Mitch Duke scored twice as Australia closed in on a place in the third stage of World Cup qualifying with a 5-1 hammering of Chinese Taipei on Monday.

The Socceroos made it six wins out of six and within one victory of a guaranteed spot in the third phase of Asian qualifying at Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium in Kuwait, outclassing the team propping up Group B without a point to their name.

Harry Souttar and Jamie Maclaren each scored their fifth goals of the qualifying campaign and Trent Sainsbury added a third in the first half, with Duke claiming a second-half double either side of Gao Wei-Jie's surprise goal for Chinese Taipei.

Head coach Graham Arnold called on Australia to be more clinical after a 3-0 win over Kuwait and gave a completely different side the opportunity to capitalise on Chinese Taipei's defensive frailties.

Souttar opened the scoring by heading home Riley McGree's corner 11 minutes in and A-League Golden Boot winner Maclaren got in on the act from the penalty spot after he was upended by Chen Wei-chuan.

Sainsbury got on the end of another McGree corner to head in a third Australia goal late in a first half which also saw Brandon Borrello rattle the post from close range.

Borrello provided the cross for Duke to nod home 20 seconds into the second half before Gao scored only Chinese Taipei's third goal from seven group games with a clinical finish.

Duke had the final say, tucking into an empty net after being set up by Nikita Rukavytsya six minutes from time.

Australia moved five points clear at the top of their World Cup qualifying group with a 3-0 victory over Kuwait.

Matthew Leckie scored his third goal in three Socceroos appearances to put them ahead after just a minute had been played, the striker nodding home Martin Boyle's cross.

Boyle had the chance to double the lead after Bandar Al Salama brought down James Holland in the box, and although his penalty was saved, Jackson Irvine was on hand to convert the rebound.

Boyle sent a shot narrowly wide and Aziz Behich fizzed an effort inches past the right-hand post as Australia ended the half with 15 shots to Kuwait's three.

Mat Ryan had to be alert to keep out Shabaib Al-Khaldi's strike at the near post just past the hour mark, but Australia made the three points safe four minutes later, Ajdin Hrustic's free-kick bamboozling goalkeeper Sulaiman Abdulghafoor and going in off the right-hand post.

Hrustic's first goal for his country – the first direct free-kick scored by a Socceroo since Mile Jedinak in November 2017 – took Graham Arnold's side to 19 goals scored in their past five matches.

Arnold was able to offer game time to three debutants, with Fran Karacic starting at right-back and both Kenneth Dougall and Riley McGree coming off the bench in the second half, while Chris Ikonomidis made his first appearance since recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Australia sit five points ahead of Kuwait and Jordan in Group B, having won all five of their opening matches.

Jhaniele Fowler scored the winning goal moments before the final whistle as the West Coast Fever rallied to defeat Giants Netball 66-65 in a thriller at the RAC Arena Monday.

Samantha Wallace scored 43 goals to outscore Shimona Nelson in the New South Wales Swifts’ 62-53 victory over the Collingwood Magpies at the Ken Rosewall Arena in Suncorp Super League netball action today.

Jofra Archer is focused on being fully fit for the T20 World Cup and England's Ashes tour to Australia later this year as he looks to finally get his troublesome elbow injury sorted.

Pace bowler Archer underwent surgery last week and, as per a statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board released on Wednesday, is to undergo an intensive rehabilitation period before being assessed again in around a month.

The 26-year-old's absence is a blow to England ahead of a busy home schedule in all formats, with New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India all visiting for tours in the upcoming months.

However, Archer will only make his comeback once completely healthy, a decision made with his long-term future in mind as he prepares to be patient.

The T20 World Cup is scheduled to take place in October and November this year, with England then travelling Down Under the following month for the five-Test Ashes series.

"One thing I am determined about post-elbow operation is not to rush my comeback because my primary focus is to be playing for England in the T20 World Cup and Ashes later this year," Archer wrote in his column for the Daily Mail.

"Those are my targets. If I come back before then and manage to play in the home Test series against India – then fine, so be it. If I don't, I am quite prepared to sit out the summer.

"The way I am looking at things is that I would rather miss a few weeks of a year so that I have a few more years in my career.

"I just want to get this injury sorted once and for all and that's why I'm not looking that far ahead or at dates for a return to action — because if I don't get this right, I won't play any cricket. Period.

"I am not going to do myself any good by coming back before I'm fully fit, so I will take my time and do what is best for me and my life."

Archer, who had an operation on a hand injury earlier this year, attempted to make a return to action in domestic cricket for Sussex recently, only to suffer a further setback with his elbow during the County Championship fixture at Hove.

He has taken 42 wickets at an average of 31.04 in 13 Test appearances for Joe Root's side, while he is a key member of England's white-ball squads under captain Eoin Morgan.

England have Tests against New Zealand at Lord's and Edgbaston in June, with a five-match series in the long format against India beginning at Trent Bridge on August 4.

Several players who appeared in the Indian Premier League will not be involved against the Black Caps, while wicketkeeper Ben Foakes joined Archer and Ben Stokes on the sidelines after suffering a hamstring injury when slipping in the Surrey dressing room on Sunday.

Australia have named seven new faces in their 31-man squad for four World Cup qualifiers in June, but there is no place for established stars Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic.

Overseas-based players Riley McGree, Fran Karacic, Kenneth Dougall and Lawrence Thomas are joined by uncapped A-League trio Denis Genreau, Connor Metcalfe and Ruon Tongyik for the matches against Kuwait, Chinese Taipei, Nepal, and Jordan.

The Socceroos, who have not played since a 1-0 away win over Jordan in November 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic, are top of their qualifying group with maximum points after four games.

The absence of Mooy and Rogic raised eyebrows, with head coach Graham Arnold explaining that challenges posed by the pandemic and personal circumstances had led to some players being left out.  

"We've selected a balanced squad that combines youth and experience, but also one that rewards players for their outstanding performances at their clubs over the past six to 12 months," Arnold told the Socceroos' official website.

"I have said many times that I believe the strength of the Socceroos is through its young players. Along with my staff, I can't wait to work with the many fresh faces in this squad as we continue to build the depth of the national team.

"Equally so, we are excited to work with the experienced and senior players we will have with us, as together we strive to advance to the next round of qualifying with eight wins on our record.

"Our extended 31-player squad will provide us with the flexibility and adaptability we will need given we will play four matches in 12 days, and the acclimatisation and preparation period that half of our squad will have here in the UAE will be crucial ahead of the first two games in Kuwait.

"It is no secret that we had originally targeted to name this squad last week. However, some challenges with COVID, as well as some injuries and personal circumstances, have meant some players were ruled out of the final reckoning.

"We have communicated at length with those players and will continue to support them individually as they strive to return to the Socceroos later in the year."

 

Australia squad in full:

Andrew Redmayne (Sydney FC), Mathew Ryan (Arsenal), Danny Vukovic (unattached), Lawrence Thomas (SonderjyskE); Aziz Behich (Kayserispor), Milos Degenek (Crvena Zvezda), Curtis Good (Melbourne City), Rhyan Grant (Sydney FC), Fran Karacic (Brescia), Ryan McGowan (Sydney FC),Trent Sainsbury (Kortrijk), Brad Smith (Seattle Sounders), Harry Souttar (Stoke City), Ruon Tongyik (Central Coast Mariners); Brandon Borrello (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Martin Boyle (Hibernian), Kenneth Dougall (Blackpool), Denis Genreau (Macarthur), James Holland (LASK), Ajdin Hrustic (Eintracht Frankfurt), Chris Ikonomidis (Perth Glory), Jackson Irvine (Hibernian), Mathew Leckie (Hertha Berlin), Awer Mabil (Midtjylland), Riley McGree (Birmingham City), Connor Metcalfe (Melbourne City), Nikita Rukavytsya (Maccabi Haifa); Mitchell Duke (Western Sydney Wanderers), Apostolos Giannou (OFI), Jamie Maclaren (Melbourne City), Adam Taggart (Cerezo Osaka).

Shimona Nelson outshot Romelda Aiken as the Collingwood Magpies defeated the Queensland Firebird 68-65 in the Suncorp Superleague Netball tournament on Saturday.

West Indies leg-spinner, Hayden Walsh Jr, admits he is eager to put a difficult year behind him, with solid performances in the upcoming series of T20 internationals.

The 29-year-old was named as part of a preliminary 18-man squad that recently began preparations to face South Africa, Australia, and Pakistan in a flurry of upcoming T20 internationals. 

The group was named with preparations for the T20 World Cup in mind, which is slated for India later this year.  Despite not featuring in a number of matches for the regional team this year, he was one of 18 players offered an international retainer contract.  Chief of selectors Roger Harper went on to explain that the player’s status as the only quality leg-spinner, in the region, prompted the selectors to include him in the team’s retainer plans.

The player suffered from misfortune last year after being forced to pull out of the tour to Bangladesh, after testing positive for Covid-19.

 “I’ve been having a tough year so far, so the fact that I am still in the plans and I still have a lot to work for, it’s still a good feeling,” Walsh said in an interview with the Antigua Observer.

“I started out the year testing positive for Covid, which ruled me out of the Bangladesh series, which I was really looking forward to. I came back to the Super 50 and I didn’t really do as well, mainly because I’ve been in isolation and I didn’t have any preparation,” he added.

 “If that did not happen, then I probably most likely would have been around the T20 and One Day squads against Sri Lanka, so I feel like I’ve missed out a lot.”

 

Australian cricketers, David Warner, and Pat Cummins could be given rest ahead of the West Indies series, as tensions continue to simmer over the latest ball-tampering comments.

The pair were both named as part of a 23- preliminary squad for the July series, which will consist of five T20Is and three ODIs, but recent reports are suggesting that Cricket Australia is contemplating resting the players, in order to give them more time with their families as fissions within the squad have appeared.

The issue came back into the public spotlight after recent comments were made by bowler Collin Bancroft who hinted that the team’s bowlers were aware of the plan to use sandpaper on the ball during the Test against South Africa.

The 2018 incident had led to bans for then Australia captain Steve Smith and vice-captain Warner and Bancroft.  The team’s bowlers Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, and Nathan Lyon all issued a statement denying any involvement in the issue but another investigation from Cricket Australia now seems likely.

Several players were left discontented after Warner’s manager, James Erskine recently came out openly to say that the Sandpaper Gate was handled badly and eventually the truth will come out.

 

Australia bowlers Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon have called for an end to "rumour mongering and innuendo" around the 2018 ball-tampering scandal.

Then-captain Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were banned by Cricket Australia after all three were implicated in a plot to alter the condition of the ball with sandpaper during a 322-run defeat to South Africa at Newlands in March 2018.

Bancroft, who was caught on camera rubbing what was initially thought to be yellow sticky tape on the ball, was punished along with Smith and Warner, the latter as vice-captain also part of Australia's "leadership group".

Head coach Darren Lehman was cleared of any wrong-doing at the time and later stepped down, while the bowling attack of Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Lyon were also said to be in the dark.

In an interview with The Guardian last weekend, Bancroft was asked whether the bowlers knew what was going on and replied: "Uh … yeah, look, I think, yeah, I think it's pretty probably self-explanatory."

Cricket Australia invited Bancroft to come forward with any further information after it conducted a full investigation at the time.

In a joint statement published on Starc's website, the Australian bowlers stridently denied any wrongdoing and said it was "time to move on".

"We pride ourselves on our honesty. So it’s been disappointing to see that our integrity has been questioned by some journalists and past players in recent days in regard to the Cape Town Test of 2018," the statement read.

"We have already answered questions many times on this issue, but we feel compelled to put the key facts on the record again.

"We did not know a foreign substance was taken onto the field to alter the condition of the ball until we saw the images on the big screen at Newlands."

Umpires Nigel Long and Richard Illingworth inspected the condition of the ball after Bancroft appeared to tamper with it and did not find enough damage to change it – something Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Lyon chose to highlight.

The statement added: "None of this excuses what happened on the field that day at Newlands. It was wrong and it should never have happened.

"We've all learned valuable lessons and we'd like to think the public can see a change for the better in terms of the way we play, the way we behave and respect the game. Our commitment to improving as people and players will continue.

"We respectfully request an end to the rumour-mongering and innuendo. It has gone on too long and it is time to move on."

Marnus Labuschagne will miss Australia's white-ball tour of West Indies in July due to travel complications amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Labuschagne is currently playing for Glamorgan in England's County Championship and Australia's selectors have decided it will be more practical for the batsman to remain in the UK.

Australia will play five T20s in St Lucia and three ODIs in Barbados.

Although Labuschagne has not represented his country in the shortest format, he has three fifties and a century in 12 ODI innings, at an average of 39.41.

"Anyone who knows Marnus understands he would give absolutely anything to play for Australia and he is deeply upset to miss out due to circumstances beyond anyone's control," Australia's selection chairman Trevor Hohns said.

"We worked through numerous options in conversations with Marnus to find a workable solution but ultimately came to the conclusion it was more practical for him to remain in the UK.

"Had we not been in the middle of a global pandemic, Marnus would be on this tour as a well-established member and important part of the one-day side.

"It's an unfortunate circumstance of the many challenges the world is facing right now. As it stands, Marnus has the opportunity to continue in county cricket and T20 games with Glamorgan as we head into the [T20] World Cup and home summer."

Daniel Sams asked to be left out of the tour, which could yet be followed by a limited-overs trip to Bangladesh, for personal and mental health reasons.

The all-rounder tested positive for COVID-19 during his recent stint in the Indian Premier League, which was subsequently postponed due to the worsening coronavirus situation in the country.

Cricket Australia's integrity unit has contacted Cameron Bancroft to ask whether he wishes to provide any new information over the 2018 ball-tampering scandal that saw himself, Steve Smith and David Warner banned.

In an interview with The Guardian on Saturday, Bancroft hinted Australia's bowlers during that Test match against South Africa at Newlands – who were not punished – knew about activities undertaken to illegally alter the condition of the ball.

"Yeah, obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory," he said.

 

Preliminary Australia squad for limited-overs tour of the West Indies:

Aaron Finch (captain), David Warner, D'Arcy Short, Steven Smith, Josh Philippe, Alex Cary, Matthew Wade, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Marsh, Ashton Agar, Adam Zampa, Mitchell Swepson, Tanveer Sangha, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Jason Behrendorff, Josh Hazlewood, Riley Meredith, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Andrew Tye

 Cricket West Indies (CWI) has announced an action-packed schedule for the West Indies Men, featuring three consecutive international home tours against South Africa, Australia and Pakistan, from June to August 2021.

The Test and T20 International (T20I) series against the Proteas, rescheduled from 2020, will start the International summer. The world-renowned tourism destinations of Saint Lucia and Grenada will be the West Indies host venues. South Africa are due to arrive at St Lucia on June 1 and will play two Test matches at The Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, followed by five T20Is at the Grenada National Cricket Stadium from June 26 to July 3. CWI is grateful to the Governments of St Lucia and Grenada for agreeing, at relatively short notice, to host the touring South Africans. This will be the first time that South Africa has played bilateral cricket in the West Indies since 2010.

The July 9 to 24 Australia white-ball tour of the West Indies will also begin at St Lucia’s Darren Sammy Cricket Ground hosting five T20Is. The Aussies then move on to Barbados for three day/night CG Insurance One Day Internationals (ODIs) at the world-famous Kensington Oval. The CG Insurance ODIs provide the opportunity for West Indies to secure more points in the ICC ODI Super League, as the West Indies strive to qualify automatically for the 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup following the recent 3-0 victory against Sri Lanka. https://www.icc-cricket.com/cricket-world-cup-super-league/standings

Pakistan is scheduled to arrive in Barbados on July 21 ahead of their five-match T20I Series, with the first two matches to be played at Kensington Oval before travelling to Guyana to play the concluding three T20Is at Guyana’s National Stadium from 26 to 29 June. The West Indies and Pakistan teams will then travel to Jamaica for two back-to-back Test matches at Sabina Park from August 12 to August 24 which conclude four days prior to the start of the Caribbean Premier League in St Kitts.

This schedule features a total of fifteen T20Is for the reigning ICC T20 World Champions, as the West Indies continue the build-up to their title defence at the ICC T20 World Cup, in October and November 2021.

CWI CEO Johnny Grave said: “Following the successful hosting of the all-format series against Sri Lanka earlier this year, we are delighted to announce that we are set to welcome South Africa, Australia and Pakistan to the West Indies. To host three international teams back-to-back in five territories is unprecedented, and putting these fixtures together was an enormous Covid-related logistical challenge. We must thank the visiting teams for agreeing to travel at this challenging period for world cricket and we are especially grateful to our regional Governments who are playing such a vital role in partnering with CWI to ensure that International cricket can be hosted safely while providing entertainment for our loyal fans and income for our cricketers and cricket communities.”
CWI has also been working closely with Territorial Cricket Boards, along with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Sport in all the host countries, to orchestrate all the logistics and agree the safety and medical protocols for the tour. All players, support staff and match officials will stay, train and play in a bio-secure environment, with regular COVID-19 PCR testing taking place with the assistance of Ministries of Health and from CARPHA.

It is not yet determined whether fans will be able to attend matches in person, however, they will be able to follow live on TV in the Caribbean with Flow Sport, live on radio with Vibes FM and their partner radio stations and via ball-by-ball updates and the new live blog in the match centre on www.windiescricket.com.

Australia will host France in a three-Test series in July, Rugby Australia (RA) announced on Friday.

The Wallabies will welcome fifth-ranked nation France to Australia, with games staged in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Midweek Test rugby will return for the first time since 2012 when the Wallabies face France at the SCG on July 7 before games at AAMI Park in Melbourne (July 13) and Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium (July 17).

Dave Rennie's Australia – who last met France in 2016 – will play a match at the SCG for the first time since 1986.

"France are one of the most exciting teams in World Rugby; they play with passion, flair and unpredictability and have proven time and time again they are one of the global forces of our game," said RA chief executive Andy Marinos.

"They have been quietly building their team as evidenced in their Junior World Cup performances over the past three seasons, and we are now starting to see this translate into their senior side as they look ahead to the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France."

"We have also seen the emergence of our own new next generation of Wallaby players throughout the 2020 International season, where I have no doubt, they will continue to build positive momentum into this exciting eToro France Test Series to be held in in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane," he added. 

"The return of midweek Test matches presents a unique opportunity for fans at home and at the venue, with each stadium in a central location for those attending after work.

"As we navigate our way through the ever-changing sporting landscape that we now operate within, we do so with the continued safety of all those involved in these Test matches, along with the communities in which we play, remaining our number one priority.

"We have enjoyed constructive and engaged discussions with [Rugby Union Players Association] RUPA on the international calendar, ensuring that player welfare and high-performance outcomes can be optimised. We will continue to work with our players to ensure our collective goal of being successful in all we do is realised."

France suffered a 3-0 whitewash during their last tour of Australia in 2014, and French Rugby Federation (FFR) president Bernard Laporte said: "It is a great opportunity for our French team to confront an emblematic nation of the southern hemisphere that has marked the history of world rugby such as Australia.

"We are convinced that our bleus, who feel a growing popular wave of the French at each match, will be keen to continue to perform on the international stage and demonstrate that France is among the great nations of world rugby!"

Eight of England's 11 players involved in the Indian Premier League have returned home following the indefinite suspension of the tournament.

The decision to call a halt to this year's competition was taken on Tuesday amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in India.

After two cases were confirmed among the Kolkata Knight Riders, Monday's game against Royal Challengers Bangalore was postponed. A Sunrisers Hyderabad player then also tested positive ahead of their fixture with Mumbai Indians.

Focus is now on seeing participants leave the country safely, with fears players would need to self-isolate in India and also return a negative coronavirus test before attempting to get a flight.

However, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Sam Billings, Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali and Jason Roy all boarded a flight that landed at Heathrow on Wednesday.

They will have to quarantine in government-approved hotels for the next 10 days.

The remaining three England players who were on duty - Eoin Morgan, Dawid Malan and Chris Jordan - are expected to leave India within the next 48 hours.

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia boss Nick Hockley has confirmed the contingent of Australian IPL players will be moved to the Maldives or Sri Lanka in the coming days.

The Australian government has blocked citizens returning home within 14 days of being in India, meaning they will first have to isolate elsewhere.

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