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Friday 22 September 2017

Cricket: Australia to visit ahead of Ashes

IRELAND could provide a boost to Australia's Ashes preparations after agreeing to host their second-string side this summer.

Cricket Ireland (CI) announced they will meet Australia 'A' in a four-day game at Stormont in Belfast from June 14.

That will give the players on the fringes of Australia's Test team the chance to acclimatise to northern hemisphere conditions, with the Ashes due to begin at Trent Bridge on July 10.

CI also announced that Belfast would play host to their final two World Cup qualifiers against Scotland on September 6 and 8.

Ireland currently lead the qualifiers, after four of seven rounds. The top two nations earn direct qualification for the 2015 World Cup.

TENNIS

Rafael Nadal plans to test his fragile knee on the hard courts at Indian Wells in southern California to determine his playing schedule for the rest of the spring.

The 11-time Grand Slam champion heads to the hard courts later this week at Indian Wells and he doesn't know how his left knee will respond.

It follows his encouraging performance in the Mexican Open, capped by a dominating victory over fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, the world's fourth-ranked player, in Saturday's final.

"I started to feel free to run to every ball. That's fantastic for me," said Nadal.

schools rugby

Ballyclare could well have pulled off a surprise by defeating RBAI in the Ulster Senior Cup semi-final but squandered too many opportunities at Ravenhill and lost out 18-9.

The Belfast side will now face the winners of today's clash between Armagh Royal and Methodist College in the final on March 18.

Ballyclare had the better of the first-half exchanges but turned around 5-3 in arrears. They came close to the RBAI line several times but either dropped passes or conceded penalties. RBAI were given a couple of easy second-half scores but their opponents kept up their effort right to the end.

ATHLETICS

Jamaican sprinter Steve Mullings has lost his appeal against a lifetime ban from athletics, imposed in November 2011 for a second doping offence, the Court of Arbitration for Sport confirmed.

Mullings (30), who won a gold medal in the 4x100 metres relay at the 2009 world championships in Berlin, tested positive for testosterone in 2004 and for the banned diuretic furosemide in 2011.

Irish Independent

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