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Tough task ahead for Irish cricketers

CRICKET: Irish national coach Phil Simmons is facing one of the toughest tasks of his three-year reign as Ireland try to retain their ICC World League Division One title in Holland over the next 10 days.

With his squad missing a handful of key players due to injury and English county calls, Simmons says Afghanistan are favourites to win the six-team tournament.

Ireland take on Kenya in Voorburg today -- with games against Afghanistan, Scotland, Canada and the hosts to follow -- but it will be the first time in four years that they will not be expected to finish best of the non-Test match-playing sides. "It's a chance to look at new players," said Simmons.

Strauss fuming after tepid England slip up

CRICKET: Andrew Strauss was "annoyed" but accepted England got their just desserts as their hopes of a series whitewash over Australia were unceremoniously dashed at The Oval.

A 78-run margin of defeat appeared a fair reflection on a match in which Michael Clarke (99no) and Ricky Ponting (92) shared a third-wicket stand of 155 in a 290-5 total, and Ryan Harris then took 5-32 in England's tepid batting reply.

Mike Yardy's maiden one-day international half-century was England's only individual performance of note as Australia reduced the arrears to 3-1 in a series England have already won.

"We didn't get enough things right," said Strauss.

Thomas 'can't wait' to saddle up for Team Sky

Cycling: When the Tour de France began in London in 2007, Welshman Geraint Thomas was the race's youngest rider and finished next to last in Paris three weeks later.

Three years on, the 24-year-old will roll down the starting ramp in Rotterdam on Saturday as a member of Team Sky, intent on delivering Bradley Wiggins to a podium finish in Paris on July 25.

"I really can't wait," said Thomas, who won Olympic team pursuit gold alongside Wiggins in Beijing, China, in 2008.

"Back then (2007) I wasn't in the race, I was just there to see how far I could get and I eventually ended up getting round. This time I'm going there with a team looking to do something on GC (general classification)."

HOCKEY: The Irish women improved from their 6-0 defeat to India on Sunday with a 1-0 loss to Australia at Belfield last night.

MLB: Cincinnati 4 Philadelphia 3, Minnesota 5 Detroit 1, Milwaukee 1 Houston 5, St Louis 2 Arizona 4, Chicago Cubs 0 Pittsburgh 2, San Diego 13 Colorado 3, San Francisco 2 LA Dodgers 8, Baltimore 9 Oakland 6, NY Yankees 0 Seattle 7, Cleveland 3 Toronto 1, Boston 4 Tampa Bay 9, Atlanta 4 Washington 1, Kansas City 7 Chicago White Sox 6, Florida 5 NY Mets 6, LA Angels 4 Texas 6.