Amla stoic as Sri Lanka in control

Hashim Amla faced a stern test of character in his first series as captain after South Africa lost three key wickets against a determined Sri Lankan bowling attack in the second Test on Friday.

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Amla, 31, dug in with a painstaking 46 off 134 balls as South Africa trailed the hosts by 323 runs with seven wickets in hand on the second day of the Test at the SSC ground in Colombo.

At stumps, South Africa were 3-98 with AB de Villiers being the other not out batsman at the crease on 11.

Amla is leading the South African team for the first time in this two-Test series after being named captain last month following the retirement of Graeme Smith.

With the wicket showing signs of deteriorating, Amla and his men now face an uphill task to put up a fighting total on the board.

Sri Lanka posted 421 in their first innings, thanks to a solid 165-run knock by Mahela Jayawardene and a defiant 72 by Test debutant Niroshan Dickwella.

South Africa were off to a shaky start in their first innings, losing their openers inside the first nine overs before seamer Suranga Lakmal sent back Faf du Plessis for a fighting 36.

Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath gave the side an early breakthrough when he caught opener Alviro Petersen off his own bowling in the second over for two.

Dean Elgar (one) followed suit, inside-edging off-spinner Dilruwan Perera to short leg where Kaushal Silva dived forward to take a sharp catch.

Amla and du Plessis tried to rebuild the innings with some patient batting but Lakmal broke their 58-run stand half an hour before close.

South Africa lead the two-Test series 1-0 after winning the first match in Galle by 153 runs.

MH17 bodies still en route to Holland

Dutch authorities expect the last of the bodies that were removed from the MH17 crash site this week to be transferred to the Netherlands on the weekend.

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The final flight is expected to depart from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv for Eindhoven on Saturday.

“Today (Friday) again 74 coffins went to the Netherlands,” Dutch forensic team spokeswoman Esther Naber told AAP.

“The work is finished today, definitely, but there is one or two more flights tomorrow.”

The Dutch believe at least 200 bodies were on the refrigerated train out of Torez.

There’s no doubt, however, that some remains are still at the crash site, with experts making new discoveries on Thursday and Friday.

The deceased are being transferred from Ukraine’s second-biggest city to Eindhoven on a Dutch C130 Hercules and an Australian C17 transporter.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Friday visited Kharkiv to see how the work was progressing and to thank those involved.

She was accompanied by her Dutch counterpart, Frans Timmermans, before both flew on to the Netherlands.

Patricia Zorko, head of the National Police Unit that includes the Dutch national forensic team, said about 200 experts, including 80 from overseas, were working in Hilversum, in the Netherlands, at a military barracks to identify the dead.

Around the world, 1000 people are involved in the process, which also includes gathering information from next of kin.

Staff will “examine the bodies, describe the bodies, take dental information, DNA and put all the information together in the computer, and compare this information with the information they gathered from the families in the last days”, police spokesman Ed Kraszewski said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

“Then we have to see if there is a match.”

There are three scientific methods of identifying bodies – dental records, fingerprints and DNA.

After the experts believe they have positively identified a body, they defend their findings to an international panel.

If both agree, the positive identification will be sent to a Dutch prosecutor’s office, which has the power to release the body to the next of kin.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Friday gave an indication of just how long the identification process could take.

“After the Bali bombing it was, I think, almost three weeks before the first victim came back,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“And I think it was more than four months before the last one came back.”

Confident Ajmal aims to outfox Sri Lanka

“It gives me great joy to get any batsmen out who can read my ‘doosra’ because it just gives me confidence that I have become a complete off-spin bowler,” Ajmal told reporters on Friday.

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The 36-year-old promised to play an impact role in the series which starts on Aug. 3 and includes two tests and three one-day internationals.

Pakistan follow Sri Lanka with test series against Australia and New Zealand in the UAE before the World Cup in New Zealand in 2015.

The spinner said his recent stint in England with Worcestershire, where he captured 56 wickets in eight county championship matches, had done him a world of good.

“It allowed me to experiment and relax and that is very important for any spinner to improve every day,” he said.

“There has been talk about my bowling form in recent times but I am still hungry for success and one faces such ups and downs in one’s career.

“The English county stint has refreshed me as I also got to spend more time with my family who were with me,” he said.

Ajmal, who has taken 169 wickets in 33 tests, said that life for spinners in test matches was tough due to batting friendly pitches.

“I am not complaining but 90 percent of the pitches nowadays are batsmen friendly. But I guess for a top bowler the challenge is to perform on such tracks,” he said.

“I don’t like complaining because I enjoy bowling long spells and I try to remain positive all the time. That is the secret to my success,” Ajmal added.

Ajmal said the series against Sri Lanka would be a tough challenge because of their batting strength.

“They have two of the world’s best batters in Sangakarra and Jayawardene and it is always a challenge bowling to them.

“It is also Jayawardene’s farewell test series so it is going to be interesting doing battle with them.”

(Editing by Tony Goodson)

Amla, De Villiers dig in for South Africa

The touring side, replying to the hosts’ 421 all out, trailed by 323 runs at the close on the second day with Hashim Amla unbeaten on 46 and AB de Villiers on 11.

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Amla had two escapes on 10 and 34, edging a drive off Dilruwan Perera past Mahela Jayawardene’s outstretched hand at slip and then having his stumps shattered by Suranga Lakmal as he moved away from his crease when a crow flew across the pitch.

The bowler appealed to the umpire who signalled a dead ball.

Sri Lanka’s only success in the final session was the wicket of Faf du Plessis who was caught brilliantly down the leg side by wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella off Lakmal for 36 to end a partnership of 58 with Amla.

“The wicket is pretty nice to bat on but they got a pretty variety of spinners which don’t give much it’s tough to score against them because they put their fields to protect the boundary and got a few guys stopping the ones,” Du Plessis told reporters.

“You have to take a risk to score against them but as myself and Hash (Hashim Amla) showed if you get through the pressure of the first couple of balls the runs will come.”

Sri Lanka’s spinners had taken two early wickets to reduce South Africa to 23 for two at tea.

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Left-armer Rangana Herath, who opened the bowling, struck with his fifth ball when he forced Alviro Petersen to hit back a tame return catch with his score on two.

Perera had Dean Elgar, on one, caught off the inside edge off his third ball by Kaushal Silva at short leg to leave South Africa in trouble on a turning pitch at 13 for two.

Sri Lanka’s innings ended with Vernon Philander picking up the last two wickets of Ajantha Mendis (2) and Lakmal (4) to catches by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.

Debutant Dickwella, whose innings of 72 came off 116 deliveries, was run out when he hesitated over a single to a ball that went off Herath’s shoulder and De Kock reacted quickly to throw the stumps down.

Leg-spinner Imran Tahir picked up his first wicket after conceding over 100 runs when he had Perera caught by Amla at mid-on for 12 attempting a big hit.

Jayawardene was run out for 165 as Sri Lanka piled on the runs on the second morning.

South Africa’s only success was the wicket of Jayawardene, who had passed 150 for the 16th time in his career before he was run out.

The elegant right-hander swept JP Duminy to fine leg and Petersen’s direct throw at the stumps caught the diving batsman well short of his ground.

His 165 came off 284 balls and included one six and 17 fours.

“Disappointed in Galle that I wasn’t able to contribute the first innings was where we made quite a few mistakes,” Jayawardene said.

“We needed to make sure that we didn’t repeat the mistakes here. The mind set was pretty positive to take control of the situation we were in.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

Vickery whacks Cox in Tigers’ AFL win

Richmond ruckman Ty Vickery is facing a lengthy suspension after whacking Dean Cox on the chin in his side’s 17-point AFL win over West Coast at Patersons Stadium on Friday night.

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Cox was momentarily knocked out after being on the receiving end of Vickery’s roundhouse blow as the pair competed for a boundary throw-in shortly before half-time.

The retiring Eagle suffered further damage when his head crashed heavily into the turf.

Vickery, who had his eyes on the ball, is likely to argue he only swung his right arm around in a bid to jostle for a better position as the ball was airborne.

But the forceful nature of the hit and the timing suggested he had intent to hurt Cox.

Just moments earlier, Cox elbowed Vickery in the chest.

Vickery got up from that and bodied up to Cox to prepare for the throw-in, before unleashing the roundhouse blow.

Cox lay motionless for more than a minute before being helped to the bench by two trainers.

The 32-year-old, who announced during the week that he would retire at season’s end, played no further part in the match after being subbed off with concussion.

“He’s not good. It wasn’t good. He’s gone,” a fuming Eagles coach Adam Simpson said of Cox at half-time.

Vickery, who was reported for the incident, has 43.75 carryover points after copping a two-week suspension for striking North Melbourne’s Michael Firrito earlier this year.

Tempers threatened to boil over after Cox was knocked out and West Coast sharpshooter Mark LeCras could come under scrutiny for collecting Vickery high a few minutes later.

Richmond players weren’t happy with LeCras’ square-up, the Eagle having his guernsey completely ripped off during the ensuing wrestle.

The Vickery incident overshadowed Richmond’s fourth straight win, the Tigers coping well in the driving rain to post the 8.11 (59) to 6.6 (42) triumph.

Highlights were few and far between in the slippery conditions, but Trent Cotchin’s soccer goal from the tightest of angles early in the third quarter was a rare moment of brilliance.

Cox’s early exit meant West Coast midfielder Luke Shuey was forced to play out the match despite injuring his ankle in the third quarter.

The result all but ended West Coast’s finals hopes, with both the Eagles and the Tigers having a 7-10 record.

The 32,270 crowd roundly booed Vickery after Cox was knocked out.

And even former Tigers legend and current boundary rider Matthew Richardson wasn’t safe from the abuse.

“I’m copping as much as the players,” Richardson said during the broadcast.

“I don’t think they realised I retired five years ago.”