Khawaja, Voges, Nevill earn CA annual contracts

ArrayMelbourne, April 1 (IANS) Batsmen Usman Khawaja, Adam Voges and Joe Burns are among the new names on the initial list of Cricket Australia’s (CA) contracted male players for 2016-17, it was announced on Friday.

CA revealed the list of 20 contracted players, those chosen based on their performances since July last year. Nathan Coulter-Nile, John Hastings, Peter Nevill and Peter Siddle have also earned contracts having missed out on the initial round last year.

While all seven new faces were not named on the initial list of 19 contracted players 12 months ago, they earned upgrades throughout the course of the season.

Players not selected in the initial group of those contracted can be upgraded should they earn 12 upgrade points throughout the year. Players receive five points for each Test match they play, two for an One-Day International (ODI) and one for a T20 International (T20I).

There were a host of spots available this year following the retirements of Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson, Chris Rogers and Shane Watson over the past 12 months.

“The Australian team is set to embark on another busy year of international cricket and we believe the players chosen in this group are those that are right in contention to represent the country over the next 12 months,” national selector Rod Marsh said in a release.

“There is a lot of talent within this group and we have confidence that the players chosen can be successful in all three forms of the game, against a range of opposition, in a variety of conditions.

“Following a number of high-profile retirements, we believe this group of players gives us a healthy blend of youth and experience to represent Australia at the highest level, allowing us the best chance of maintaining our number-one rankings in Test and ODI cricket, as well as improving our performances in the T20 format.”

There is one more centrally contracted player compared to last year, with selectors able to select between 17 and 20 initial players each year.

The minimum value of a CA contract for the 2016-17 season is $270,000 while any player awarded an ‘upgrade’ contract will earn a minimum of $230,000.

Cricket Australia Contracted Players 2016-17: George Bailey, Joe Burns, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Patrick Cummins, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Nevill, James Pattinson, Adam Voges, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner.

Nishikori saves five match points to beat Monfils in Miami Open

Miami (Florida), April 1 (IANS) Japan’s Kei Nishikori advanced to the semi-finals of the Miami Open tennis tournament with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) victory over Frenchman Gael Monfils, who squandered five match points late in the contest.

The Japanese No.6 seed nearly paid dearly for his poor play on serve in the opening set and his unforced errors in critical moments of the third set on Thursday, reports Efe.

Monfils, meanwhile, suffered physically in the hot South Florida conditions but fought back valiantly late in the third set before losing the match in a heartbreaking fashion.

The match began sloppily with three service breaks in the first five games and Nishikori, who suffered two of those breaks, having won just 38 percent of his first-serve points midway through the opening set.

The 16th-seeded Monfils took full advantage of his early lead, eventually settling down on serve and claiming the first set thanks in part to six aces.

Nishikori, however, seized the momentum of the match shortly afterward, dominating the baseline rallies in the second set and most of the third set to grab a seemingly commanding 4-6, 6-3, 4-2 lead.

The Frenchman appeared spent at that juncture under the intense Miami sun, but ironically he responded by producing fine brand of tennis to get back on serve and then hold several match points against a suddenly erratic Nishikori.

The surprises kept coming though, as Nishikori pulled himself out of a 0-40 hole and then saved a fourth match point en route to tying the match at 5-5. He then forced a tiebreaker after fending off yet another match point in the 12th game.

The best version of the 2014 US Open finalist emerged in the tiebreaker, and he swept to a comfortable victory against his tired opponent.

Next up for Nishikori in Friday’s semi-finals of this elite hard-court event will be either big-serving Milos Raonic of Canada, the No. 12 seed, or Australian rising star Nick Kyrgios, the 24th seed.

Friday’s other men’s semi-final will pit Serbian World No.1 and top seed Novak Djokovic against Belgian No.15 seed David Goffin.

In women’s semi-final action on Thursday, Russian No.15 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova topped Swiss No.19 seed Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-3. She will next take on either Belarusian No.13 seed Victoria Azarenka or German No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber in Saturday’s final.

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