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Manassero's time to shine in Omega Blake springs surprise Irish hopes in balance

GOLF: Three former British amateur champions led the way going into today's second round of the Omega European Masters in Switzerland.

Seventeen-year-old Matteo Manassero, only a year on from his amateur triumph, set the pace on the opening day with a seven-under-par 64. But right on the Italian youngster's heels were Finn Mikko Ilonen, winner of the British title 10 years ago, and England's Graeme Storm, whose victory came in 1999.

Of the Irish, Darren Clarke was best yesterday, finishing three strokes behind Manassero. Fellow Ulsterman Gareth Maybin returned from a month's break to shoot a two-under-par 69. Michael Hoey hit a level-par 71, Paul McGinley was disappointed with a one-over 72, Peter Lawrie also shot 72, while Shane Lowry signed for a 74.

Spain gain for Hushovd

CYCLING: Norwegian Thor Hushovd took the honours on the sixth stage of the Vuelta a Espana after pipping a whole host of riders in a massed sprint finish in Murcia.

The 32-year-old finished the 151km race from Caravaca de la Cruz to Murcia in a time of three hours 36 minutes and 20 seconds. Sixth place was claimed by Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), who retains the leader's red jersey and his 10-second advantage over Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) at the top of the overall standings. Nicolas Roche finished 10th and remains in 11th overall.

Blake springs surprise

squash: Ireland's Aisling Blake had a fantastic win over world No7 -- and former world No2 -- Natalie Grinham of The Netherlands in the quarter-finals of the Irish Open at Fitzwilliam LTC yesterday. Blake, seeded No7, proved herself to be the fitter, faster and more consistent player, beating Grinham 11-4, 11-4, 9-11, 11-3. Fellow Irish woman and tournament favourite Madeline Perry eased through with a straight sets victory over England's Victoria Lust.

Irish hopes in balance

CRICKET: Ireland will face a nervous hour or so in Toronto today needing 52 runs to beat Canada to keep alive their faint hopes of a fourth successive Inter Continental Cup title. After the champions had been set a much larger than expected target of 176 to win, Andre Botha broke the back of the chase, but was run out for 61 shortly before a storm ended play with Ireland at 124-4.

GOLF: Ireland made the semi-finals of both the European senior Men and Women's team championships, at Fairhaven in Lancashire and Berlin's Sporting Club respectively, and both faced Scotland today in a bid to reach the deciders.

MLB: Baltimore 4 Boston 6 , Atlanta 2 NY Mets 4, Colorado 11 Philadelphia 12, Minnesota 9 (13 innings) Detroit 10, Seattle 3 Cleveland 6, NY Yankees 5 Oakland 0