Windies target New Zealand batting in likely showdown

“I couldn’t ask for anything more.

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It was a must-win and we had to win by a big margin,” Holder told reporters at McLean Park. “The way the guys came out and played cricket today I can’t say much more.”

West Indies had been facing elimination if they could not secure a large win on Sunday.

Holder and Jerome Taylor reduced UAE to 46 for six before Amjad Javed and Nasir Aziz combined for a 107-run partnership that gave their score some credibility.

The associate nation were eventually dismissed for 175 and Holder’s team romped to 176-4 in the 31st over, with Johnson Charles (55) and Jonathan Carter (50 not out) providing the bulk of the runs.

Charles’ form will put pressure on Dwayne Smith, who has scored just 93 runs in six innings, for the quarter-finals if Chris Gayle is fit enough to play after he pulled out of Sunday’s match with a back injury.

Holder expects him to play in Wellington next Saturday.

“He has had the same back problem he has had for a year and he has good days and bad days,” Holder said of Gayle’s injury.

“But he is a crucial player for us going into the quarter-final. He will be up for it, even if he is not 100 percent.

“He is a big game player and we all know what he can do on those days.

“Obviously Johnson played a very good innings and has probably pretty much secured his spot for the next game but we will sit down, see the conditions and pick the team.”

Holder was mindful they could still possibly face Australia in the quarter-finals but were expecting to face Brendon McCullum’s side.

“New Zealand has been playing some pretty decent cricket,” he added in noting McCullum’s side were unbeaten.

“They have done reasonably well up top with guys like (Martin) Guptill, McCullum and Kane Williamson, so obviously the quicker we get into their middle order, the better off for us.

“And when we bat we just need to counter the Southee-Boult opening combination.”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O’Brien)

Aust Zunic takes one-shot win in NZ Open

Wollongong youngster Jordan Zunic is celebrating a breakthrough victory in the New Zealand Open – only his fourth tournament as a professional.

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The 22-year-old produced a display of sustained quality with scores of 68 66 66 66 to triumph by one shot at 21-under-par from veteran countryman David Bransdon as Australians swamped the final leaderboard, claiming the top nine spots.

Bransdon finished with a 64 at The Hills course at Arrowtown, making birdies on eight of his last 10 holes, but his bogey at the 18th cost him plenty as Zunic holed a two-metre birdie putt on the last to avoid a playoff.

Zunic turned pro despite failing to earn a card at the Australasian tour school and he only got into the NZ Open thanks to a top-10 finish at the New Zealand PGA Championship last week where he was a qualifier.

His victory was all the sweeter for his grim experience when involved in a serious car crash while playing as an amateur in the US last year.

He was hospitalised for two months with severe head cuts, a broken elbow and a big loss of blood.

“When I started playing again, I just felt so grateful to be breathing and out there playing golf. I could have easily died, and that actually helped me play better,” Zunic told stuff.co.nz.

“The first six months there were some medical issues I had to get over.

“Once I got over them, I feel like it’s really built character for me and made me a little wiser.

“I know it was horrible at the time but I feel like it’s made me a stronger person. As my dad always says, everything happens for a reason.”

Zunic collected a winner’s cheque for $A164,000 and earns a two-year exemption on the Australasian PGA Tour.

Kristopher Mueck was third, three shots behind Zunic after a 69.

Fellow Australians Cameron Smith (66) and Brad Kennedy (68) tied for fourth, while countrymen Daniel Fox (64), Peter Fowler (66), Scott Arnold (67) and Aaron Pike (71) tied sixth.

Celtics in late NBA surge

The Indiana Pacers have put together a late-season surge to get into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

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The Boston Celtics look like they are doing the same thing.

Tyler Zeller scored 18 points to lead a balanced attack on Saturday night and the visiting Celtics made all the hustle plays down the stretch of a hard-fought 93-89 victory over the Pacers, who had their seven-game winning streak snapped.

“We’re having a lot of fun,” Zeller said. “We believe in ourselves.

“In the beginning of the year we lost a lot of these games.”

Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass and Jae Crowder added 16 points apiece for Boston (29-36), who have won a season-high four in a row to move within one-half game of Charlotte (29-35) for the final playoff spot in the East.

“These are the kind of games that I’ve always loved – just find a way,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.

George Hill scored a season-high 30 points with eight assists for Indiana (30-35), who have been the hottest team in the NBA.

The Pacers were 12th in the East six weeks ago but won 13 of their next 15 games to climb to seventh.

The Celtics have made a similar ascent.

They have shuffled players all season and were 12th three weeks ago but have won nine of 12 and are now tied for ninth with Miami.

“It’s amazing (how) he’s got them playing as well as they are with so much turnover,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.

Elsewhere Golden State thrashed New York Knicks 125-94 as Klay Thompson scored 27 points and Stephen Curry added 25 and 11 assists for the league-leading Warriors, who have seven straight home games.

Italy’s Andrea Bargnani scored 18 points for the league-worst Knicks, who have lost six of seven.

The Washington Wizards enjoyed a 113-97 victory over the Sacramento Kings off the back of John Wall’s 31 points and 12 assists as the Wizards roared back from a 21-point deficit for their third straight win.

DeMarcus Cousins scored 30 points for the Kings.

Dante Exum had eight points as the Utah Jazz edged Detroit Pistons 88-85.

Memphis Grizzlies and Brooklyn Nets also enjoyed wins.

One catch could have changed our World Cup – Tauqir

It was the sixth loss of the World Cup for UAE, who demonstrated on several occasions they could play international standard cricket if they did not quite have the skill or class to put consistent pressure on their opponents.

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They suffered just one humiliating loss, to India by nine wickets, but their mindset after that game appeared to be not to get embarrassed rather than attempting to beat the test nations.

Tauqir, however, felt that had Nasir Aziz taken a catch in the outfield off Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien, they might have been able to record their second victory at the World Cup after they beat the Netherlands by seven wickets in 1996.

O’Brien went on to score another 26 runs that helped Ireland to a two-wicket victory as they made 279 for eight with four balls to spare.

“Overall the whole tournament has been very, very special for the whole team,” Tauqir told reporters in Napier. “We really enjoyed the whole tournament.

“I think one moment that would have changed the game was I think Kevin O’Brien’s catch that got dropped. If that catch would have been taken, I think we would have definitely won that game.”

Tauqir singled out Shaiman Anwar’s batting as being a particular highlight for the team.

Anwar top-scored with 311 runs at 51.83 and at one stage after all of the teams had played four games, was the highest run scorer in the tournament.

Tauqir added the bowling had been good, though the majority of the batsmen had struggled and their fielding was not up to scratch.

“There were a few positives. I think overall our bowling department was pretty consistent in every game,” he said.

“I think it’s a little bit of fielding and the batting department that needs a bit of improvement.

“But we take a lot of positives from the whole event, and it was overall a good learning experience for us.”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O’Brien)

Qld rollercoaster strands thrillseekers

Thirteen thrill-seekers got more than they bargained for when their Gold Coast rollercoaster broke down mid ride, stranding them for hours.

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The Green Lantern attraction at Warner Bros Movie World came to an abrupt stop just before 1pm, leaving one carriage stuck precariously near the top of the ride.

Six people were trapped when the rollercoaster malfunctioned, stranding them for hours high above the ground.

Crews from Queensland Fire were called in to help with the rescue, and the stuck passengers were all safely rescued by about 4.30pm.

There were no injuries, but the six were taken to hospital for a medical clearance.

Earlier another seven people were in a second carriage when the roller-coaster stopped, but they were able to exit the ride via a nearby set of stairs.

The roller coaster will not be returned to use until engineers determine the source of the malfunction, described only as an “issue with a wheel” on the carriage.

“Warner Bros Movie World would like to offer its sincerest apologies to those guests that were involved,” the theme park said in a statement.

“The Green Lantern attraction is equipped with multiple safety redundancies to ensure the safety of all riders.

“Our team of engineers and technicians will investigate the cause of this mechanical issue before the ride is reopened.”

Witnesses said it appeared part of the wheel componentry had fallen off completely.

One witness described hearing a “big bang” as one of the carts rounded a bend on the upper level of the track.

Witnesses began posting about the incident on social media despite being discouraged from taking photos.

One witness, who was just about to join the ride’s queue, described the incident as her “worst fear come to life”.

Hackett wraps up comeback meet

Olympic gold medal winner Grant Hackett has made an encouraging start in his bid to qualify for Australia’s swimming squad for the 2016 Rio Games.

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Hackett swam in three events at a qualifying meet at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre on the weekend – his first competitive outing since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The triple Olympic gold medallist swam the 200m, 400m and 100m freestyle events at the meet, with his 400m time suggesting his Rio ambitions are more than just false hope.

The 34-year-old clocked an impressive 3:55.68 in the start-to-finish victory, a time which would have been enough to qualify for the final at last year’s Australian titles.

“I couldn’t have pictured thinking about making a final and then (coach Denis Cotterell) told me that my 400m would’ve made a final and I will be swimming a lot faster than that in three weeks,” Hackett told News Corp.

“I’m actually a bit taken aback my body can still do it as well as it can in the timeframe.”

Hackett, who has only been in serious training for his comeback for six months, then backed up with second-place finishes in the 200m and 100m.

He finished behind 2012 Olympian David McKeon in the 200m, clocking a 1:50.68 while McKeon finished in a 1:47.86.

Both of Hackett’s 400m and 200m times are expected to be ratified as world records in the Masters 30-34 age group previously held by Daniel Kowalski, taking his career tally to 17 world records.

In Sunday’s 100m, Hackett was pipped by another member of the London Games team with Ned McKendry winning in 50.56 seconds with Hackett in second with a 51.38.

Hackett will return to action on the Gold Coast next week before heading to the National Championships in Sydney from April 3.

Ricciardo laments ‘boring’ Mercedes F1 win

Daniel Ricciardo is among the drivers fearing for Formula One’s future after labelling as “boring” Mercedes’ one-two procession in the Australian Grand Prix.

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Winner Lewis Hamilton and his runner-up teammate Nico Rosberg lapped all but three drivers at Albert Park in Melbourne in a Sunday drive that turned a race into a glorified Mercedes parade.

“I feel a bit for the fans,” said Australia’s Ricciardo, who finished sixth.

“It was a boring race. It was frustrating.”

Hamilton, from pole position, and Rosberg, from second spot, were never challenged by a field of just 15 cars, which third-placed Sebastian Vettel said damaged the sport.

Two more cars retired before completing a lap and only 11 drivers finished the season-opening event.

“For sure it’s not great for the people,” Vettel said.

“(Formula One) is a difficult challenge. It is complicated – maybe it got a bit too complicated.”

Vettel, on debut for Ferrari, conceded that bridging the gap – he finished more than 34 seconds behind Hamilton – would be “difficult but not impossible” this season.

“It’s a big gap – 34 seconds down the road is a lot for everyone else,” he said.

“It can turn around a little bit for the next grand prix but it could be even worse.”

Even Mercedes’ victors wished for a greater challenge from the likes of Ferrari.

“I hope you can give us a challenge because it’s important for the sport and for the fans,” Rosberg said.

“And a part of me thinks about the show because I want to give people a great time at home watching on TV or at the track.”

But Vettel scoffed at Rosberg’s sentiment.

“You really hope so, seriously?” Vettel said.

“You finish 30 seconds in front of us and … you hope you slow down?

“A suggestion, if you don’t mind, is your garage becomes public for Malaysia and everyone can have a look.”

Mercedes last year won the drivers’ and constructors’ titles and set a record 16 race wins in a season.

Hamilton won 11 of those races as Mercedes set a record 11 one-two finishes in a season. The team also equalled Red Bull Racing’s 2011 record for most pole positions in a season with 18.

Little has changed.

On Sunday, England’s reigning champion Hamilton easily won his 34th career grand prix: within six laps he was already 2.6 seconds ahead of Rosberg.

“Once you get a two-second gap you try and manage that. There is no need to eke out more,” Hamilton said.

“It was a phenomenal race for both of us.”

Massive win lifts Vics into Shield final

Victoria are into their first Sheffield Shield final in five years after topping the competition ladder with a thumping 400-run win over Tasmania inside three days in Alice Springs.

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Leg-spinner Fawad Ahmad ripped through the Tasmania batting line-up, taking 5-35 as the Tigers were bundled out for just 134.

It was Victoria’s third-highest winning margin by runs in their history.

Bonus points earned in the match means Victoria have an unassailable lead at the top of the ladder and earn hosting rights for the final.

Tasmania had no answer to Victoria’s spin attack on the Alice Springs wicket losing wickets at regular intervals, with left-arm spinner Jon Holland (2-27) adding to his six wicket haul in the first innings to claim player of the match honours.

Victoria resumed the day at 1-47, and there were half centuries from Chris Rogers and Marcus Stoinis who added 112 runs, before the former retired hurt with a hip injury on 69.

Stoinis was bowled by Clive Rose just before lunch for 62, with Victoria’s highest run-scorer for the season having now scored five 50s in his past four matches.

David Hussey (47no) and Dan Christian (37no) continued the run-fest before the Vics called a halt to their second innings at 2-230 midway through the afternoon session after dominating the Tasmanian attack scoring at five an over.

Victoria had established a massive 304-run lead on the first innings after bowling out Tasmania for just 145 on Saturday.

Veteran Test opener Rogers strained a gluteus muscle while batting but is expected to be fit for next weekend’s decider, with the Vics to meet the winner of the match between leaders Western Australia and third-placed NSW in Perth.

Mercedes enjoy laugh last on day of high farce

World champion Lewis Hamilton may have finished only 1.

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3 seconds ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg in winning Formula One’s season-opener but the pole-sitting Briton crossed the line an astonishing 34 seconds clear of third-placed Sebastian Vettel.

As if to compensate for the lack of a contest on a sunny day at Albert Park, film actor and former California governor Schwarzenegger was drafted in for the podium ceremony, where he conducted some amusing, if slightly awkward, interviews.

The awkwardness was to continue in the post-race media conference where Hamilton and the equally diplomatic Rosberg were at pains to deny the Formula One season was not just a two-horse race.

“I think the Ferraris have taken a huge step forward and have made one of the biggest steps,” Hamilton said generously as Ferrari debutant Vettel, sitting on his left, wore a wry smile.

“I anticipate we might have a good fight with them at some stage this year.”

Rosberg, runner-up in the championship last year, was a bit franker when he said Mercedes would “be leading the way for sure” for the first couple of races.

“But it would be good if they can come a bit closer… as long as they don’t get too close,” the German said.

His comments drew a snort from Vettel, a four-times world champion with Red Bull, who had plenty of experience defending the dominance of his former team.

“Be honest, do you really hope so?” he interjected, raising roars of laughter. “Seriously? You finish 34 seconds ahead of us and you hope it’s going to be closer? You hope you’ll slow down?”

Hamilton and Rosberg commandeered 16 out of 19 race wins in last year’s championship and 18 out of 19 poles.

The duo dominated qualifying again in Australia with the Briton lapping nearly 1.5 seconds quicker than Felipe Massa’s Williams in third place, times that suggest the Silver Arrows have actually widened the gap to their rivals and raised immediate fears the season will be a foregone conclusion.

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff said his team had met all their targets, or almost achieved them.

“The pace of the car is incredible and then to have a faultless weekend with both drivers immaculate in the car without any problems. This is the result you can achieve,” he said.

(Editing by John O’Brien)

SA look to set target for Qld in Shield

Timely centuries to Mark Cosgrove and Callum Ferguson have given South Australia a chance to avoid the Sheffield Shield wooden spoon.

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Cosgrove (103) and Ferguson (107) both reached triple figures against Queensland on day three at the Gabba.

The pair flipped the match on its head, turning a big first innings deficit into a 197-run lead at stumps.

An aggressive South Australia closed the day at 4-357, leaving them in prime position to set Queensland a target and push for a result on day four.

The Redbacks require a victory in the final game of the season to leapfrog Tasmania into fifth spot on the ladder.

“Hopefully we can push on tomorrow and set a good game up,” Cosgrove said.

“We want six points from this game… it’s a new ball wicket, we’ll get through that in the morning and reassess a target.”

Peter George (2-76) claimed the wicket of Ferguson in the final hour but the day belonged to the visitors, who travelled at a run rate of more than four per over.

South Australia conceded a 160-run first innings deficit but Cosgrove’s quick-fire ton wrestled the ascendancy from the Bulls.

He brought up his first Sheffield Shield century of the season in just 93 balls with 13 fours.

“We had to get in front of the game and knock those off as quickly as we could,” Cosgrove said.

“Our batting order is pretty dangerous, we probably haven’t fired as much as we should have this year … but today we did.”

The left hander shared a 156-run partnership with Ferguson before being dismissed by Ben Cutting (2-57) to a running Matthew Renshaw at deep point, the only wicket to fall in the second session.

Ferguson, South Australia’s highest Shield run scorer this season, moved past three figures after tea, sharing a 110-run stand with Tom Cooper (54).

Earlier, Queensland were bowled out for 390 with debutant Nick Benton (4-95) and Joe Mennie (2-105) taking the final two wickets.