ of individual dominance.

“I’ve had a great run of golf and I’ve played well over the past few months,” the newly crowned world number one told reporters at Valhalla Golf Club on Tuesday while preparing for the season’s final major.

“I said at the start of the year that golf was looking for someone to put their hand up and sort of become one of the dominant players in the game. I felt like I had the ability to do that.

“It’s just nice to be able to win a few tournaments and get back to where I feel like I should be, which is near the top of the world rankings, competing in majors and winning golf tournaments.”

McIlroy, who regained the world number one ranking from Australian Adam Scott with his WGC victory at Firestone on Sunday, felt that any talk of a new era was premature.

“Sometimes I feel that people are too quick to jump to conclusions and jump on the bandwagon, jump on certain things,” said the 25-year-old from Holywood in County Down.

“I’m not necessarily sure you can call that an era or the start of an era, but I’m just really happy with where my golf game is at the minute and I just want to try and continue that for as long as possible.

“People can say what they want to say, that’s fine. But I can’t read too much into it. I just need to continue to practise hard and play well.”

FIRST MAJOR

McIlroy won his first major title by a staggering eight shots at the 2011 U.S. Open, then added a second with the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, where he also triumphed by eight.

“Historically, the PGA Championship has probably been my best major,” said the Northern Irishman, who has recorded four-top 10s at the event in just five career starts.

“The win at Kiawah in 2012, but then a couple of third-place finishes … it’s been a tournament that I’ve really enjoyed and a tournament that I’ve had some success at. Hopefully I can continue that trend this week.”

Asked which area of his game gave him the most confidence at the moment, McIlroy replied: “My approach to the game, my mental state. That’s really what I’m happy about.

“I’m not dwelling on the results that I’ve had and I’m just trying to keep moving forward, focus on the next week.

“People can talk about my driving or how I’m swinging the club, but mentally, I just feel like I’m in a really good place.”

McIlroy is now driving the golf ball prodigious distances while sacrificing very little accuracy off the tee, the result of hard work in the gym to strengthen his body.

“I’m definitely hitting it longer over the past couple years,” he said. “I’ve always had the speed and I’ve always had the power, but I haven’t really had the strength or the stability to hold on to it my whole way through the swing.

“I’ve put on three kilograms of muscle in the last eight weeks, so that definitely helps. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been. I don’t feel like I need to put on any more distance.

“If I can hit it over 300 yards and in the fairway most of the time, I’m happy enough with that. That gives me plenty of opportunities to hit it close to flags and try and make birdies. The past couple of weeks, it’s the best I’ve driven the ball.”

McIlroy will tee off in Thursday’s opening round at Valhalla in the company of the year’s other major winners – American Bubba Watson (Masters) and German Martin Kaymer (U.S. Open).

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)

Ecclestone trial halted after F1 boss agrees to $100 million settlement

Judge Peter Noll told the court the suspicion of bribery against Ecclestone could not, by and large, be backed up in a trial.

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He gave Ecclestone one week to pay $100 million – $99 million to the state and $1 million to a children’s charity.

“The trial is temporarily suspended until you’ve honoured your commitments and then it’ll be permanently discontinued,” Noll said. “If you don’t honour your commitments, we’ll continue the trial. I assume we’ll only ever see each other again on TV.”

Ecclestone, 83, replied in English: “Thank you very much. I will honour my commitment.”

Ecclestone went on trial in April over allegations he paid a $44 million bribe to a former German banker to facilitate the sale of a major stake in the motor sport business eight years ago.

Ecclestone, a former used car salesman who became a billionaire by building the sport into a global money spinner over the past four decades, denied any wrongdoing.

The state prosecutor told the court earlier on Tuesday that due to Ecclestone’s “advanced age” and “other extenuating circumstances”, they supported the proposed settlement.

“The charges could not, in important areas, be substantiated,” Judge Noll said. He added that any other charges against Ecclestone that remained were not so serious as to warrant the continuation of the trial.

Ecclestone’s lawyers applauded the settlement after the court heard more than 100 hours of testimony. “A conviction of Mr. Ecclestone could not be expected with any likelihood,” his lawyers said in a joint statement.

They also dismissed the suggestion that Ecclestone had bought his way out of the trial.

“Through this abandonment, the presumption of innocence in favour of Mr. Ecclestone remains intact … The monetary compensation is geared to his income and financial situation.”

Private equity group CVC, the largest shareholder in Formula One with a stake of 35 percent, has said it would have fired Ecclestone if he were found guilty.

The state prosecutor added that during the course of the trial it was becoming increasingly clear that the bribery charges would be difficult to prove.

GERMAN LAW

If he had been found guilty, the British billionaire could have faced up to 10 years in jail, although a prison term would have been unlikely.

Under German law, judges, prosecutors and the defence can agree to dismiss a case or settle it with a light punishment, although terms for such an agreement are strictly defined.

A spokeswoman for the Munich court, Andrea Titz, said a settlement did not mean there was an admission of guilt.

“With this type of ending … there is no ruling on guilt or innocence of the defendant,” she told reporters. “He is neither acquitted nor judged – rather this is a special type of ending a procedure which is in theory available to all types of cases.”

Ecclestone is accused of channelling cash to jailed BayernLB banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to smooth the sale of a major stake in the business by the bank to private equity fund CVC, which became the largest shareholder in Formula One in 2006.

Ecclestone was accompanied at the trial his wife, Fabiana Flosi, who watched from the spectator section of the court.

Despite his age, Ecclestone attends almost every Grand Prix and remains central to the sport’s commercial success. He has always dismissed talk of retirement and has no obvious replacement ready to take over when he does finally quit or get forced out.

The German law is intended to ease the burden on courts of hearing relatively minor cases and to spare first-time offenders a criminal record. The sums agreed under the settlement are often paid to the state or charity organisations. According to German broadcaster ARD, the procedure was used by ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl in 2001 to end a trial for accepting illegal party donations and by ex-defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg to prevent charges of copyright infringement in his dissertation. Former cyclist Jan Ullrich also paid to halt a German investigation into doping charges.

(Reporting by Joern Poltz; Writing by Erik Kirschbaum, Alexandra Hudson and Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Crispian Balmer, Larry King)

ICC to review Anderson-Jadeja decision

The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Tuesday announced it was considering whether to appeal against the decision to clear England’s James Anderson and India’s Ravindra Jadeja over their recent spat.

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World cricket’s governing body said it “has received and is considering” the written decision of judicial commissioner Gordon Lewis, who found the pair not guilty of breaching the ICC’s code of conduct following a disciplinary hearing in Southampton on Friday.

“As per Section 8.3.2 of the ICC Code of Conduct, ICC chief executive David Richardson has seven days – until Sunday, 10 August – to consider whether to lodge an appeal against the decision.

“The ICC will make no further comment on this matter until the decision has been made.”

India charged fast bowler Anderson and England counter-charged allrounder Jadeja over an incident on the second day of the drawn first Test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham on July 10.

Anderson and Jadeja, batting at the time, exchanged words as the players left the field during the lunch break.

It was alleged this had escalated into a more serious disagreement, beyond public view, when the players reached the privacy of the pavilion.

But Lewis, a retired Australian judge, found Anderson not guilty of a level-three offence of “abusing and pushing” Jadeja, who had his 50 per cent match-fee fine for a less serious level-one offence rescinded.

Anderson could have been banned for up to four Tests if he had been found guilty and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has expressed disappointment with the decision to clear him.

BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel told the Indian Express: “Yesterday (Monday) night, we have written a letter to the ICC. We told them that we are not happy with the decision.

“We have written about the flaws which we find in the process, and also about why there is a need to appeal against this order.

“BCCI has no right to appeal on the Jadeja-Anderson case now. But, ICC, who are the prosecutor, still have the right.”

The ICC has confirmed its decision to review the case will not prevent Anderson appearing in the fourth Test, which begins in Manchester on Thursday. The five-match series is tied at 1-1.

FA tightens rules on head injuries

“If there has been a confirmed or suspected period of loss of consciousness, the player must be removed from the field of play, and not be allowed to return,” an FA document said.

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It said professional players should also undergo baseline neuro-psychological testing at the start of each season and not be allowed to return to action for six days after suffering a head injury causing unconsciousness or concussion.

Head injury charities branded Tottenham Hotspur “irresponsible” last season when goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was allowed to play on despite a heavy blow to the head sustained in a challenge with Everton’s Romelu Lukaku during a Premier League match.

The incident raised question marks about clubs’ handling of head injuries and sparked a debate in the House of Commons about the dangers to sportsmen and women while world players’ union FifPro said the Lloris incident was “unacceptable”.

The new guidelines, designed to clarify the club’s responsibilities, were welcomed by brain injury association Headway.

“We are pleased to see the football authorities have addressed the serious issue of concussion,” said Peter McCabe, chief executive of Headway.

“The measures announced today are a significant step forward in the protection of footballers at all levels and therefore are warmly welcomed.

“The guidelines at all levels, from FIFA to the FA and Premier League, have to date been insufficient and ineffective, as demonstrated by numerous high-profile examples.

“The debacle with Spurs’ Hugo Lloris, who was allowed to overrule his club doctor and return to the pitch having sustained a serious head injury in collision with Everton’s Romelu Lukaku, was truly shocking.

“Since then, there have been numerous other examples of FIFA and FA guidelines being breached, including two incidents in the World Cup.”

Uruguay’s Alvaro Pereira and Argentina’s Javier Mascherano were both allowed to continue playing during the World Cup despite clear signs of concussion while Germany’s Cristoph Kramer appeared to lose consciousness in the final and was only substituted several minutes later.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)

Keeper Navas ready to fight for Real starting spot

“If I am here it’s not because I bought a lottery ticket,” Navas told a news conference on Tuesday after passing his medical, signing a six-year contract and being presented to fans at the Bernabeu stadium.

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“I feel capable of taking on these challenges,” added the 27-year-old, whose performances at the World Cup prompted the world’s richest club by income to lure him to the Spanish capital for a reported fee of 10 million euros (10.01 million pounds).

“My work is my foundation and when you work hard you feel ready to take on any kind of challenge.

“I am very calm. What I have to do is train hard and be available to the technical staff and when I get my chance be ready for it.”

The arrival of Navas has created something of a headache for Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, who is now spoilt for choice for keepers with three top-class performers vying for a place.

Casillas was first choice in the Champions League and the King’s Cup last season, while Lopez, whom Spanish media have said may de discarded, played in La Liga, continuing an awkward rotation policy begun under Ancelotti’s predecessor Jose Mourinho.

Navas said Casillas, 33, and the 32-year-old Lopez had been an inspiration to him during his career.

Known as the “Falcon of Costa Rica” for his agility, Navas spent his first year in Spain playing for second-division Albacete before Valencia-based Levante came calling in 2011.

“I think they (Real) will have more choice now,” Navas told reporters.

“The best in the world are at Real Madrid and I hope everyone will feel comfortable and there will be nothing negative.”

(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Justin Palmer)

Saints fight to keep midfielder Piatti for final

Nacional host the first leg on Wednesday (0115 BST Thursday) at the Defensores del Chaco in Asuncion where Piatti has permission from his new MLS club Montreal Impact to play for the Argentine favourites.

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However, the Saints have tried but so far failed to get that permission extended for one more week for the second leg at the Nuevo Gasometro in Buenos Aires after the Impact said they wanted Piatti in Montreal on Friday, Argentine media reported.

South America’s top club competition was interrupted for two months because of the World Cup finals in Brazil. The quarter-finals were played in mid-May and the semi-finals not until mid-July.

Brazil’s woes were not confined to a disappointing World Cup for the national team. They also failed to get a team into the last four of the Libertadores Cup for the first time since 1991.

Holders Atletico Mineiro, who were the fourth Brazilian side in a row to win the competition last year, were knocked out by Colombia’s Atletico Nacional in the round of 16.

Nacional are a small Paraguayan club side who had never before progressed beyond the group phase and have only one foreign player, Argentine-born goalkeeper Ignacio Don who has spent the better part of his career across the border and taken out Paraguayan citizenship.

“We know this is an historic chance for the club and each one of us. It’s something new for us, we’re beginners, we’d never passed the group phase … and now we’re among the two best (teams),” coach Gustavo Morinigo told the Argentine sports daily Ole.

WORST RECORDS

San Lorenzo and Nacional, both first time finalists, were the two teams with the worst records in the group phase who qualified for the round of 16.

The Paraguayans then upset Argentine former winners and favourites Velez Sarsfield, while the Saints beat Brazilian sides Gremio and Cruzeiro, both twice winners of the competition, in successive ties.

“That tie (against Velez) represented a lot for us. There was a before and after. We thought they were the hardest team we’d meet,” said Morinigo, whose side then eliminated Argentina’s Arsenal in the last eight and Defensor Sporting of Uruguay in the semi-finals.

San Lorenzo have right back Julio Buffarini available again after he missed the semi-final second leg against Bolivar through suspension having scored in the 5-0 rout of the Bolivians in the first leg. The Saints won the tie 5-1 on aggregate.

Veteran playmaker Leandro Romagnoli, another player leaving San Lorenzo after the final to join Brazilian first division side Bahia, said: “This is my World Cup final.”

Coach Edgardo Bauza, who has already won the title in 2008 when in charge of Ecuador’s LDU Quito, said he was recently contacted by the Argentine FA as a prospective successor to Argentina’s World Cup coach Alejandro Sabella, but was not letting himself be distracted.

“I’m not losing any sleep over that,” Bauza said. “Right now my head is exploding as I try to make the right choices and no mistakes (for the final).

“We don’t feel we are favourites, they (Nacional) want to put that pressure on us, but the team who play better will win,” said left back Emmanuel Mas, who scored twice against Bolivar.

The trophy winners will go through to the Club World Cup in Morocco in December.

(Writing by Rex Gowar; editing by Justin Palmer)