| 7.3°C Dublin

Morgan backs Pieter' power

CRICKET: England stand-in skipper Eoin Morgan is backing Kevin Pietersen to help turn around his side's fortunes in the second Twenty20 international against New Zealand.

Two days after losing the Champions Trophy final to India, England were back in action at the Oval on yesterday in the first of two matches, falling five runs short of New Zealand's imposing total of 201 for four.

Pietersen is expected to return to the England team for the first time since March, when he was forced out of the tour of New Zealand with a knee injury.

He returned to the crease for Surrey on Sunday, hitting an unbeaten 177 against Yorkshire in the Country Championship, and is expected to be available for the second Twenty20 match on Thursday, also at the Oval.

"What he brings to the table, probably very few people at the world can. He can take the game away from you at any stage and we saw during the week the way he performed," said Dubliner Morgan.

CYCLING: Alberto Contador has warned Team Sky and Chris Froome ahead of the forthcoming Tour de France: "I've no intention of being a conformist in this race".

Contador is seen as one of the main threats to Froome's challenge to win his first Tour, which gets under way on June 29 in Corsica.

The controversial Spaniard did not compete in the race last year due to a two-year suspension for testing positive for a banned substance and is keen to make up for lost time.

"I do want to be one of the people who make it an interesting, spectacular race. said the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff rider. "Compared to the last time I did the Tour (in 2011) I'm starting it feeling more rested, very, very motivated. I've no intention of being a conformist."

BOXING: Nathan Cleverly is gearing up for the biggest test of his career when he makes the sixth defence of his WBO light-heavyweight title against Sergey Kovalev in Cardiff on August 17.

And the 26-year-old Welshman believes victory over the highly-rated Russian, who has dispatched 19 of his 22 opponents inside the distance, will pave the way towards the super-fights he craves.

Cleverly said: "This is the kind of fight I've been looking for for a long time and it's a great chance for me to showcase my talent."

SNOOKER: World champion Ronnie O'Sullivan has indicated he is set to play in the end-of-year UK Championship as well as January's Masters.

The 37-year-old won his fifth world crown in Sheffield last month, but said he would only be playing 10 more tournaments to satisfy a sponsorship requirement before retiring. He has refused to commit himself to any sort of concrete schedule for the season ahead, but tweeted: "I'm hitting the ball so sweet just wished the UK or Masters was now."