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AUSTIN, Texas: Lewis Hamilton will seek a fifth win in six visits to Texas this weekend and hope for further Ferrari misfortune as he bids to clinch his fourth world title at the United States Grand Prix.
The Briton leads nearest rival Sebastian Vettel by 59 points with four races remaining and will take this year’s crown if he can outscore him by 16 points.
In short, that means that if Hamilton wins, Vettel must finish in the top five to keep his own challenge alive - a seemingly straightforward prospect if he and Ferrari can avoid the mishaps that have afflicted them in the last four races.
Since their home Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Ferrari have succumbed to a series of mechanical setbacks and mistakes that culminated, at the Japanese Grand Prix on October 8, in Vettel being forced to retire due to the failure of a $60 spark plug.
That embarrassing exit followed a crash with his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in Singapore and an engine problem in Malaysia - incidents that allowed Hamilton to capitalise for Mercedes by grabbing three wins in four races.
Hamilton now has 306 points and Vettel, the only other man to have won at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, has 247.A dramatic, tense and hotly-contested race is in prospect on Sunday when the ceremonial preliminaries may see Hamilton ‘take a knee’ during the playing of the anthem in support of the protest, initiated by National Football League (NFL) players, against racial injustice and police brutality.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff made clear that he would not stop him.“The more you try to limit him - put him in a box - the more detrimental it will be for his performance,” he said.
With temperatures forecast to continue at around 30 degrees Celsius it may be that conditions favour Ferrari’s faster, but less reliable car at a track that Hamilton, chasing a sixth overall United States GP win, relishes.
Hunting his ninth win this year, Hamilton will know that Vettel is sure to mount a ferocious attack of his own to prevent him joining the German and Alain Prost as four-time champions.
Only Michael Schumacher, with seven titles, and Juan-Manuel Fangio, with five, have more and a fourth Hamilton triumph would make him the most successful British driver.
But as Ferrari seek to preserve their challenge with improved reliability, Hamilton’s main threat may come from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who won in Malaysia three weeks ago, or Daniel Ricciardo, like Hamilton a man very at home in America.
Fully aware that both Ferrari and Red Bull have shown superior speed in recent weeks, Wolff has, however, warned Hamilton and his team to avoid any complacency.
“The team is operating at an incredibly high level in every area and continuing to develop,” he said. “But Lewis has driven brilliantly this year and, since the summer break in particular, he has been on another level.
“It has been impressive to watch him extracting everything from the car and working with the team to solve problems and improve even further.
“But we can take nothing for granted... We have seen a strong points swing in our favour in both championships — good fortune has played its part, of course - and we have put ourselves in the right position to make the most of the opportunities.
“But nobody is allowing those good results to disguise the challenges we have faced. We approach every race with a healthy dose of scepticism.”
For Fernando Alonso, it will be a chance to thank the American fans for their support of him when he took part in the Indianapolis 500 - and he plans to switch helmets and use the one he wore at ‘The Brickyard’ in May.
The weekend will also see New Zealand’s Le Mans 24-Hours winner Brendan Hartley, a former Red Bull squad junior and reserve driver, make his debut with Toro Rosso alongside returning Daniil Kvyat.
Hartley will be the ninth Kiwi to take part in an F1 race on Sunday, if he qualifies and takes a place on the grid.He succeeds Carlos Sainz who has been released to join Renault.
KARACHI: The unseeded duo of Mohammad Asif and Zulfiqar Abdul Qadir stormed into the final after rocking top seeded Asjad Iqbal and seventh seed Mohammad Bilal, respectively, in the semi-finals of Jubilee Insurance 3rd Ranking Cup Snooker Championship 2017 here at the Karachi Gymkhana on Thursday.
After a very long time, the final of a national ranking event is going to be contested between unseeded cueists as Asif of Punjab will take on Zulfiqar of Sindh in the best-of-15-frame clash, which commences at 9am on Friday (today).
Zulfiqar, who has been playing consistently in the national competitions over the past couple of years after being around for more than a decade, is now just one match away from fulfilling his dream of clinching his maiden title.
With a series of upsets having taken place on every single day of the championship, Zulfiqar, hailing from Karachi, may still be fancying his chances although his opponent in the final is a former world champion.
Both the finalists demonstrated incredible form and fitness to demolish their seeded rivals with hints of conviction. Asif, from Faisalabad, took only one hour and 40 minutes to rout top seeded Asjad, the gifted cueist from Sargodha, in straight frames with the scores of 73-0, 75-1, 66-21, 59-45, 47-4, 96-25.
Although local boy Zulfiqar took a little longer to complete his victory over Bilal, a resident of Mandi Bahauddin, in the second semi-final the outcome was never in doubt with the former winning 6-2 with the frame scores of 56-53, 123-0, 17-67, 85-76, 14-79, 68-8, 66-37, 81-31.It went to the credit of Asif to have forced a cueist of the caliber of Asjad to complete submission as he went on pocketing one frame after another, virtually finding no resistance.
The first couple of frames were taken very quickly while Asjad helped himself to a few points in the third frame before surrendering. Asif fired a break of 53 in the fourth frame to dash Asjad’s hopes of opening his account.
Asif was in complete control in the fifth frame and he extended his dominance in the sixth frame as well, celebrating the massive victory with a superbly compiled break of 96. Bilal, who was extremely fortunate to have edged out defending champion Babar Maish in the quarter-final the other day, didn’t have the same luck against Zulfiqar.
Zulfiqar capitalised on the weaknesses of his rival who appeared out of sorts for the second day running. It wasn’t a one-sided encounter but there was hardly any element of surprise in watching Bilal bite the dust.
Displaying confidence and maturity, Zulfiqar chalked up a break of 62 in the second frame after narrowly winning the first. Bilal snatched the third frame with the help of a break of 53 but Zulfiqar won the next.
Another break of 52 helped Bilal take the fifth frame but he ran out of steam afterwards with the local cueist snatching the next three frames on a trot and sealing the fate of the match with another impressive break of 67 in the eighth frame.
LONDON: English Football Association bosses faced calls to quit on Thursday over their “shambolic” handling of the Mark Sampson affair as Britain’s sports minister urged the organisation to sort itself out.
A report released during a British parliamentary committee hearing on Wednesday found former England women’s coach Sampson had made racist remarks to players Eniola Aluko and Drew Spence.
A flawed FA internal review and an earlier inquiry by barrister Katharine Newton had cleared Sampson over allegations of bullying and discrimination by Chelsea Ladies striker Aluko.Former England striker Gary Lineker tweeted: “Damning and damaging for FA with total vindication of @EniAlu.”
Black former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright tweeted the FA to say: “Rome is burning!”
FA chairman Greg Clarke, chief executive Martin Glenn, technical director Dan Ashworth and human resources director Rachel Brace appeared before the Culture, Media and Sport committee.Over two hours, lawmakers on the committee pulled apart the FA’s handling of the allegations that pre-empted Sampson’s dismissal last month.
The officials were grilled about what checks were made on Sampson before he became England manager and why the FA was withholding half of an Â£80,000 ($105,000) settlement owed to whistleblower Aluko.
Glenn denied a claim by Aluko that she was told she would receive the second half of the payment if she released a statement saying the FA was not institutionally racist.
Aluko said the request was “bordering on blackmail”.Panel chairman Damian Collins said the FA officials should consider their positions.“Yes, I think they have to look very carefully at the evidence given,” said the Conservative politician.
He added: “The question should be: does what you’ve seen today inspire confidence and do they understand the issues well enough to put in place the right systems to ensure it doesn’t happen again?
“And I’m not convinced.”British sports minister Tracey Crouch said she hoped the FA “learns lessons from this whole sorry saga to ensure that all in the sport and the wider public have faith in their processes and procedures”.“We have been clear that we expect world-leading standards of governance from all our national sports governing bodies,” she added.
SEOUL: Justin Thomas made a slow start to the PGA Tour’s CJ Cup in South Korea on Thursday with a bogey at his opening hole but the FedExCup champion soon caught fire, carding seven birdies and a pair of eagles in a nine-under round of 63 to lead the way.
Thomas ended the day three strokes clear of Marc Leishman, Patrick Reed and three other players in the opening round of the PGA Tour’s first regular event in Korea, which is being played at the Nine Bridges course on the resort island of Jeju.
Former world number one Jason Day is five strokes adrift after carding a four-under 68, while Paul Casey and Adam Scott carded matching even-par 72s in the third event on the 2017-18 schedule.
Kim Whee was the pick of the home players with a 68, with veteran KJ Choi a shot further back.Bae Sang-moon continued his comeback from two years away from the game to fulfil his military service obligations with a one-under 71.
Shrugging off a dropped shot at his first hole, the 10th, Thomas eagled the 12th and birdied 14 before moving to three under by holing out from a greenside bunker at the 15th.
The PGA Championship winner picked up further shots at the 16th and 17th before grabbing his second eagle in eight holes at the 18th.The 24-year-old American’s second nine holes were sedate by comparison, with just three birdies and a bogey, though he finished on a high by picking up a stroke on the ninth.
“On that last nine holes I felt like I had a really good opportunity to shoot something really, really low so that was a little bit of a bummer,” he said.“If I would have parred my last hole, I would have had a pretty sour taste to my mouth walking off the golf course.”
Thomas capped his terrific 2016-17 campaign by being crowned FedExCup champion, and picking up the $10 million bonus that goes with it, before helping the United States maintain their grip on the Presidents Cup.
While he struggled with his wedge play on occasion on Thursday, Thomas was happy with his driving but said he was not focusing too much on technique.“I just swing about as hard as I can a lot of times I hit a driver,” he said.“When I’m driving it well it usually goes pretty far and straight, so that’s all I’m trying to do right now.”
DUBAI: Off-spinner Mohammad Hafeez has been reported for a suspect bowling action during the third One-day International against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said Thursday.
The ICC said the match officials’ report, which was handed over to the Pakistan team management, cited concerns about the legality of the 37-year-old’s bowling action during the match on Wednesday.
“Hafeez’s bowling action will now be scrutinised further under the ICC illegal bowling action regulations. He is required to undergo testing within 14 days, and, during this period, Hafeez is permitted to continue bowling in international cricket until the results of the assessments are known,” said an ICC release.
This is the third time that his action has been reported as suspect. He was first suspended from bowling in December 2014 before he was cleared the following April.
His action was reported for a second time in June 2015 and as this was his second suspension within 24 months of the initial suspension, he was suspended from bowling in international cricket for 12 months from July 2015.
On 17 November 2016, Hafeez underwent a reassessment of his bowling action at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane and was allowed to resume bowling after his action was found to be legal.
Hafeez bowled eight overs and took one for 39 in the match which Pakistan won by seven wickets to secure an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the five-match series.
Pakistan has a history of problems with illegal bowling actions with quick bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Shabbir Ahmed, as well as spinners Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Bilal Asif all reported in the past.
Ajmal’s career ended after he failed to achieve the same success with a remodelled action in 2015 while Bilal’s action was cleared after reassessment.
Under the new ICC regulations, all bowlers are allowed to bend their arm by 15 degrees — beyond which the action is deemed illegal.Hafeez has claimed 136 wickets in 193 One-day Internationals, also taking 52 Test scalps and 46 wickets in Twenty20 internationals.
TAIPEI, Taiwan: South Korea’s Ji Eun-Hee battled windy and rainy conditions to fire a six-under 66 to lead the opening round of the LPGA Taiwan Championship on Thursday.
The current world number one Ryu So-Yeon, also of South Korea, finished the first round in a disappointing 23rd place after hitting one-over par 73.
Ji scored six birdies in a bogey-free round to keep a three-shot lead over compatriot Kim Sei-Young, American Megan Khang and Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand at the Miramar Golf Country Club in New Taipei city.
Ji said she had changed her swing to adapt to the conditions.“I think just a good day. I’m just more relaxed with the weather. That makes it a lot easier for when I play,” she added.
Kim, who had two bogeys and five birdies, aims to pick up her second victory on the LPGA Tour but said it had been a “tough day”.“We got a lot of rain, and on a couple of holes, really gusting wind. It was tough to judge distance and how to take the club,” she said.
Taiwan’s Lee Min carded a two under par 70 with four birdies and two bogeys to share a place with four others and was the best performing local player of the day.
ABU DHABI: Pakistan cricket’s newest discovery Imam-ul-Haq has some very large footsteps to follow in — those of his uncle, the great Inzamam-ul-Haq.But Imam wasted no time in getting started, smashing a match-winning century on his One-day International debut against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, becoming only the second Pakistani and 13th batsman in the world to achieve the feat.
As a child, Imam would receive guidance from Inzamam on the field, his father helping him skip school against his mother’s wishes. He went on to wear Pakistani colours at junior level, impressing in the 2014 Junior World Cup.
Imam’s run of form continued at domestic level and two centuries in the Under-23 Emerging Cup in Bangladesh this year elevated him to Pakistan’s one-day side.“I am proud to score a hundred on debut,” said Imam, now 22. “When I was told that I achieved the honour of scoring a debut hundred I felt more proud to do this feat for my country.”
Saleem Elahi is the only other Pakistani to hit a debut century, also against Sri Lanka at Gujranwala in 1995.It’s not only Imam’s style of play that is similar to his uncle. His stocky build and cherubic face resembles that of a young Inzamam, who once famously hit an Indian spectator after being called “Aloo” (potato).
The obvious difference is that Imam wears glasses — a rare sight in cricket these days — and bats left-handed. But the similarity to Inzamam is significant.“Inzi uncle has been a great influence. Whenever I need help in batting he gives me time and always tells me to be positive, play brave cricket and believe in destiny,” said Imam.
But having a cricket great for an uncle has its challenges, particularly as Inzamam heads the selection committee which chose the current one-day squad.
Imam’s selection was criticised but the youngster justified his place.“It’s not my fault that I am his nephew,” Imam said. “I can’t help that. The best for me is to answer my critics with my bat and I have done that.
“It makes no difference to me because I have grown up in a (cricketing) family. I have self-belief and I am mature and I have played in Junior World Cups and have performed well to win in domestic matches.”
Imam’s century in the third One-day International looked in doubt when he was given out caught behind on 89.
He was trudging back when his batting partner Mohammad Hafeez stopped him to check the legality of the catch.
Television umpire Richard Kettleborough declared that the ball had touched the ground before reaching the wicketkeeper’s gloves, allowing a relieved Imam to return to the crease and complete his century.
“Obviously it was bad feeling,” Imam said. “I knew that I had nicked it, so I thought it’s out and I have lost a chance to score a hundred. But when I knew that it was not out I felt like I was given a new life.”Imam has a long way to go, but his first knock at the international level proved that he has plenty of potential to make a name for himself, just like his famous uncle.
PARIS: Chelsea were grateful to Eden Hazard for grabbing a 3-3 draw in a Champions League thriller against Roma on Wednesday, while Manchester United, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Juventus all won.
Hazard headed in his second goal of the night from a Pedro Rodriguez cross with quarter of an hour left at Stamford Bridge to rescue Chelsea after they had earlier blown a two-goal lead against the Italians.
With Carlo Ancelotti, former Chelsea coach and Roma player, watching from the stands, David Luiz curled the English champions into an early lead and Hazard increased their advantage.But Aleksandar Kolarov pulled one back for Roma before the interval and Edin Dzeko equalised with a stunning volley on 64 minutes before his header put the visitors ahead to the disbelief of the home fans in west London.
Hazard’s leveller allowed Chelsea to hold onto top spot in Group C with seven points, two points clear of Roma and five better off than Atletico Madrid.Beaten finalists in 2014 and 2016, Atletico could only draw 0-0 away in Azerbaijan against Qarabag, who claimed their first ever Champions League point despite having South African striker Dino Ndlovu sent off late on.
Chelsea’s draw also ensured that the five English clubs in the competition all picked up points this midweek, with United grinding out a 1-0 victory at Benfica to maintain their perfect record in Group A.
Jose Mourinho was returning to Lisbon to face the club where he had a brief spell as coach in 2000 but it was Benfica’s teenage goalkeeper Mile Svilar who stole the headlines.The 18-year-old Belgian was handed a start to become the youngest ever goalkeeper in the Champions League and was at fault for the only goal of the game.
Svilar was caught out when Marcus Rashford delivered a free-kick from wide on the left on 64 minutes and he could only carry the ball over the line.Benfica’s misery was completed when captain Luisao was sent off in stoppage time.
Basel, who beat pointless Benfica 5-0 last month, followed that with a 2-0 win at CSKA Moscow, Taulant Xhaka and Dimitri Oberlin scoring for the Swiss champions.Barcelona still have a perfect record in Group D as they beat Olympiakos 3-1 despite having Gerard Pique sent off in the first half.
Driving rain meant the mostly uncovered 99,000-capacity Camp Nou was largely empty as it opened to fans for the first time since a violent crackdown of an independence referendum in Catalonia on October 1.
Those who did turn out saw Pique stupidly collect a second yellow card for handling the ball into the net late in the first half.Barca were already ahead at that point from a Dimitrios Nikolaou own goal and they added further goals in the second half with Lionel Messi netting a free-kick — his 100th European goal — and setting up Lucas Digne to score.
Nikolaou pulled one back for the Greeks, who are still pointless.Juventus are second in the group after coming from behind to beat Sporting Lisbon 2-1 in Turin, with Miralem Pjanic curling in a free-kick to cancel out Alex Sandro’s own goal and Mario Mandzukic heading in a late winner.
PSG continued their superb start in Europe this season as their ‘MCN’ attack all scored in a 4-0 victory at Anderlecht.Kylian Mbappe opened the scoring inside two minutes and Edinson Cavani headed in the second before the interval.
Neymar’s free-kick made it three in the second half, with substitute Angel di Maria completing the rout late on.PSG are top of Group B with nine points, three more than Bayern Munich, who eased to a 3-0 victory over Celtic.With the 72-year-old Jupp Heynckes back in the dugout, the Germans cruised past their Scottish visitors. Thomas Mueller, Joshua Kimmich and Mats Hummels were all on target.
MELBOURNE: England’s women will hope to build on the success of their World Cup triumph and wrest back the Ashes from an Australian side shorn of talismanic captain Meg Lanning.
The all-formats tournament kicks off with a One-day International in Brisbane on Sunday and promises to be more than a curtain-raiser for the five-Test men’s series that begins in November.
England, captained by Heather Knight, are seeking revenge after being humbled on home soil in the previous series in 2015, while Australia are desperate to make amends for their surprise World Cup semi-final exit in July.
“We’ve got over (the World Cup) now,” Australia pace bowler Megan Schutt told reporters this week.“We’ve learnt from the mistakes that were made over there and dealt with the personal issues that came with that.“We’ve really worked hard at getting over that speed bump.”
MUMBAI: New Zealand batsmen hit two centuries to propel their team to victory, defeating the Indian Board President’s XI by 33 runs here on Thursday in the second and final warm-up match.
Kiwi middle order batsmen Ross Taylor and Tom Latham struck centuries to steer their team to a mammoth 343 runs for 9 in 50 overs against the President’s XI, who were bowled out for 310 in 47.1 overs.
The visitors went down in the opening warm-up game against the hosts on Tuesday ahead of their first One-day International on Sunday.Right-hand batsman Taylor (102), and his left-hand partner Latham (108), put together 166 runs for the fourth wicket before both retired from the game on a flat Brabourne Stadium pitch.
Latham signed off with a massive six to reach his ton.The visitors finished their innings with a brisk knock of 29 runs in 18 balls by all-rounder Mitchell Santner.
President’s XI left-arm medium pacer Jaydev Unadkat grabbed four wickets for 57 runs in 10 overs. Later his batting blitz of 44 runs off 24 balls almost took away the match from the Kiwis.
Unadkat hit five fours and three sixes but was caught by Glenn Phillips off Matt Henry.Openers Prithvi Shaw and Karun Nair gave the hosts a brisk start before Shaw was bowled by Santner for 22. Nair scored 53 off 54 balls, hitting seven fours before he was caught and bowled by Colin Munro.Batsman Gurkeerat Singh remained the top scorer for President’s XI with 65 runs off 46.