Sandhu set to face India in tour game

The chance to bowl against India’s best batsmen will be both test and tutorial for highly-rated NSW paceman Gurinder Sandhu.

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Cricket Australia on Thursday named the 12-man squad that will confront the visitors in their tour opener at Adelaide’s Glenelg Oval on November 24-25.

India will tune up for the four-Test series against Australia with a pair of two-day games in South Australia.

Sandhu, set to be squeezed out of NSW’s Sheffield Shield side, will spearhead the developmental XI attack.

“It’ll be a good chance to test myself and see what I can do against some of the best cricketers in the world,” Sandhu told AAP.

“We’ll also all get a bit of an insight into how Virat Kohli and the like go about it. It’s always good to get a small look at those players at the next level.”

The beanpole, born in Sydney’s western suburbs after his parents moved from Punjab in the 1980s, represented Australia A earlier this year.

In 2013 the right-armer won the Steve Waugh medal awarded to NSW cricketer of the year, suggesting he is well placed to stake a claim for higher honours.

For now, Sandhu is more worried about flinging down the leather in Adelaide.

“Their batsmen will be keen to have a hit and get some time out in the middle before the first Test,” the 21-year-old said.

“If we can get a few guys out cheaply, hopefully it can impact their mood a little bit.”

Ashton Turner, a teammate of Sandhu’s at the under-19 World Cup in 2012, will captain the CA XI.

Troy Cooley, head coach at Cricket Australia’s world-class training facility in Brisbane, will mentor the side.

“I’ve been lucky enough to work with him a few times at the national cricket centre in winter, so it’ll be good to catch up mid-season,” Sandhu said of Cooley.

NSW pair Josh Lalor and Ryan Carters were also named in the squad.

India are set to arrive in Adelaide on November 21.

CA will name a squad for the second game, to be played at Adelaide Oval on November 28-29, at a later date.

CA XI squad for first tour game: Ashton Turner (capt), Ryan Carters, Alex Gregory, Sam Grimwade, Sebastian Gotch, Josh Lalor, David Moody, Jonte Pattison, Gurinder Sandhu, Matthew Short, Kelvin Smith, Nick Stevens.

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Alleged Serbian war criminal receives hero’s welcome on return home

Hundreds of people have turned out to welcome home the leader of Serbia’s ultra nationalist party, Vojislav Seselj, following his release by a United Nations war crimes court for cancer treatment.

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The ailing leader of the Radical Serb Party was greeted at Belgrade airport by a crowd chanting “Victory”.

 

The 60-year-old had been in detention for nearly 12 years, and had been awaiting a verdict for a string of alleged atrocities during the Balkans wars.

 

He underwent colon cancer surgery in December, but doctors say the cancer has now spread to his liver. Last week the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which is based in The Netherlands, ordered his temporary release so he could receive further treatment.

 

Addressing jubilant supporters from the balcony of his party’s offices shortly after his arrival home, Mr Seselj labelled the court a “wounded globalist beast” and hit out at Serbia’s leaders, calling them “traitors” and “servants of the West”.

 

“(The judges) say (my release) is temporary. But it will be temporary only until we overthrow from power (President) Tomislav Nikolic and (Prime Minister) Aleksandar Vucic, our renegades and Serbian traitors,” Mr Seselj said.

 

Both men defected from Mr Seselj’s Radical Party in 2008, forming their own party which won the latest Serbian election.

Leader denies warcrimes

Mr Seselj voluntarily surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal in 2003, after he was accused of leading ethnic Serb volunteers in persecuting Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs during the 1990s Balkans conflicts. He went on trial four years later.

 

His trial concluded in 2012, but the court has yet to issue a verdict.

 

At his trial he pleaded not guilty to nine counts including murder, torture, cruel treatment and wanton destruction of villages. Prosecutors said he recruited and indoctrinated volunteers and paramilitaries who committed atrocities.

 

ICTY spokeswoman Magdalena Spalinska said the trial chamber granted his release due to his deteriorating health, saying it would give him the opportunity to get treatment in the “most appropriate conditions”.

 

His release is on condition that he does not interfere with victims or witnesses, and that he returns when summoned.

 

Prosecutors have demanded Mr Seselj receive a 28-year prison sentence but his release has put that in doubt.

Outrage in Bosnia and Croatia

Victims groups in neighbouring Bosnia and Croatia have expressed outrage at Mr Seslj’s release. Ahmed Grahic from the Association of Bosnian Prisoners of War said it had reopened old wounds.

 

“I have twelve wounds that have not healed yet. I have thousands of scars. Now, the Hague tribunal and representatives of the Hague tribunal have opened and cut my wounds again. I am bleeding again,” he said.

 

In the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar, which was overrun by Mr Seselj’s paramilitaries in 1991, resident Blazenka Posavec called for the 60-year-old to be punished.

 

“He should have been persecuted and punished. He was on trial, but there is no conviction. The town of Vukovar can never forgive, can never forget,” she said.

 

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DCE and Cronk ready for Kiwis in league

Cooper Cronk and Daly Cherry-Evans are ready to face the toughest test of their fledgling international halves partnership against New Zealand on Saturday.

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Both Cronk and Cherry-Evans were on Thursday passed fit to play the Kiwis at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium, after battling flu earlier in the week.

The illness was a further interruption to the development of their scrumbase combination after coach Tim Sheens was forced to cancel training on Wednesday.

Cherry-Evans limped off with a hip injury before halftime and didn’t return in the Kangaroos 30-12 loss to the Kiwis three weeks ago in his first outing alongside Cronk in the green and gold.

He then only trained sporadically in the lead-up to the win over England two weeks ago due to the complaint.

But since then Cronk and Cherry-Evans have helped to steer Australia into the tournament decider, up against in-form Kiwi halves Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran who have had things their own way for much of the tournament behind the monster New Zealand pack.

“I think Cooper and I have improved together, it is fair to say that,” Cherry-Evans said.

“But for us to think we have got it all down pat and all worked out would be a lie.

“We are still learning each other’s games and we are still trying to feed off each other there on the field.

“I’m definitely feeling more confident there, it is just a natural process that takes place in camp.

“As the weeks go on you build mateship, friendship and combinations – they slowly build and improve.

“Things are getting better with Cooper and I feel I am contributing to the side every game.

“But I would be very disappointed if I didn’t save my best for last.”

With Cronk’s regular halves partner Johnathan Thurston ruled out of the tournament with a shoulder injury, Manly half Cherry-Evans will face off in a rare opportunity against Sea Eagles five-eighth Kieran Foran.

“We are not going to shut him down, by just me going out and trying to get Kieran,” Cherry-Evans said.

“We have to make sure we put together a great plan to stop Shaun and Kieran this week, they are a huge focal point for their attack.”

Flu-stricken quartet Cronk, Cherry-Evans, Sione Mata’utia and David Klemmer were quarantined on Wednesday, but they all trained strongly on Thursday and will play on Saturday.

Around 200 fans watched the Australians train in the rugby league stronghold of Porirua about 25 kilometres north of the Wellington city centre.

Corey Parker was confident the drama wouldn’t affect Australia’s preparation for the tournament decider.

“It happened to the two playmakers which wasn’t ideal but we will get into training now and knuckle down,” he said.

“It doesn’t change things too much, we have been in camp for a month now and everything is the same, our structures and everything has been in place for a while now.”

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Fast bowler Ryan Harris in race for Tests

Having survived the toughest challenge of his career, courageous paceman Ryan Harris is now caught between conflicting desires in racing the clock to win back his Test place.

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Harris has one, possibly two, Sheffield Shield games for Queensland to regain new-ball duties for Australia’s four-Test series against India, starting December 4 at the Gabba.

Told by national selector Trevor Hohns not to put too much pressure on himself, the 35-year-old also knows he must hit top pace and form to warrant an immediate recall.

Although Australia were wiped 2-0 by Pakistan in the UAE, Harris denied he could walk back into Michael Clarke’s attack by merely proving his fitness following his mentally taxing six-month rehabilitation from knee surgery.

He plainly admits he’s not up to scratch after two club cricket outings and 27 overs (for a match return of 3-91) in the Futures League, where his angst and knee soreness was evident from the boundary fence.

“I wasn’t happy with the way I bowled last week, that’s natural,” the bustling quick said on Thursday. “I always have those dummy spits when I come back from injury.

“The more I bowl the better I get, it just takes time.”

Harris not only wants better consistency, hitting his line and length regularly, but to also push past 140kmh as coach Darren Lehmann demands.

“Boof (Lehmann) wants us bowling good pace so if I’m bowling 130kmh-125 kmh not going to pick me for that reason,” he said. “If I’m not bowling up to scratch I’m not going to be there.

“I want to be able to make sure I can get back to the form that I had last year and in previous years.”

But here’s the rub. Harris needs more time at the bowling crease but Australia’s selectors also want to take a cautious approach to their ageing swing and seam asset.

The world No.2-ranked bowler isn’t sure himself if he has enough time, starting with the Shield clash with NSW at the Gabba on Sunday, and then possibly another against Tasmania.

“Maybe I’ll need both of them,” he said. “Who knows?

“The thing for me is I’ve had five-and-a-half months out and if I try to get back to the way I was last bowling in two bowls it’s just not possible.”

It’s been eight months since Harris bowled Australia to a series-clinching victory over South Africa in Cape Town on his dodgy right knee, that had undergone a handful of previous operations.

Harris said his rehabilitation was beset with fears he may have been too old to return to the form and fitness required to add to his 24 Tests and 103 wickets, at 22.54.

“I must admit it’s been tough getting back,” he said. “It’s been harder this time.

“It’s the hardest rehab I’ve had to go through mentally and physically, questioning whether I can do it.

“The bottom line is I still want to play and I still think I’ve got something to give.

“I’ve still got unfinished business there especially with the Ashes (defence next year) and I want to make sure I can get there.”

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Hockey won’t harm economy with more cuts

Treasurer Joe Hockey won’t be panicked into making more budget cuts for fear of harming the economy.

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Such assurances came as a major US investment bank cut its Australian economic growth forecasts for this year and the next in anticipation of soft consumer spending.

Mr Hockey is due to hand down his mid-year budget review in December.

It will have to take into account an unexpected decline in export revenue due to a 30 per cent drop in iron ore prices and less tax revenue from lame wages growth.

Also, a number of measures from the May budget remain stuck in the Senate.

But Mr Hockey says the economy is still growing and he does not expect a bigger deficit next year.

“The starting point is that you shouldn’t write off our opportunities to get things through the parliament,” he told ABC television on Thursday.

He denied that was wishful thinking with a hostile Senate, pointing out the government had managed to negotiate deals on the carbon tax, direct action and the mining tax repeal.

The treasurer said the federal government was also working hard to open up new trade agreements in Asia to broaden the market.

“We are not going to do anything in the mid-year economic update that harms the Australian economy,” he also told ABC radio.

“It’s not about panic. It’s not about responding with a whole range of further cuts.”

It was about ensuring that problems were recognised and the next budget crafted appropriate solutions.

But Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the treasurer needed to bring in a mini-budget now.

“His existing budget has sunk without trace,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Mr Hockey also faces the risk of slower consumer spending.

This is the key factor behind US bank JP Morgan trimming its Australian 2014 growth forecast to three per cent from 3.1 per cent and to 2.8 per cent from 3.3 per cent for 2015.

The bank’s chief economist in Australia, Stephen Walters, said consumer sentiment was brittle and the compression of household income was likely to linger into next year, particularly because some federal budget savings had been delayed.

Slower growth will result in the jobless rate reaching 6.5 per cent in 2015, superseding its previous estimate of 6.25 per cent.

“Fiscal savings measures stalled in the Senate may prompt officials to look elsewhere for savings, including at public sector employment levels,” Mr Walters says in a note to clients.

Gauges of consumer sentiment released this week showed a sluggish improvement in confidence.

Figures released on Thursday showed consumers are worried about the inflation outlook.

This was despite the recently released consumer price index easing to an annual pace of 2.3 per cent, comfortably within the Reserve Bank’s 2-3 per cent inflation target.

The Melbourne Institute consumer inflationary expectations index jumped to 4.1 per cent in November from 3.4 per cent previously, its highest level since May.

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Optus turns corner with profit boost

Telco Optus appears to have turned the corner, reporting a profit boost despite 31,000 fewer mobile customers.

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Australia’s second largest telco made a first half profit of $394 million, up 2.3 per cent on the same period a year earlier.

Optus’ profit in the September quarter was up 5.4 per cent as 4G customer numbers rose.

But overall, the company had 9.403 million mobile subscribers, down from 9.432 million six months earlier.

The fall was driven by a decline in the number of mobile broadband subscribers who are increasingly using the one mobile plan across several mobile devices.

Chief executive Allen Lew said the company was progressing with its strategy of offering simpler plans for customers, plus the rollout of high-speed 4G services.

“We’re happy with the way it’s going,” Mr Lew told reporters on Thursday.

“We’re creating better customer engagement through our multiple voice and data SIM plans.”

The number of 4G customers rose by almost 320,000 between July and September to 2.75 million.

Since June, Optus has launched an aggressive marketing effort and changes to its products – including data sharing across mobile devices.

In the June quarter Optus’ profit fell 1.8 per cent to $164 million compared to the previous year.

Mr Lew added that Optus would soon reveal the nature of a new corporate partnership in relation to digital mobile content.

“It has to have information about what’s happening, particularly in Australia and within the cities and towns that we are focused and it also has to leverage off the learnings we have in Singtel’s Digital Life Team.”

IG market analyst Evan Lucas said the 4G rollout had increased revenue by seven per cent, but the company was still fighting the Telstra tide.

Profit was in line with market expectations while revenue was slightly below expectations, he said.

“There is a turnaround story finally happening but there’s always a concern they are having to compete with Telstra to use their own hardware and pay slightly higher rates,” Mr Lucas said.

A fall in mobile subscribers continued to be an issue for Optus in a highly competitive market, he added.

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Losing might do us some good: Proteas

Losing is never fun, but South Africa won’t fret if they fail to come up trumps during their five-match one-day series against Australia, according to skipper AB de Villiers.

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South Africa are using the series as a major launching pad towards next year’s World Cup, which will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

The Proteas have endured plenty of World Cup heartache over the years, with the cricketing powerhouse having never even reached the final.

De Villiers would love nothing more than to tune up for the big event by guiding his side to a series win against Australia.

But he said it could also be a blessing in disguise if his team happened to lose.

“It’s important to know it’s not the be all and end all. It’s certainly not the end of the world if we lose,” de Villiers said ahead of Friday’s series opener against Australia at the WACA Ground.

“Without me jinxing ourselves, it’s not a bad thing to lose a couple of cricket games over here, so we at least know, ‘Ok, this is an area we should improve, maybe this will work against Australia, maybe not’.

“But it would be massive to win it.

“Australia’s one of the favourites to win the World Cup. They are very good in their own conditions.

“So for us to win here would mean a lot of confidence, momentum and belief going into the tournament.”

South Africa will enter the World Cup as one of the favourites, and it’s not hard to understand why.

On form, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla and de Villiers are three of the best batsmen in the world, while Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel form a lethal duo with the new ball.

Star all-rounder JP Duminy, who will miss the one-day series with a knee injury, should be fit in time for the World Cup.

De Villiers said the one-day tour of Australia was the perfect preparation for cricket’s showpiece event.

“I feel we’re doing everything we can, covering all bases,” de Villiers said.

“We’re not doing something stupid; not being overly clever or getting too fancy.

“We just want to play proper cricket games.”

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‘Back yourself’: Gail Kelly’s advice for women in the business world

Westpac’s outgoing CEO Gail Kelly started her career in banking more than 35 years ago in her native South Africa, as a teller in Johannesburg .

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She since climbed up the corporate ladder, enjoying a six year stint as St George Cheif Exective, before stepping up as Westpac CEO.

During her tenure which started in 2008, both the company’s share price and the company’s market capitalisation more than doubled. She managed to steer the company through the global financial crisis relatively unscathed while successfully overseeing the $19 billion merger of St George.

She’s also a mother of four and a wife, to husband Allan for 37 years.

It is no surprise then Gail Kelly, is an inspiration to many. She often appears on global lists of the world’s most powerful, but she has never apologised for her success.

So at today’s press conference, I decided to ask her what kind of adivce she would give to other aspiring female leaders.

The advice? “Back Yourself.”

Watch to what she had to say here:

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When Gail Kelly steps down in February, there will only be 5 female CEOs running Australia’s top 200 listed companies.

Businesswoman, Angela Vithoulkas, who runs Sydney CBD eatery VIVO Cafe and contributes to small business radio station, Eagle Waves, says female leaders should be embraced.

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While the number of female leaders may be outnumbered by their male counterparts, some of the world’s biggest financial instutitions are run by women.

Janet Yellen took over from Ben Bernanke earlier this year as US Federal Reserve Chairperson.

Christine Lagarde has been the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund since 5 July 2011.

Angela Merkel has been the Chancellor of Germany since 2005 and was ranked at number one the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list by Forbes this year.

 

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British PM wants greater Ebola response

British Prime Minister David Cameron will press other world leaders including Tony Abbott to do more to combat Ebola, having declared the issue will be at the top the agenda at the G20 leaders’ summit in Brisbane.

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Aid and health organisations on Thursday repeated calls for nations to lift their response to the Ebola crisis, amid warnings the window of opportunity to halt the spread of the deadly disease, which has so far killed more than 5000 people in West Africa, is closing fast.

Mr Cameron, who will address the Australian parliament on Friday before flying to Brisbane, is expected to push for world leaders and partners at the G20, such as Australia, to come up with “concrete plans” for dealing with the crisis.

The development came as Treasurer Joe Hockey on Thursday said Ebola presented a major risk to the global economy, and as health workers on the frontline of the battle against the disease in Liberia made a personal plea to Mr Abbott to offer more help.

The British prime minister, who has been outspoken about what has been viewed as an inadequate response to Ebola, said before he left for Australia that “problems with the global economy and Ebola will be top of the agenda” at the G20 leaders’ meeting.

On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed Mr Cameron would raise the issue with international leaders in Brisbane.

“The prime minister will be pressing G20 members and other partners in Brisbane to take forward concrete actions to address the immediate crisis as well as support for longer-term economic resilience, and strengthen our resolve to prevent future threats to global health security,” Mr Hammond said.

Mr Hockey, during a tour of the G20 HQ in Brisbane, said Ebola was a significant issue.

“It is a risk of course to the African economy as it is to the world economy and leaders and finance ministers will appropriately discuss all the risks, all the risks to the global economy,” he said.

Aid organisation Oxfam said it welcomed the recognition from Mr Hockey that Ebola was a risk to economies beyond Africa.

“It is encouraging to hear the government recognising that Ebola is not just a health crisis, but a serious economic crisis as well,” Oxfam Australia chief executive Dr Helen Szoke said.

But she also warned that the “window of opportunity to bring the spread of Ebola under control is closing fast”.

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Rosetta Mission: Comet landing makes history

The Philae space probe may be almost 500 million kilometres away, but it still managed to stay connected with modern life on earth, sending out a tweet from its new home on board a comet.

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“Touchdown! My new address: 67P,” it said.

Inside the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, scientists who have been working on the mission for more than a decade leapt out of their chairs to cheer.

But it wasn’t a flawless landing for the Rosetta Mission, which has so far cost more than $1.4 billion and taken more than two decades to execute.

Before the Philae probe detatched from its mother ship Rosetta, its cold air gas thruster failed, threatening to stymie the entire mission. The thruster was designed to help stabilise the probe once it reached the rocky and uneven surface of the comet.

Engineers attempted to re-start the thruster. When they couldn’t, they decided to proceed regardless, relying on a set of two anchoring harpoons to ensure the craft stays upright. 

Concern grew when it became clear there was also a problem with the harpoons.

“I’m on the surface but my harpoons did not fire,” Philae tweeted. “My team is hard at work now trying to determine why.”

I鈥檓 on the surface but my harpoons did not fire. My team is hard at work now trying to determine why. #CometLanding

鈥?Philae Lander (@Philae2014) November 12, 2014

Australian avionics engineer Warwick Holmes, who has worked on the mission for the past 12 years, told SBS yesterday that even if the probe landing wasn’t successful, the mission had already taught scientists much more than they already knew about comets and space travel.

鈥淥ne of the most surprising discoveries is that [the comet] smells disgusting,鈥?he said.

鈥淚t smells like bitumen, wet hay, welding gas and ammonia; revolting smelling chemicals.鈥?/p>

Scientists hope to test the theory that water and amino acids were delivered to earth via a comet that collided with the planet, bringing with it two important building blocks of life.

Up close and personal with comet 67P-CG:

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