England ‘content, relaxed, excited’ ahead of Ashes

England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow said: ‘If you can’t get up for an Ashes series, what can you get up for’? (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2017
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England ‘content, relaxed, excited’ ahead of Ashes

SYDNEY: England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow said the tourists were “content, relaxed, excited” as they arrived in Brisbane on Sunday ahead of this week’s opening Ashes Test.
Bairstow, a veteran of the 2013-14 tour when England were whitewashed 5-0, said he would welcome the return of suspended all-rounder Ben Stokes but was confident the squad would do England proud at the Gabba regardless.
“Content, relaxed, excited,” the 28-year-old told reporters at Brisbane airport when asked to sum up the mood in the camp.
“We’re ready to go, we’re excited about the prospect of the first Test.
“We know that we’ve worked hard leading up to this test match but it’s about how we front up on the first morning of the first Test at the Gabba when everyone’s watching.
“(But) if you can’t get up for an Ashes series, if you can’t get up for England against Australia, what can you get up for?”
Vice-captain Stokes has been suspended since being arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm outside a Bristol nightclub in September.
A report in Britain’s Daily Telegraph on Saturday said that police would make a decision over whether to charge Stokes this week, potentially leaving him clear to join the England squad before the second test in Adelaide.
“It would be amazing if Stokesy comes out here. He’s a fantastic cricketer,” said Bairstow.
“We don’t know what’s going on there. It’s completely out of our hands. We’re hoping it’s resolved sooner rather than later because at the end of the day we want the best cricketers playing in the Ashes.
“That’s the series that we want.”
Meanwhile Australia coach Darren Lehmann defended the squad selection for the Ashes opener on Sunday and urged former players to back the team as they prepare to try and wrest the famous urn back from English hands.
Spin-bowling great Shane Warne was among the former players who questioned the decision to include wicketkeeper Tim Paine, while the inclusion of veteran batsman Shaun Marsh also raised a few eyebrows.
Speaking in Brisbane, where the series gets underway at the Gabba on Thursday, Lehmann justified the selections and called for the whole country to support the team.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, aren’t they?” he said.
“I’d just like all our players, ex-players, to be really positive about the Australian cricket team. Let’s just get everyone from Australia behind the Australian cricket team and let’s get moving forward.”
Paine, who played the last of his four Tests seven years ago, was the most controversial selection mainly because he does not even keep wicket for his state Tasmania.
“We’ve watched him keep a fair bit,” Lehmann added. “He’s a high-quality keeper.
“He’s been in good form with the gloves, as he always has been, and he has been very good for us in the T20s.” Few players are more divisive in Australia than 34-year-old Marsh, who looks likely to fill the No. 6 slot in the batting order on his eighth recall to the test side.
“He’s in good form, so he’ll do well,” Lehmann added. “He’s pretty calm.
“He’s grown up a lot in the last few years and played some important knocks for us. He’s really confident within himself.”
Lehmann also said Australia would not be distracted by the Stokes saga.
“We can’t worry about it at the moment,” Lehmann said. “For us it’s more of a case of dealing with the squad they’ve got here.”
The first Test starts at the Gabba on Thursday.


‘Man, I was so surprised’: Saudi Olympian Al-Muawi clinches bronze in Argentina games

The podium for the Athletics Mens 200m: Haruto Deguchi JPN (centre, Gold Medalist), Daniel Huller HUN (left, Silver Medalist) and Mohammed Duhaim M Almuawi KSA (right, Bronze Medalist) at the Athletics Field, Youth Olympic Park. The Youth Olympic Games, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday 16th October 2018. Photo: Ivo Gonzalez for OIS/IOC. (Handout image supplied by OIS/IOC)
Updated 17 October 2018
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‘Man, I was so surprised’: Saudi Olympian Al-Muawi clinches bronze in Argentina games

  • Al-Muawi has been racing hurdles for five years after picking it out as a sport he could excel in at the age of 12

BUENOS AIRES: With his bag packed and preparing to leave the Youth Olympic Park one last time on Tuesday night, Mohammed Al-Muawi was called back to the scene of the 400-metres Hurdles event, in which he had just finished fourth overall. With doping officials thronged at the entrance, he assumed he must have been randomly selected for testing. Instead, he got the news he will now never forget.

The 17-year-old Saudi is an Olympic bronze medallist.

“Man, I was so surprised to find out,” he told Arab News after being promoted onto the podium after South Africa’s Lindukhule Gora was disqualified. “It was my first competition and my first medal, so it’s amazing. This here means everything to me. When I finished the race, I was like ‘OK, fourth is OK’. I put my clothes back on and got ready to leave, but then they told me: ‘Come back, come back! You have a bronze medal!’ I was like, ‘What? How is that even possible?’”

Under a blistering sun and having led for much of the first 300m, Al-Muawi tired as the home straight loomed, crossing the finish-line fifth with a time of 53.05s. With Gora being disqualified for stepping out of his lane, however, Al-Muawi was immediately pushed up a place. Then, having bettered France’s Martin Fraysse’s time in the first-stage heat, it came down to the calculator.

Al-Muawi was 0.37s faster than Fraysse in the first heat, while Fraysse finished the second just 0.33s ahead. The result: the Asian Youth Championships silver-medallist posted a combined time of 1.45.81, making him the third quickest across a field of continental winners, beating Fraysse by just 0.04s.

“It's confusing for sure, but across the two heats, I was second and fourth, so I feel third is deserved," he said, looking down and caressing the bronze medal hanging from his neck. "It was a very strong field in the final. I started well, but the last 100m or so was very tiring and I was unable to really open my legs. It’s been an amazing experience though. Wow. I love the competition, the village, eating the different foods…it’s been unforgettable. And this just tops it all off.”

Al-Muawi splits his time between schooling in Bisha in the south of the Kingdom and training in Los Angeles, California, with World Championships silver-medallist Ryan Wilson. Saudi athletics delegation head, Saad Al-Asmari — himself a former 3000m Asian champion — expects this to be the start of more success not only for Al-Muawi but for Saudi athletics.

“Mohammed did very well,” said Al-Asmari. “He ran very well and it was only in the final 100 metres he had some problems. This result is very good for him and I’m very happy because he is only 17. Also, we have many other talents like this in Saudi Arabia. We have many athletes, but we need good coaching.

“Mohammed has been training since May in LA, which is where we send all our best athletes. When they come back, we always notice little differences: their body shape changes, their technique, endurance, everything.”

Al-Muawi has been racing hurdles for five years after picking it out as a sport he could excel in at the age of 12. He will head home to Bisha now to spend time with his family and continue his studies for two months before returning to LA to prepare for next year’s Asian Championships. The most important lesson he has learnt from Wilson in the United States is not physical, but rather psychological, he said.

“It’s has been a great experience for me over there so far,” he added, his English having improved considerably since his switch. “My coach there has shown support throughout, always telling me that I can do it. Always urging me to never give up. He tells me that before every competition I must tell myself: ‘I am hungry’. He tells me always that I’m a different breed too, so I guess I then begin to believe it — yes, I am a different breed."