Oct 13

Bishoo brilliance not enough for Windies

Ball of the 21st century?

Maybe not, but it was fitting that on the 22nd anniversary of Shane Warne’s incredible leg break to England’s Mike Gatting, a leg-spinner again stole the show in a Test match.

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West Indies leggie Devendra Bishoo did all he could to haul the hosts back into the Test against Australia in Dominica on Thursday, claiming a career-best 6-80 on a turning Windsor Park pitch.

His efforts may ultimately be in vain with the Windies trailing by 145 runs with eight second innings wickets remaining at stumps on day two, but Bishoo will have one enduring memory of the day.

His ball to dismiss Brad Haddin was one that Aussie great Warne would have proud of.

The Australian wicketkeeper could only stare in bewilderment after a Bishoo leg-break pitched on leg, fizzed past the face of his bat and struck the top of off stump.

“Yeah, it was a good ball wasn’t it? I think he bowled me a couple of them as well,” debutant centurion Adam Voges said.

“Fortunately the ones I played and missed at spun enough to miss the stumps. That was a very good ball.”

Bishoo’s spell is just the latest in a worrying trend of Australia’s top batsmen struggling against spin.

In last year’s two-Test series against Pakistan in the UAE, Australia lost 30 wickets at 23.66 to the opposition spinners.

With many in England suggesting 27-year-old Yorkshire leg-spinner Adil Rashid should be unleashed on the Australians in the upcoming Ashes series, it’s a point of concern.

But Bishoo himself doesn’t think Australia have a drama with spin bowling.

“I never thought so,” he said.

“They are one of the best teams in the world and at the end of the day you have to bowl well and play really good cricket to compete with them.”

Oct 13

Metcash shares dive to 14yr-low

Metcash shares have plummeted to their lowest level in 14 years after the grocery wholesaler shocked investors by suspending its dividend payments after making $640 million worth of writedowns.

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The company said it wouldn’t pay a dividend in the next 18 months as it tries to beef up its IGA store network to better compete with larger supermarket rivals Coles, Woolworths and Aldi.

It also unveiled $640 million in writedowns and charges, which is set to result in a large bottom line loss when it announces its full year results on June 15.

Metcash posted a $169 million net profit last financial year, so the $640 million hit will result in a large loss on its bottom line when it reports full year results on June 15.

However, the writedowns are largely to goodwill and other intangibles and the wholesaler has reaffirmed its full year guidance for underlying earnings of between $315 million and $330 million.

Investors chasing the company’s high dividend yield – which was above 11 per cent based on last year’s distribution – immediately jumped ship following the announcement.

Metcash shares dived 24.5 cents, or 17.69 per cent to $1.14, a level not seen since 2001.

Bell Direct equities analyst Julia Lee said the move was a cautionary tale to yield-hungry investors.

“I think it’s a good demonstration of what happens when you see phenomenally high yields on the market without the earnings growth coming through,” she told AAP.

But the decision to suspend the dividend received the backing of company’s biggest shareholder, fund manager Allan Gray Australia.

Alan Gray chief investment officer Simon Mawhinney said the move was necessary to strengthen Metcash’s balance sheet and give it a chance of surviving in the longer term.

“It’s not often you see management make these long-term decisions,” he said.

“Anyone from a mile out would have been able to see that this would have been poorly received by the stock market, yet they’ve gone and done it and I think it’s the right thing.”

Metcash is in the midst of a $480 million overhaul of its operations as it looks to improve the quality of its stores to better compete with the major supermarket brands.

The expansion of German retailer Aldi in Australia is making life increasingly difficult for the local chains, and IGA is looking more vulnerable than its larger rivals.

Concern about the growing price war among supermarkets, combined with weaker sales and profit results, has seen Metcash’s shares have more than halve in the past year.

But Mr Mawhinney said the company’s efforts to invest in its operations would give it a decent shot at a turnaround.

“It’s not a slam dunk, people don’t like it and for good reasons but I think the company presents itself warts and all and either they can turn the ship around or they can’t but I think they are in with a fair chance.”

Oct 13

Matsuyama in tie for Memorial lead, Tiger toils

That put the 23-year-old Asian joint top at the tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus, level with American Bo Van Pelt, who birdied six of his first nine holes before losing some momentum after the turn.

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“I hit the ball very well today, had a lot of birdie putts and putted well so I’m very happy with the round,” Matsuyama, speaking through an interpreter, told Golf Channel.

Scotland’s Russell Knox and American Jason Dufner carded 66s while world number two Jordan Spieth, the highest-ranked player in the field, recovered from a slow start to card a 68.

Woods, however, covered his first nine holes in an ugly four-over 40 before scrambling on his second nine with three late birdies to salvage his round.

“Some of the shots I hit were really, really good, but then I also had some really bad shots,” the former world number one said. “And we need to work on that, and eliminate the bad ones.”

Woods, a five-times champion at Muirfield Village whose world ranking has plummeted to 172nd, ended his roller-coaster round with five birdies, four bogeys and a double at the tricky par-four 18th, his ninth hole of the day.

He is playing only his fifth PGA Tour event of the season after struggling with his game, and has not competed since tying for 69th at the Players Championship last month.

Masters champion Spieth, already a double winner on the U.S. circuit this season, was delighted with his score after teeing off at the 10th.

“It’s not easy to start on number 10, it’s a brutal hole,” said the 21-year-old American. “Great up-and-downs the first four holes before I finally hit a wedge in there tight on 14 and a good up-and-down out of the bunker on 15 for birdie.

“To shoot two-under on the back nine is a great score. Most of the chances are on the front. Very pleased with the round.”

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Larry Fine)

Oct 13

Rebels looking for two wins to cap season

The Melbourne Rebels are desperate to finish their Super Rugby season with two wins and square the ledger for the first time.

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Wins against the Bulls on Saturday at AAMI Park followed by the Force would mean eight in total – doubling their tally from 2014 and giving them an even ledger from 16 games.

“Eight against eight will be a great achievement but we know we’ll have to work pretty hard to get that,” lock Luke Jones said.

“With the quality of guys we have we’ve been pretty desperate to prove the competition wrong so I feel like there’s a lot riding on these last two weeks.

“Just because there’s only two games left doesn’t mean we can’t send a message about next year.”

They are hoping that third time’s a charm when they come up against another South African opponent.

After tight losses to the Stormers and Sharks on tour, Jones said they they couldn’t be better prepared for the Bulls.

“We didn’t take our opportunities there for whatever reason and this time we need to play smarter,” Jones said.

“We’re pretty confident of what we’re going to get presented with this week which will be similar stuff so it’s another huge opportunity for us.”

Jones said they also wanted to send off departing players like skipper Scott Higginbotham, Paul Alo-Emile and Cadeyrn Neville on a winning note.

The Bulls enter the last two rounds in ninth place and are the lowest placed team still in finals contention.

They are one spot above the Rebels on the overall ladder.

The Rebels haven’t beaten the Bulls in three previous attempts, with their opponents cracking at least 40 points on each occasion.

Jones said the forwards would again have their work cut out.

“Their forward pack will be awesome; they’re so big so we’re really going to have to shut them down with two-man tackles.

“If we can shut them down that will take away a lot of their forward momentum.”

Alo-Emile, who will play his 50th Rebels match, has returned to the starting line-up to replace the suspended Laurie Weeks.

Halfback Nic Stirzaker has also earned a recall while veteran centre Tamati Ellison has overcome his groin injury to play.

Oct 13

‘I could hear lions’ teeth crunching on my head’: Australian girl relives lion attack

In a letter written after her February attack, Neha Sharma describes the moment a trip to the lion enclosure at the Kudus Rus safari park nearly turned deadly.

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Fifteen-year-old Neha and her parents had been led to the lion cage by a ranger. The high school student had been walking ahead of her parents and had entered the cage with the ranger when the lions attacked.

“The lions were as tall as me and attacked my head… I could hear lions’ teeth crunching on my head and biting my arms and chest,” she wrote.

“While I was passing out I could hear mum and dad screaming for help.”

Sharma’s father, Dr Raghwa Sharma, told Fairfax Media he and his wife were forced to watch as their daughter was mauled by the lions.

“All hell broke loose. The lions are mauling my daughter. What can you do? You yell. You shout. There’s no back-up.”

“The reception people are a good 300 metres away. Nobody listens, there’s no neighbours, nothing. There’s nothing for you. There’s nothing left. We thought we were all going to die,” he said.

Neha eventually regained consciousness and was able to escape the cage.

She underwent surgery in South Africa and spent nearly a week in hospital recovering from injuries to her head, neck, chest, thighs and arms.

The family chose to speak out in the wake of the death of an American tourist in South Africa.

29-year-old Katherine Chappell was traveling in a van when a lion lunged at her through the window and fatally bit her.

Ms Chappell had been in South Africa volunteering to help protect native wildlife.