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Johnston has ball as Ireland cruise

CRICKET: Despite sweltering conditions on a largely unresponsive pitch, Trent Johnston still managed to take four wickets in Sharjah as Ireland completed the double over the United Arab Emirates, putting them on the brink of qualifying for the 2015 World Cup.

The 38-year-old fast-medium bowler took wickets with successive balls in his second over and then came close to getting an lbw with his hat-trick delivery. He then took care of the hosts' two best run-makers.

Alex Cusack and John Mooney chipped in with two wickets each as the UAE were bowled out for 196, and a clinical batting display, led by William Porterfield's 77, saw Ireland home with six wickets and 14 balls to spare.

Johnston's haul of 4-25 took him past Kyle McCallan into third place on the all-time list of Ireland wicket-takers, with 257 victims.

"I had some luck out there and, to be honest, I've probably bowled better than that in the past and not taken a wicket," Johnston said.

Title off Hamilton radar

F1: Despite a surprisingly strong finish at the Australia Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton thinks his new team Mercedes isn't ready to challenge rivals Red Bull and Ferrari for the overall Formula One title.

Hamilton said his fifth-place finish in Melbourne was "a good step for us" considering the team was, at times, two seconds behind the leaders a year ago. And the 2008 champion said he expects further progress at this week's Malaysian Grand Prix.

"We are not title contenders at the moment," said Hamilton, who switched from McLaren to join a team which finished a distant fifth last year.

"We are not at the forefront of the pack, leading and showing blistering times," he said.

Team principal Ross Brawn agreed, noting the team had "underperformed" in Melbourne and struggled to get the balance of the car right.

"It's our view we have a gap to close and we are working on closing the gap," he said.

Hearn blast for Rocket

SNOOKER: World Snooker chief Barry Hearn has cast doubt on Ronnie O'Sullivan's world title hopes, claiming the maverick star will struggle to win a fifth crown next month following his extended break from the sport.

O'Sullivan announced his comeback three weeks ago following a self-imposed nine-month exile. Although O'Sullivan has stepped up his comeback in recent weeks, Hearn has reservations over his ability to produce his best snooker at the World Championships, which begin on April 20.

"Ronnie's problem is how is he going to play in the World Championships?" Hearn said. "The boys are busy, honed professionals. He has not played for nine months."


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