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Flower supports skipper Strauss

CRICKET: Andy Flower has restated his full support for Andrew Strauss' captaincy after the left-hander returned from a tough tour of Sri Lanka.

Strauss (pictured) was forced to answer questions about his position for the first time in what has been a hugely successful three-year reign, but responded each time by outlining his determination to continue.

The 35-year-old is without a Test century in 25 innings and, after a 3-0 whitewash in Pakistan, he shouldered the burden of pressure after defeat in the opening Sri Lanka Test at Galle.

Last week's series-levelling eight-wicket win in Colombo was a welcome relief and asked if he had seen Strauss' conviction waver, team director Flower said: "No, not once.

"Of course we were aware of what was happening around us in the press, we're aware of that.

"But he's a strong man and is obviously a very confident and secure bloke and he's been focusing on scoring runs and leading the team well. He's got a few runs here and he's led the team outstandingly well.

"I'm very happy with him as the Test captain."

Oxford's cox throws in her oar

ROWING: Oxford cox Zoe de Toledo has reiterated her belief yesterday's Boat Race should have been re-rowed after one of her crew-mates broke his oar.

Dr Hanno Wienhausen, Oxford's six man, had his blade snapped clean off in a clash 45 seconds after the race had been restarted following the intervention of a swimming protester.

Inevitably, Cambridge pulled clear to win one of the most eventful, controversial and dramatic Boat Races by four-and-a-quarter lengths.

De Toledo immediately appealed for the race to be re-rowed, but umpire John Garrett ruled the clash had been her fault and confirmed Cambridge the victors.

The Oxford crew did not conduct any interviews after the race as bowman Dr Alexander Woods received treatment, having collapsed through exhaustion.

He has since been released from hospital.

But De Toledo released a statement today urging Boat Race organisers to ensure no crew is ever made to complete the race a man down.

"Ultimately it is just a tragedy that neither crew had the opportunity to display its best ability over the full course from Putney to Mortlake," De Toledo said.

"We are devastated that we did not get the chance to find out what we were capable of achieving in the second half of the race, and many of us will never have that opportunity again."

Ferrer fires Spain into semi

TENNIS: David Ferrer beat Austria's Jurgen Melzer yesterday to send defending champions Spain into the semi-finals of the Davis Cup and set up a meeting with the United States.

The world number five gave the hosts an unassailable 3-1 advantage with a 7-5 6-3 6-3 victory in the fourth rubber in Oropesa del Mar.

Ferrer broke in game 12 of the opening set and asserted his authority thereafter, breaking twice in the second and third sets.

"I'm really happy to have won both my matches and that Spain are in the semi-finals again," Ferrer said.

"I played with confidence and in the important moments I think I played better than him."

Nicolas Almagro defeated Alexander Peya 7-5 7-5 in the dead fifth rubber to complete a 4-1 Spain victory.

John Isner sent the USA into the last four by winning the decisive fourth-rubber against world number six Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The big-serving Isner put his team 3-1 up with a 6-3 7-6 (7/4) 5-7 6-3 victory in Roquebrune, before Gilles Simon beat Ryan Harrison 6-2 6-3 to make the final result 3-2.

Lorenzo smokes Stoner

auto: Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo won the season-opening Qatar MotoGP Grand Prix after snatching the lead off world champion Casey Stoner with just over three laps to go.

Australian Stoner, who had won the night race four times in the past five years, was also passed by Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa in the closing stages and had to settle for third under the floodlights. Stoner put his defeat down to a muscular contraction in his right arm that made it hard to grip the throttle and steer.

Another record for Boonen

CYCLING: Tom Boonen claimed his fourth Paris-Roubaix title today to equal the record set by Belgian compatriot Roger De Vlaeminck.

The Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider lived up to his billing as the pre-race favourite, breaking free with 53 kilometres to go and eventually crossing the line one minute and 39 seconds ahead of Frenchman Sebastien Turgot (Europcar).

BMC Racing's Alessandro Ballan completed the podium. Juan Antonio Flecha was the leading rider for Team Sky, coming home in fourth place.

Britton sets new 5000m PB

ATHLETICS: Fionnuala Britton (Kilcoole AC) finished fifth in the 5000m at the Stanford Invitational in a personal best time of 15:28.22.

The time left Britton eight seconds outside the Olympic A standard of 15:20.00, but inside the B standard of 15:30.00.

Fresh from his Irish and European road best from the previous weekend, Alistair Cragg was back in action. The Clonliffe Harriers man placed sixth in the 1500m in 3:42.00, and fourth in the 5000m in 13:32.76.

Other Irish athletes impressing on the night were Brendan O'Neill (Dundrum South Dublin AC), who recorded a time of 29:28 in the men's 10k, while Anthony Lieghio (Tallaght AC) finished eighth in the 1,500m in 3:49.07.