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China shoot first two golds
Athens, August 14
China's shooters won the first two gold medals of the Athens Olympics on the first full day of competition today as swimming stars Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe began what is expected to be one of the great rivalries of the games.


China’s Li Du rejoices after winning the gold in the women’s 10m air rifle shooting competition in Athens on Saturday. It was the first gold medal presented at the games. — AP/PTI

China’s Li Du rejoices after winning the gold in the women’s 10m air rifle shooting competition in Athens

Hockey: India face uphill task against Holland
Athens, August 14
India launch their quest for an Olympic medal in men's hockey with a Group 'B' match against the defending champions Netherlands here tomorrow, fully aware that a sloppy show in the very first outing could badly dent the confidence of a team haunted by a string of dismal shows in recent times.

Dola, Sumangala face unfancied rivals
Athens, August 14
Seasoned Dola Banerjee will lead the charge as Indian women archers begin their medal quest in the individual event of the Olympic Games at the historic Panathinaiko Stadium here tomorrow.
Sumangala Sharma takes aim during practice in Panathinaiko Stadium Sumangala Sharma takes aim during practice in Panathinaiko Stadium on Saturday. Coach Ivan Yotov Ivanov watches at left.
— AP/PTI photo







A performer representing ancient Greece takes part in the opening ceremony
A performer representing ancient Greece takes part in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. — Reuters



EARLIER STORIES
 
Phelps, Thorpe win gold
Athens, August 14
Michael Phelps made the perfect start to his bid to win a record eight gold medals at the Athens Olympics when he broke his own world record to win the 400 metres individual medley today.

 


Michael Phelps of the USA in action during the men’s 400m individual medley heat in Athens on Saturday. — Reuters photo

Michael Phelps of the USA in action during the men’s 400m individual medley heat in Athens


Athens Diary
All Greek in Athens
"It is all Greek here," is what one Australian journalist proclaimed, maintaining that he was not able to watch any of the popular TV news channels, including BBC, ABC, CBC and others in his hotel room.

Thumping win for Dutch eves
Athens, August 14
Captain Mijntje Donners struck a hat-trick to lead the Netherlands to an emphatic 6-2 win over South Africa in the opening match of the Olympic women’s hockey here today. Donners, the 2003 International Hockey Federation player of the year, dominated the group B match after opening her account with a penalty corner in the sixth minute.

Rower Paulose comes a cropper
Athens, August 14
Rower K.P. Paulose added to India’s woes as he gave a pathetic display and crashed out of the rowing competition of the Olympic Games got underway at the Schinas Rowing and Canoeing Centre here today.

Pandari Kunnel Paulose rows to the fifth place in the men’s single sculls heat. — AP/PTI photo
Pandari Kunnel Paulose rows to the fifth place in the men’s single sculls heat

France’s Frederique Jossinet battles Australia’s Sonya Chervonsky on her way to victory in their women’s extra lightweight (under 48kg) judo event
France’s Frederique Jossinet (L) battles Australia’s Sonya Chervonsky on her way to victory in their women’s extra lightweight (under 48kg) judo event at the Ano Liossia Olympic Hall in Athens on Saturday. — Reuters

Nomura first triple Olympic judo champion
Athens August 14
Tadahiro Nomura of Japan ensured his place in sporting history today by becoming the first triple Olympic champion in judo.
The gold medallist from Atlanta and Sydney defeated Georgia's Nestor Khergiani by penalty scores in the final of the men's under 60kg division.

Akram Shah crashes out in 44 seconds
Athens, August 14
Akram Shah’s tryst with the Olympic Games lasted barely 44 seconds as the Indian judoka was brutally thrashed by his Mongolian rival in the 60kg category event here today.

Bettini cycles to gold for Italy
Italian team leader Paolo Bettini struck gold in the men's Olympic road race today while Portugal's Sergio Paulinho, ranked 279th in the world, gave his country a landmark silver medal.

India at Athens today

Badminton: Men’s 1st round: Nikhil Kanetkar v Llopis; Abhinn Shyam Gupta v Park

Boxing: Light welterweight (64kg): Vijender v Mustafa K.

Weightlifting: Women’s 53kg: Sanamacha Chanu

Hockey: India v Holland (11 pm)

Table Tennis: Men's 2nd round: Sharath Kamal v Chak Lai Ko

Shooting: Men’s Trap: Mansher Singh and Manavjit Singh Sandhu

Archery: Women’s individual events.


Mother to lift lifter’s spirits
ATHENS:
Mummy’s girl Raema Lisa Rumbewas of Indonesia, who ran away from a training camp because she was homesick, will have maternal support when she goes for the Olympic weightlifting gold on Sunday. Rumbewas, a silver medallist at the Sydney Olympics and a gold prospect in the 53kg class here, had threatened to skip the games if her mother, Ida Korwa, could not come along. It was reported that she ran away from her team’s training centre in early August as sports officials pondered over her request. After a stand-off, sports authorities agreed that Rumbewas’ mother could travel to Athens on a tourist visa and the diminutive 24-year-old lifter will compete on Sunday. — AFP

Cyclist tumbles
ATHENS:
World cycling champion Igor Astarloa crashed in the opening lap of the men’s Olympic road race on Saturday. The Spaniard, who won the world championship in Canada last year, tumbled after less than 10 minutes in the saddle. — Reuters



Rain provides SA hope
Colombo, August 14
Rain gave South Africa a glimmer of hope as they looked to escape with a draw in the second and final cricket Test against Sri Lanka at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground here today.

Sri Lanka players celebrate the dismissal of South Africa's batsman Van Jaarsveld, unseen, during the fourth day of the second Test in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Saturday. — AP/PTI photo

Sri Lanka players celebrate the dismissal of South Africa's batsman

Murali out for four months
Melbourne, August 14
Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan will have surgery on a career-threatening shoulder injury on Monday and is expected to be out of cricket for four months, his Melbourne surgeon David Young said today.


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China shoot first two golds

Athens, August 14
China's shooters won the first two gold medals of the Athens Olympics on the first full day of competition today as swimming stars Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe began what is expected to be one of the great rivalries of the games.

After a dazzling opening ceremony kicked the games into action the previous night, the first gold medal came from the shooting range.

China's Du Li scored a near bulls'- eye to deprive Russia's Lioubov Galkina of victory with the last shot in the women's 10m air rifle final.

"It's an unbelievable feeling to win gold," Du said.

Within four hours, Wang Yifu produced a similarly nerveless performance to strike gold in the men's 10m air pistol event.

Despite winning gold at the 1992 Olympics, Wang had earned the reputation as a serial choker after twice being pipped for first place in the 1996 and 2000 games.

But the veteran Chinese shooter was not to be denied for a third time, scoring high with his last shot to finish with a total of 690 points, fractionally ahead of Mikhail Nestruev as Russia were again left with the silver medal.

China therefore made the perfect start in their quest to repeat their performance of the 2000 Sydney Olympics when they finished third in the medals table with 28 golds.

American phenomenon Phelps, 19, eased through his Olympic opener in the swimming pool, launching his drive for a record-equalling seven gold medals by posting the fastest qualifying time in the 400m individual medley.

Japan's double world champion Kosuke Kitajima made a sensational start, setting an Olympic record of 1 minute 0.03seconds in the 100m breaststroke heats.

"My coach told me to just concentrate on my strokes, and I did," said Kitajima. "I was thinking only about the rhythm."

British rower Matthew Pinsent eased into his attempt to win a fourth Olympic gold medal when his coxless four won their heat to qualify for the semifinal.

The British crew of Pinsent, Olympic champion James Cracknell, Steve Williams and Ed Coode finished almost two seconds ahead of second-placed Italy.

"We were confident coming into the regatta and today has added to that," said Pinsent.

The dazzling opening ceremony went off without a hitch on Friday and helped soothe concerns about the most highly guarded games in history, but the spectre of drugs still hung over the event.

Greece's superstar sprinter Kostadinos Kenteris, the reigning Olympic 200m champion, and his training partner Ekaterini Thanou were recovering from a motorcycle accident as the host nation's Olympics officials met to discuss whether to kick them out of the games.

The Greek press had turned against the man whose rare but spectacular appearances on the track had made him a hero in his homeland but an enigma elsewhere. Many newspapers also called for Thanou, the silver medallist in the women's 100m in Sydney, to be punished.

"No more humiliation for our country: the Greek Olympic Committee must have their heads if they're guilty," sports daily Filathlos said.

The Greek organisers confirmed Kenteris was among the original choices to light the Olympic flame, but that honour went instead to 1996 windsurfing gold medallist Nikolaos Kaklamanakis. — AFP
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Hockey: India face uphill task against Holland

Athens, August 14
India launch their quest for an Olympic medal in men's hockey with a Group 'B' match against the defending champions Netherlands here tomorrow, fully aware that a sloppy show in the very first outing could badly dent the confidence of a team haunted by a string of dismal shows in recent times.

Although the Indians face a daunting task to put it across their fancied opponents, aiming to win the coveted gold medal for a third successive, the team will be keen to put up a spirited show which could hold them in good stead in the subsequent pool matches.

The team's build-up for the mega event has hardly been inspiring but they are still considered a dangerous side which has the capability of springing a surprise though it remains to be seen if they can really come good when it matters the most.

Clearly, the Indians have their task cut out and although they will step onto the turf at the Helliniko Sports Complex believing that they can beat the Dutch, they would also be conscious of the fact that keeping the margin of defeat low would also play an important part if they hoped to secure a berth in the semi-finals.

The injury to young Sandeep Singh, the lone drag flicker in the team, a few days back in Germany, has been a cause of concern for the team think tank. Though Sandeep has recovered sufficiently from his hand injury to be on the bench for the crucial match tomorrow his effectiveness could be greatly reduced.

The penalty corner conversions has been the weak link for the team and it was, therefore, quite understandable that Sandeep's injury has been giving the coaching staff something to worry about.

"Sandeep has recovered from the injury. He will be there in the starting list tomorrow," Indian Hockey Federation secretary K Jothikumaran said.

India's track record against the Dutch in recent times has hardly been encouraging and new coach Gerhard Rach will have to put a new strategy in place to counter their speedy opponents who have been in top form ever since for Australian star Terry Walsh took over the coaching reins.

The two teams have played each other five times this year -- including the Test series in Hyderabad in February -- with India having failed to win even one game. They were thrashed 5-2 in the last encounter in the four-nation tournament in Amstelveen.

The Indians had an extensive tune-up for the mega event which included a special training programme in the USA and Germany and it is now left to the players to deliver the goods in the Olympics where India reigned supreme from 1924-64, a period which brought as many as seven gold medals for the country.

They have a new coaching panel with Oliver Kurtz of Germany and Jagbir Singh assisting Rach after Rajinder Singh was unceremoniously sacked barely a few weeks before the Olympics. — PTI
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Dola, Sumangala face unfancied rivals

Tarundeep Rai practices in Panathinaiko Stadium
Tarundeep Rai practices in Panathinaiko Stadium on Saturday for competition to begin on Sunday. — AP/PTI photo

Athens, August 14
Seasoned Dola Banerjee will lead the charge as Indian women archers begin their medal quest in the individual event of the Olympic Games at the historic Panathinaiko Stadium here tomorrow.

In what would surely be a good news for the countrymen back home, Banerjee and Sumangala Sharma would face lower ranked opponents in the opening elimination round in a discipline where the Indian eves are making their maiden appearance.

The creditable showing by the duo has offset the dismal performance of Reena Kumari and helped the Indians set up first knockout round clash opposite a comparatively weak Great Britain in the team event scheduled for August 20.

Before the departure for Athens, the Indian team management had been banking mainly on the two team events to bring Olympic medal glory to India.

However, in the men’s team event, slated to be held on August 21, the Indians would have to face the might of Australia, placed second in FITA world rating.

The Aussies finished a collective seventh in the ranking round and may pose a tough challenge to the Indian troika of Tarundeep Rai, Satyadev Prasad and Majhi Sawaiya.

The Indians were placed two notches lower than the Kangaroos in the ranking round.

On the distaff side, Banerjee, who ended 13th with 642 points in the ranking round on Thursday, would engage in a clash of arrows with the much lower rated Jean Lewis Kirstin of Russia in the first individual knockout round.

Kirstin, in her late teens, obtained the 52nd position in the ranking round.

Sumangala Sharma, the youngest player in the Indian side, has also got a favourable draw, a match against Chen Li Ju of Chinese Taipei after culling 638 points for a 20th place finish in the ranking preliminaries.

However, Reena Kumari, who has been representing the country for the last four years, finished a poor 43rd with a score of 620 and is now up against Georgia’s Esebu Kristine. The Georgian girl was way ahead of Reena in the ranking preliminaries, where she got the 22nd position culling 636 points.

The Indian men, who participated in three early editions of the Games in Seoul (1988), Bercelona (1992) and Atlanta (1996) before missing out on a berth in the previous Games at Sidney, have a mixed draw in the individual knock-out which would start on Monday.

Tarundeep Rai, who bagged an individual gold at the Bangkok Asian Grand Prix in February, finished 32nd in the ranking round, and is slated to take on close rival Karageorgiou Alexandra of Greece in the first round. The host archer finished one rank below the 25-year-old Rai in the rankers. — PTI
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Phelps, Thorpe win gold

Athens, August 14
Michael Phelps made the perfect start to his bid to win a record eight gold medals at the Athens Olympics when he broke his own world record to win the 400 metres individual medley today.

The American teenager pulled away from his rivals to win the gold in four minutes 08.26 seconds to shave 0.15 seconds off the previous mark of 4:08.41 which he set in California last month.

Erik Vendt finished second in 4:11.81 to complete a US one-two while Hungary's Laszlo Cseh took the bronze in 4:12.15.

He was just 0.01 outside his world record after the butterfly but made up a lot of time on the backstroke to give himself enough space to finish inside.

Australia's Ian Thorpe also successfully defended his 400 metres freestyle gold medal. The 21-year-old won in a time of three minutes 43.10 seconds, just outside his own world record and just ahead of his compatriot Grant Hackett, who finished second in 3:43.36. American Klete Keller who was third in 3:44.11.

Spitz won four individual and three relay gold medals at the 1972 Munich games but Phelps is trying to go one better by entering five individual events plus the three relays.

Vendt, 1500 metres freestyle bronze medallist at last year's world championships, came through on the final freestyle leg to snatch the silver from 18-year-old European champion Cseh.

Cseh, who needed an operation for a broken bone in his right foot last month, took silver behind Phelps at the 2003 world championships in Barcelona.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's Yana Klochkova confirmed her position as the world's best all-round female swimmer when she retained her 400m individual medley title. The 22-year-old fought off a great challenge from American Kaitlin Sandeno to win gold in four minutes 34.83 seconds, just outside the world record of 4:33.59 she set in winning her first Olympic title in Sydney.

Klochkova became the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic 400m individual medley gold medals but was pushed all the way by Sandeno who took the silver in 4:34.95. Georgina Bardach of Argentina getting the bronze in 4:37.51.

Katie Hoff of the USA, ranked No 1 in the world heading into the Olympics, failed to reach the final after finishing 17th in the morning heats.

Australia won the women's Olympic 4x100m freestyle relay title for only the second time in nearly 50 years, breaking the world record in the process.

Alice Mills, Libby Lenton, Petria Thomas and Jodie Henry clocked three minutes 35.94 seconds to beat the mark of 3:36.00 set by a German quartet at the European championships in Berlin in July 2002.

The Americans, who had won the event at the last three Olympics and were last beaten at the 1988 Seoul games by East Germany, had to settle for silver in 3:36.39 and the Netherlands took bronze in 3:37.59. — Reuters
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Athens Diary
All Greek in Athens
Prabhjot Singh

"It is all Greek here," is what one Australian journalist proclaimed, maintaining that he was not able to watch any of the popular TV news channels, including BBC, ABC, CBC and others in his hotel room.

All he and other visitors to this ancient birth place of Olympics could watch in their hotel rooms, rented apartments and anchored ships is only Greek channels. The only exception has been CNN.

Though English is spoken almost everywhere here, yet most people, including volunteers take a while to understand you. There are not many English newspapers here either. Two of the daily tabloids popular with Olympic revelers besides media are Metro and Sport. Both are bilingual publications, brought out specially for the Olympics.

Another popular English publication in the Main Press Centre and other Olympic venues is "Around the Rings", an illustrated eight-page daily bulletin.

Though the Greeks plan to put up 20,000 hours of telecast during the games here, most productions are in Greek.

Road signs are both in Greek and English. Most of the bus and train drivers can speak English but not fluently.

Most of the Indians settled here can speak Greek fluently. But when it comes to reading or writing the local language, they falter. For them Athens is Greece. Interestingly, every 12th man here is a foreigner.

What Greeks have in common with Indians is their laidback life style. Most prefer to do their things at the last minute. While there had been no takers for tickets since the start of sales last year, there are long queues at each centre now.

In fact, yesterday most of the roads, streets and public places were closed for the opening ceremony. Today competitions started at 20 venues with seven medals being decided After the successful and peaceful conduct of the opening ceremony, those apprehending a terrorist strike are having a change of mind now. Security, however, will continue to be tight.

While Greek officials maintain that the $ 230 million command and control centre is operational, it has been one of the infrastructural projects that faced delays resulting in criticism about testing the systems.
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Thumping win for Dutch eves

Athens, August 14
Captain Mijntje Donners struck a hat-trick to lead the Netherlands to an emphatic 6-2 win over South Africa in the opening match of the Olympic women’s hockey here today.

Donners, the 2003 International Hockey Federation player of the year, dominated the group B match after opening her account with a penalty corner in the sixth minute.

The 30-year-old added one more goal in the first half, which ended with the Dutch 5-1 up, and then scored soon after the interval with a scoop from the right of the circle.

Ageeth Boomgaardt, Fatima Moreira and Maartje Scheepstra were the other scorers for the Dutch, who are strong gold medal contenders after winning the bronze at the Sydney games four years ago.

Jenny Wilson scored once in each half for South Africa, playing in only their second Olympic competition after finishing 10th at Sydney.

“It is nice to get a four-goal difference in the first match, but we should not have allowed them to get the second goal,” said Donners, a veteran of 229 internationals.

Defending champions Australia, Germany and South Korea are the other teams in group B with the top two qualifying for the semi-finals.

The match began 10 minutes late because the vehicle carrying the umpires arrived just 15 minutes before the start.

“They should have been here at least 45 minutes before time,” said the competition’s media manager Nick Irvine. “I am told the driver overslept after last night’s opening ceremony.”

In the second match, China beat Japan 3-0 in a neat, tactical game typical of the rapidly rising Asian teams.

Deadly sharp passes and clean-cut tackling made for some stunning field play and both teams had good shots at goal but Japan could not make it past China’s crack goalkeeper Yali Nie. — AFP, Reuters
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Rower Paulose comes a cropper

Athens, August 14
Rower K.P. Paulose added to India’s woes as he gave a pathetic display and crashed out of the rowing competition of the Olympic Games got underway at the Schinas Rowing and Canoeing Centre here today.

Qualifying through Asian Championship does not mean that one must take part in Olympics and Paulose must have realised this as he put up a very dismal show.

Paulose was no match to the highly competitive field on the sea and the Indian found himself out of depth as he finished fifth and last in the third heat of the 2,000m single sculls event. The race was won by Argentine Santiago Fernandez, who timed seven minutes 22.52 seconds, more than three quarters of a minute ahead of the 27-year-old Paulose, who finished last. Raphael Hartl of Germany was second in 7:34.61, while Vladimir Chernenko of Uzbekistan was third in 7:38.27. Algerian Aich Mohammed was fourth 7:41.85.

Paulose after the first 500m over which he was ahead of Mohammed of Algeria, began struggling in the second half as he fell behind by a huge margin. In each of the next three segments of 500m each after the first, he was last.

He timed 8:00.11. Paulose will get to race in the repechage on August 16, but on current form, it is doubtful if he will be able to make an impression. — UNI
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Nomura first triple Olympic judo champion

Athens August 14
Tadahiro Nomura of Japan ensured his place in sporting history today by becoming the first triple Olympic champion in judo.

The gold medallist from Atlanta and Sydney defeated Georgia's Nestor Khergiani by penalty scores in the final of the men's under 60kg division. The other favourites fell by the wayside except world champion Choi Min-ho of South Korea, who fought back from a quarter-final defeat to take bronze against Iran's Masoud Hajiakhondzadeh.

The man who ended Choi's gold medal hopes, Mongolia's Khashbaatar Tsagaanbaatar, joined him on the podium after edging out Spain's Kenji Uematsu. — Reuters
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Akram Shah crashes out in 44 seconds

Athens, August 14
Akram Shah’s tryst with the Olympic Games lasted barely 44 seconds as the Indian judoka was brutally thrashed by his Mongolian rival in the 60kg category event here today.

The Indian had no clue as the fast, agile and superior Mongolian judoka Khashbaatar Tsagaanbaatar eliminated him from the competition in the round of 16 at the Ano Liossia Olympic Hall.

The 23-year-old Shah, who had a bye in the first round, lost without even putting up a semblance of a fight and could not last in the arena for even a minute. He lost by an Ippon.

But in the next bout, a repechage, Shah redeemed himself with a win over American Taraje Williams-Murray, who had beaten Yekutiel Gal of Israel in his first bout.

Akram, who had qualified for the event during the Asian Judo Championships held at Almaty, Kazakhstan, in May this year, outclassed the 19-year-old Williams-Murray in just 49 seconds with an Ippon and a Waz-ari. — UNI
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Bettini cycles to gold for Italy

Italian team leader Paolo Bettini struck gold in the men's Olympic road race today while Portugal's Sergio Paulinho, ranked 279th in the world, gave his country a landmark silver medal.

Belgium's Axel Merckx, son of five-times Tour de France winner Eddy, took bronze but defending Olympic champion Jan Ullrich of Germany could finish only in the chasing pack.

World champion Igor Astarloa of Spain fell on the opening lap of the 17-lap 224.4km course, which wound through central Athens and took the riders under the shadow of the Acropolis.

German Andreas Kloeden, a bronze medallist in Sydney four years ago and second in this year's Tour, failed to finish, as did Russian champion Viatcheslav Ekimov, who will defend his Olympic time trial title next week.

Bettini's gold comes a year after he won the World Cup overall rankings a second consecutive time and is just reward for the likeable 30-year-old, knicknamed ''The Cricket''.

After spending most of the race in the peleton, protected by his strong Italian team, he broke with 30km to go and was followed only by Paulinho.

They opened a 40-second gap by the final lap of the 13.2km course and while Merckx made a late effort to reel them in, the Italian took gold with room to spare.

Paulinho's silver is Portugal's first medal in the history of Olympic road racing.

Ullrich's failure to win means that none of the 16 winners of this race over the past 108 years have managed to defend their title successfully. — Reuters
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Rain provides SA hope

Colombo, August 14
Rain gave South Africa a glimmer of hope as they looked to escape with a draw in the second and final cricket Test against Sri Lanka at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground here today.

Just eight overs were possible on the penultimate day as South Africa were set a 493-run target by the home side, who declared at their overnight 211 for 4 after gaining a 281-run first innings lead.

South Africa were 21 for 2 at close as the Sri Lankan new-ball bowlers came up with incisive spells. But rain, which had washed out the first two sessions, came back to force an early closure.

Umpires Steve Bucknor of the West Indies and Billy Bowden of New Zealand had scheduled 38 overs for the day after overnight and early morning rain washed out the major part, but rain spoiled their calculations.

Sri Lanka were left with their fingers crossed as they looked to win their first Test series against South Africa after the first match ended in a draw.

Sri Lanka (1st innings): 470

SA (1st innings): 189

Sri Lanka (2nd innings): 211-4 decl

SA (2nd innings):

Smith batting 9

Gibbs c Samaraweera b Malinga 4

Van Jaarsveld b Vaas 2

Kallis batting 1

Extras (b-2, nb-3) 5

Total (2 wkts, 8 overs) 21

Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-18.

Bowling: Vaas 4-2-3-1, Malinga 3-0-13-1, Jayasuriya 1-0-3-0. — AFP
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Murali out for four months

Melbourne, August 14
Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan will have surgery on a career-threatening shoulder injury on Monday and is expected to be out of cricket for four months, his Melbourne surgeon David Young said today.

World record Test wicket-taker Muralitharan has a type of cyst which has caused a build-up of fluid around the nerves in his right shoulder, Young said.

“We have advised him to have the surgery otherwise if it gets worse, it could threaten his career,” Young said. The 32-year-old Muralitharan has taken 532 wickets, five more than Australian leg spinner Shane Warne. — Reuters
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