Thunder grab edge on the Sixers in battle for first


Having leapfrogged their cross-town rivals to reach the top of the BBL ladder, Sydney Thunder have no intention of relinquishing their hold of first place.

With the Sydney Sixers thrashed midweek by 86 runs by the Perth Scorchers, the Thunder made the most of their chance grab spot by beating the Hobart Hurricanes by 39 runs on Thursday night.

“It’s where we want to be,” Thunder paceman Nathan McAndrew said.

“We consider ourselves a definite contender in this tournament and we want to go deep into the finals.

“Being on top of the table is a good feeling.”

And an even better feeling because it’s come at the expense of their Harbour City rivals?

“Is there a rivalry there?,” McAndrew said.

“It’s always nice to be sitting above them for now but we’re not too focused on the other teams. We’re just worrying about our business and we just want to continue to focus on what we do well and executing that.”

The Thunder can increase their lead on the ladder by beating the Scorchers at Optus Stadium on Saturday.

When the sides met last month, the Thunder cruised to a seven-wicket win at Manuka Oval.

However, it won’t be as easy in Perth, with the Scorchers having won three on the trot after a poor start to the season.

“They’re a very hard team to beat at home. They’ve got great support from their fans, and I’m sure Saturday afternoon there’ll be a very good crowd,” McAndrew said.

“They’re a different side to when we played them earlier in the competition. They didn’t have (batsman) Jason Roy in at the time, so they’ve got a really stacked batting line-up, and some very good domestic and international quality bowlers in their team.”

McAndrew’s own quality with the ball continues to impress, with his figures of 2/25 off four overs on Thursday night earning him player-of-the-match honours.

“I’ve been around a while but those first few years were pretty developmental,” he said.

“Over the last two years I’ve really come on just as a cricketer in general. I think Andre Adams, the bowling coach for New South Wales, deserves a lot of credit for that as well, and just getting the opportunity to be on contract with the Blues and have a professional pre-season behind me as opposed to the years before that, basically doing my pre-season at grade level … has really benefited me.”

“Last year was a step in the right direction but this year I feel like I’ve definitely taken my game to the next level, and I definitely believe I belong at this level now.”



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NSW records eight new COVID-19 cases, infections at BWS Berala put authorities on edge


Eight new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in NSW and contact tracers are tackling a “concerning” amount of transmission at a bottle shop in Sydney’s west.

Two cases are connected to the Avalon cluster on the northern beaches, five are connected to the Berala cluster in Sydney’s west and one is a household contact of a case in Wollongong.

Almost 19,000 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours.

The Berala cluster has now reached 13 cases and Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the virus had spread easily during short visits to the BWS store on Woodburn Road in Berala.

“Irrespective of if you think it was just a fleeting visit to this premises, we want you to act in a very precautionary way and are asking for your assistance,” she said.

There is a health alert for anyone who visited the bottle shop on any day between December 22 and December 31.

“This is critical and I can’t stress enough how concerned we are about the transmission potential,” Dr Chant said.

“Can we please just everyone in that community respond? I know you can do it.

“We have set up a number of testing clinics and I would just ask that you go forward and just act in a very precautionary way.”

More than 2,000 people who attended the BWS have already been contacted and health authorities are reviewing CCTV footage to understand how transmission occurred.

Dr Chant said tens of thousands of people had been asked to isolate because all secondary cases of close contacts must quarantine until they received a negative test result.

“We will be attempting to contact you, but our records might be incomplete in terms of who was at that premise, so please reach out to your friends and family who you know used that bottle shop and check with them,” Dr Chant said.

She said the most “concerning” aspect of the transmission was how brief the exposure of cases had been at the BWS.

Coronavirus has spread between people at the Berala BWS even during brief visits to the store.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

Genomic sequencing has also revealed the Berala cluster, which is sitting at 13 cases, is linked to a quarantine transport driver who tested positive last month.

She said a close contact of that patient transport worker visited the Berala BWS on December 20 and triggered the cluster.

“A family group who had returned from overseas were transported to a health facility … unfortunately one of the patient transport workers acquired infection, passed it on to a colleague, [and] that colleague had been at the Berala BWS for a very fleeting amount of time, but what we now know is that transmission occurred,” Dr Chant said.

Face masks are now mandatory at indoor venues across Greater Sydney, which includes the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains and Wollongong.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said common sense would apply, but “if you don’t have a good excuse, you will be fined” from midnight tomorrow.

“In wearing a mask, you will be keeping yourself, your locals, your families, your community, and, of course, possibly eventually the whole of New South Wales safe,” Mr Hazzard said.

A $200 fine applies for failing to wear a mask in the relevant spaces, which include public transport, all shops, beauty parlours, theatres and places of worship.

a couple walking down a shopping strip wearing masks
Masks were made mandatory for indoor venues today.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

Acting Commissioner Mal Lanyon said police would initially focus on compliance and informing people about the nature of the orders.

He said fines would be a “last resort” but he urged people to comply with the rules.

“I have no doubt that some members of the community will be asked to put a mask on when they’re either on transport or in a store. Can I ask that you do and don’t take offence,” Assistant Commissioner Lanyon said.

Despite intensive investigations, contact tracers have not been able to determine how the same strain of COVID-19 spread between Avalon on the northern beaches, Croydon in the inner west and Wollongong.

Dr Chant said it still was not known who patient zero was at the Avalon RSL in early December.

“It is actually challenging because [of] people’s recall of when symptoms were onset,” she said.



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Sometimes, the Mick Bells still get the Jungle Edge over super stables


Waller triumphs are overwhelming to the degree that he is a worthy contender for trainer of the century, with the emphasis on his skill in producing healthy, super-fit horses off a conveyor belt as opposed to the hands-on practitioner. Yes, a suit off the rack these days compares favourably with the tailor-made item.

When playing the numbers game, Waller has had considerable opposition from Godolphin, under James Cummings, the Lindsay Park operation under the control of Colin Hayes’ offspring, and the Ciaron Maher-David Eustace outfit. The big outfits are getting bigger and the lesser lights diminishing every year.

When it comes to mass production, John Hawkes, now in partnership with his sons Michael and Wayne, has been successful with horses both impressive to the eye and balance sheet for decades. On Saturday at Randwick’s Kensington circuit, consider their Snowfire, which did it tough out wide last start and showed the benefit of their preparation by hanging on commendably.

However, small outfits have given the industry a balance. South Australian Gordon Richards, who is doing so well with outstanding sprinter Gytrash, is an example.

Trainer Gordon Richards and Jason Collett after winning the Concorde Stakes with Gytrash.Credit:Getty

“It just doesn’t make sense to lose touch with each individual horse for the sake of having large numbers,” Richards, who has a 20-horse limit, divulged.

Preparing numbers is more of a team operation. Big stables here rival those in the United Kingdom and United States, which are more playgrounds for the wealthy, whereas the turf in Australia has never been the sport of kings but of the people, some rich and many poor.

Character has been a mainstay, as epitomised by Takeover Target and Janiak, a taxi driver who took an unwanted gelding to greatness and international fame.

Jungle Edge isn’t a Takeover Target but a 10-year-old mudlark transformed by Bell from a country cuddy to the winner of the group 3 Monash Stakes at Caufield last July ridden by Jade Darose, hardly a saddle headliner.

Salina Dreaming (yellow and blue colours) wins at Randwick for Angela Davies.

Salina Dreaming (yellow and blue colours) wins at Randwick for Angela Davies. Credit:Getty

Maybe Gosford’s Angela Davies doesn’t break records, but she produces excellent results conditioning her small team on goat tracks. Hitting the target is the key – once the policy that sustained most trainers.

Davies pulled off a $26 to $7.50 coup with Salina Dreaming at Randwick last start. Salina Dreaming is again a strong chance on Saturday at Randwick, but hardly at the same odds.

And Mark Newnham, who is more top echelon now with a team of around 80 under his eye, shone with the recent Villiers (Greysful Glamour) and Summer Cup (Spirit Ridge) double– not group 1s but emphasising the knack of having a horse primed for the occasion.

Showing the benefit of the Gai Waterhouse education, Newnham is improving every year. His German-bred stayer, Skymax, is one of the more intriguing Kensington acceptors on Saturday.

Waterhouse is now in partnership with Adrian Bott and maintains her skill with horses, although perhaps not as many as she used to. Many have done well from the experience gained under her. Even Billy Slater had more get up and go after a stint riding trackwork at Tulloch Lodge.

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The ‘autism advantage’ at work and how it’s giving firms a competitive edge


Gordon Douglas spent most of his 20s on welfare, struggling to find an employer who would look past his “differences” and give him a break.

The 34-year-old battled his way through job application after job application but, despite being highly qualified and intelligent, he often fell out of contention when it came to face-to-face interviews.

His problem, he said, was misreading social cues and interview panels that didn’t know how to interpret his quirks.

“There are still those biases that play into it,” Mr Douglas said.

“‘Oh, this guy doesn’t make eye contact, so we couldn’t possibly trust him to do any work for us’.

“It’s been brought up with me several times in exit interviews.”

Now he’s in a top-secret role with the same government agency which supported him through years of jobseeker payments — Services Australia — in a ground-breaking program that recruits people on the autism spectrum.

“There was only one job I wanted, and I was the first pick for it, so, great!” Mr Douglas said.

Services Australia spokesman Hank Jongen said the agency had been actively recruiting people on the spectrum for five years.

“They bring us highly desirable skills — they’re in data analysis, they’re in programming, they require attention to detail,” Mr Jongen said.

“We encourage diversity across the spectrum. We are always looking for opportunities as a model employer, and we keep an open mind.”

Nick Burleigh struggled with traditional recruitment processes before landing his job at Services Australia.(ABC News)

Nick Burleigh, 25, was recruited through the same program and now works in another secure role with Services Australia.

“I can’t really go into the nitty-gritty details, but generally what we’re doing is looking for data science solutions to identifying fraud cases,” Mr Burleigh said.

“People who are on the spectrum do tend to be more rule-oriented, more punctual.

“Especially with this data type role, where there is a heavy reliance on that coding and understanding the logic, I do feel like there is an advantage there for us.”

But, like Gordon, Nick had the same frustrations in negotiating traditional recruitment processes.

“I kind of get to the video interview, and then after that is when my problems happen,” he said.

“You get into a room with somebody then you kind of go into panic mode. It turns into a bit of a mess.”

Big end of town seeking ‘autism advantage’

Both Gordon and Nick came to Services Australia through the recruitment firm Specialisterne, which works with neurodiverse jobseekers and matches them to willing employers.

And Specialisterne executive Jason White said “the big end of town” was coming around to what some call the “autism advantage”.

“One of the main [characteristics] that we often come across, is people who have different ways of interpreting information. And you get different solutions to problems that you could never solve before.”

Man sitting at desk
Nick says people on the autism spectrum often have an advantage when it comes to data-related roles.(ABC News)

Traditionally, that has seen neurodiverse workers placed in IT jobs such as coding.

“We know that IT roles are only going to be suited to a selected part of the population that are into working in IT, and that’s not everybody,” Mr White said.

“So our greatest challenge moving forward is to find those other types of roles that people on the spectrum will find careers in.”

Specialisterne said that banks and large corporations, as well as government agencies like Services Australia, were realising the benefits in hiring people on the autism spectrum.

“We work with the top end of town, who get this. They’re not doing this because it’s the right thing to do, they’re doing it because it’s the smart thing to do,” Mr White said.

Traditional recruitment practices need to change

Mr White said that while employers were keen to hire neurodiverse workers, traditional recruitment practices just didn’t work.

“Some of the barriers that autistic jobseekers face go back to the way typical job ads are presented, they often use quite ambiguous language, and don’t often tell the jobseeker what the employer’s looking for,” Mr White said.

“Things like having to go through a job interview with a stranger and give the best account of yourself in a very short space of time can be very very difficult for most of us, but people on the spectrum can find it incredibly difficult.

“It’s not difficult to make reasonable adjustments to your recruitment process, to be more accessible, to be more available, to autistic candidates.”

For Gordon and Nick, finding an open-minded employer who’ll embrace their differences has been a revelation.

“Whatever the opposite of bullying is, that’s what I’ve experienced here,” Gordon said.



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Liverpool Held By West Brom, Leeds Edge Out Burnley


Liverpool offered the chasing pack in the Premier League title race a late Christmas gift by throwing away two points at home to struggling West Brom in a 1-1 draw on Sunday, as Leeds eased fears they could be dragged into a relegation battle with a fortunate 1-0 win over Burnley.

The defending champions edged three points clear at the top of the table, but dropped points in the league at Anfield for just the second time in 34 games after failing to make the most of a dominant first-half performance.

Sadio Mane opened the scoring with a classy finish on 12 minutes as Jurgen Klopp’s men had West Brom camped inside their own half until the break, but eased off in the second-half and were made to pay.





Perfect 10: Patrick Bamford’s (right) 10th goal of the season saw Leeds beat Burnley 1-0
 POOL / Oli SCARFF

Karlan Grant gave the Reds a warning when he was denied when one-on-one with Alisson Becker.

Sam Allardyce was taking charge of West Brom for just the second time and the former England manager’s excellent recent record at Anfield continued when Semi Ajayi rose to head home from a corner and give the Baggies a valuable point in their battle to avoid relegation.

Allardyce has now not been beaten in his last four away league games against Klopp’s Liverpool with four different clubs.

“It was our own fault,” said Klopp. “We gave them simple corners and that’s the only thing they wanted to have tonight. That’s why it is only one point instead of three.”



Brighton captain Lewis Dunk scored in his side's 2-2 draw against West Ham


Brighton captain Lewis Dunk scored in his side’s 2-2 draw against West Ham
 POOL / Justin Setterfield

West Brom remain second bottom, but are now within five points of safety.

“Every man today showed the spirit this team needs to get out of this position,” said Allardyce. “I saw a lot of guts, a lot of determination and a lot of quality.”

Earlier, Patrick Bamford’s penalty earned Leeds a controversial 1-0 win over Burnley to move Marcelo Bielsa’s men up to 11th, nine points clear of the relegation zone.



Liverpool were held 1-1 at home by struggling West Brom to open up the Premier League title race


Liverpool were held 1-1 at home by struggling West Brom to open up the Premier League title race
 POOL / Clive Brunskill

However, Leeds needed luck on their side as Burnley were denied an equaliser through Ashley Barnes by a refereeing error.

The only goal at Elland Road came after just five minutes when Bamford latched onto a long ball over the top and was wiped out by the onrushing Nick Pope.

Bamford fired home the resulting penalty into the top corner for his 10th goal of the season.

Burnley felt doubly aggrieved when Barnes smashed home after Illan Meslier fumbled a high ball into the box on 17 minutes.

The French goalkeeper was awarded a free-kick for backing in by Ben Mee and despite Meslier appearing to be the aggressor, the goal could not be reviewed by VAR as referee Robert Jones had blown for the foul before the ball hit the net.

“Not only is it a penalty, we put it in the goal and he doesn’t give it one second to review it,” said Burnley boss Sean Dyche.

“Ironically, it’s been taking hours to make a decision and you get a really important decision and they can’t look at it. The referee played a big part, but we still have to focus on our part.”

Defeat sees the Clarets drop to 17th, still just two points above the relegation zone.

Brighton edged ahead of Burnley thanks to a 2-2 draw at West Ham, but will be disappointed to have thrown away the chance of just a second win in 14 games.

Twice the Seagulls led through Neal Maupay and Lewis Dunk. West Ham had been dire for the first 45 minutes, but two half-time changes by David Moyes sparked a second-half response as Ben Johnson slotted home his first senior goal to make it 1-1 before Tomas Soucek’s header earned a point eight minutes from time.

Tottenham can move up to third later on Sunday when they travel to Wolves hoping to end a three-game winless run in the league.





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NBA roundup: Blazers get late 3-pointer, edge Rockets in OT



Dec 26, 2020; Portland, Oregon, USA; Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum (3) drives for the basket between Houston Rockets small forward Danuel House Jr. (4) and guard David Nwaba (2) during the first half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

December 27, 2020

CJ McCollum drilled a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left before the host Portland Trail Blazers turned a late defensive stop into a 128-126 overtime victory over the short-handed Houston Rockets on Saturday.

McCollum hit 9 of 16 3-pointers and added eight assists, teaming with Damian Lillard (32 points, nine assists) to offset the clutch shooting of Rockets guard James Harden, who drilled two 3-pointers in the waning moments, the second of which gave Houston a 126-125 lead with 15.3 seconds left.

Harden (44 points plus a career-high-tying 17 assists), however, had his pass with 1.3 seconds remaining picked off by Robert Covington, and the Trail Blazers sealed the victory.

Christian Wood paired 31 points with 13 rebounds in his Rockets debut, while rookie Jae’Sean Tate added 13 points for Houston, which was without six players due to COVID-19 protocols.

Cleveland Cavaliers 128 – Detroit Pistons 119 (2OT)

Collin Sexton erupted for 32 points and Cleveland spoiled Detroit’s home opener with a double-overtime victory.

Andre Drummond, playing against his former team for the first time since Detroit traded him in February, supplied 23 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks. Cedi Osman contributed 22 points and Darius Garland had 21.

Jerami Grant led Detroit with 28 points and Blake Griffin had 26. Delon Wright tossed in 19 and Derrick Rose chipped in 13.

Minnesota Timberwolves 116 – Utah Jazz 111

D’Angelo Russell scored 25 points, including three key free throws in the final seconds, to lead Minnesota to a victory over Utah in Salt Lake City.

Malik Beasley and rookie Anthony Edwards each scored 18, while Karl-Anthony Towns contributed 16 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots as Minnesota won its first road game after opening the season with a home win over Detroit.

Jordan Clarkson led Utah with 23 points, but the Jazz shot only 38.3 percent and were hurt by rough shooting nights by Donovan Mitchell and Bogdanovic. Mitchell heated up late, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers as Utah rallied, but the All-Star hit only 6 of 23 shots for 21 points. Bogdanovic scored nine on 3-of-16 shooting.

Sacramento Kings 106 – Phoenix Suns 103

De’Aaron Fox recorded 24 points and seven assists to help host Sacramento get past Phoenix. The two teams meet again Sunday night in Sacramento.

Buddy Hield scored 14 points and Marvin Bagley III added 13 points and 11 rebounds as Sacramento won its second straight game to start the season. Nemanja Bjelica tallied 12 points, Harrison Barnes had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Richaun Holmes added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Kings.

Devin Booker scored 26 points for the Suns. Chris Paul registered 22 points and 12 assists, Jae Crowder had 17 points and eight rebounds and Deandre Ayton contributed nine points and 12 rebounds.

Hawks 122, Grizzlies 112

Trae Young scored 36 points to lead visiting Atlanta past Memphis.

Young was 10 of 24 from the floor but just 1 of 7 on 3-pointers, and he also made 15 of 17 from the free-throw line. The guard had nine assists and only two turnovers. Young won the head-to-head battle with Memphis point guard Ja Morant, who had 28 points and seven assists.

Morant, who had 44 points on opening night, was called for a technical foul with 1:10 remaining. After Morant’s technical, Young made the free throw and followed with a basket to give Atlanta a 118-110 lead with 56.7 seconds left that virtually sealed the outcome.

Orlando Magic 130 – Washington Wizards 120

Terrence Ross scored 25 points off the bench as Orlando continued its mastery of host Washington.

Nikola Vucevic collected 22 points and 17 rebounds and Maryland native Markelle Fultz had 21 points for the Magic, who scored at least 120 points en route to winning all four games against the Wizards last season.

Washington’s Bradley Beal answered a 31-point performance in the season-opening loss to Philadelphia with 39 on Saturday. Beal made 9 of 13 free-throw attempts, but the rest of the team made 6 of 15 attempts. Russell Westbrook recorded his second straight triple-double with 15 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists for the Wizards.

Oklahoma City Thunder 109 – Charlotte Hornets 107

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 24 points, hitting the game-winning shot with 1.4 seconds remaining, to lift Oklahoma City over host Charlotte.

Gilgeous-Alexander added nine rebounds. George Hill followed with 21 points, and Darius Bazley finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

Seven players scored in double figures for Charlotte, led by Terry Rozier with 19 points and P.J. Washington with 18 to go with eight rebounds. Devonte’ Graham and Miles Bridges chipped in 14 points apiece, with Graham added 10 assists.

Philadelphia 76ers 109 – New York Knicks 89

Joel Embiid scored a game-high 27 points and converted a go-ahead traditional three-point play to highlight a game-turning, 14-point second-quarter run as Philadelphia defeated host New York.

Embiid started the 14-0 run with a free throw and scored six points during the surge, which came immediately after the Knicks mounted a 9-0 run to match their biggest lead at 45-40.

Embiid also had 10 rebounds as the 76ers won their second straight to open the season. Seth Curry and Tobias Harris each scored 17 points while Ben Simmons added 15 points and nine rebounds. Julius Randle led the Knicks with 25 points, and Alec Burks chipped in 22 off the bench.

Indiana Pacers 125 – Chicago Bulls 106

Domantas Sabonis had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists as Indiana shrugged off a slow start with two huge scoring runs in an easy victory at Chicago.

T.J. Warren added 23 points and Victor Oladipo had 22 as the Pacers earned their 10th consecutive victory over the Bulls going back to the 2018-19 season. The Pacers reeled off a 21-0 run in the second quarter and an 18-0 run to open the second half.

Zach LaVine scored 17 points and Lauri Markkanen added 16 points with nine rebounds for the Bulls, who trailed 99-71 after three quarters.

San Antonio Spurs 119 – Toronto Raptors 114

DeMar DeRozan scored 27 points, including a key 3-pointer in the final minute, as San Antonio rallied and then held off visiting Toronto.

The Raptors led 114-110 after Fred VanVleet’s 26-foot 3-pointer with 2:07 to play but San Antonio rallied on a 3-pointer by DeRozan and a putback layup by LaMarcus Aldridge with 29.9 seconds remaining after two offensive rebounds by the Spurs.

Two free throws by Rudy Gay with 12 seconds left expanded the lead. After a timeout and a missed 3-pointer by VanVleet, Keldon Johnson secured the win for San Antonio with a pair of free throws with 1.1 seconds left. VanVleet also finished with 27 points to lead the Raptors.

–Field Level Media





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‘Cutting edge’ film studio establishes in our region



A NEW film production company that specialises in virtual reality films has open up in Byron shire.

New Canvas is the brainchild of CEO and executive producer Nathan Anderson, an Australian with an impressive catalogue of films he’s worked on, including The Matrix.

He has 20 years experience in tech start-ups and large media companies including Disney, Foxtel, and NBC Universal, developing and delivering projects across diverse digital platforms.

He was also the co-founder of VR studio Start Beyond, which produced titles such as Awake Episode One, Wentworth VR, Atlas Obscura VR and VR Noir, in partnership with Animal Logic, Microsoft and Fremantle.

Mr Anderson said the company will mostly work on VR projects.

“New Canvas is purely focused on entertainment projects,” he said.

“We’ll be working entirely in immersive media, mostly virtual reality, but also in some augmented reality, and we are looking at how storytelling and entertainment formats will evolve and adapt for this media.

“With VR the story happens all around you, not just on a frame in front of you, so the business will be experimenting with different techniques for adapting storytelling into this media and allowing audiences to control and interact with the action.”

New Canvas is working on two new VR productions: Lustration, a collaboration with Ryan Griffen, the creator of Cleverman (ABC/Sundance), and a stage-opera-to-VR- adaptation working with theatre and TV director Leticia Caceres.

Mr Anderson said the establishment of a dedicated immersive media studio will fast-track the evolution of Australian VR content for an entertainment audience.

“Byron Bay is a fertile space for creative thinking and has a lot of great talent in all disciplines of media and technology,” he said.

“Over and above just an attractive filming location, this area has the potential to really contribute on a global scale. New Canvas aims to build on the work already underway to make this area a sustainable, vibrant and important media industry hub.”

Screenworks CEO Ken Crouch said the establishment of New Canvas in the Northern

Rivers is a win for the region.

“It’s really exciting to have this cutting-edge VR entertainment company based in Byron Bay, headed by an industry leader whose work over the last decade has been recognised internationally as best in class across VR, transmedia and multiplatform production”, he said.

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PM says vaccine ‘must be safe’, Sydney ‘right on the edge’



“It’s fair to say that the situation in Sydney is right on the edge in Christmas,” Dr Moy told News Corp.“On the plus side is great contact tracing, that QR codes have helped, and that most cases are linked and localised to Northern Beaches, and no one is turning in hospital up really sick from COVID,” he said. However he warned “gaping holes in information regarding the initial source of the infection” and the possibility that there are other chains of infection propagating unchecked now was deeply concerning.The border closures by other states is an indication of their level of worry, and it is likely that states such as SA would have gone for a quick lockdown as they did recently and which proved effective, he said.“This “hard and fast” or “pay now” approach worked in SA in contrast to the lesson of Victoria which “paid later” in that the failure early decisive action cost them a prolonged lockdown,” he said.“One remains hopeful that the better systems in NSW will work, but there is some chance that control will be lost across greater Sydney and there will be Christmas regrets about not making a more decisive call,” he said.

It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned COVID-19 outbreaks will “continue to occur”, as he urged those who had been to Sydney’s Northern Beaches recently to isolate no matter where they are in Australia.“The outbreaks are things that are going to continue to occur and while great care is taken all around the country, then we can never fully rule out that an outbreak might occur at some point in time,” Mr Morrison said.“In this case [the case of the Northern Beaches outbreak], what we are seeing is both great co-operation, as we have seen in other places before, but the geography I have to tell you is helping this as well. “Those of you who know Sydney well know that the peninsula is a very cohesive community that tends to keep to itself… and that is certainly I think assisting in making sure that the Avalon [in the Northern Beaches] outbreak is staying exactly where it is.”Mr Morrison said no matter where people were in the country, the “rules about isolation apply equally to you as they do to those of your neighbours who are back in Avalon and the Northern Beaches right now”.A stay at home order is currently in place for residents (whether temporary or permanent) of the Northern Beaches between Thursday, December 12 and Saturday, December 19 at 5.02pm.It applies if a person has still in the area, or has left and is now somewhere else.They must stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse, such as shopping for food, medical care, exercise, or work or education if it cannot be done at home.He said the community response, which saw 38,000 people turn out for COVID-19 tests yesterday was “very encouraging”, and praised “the speed at which the New South Wales authorities have been able to get on top of this and understand the extent of the community transmission”.On the COVID-19 vaccine, Mr Morrison said there were still no plans to give emergency approval to a treatment and he would not put Australians’ “health at risk in the way that we manage with the approval and deployment of the vaccine”.“It must be safe, it must follow all of those rules,” Mr Morrison said.NSW RECORDS MORE CASESNew South Wales has recorded 15 new cases of COVID-19 since 8pm last night – all are linked to the existing northern beaches cluster.That is down from 30 new cases recorded yesterday.NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state had a record day of testing.“More than 38,000 people came forward to get tested, so thank you so much to everybody who did that,” she said. Ms Berejiklian said some who contracted COVID-19 did visit venues “outside of the northern beaches”, so there is some risk of spreading.But she said it is “pleasing” that today’s cases are “a reduction on the previous day’s numbers.”She said the lockdown placed on the Northern Beaches, due to expire on Wednesday night, will be considered on Wednesday morning.NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said while authorities had a focus on virus cases in the Northern Beaches, it was important “we have no complacency across the Greater Sydney region, but in particular, that complacency must not exist across the whole of New South Wales.”

Dr Chant said aged care facilities were considered “particularly vulnerable” and had been asked not to accept visitors until Wednesday.NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard slammed those recording fake contact details on QR code forms.Wat we are finding is that some of the visitors to various venues still think that it is funny to be caught putting in there that you’re Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse or a false phone number,” Mr Hazzard said.“That must stop. This is a worldwide COVID pandemic. And thinking it’s smart to call yourself Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse is about as stupid as it gets.”Ms Berejiklian said it was vital that all venues had QR codes in place, or at the very least, “really good record keeping”.“We’re asking everybody… do not let anyone physically into your premises… do not let anyone into your door unless you have a good record of what time people came in and what time they left,” she said.“Otherwise, Health [contact tracers] can’t do their job and we risk Christmas and the New Year period if we don’t do the right thing.”Dr Chant said health authorities would be looking at whether the virus had spread outside the Northern Beaches before another restrictions-related announcement was made on Wednesday.Quizzed over whether face masks should be made mandatory, Dr Chant said “we are considering at all times additional measures that need to be in place.”She said health authorities were “particularly concerned” about indoor venues, and urged people to wear a mask if attending one.
NED-2961-NSW-Restrictions-Ramp-Up
Ms Berejiklian asked other states and territories to have a “proportionate response” that was “based on facts” in relation to their borders with NSW.“The various premiers have made various decisions about borders but I ask people to think about things compassionately and base it on the facts,” she said.“For example, when we closed, and the only time that New South Wales has closed the border to anyone was Victoria. Their case numbers were more than 140 before we took that decision, and it was subsequently and then up to 180.She added: “And I use that fact to put things into perspective. Yes, of course, I’m concerned by what’s happening in New South Wales. But every response has to be proportionate to the risk. “And all I’m saying to colleagues around the country is – please think about the heartbreak and please think about the facts when you’re making these decisions, because it impacts so many people. It impacts not just people in New South Wales, but people in your home states that may not have been reunited with family or friends or significant others for a long period of time.”NSW Health is yet to find the original source of infection that lead to the Northern Beaches outbreak.NSW FACES ‘MOTHER OF ALL SUPER-SPREADING EVENTS’Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve will be the “mother of all super-spreading events” in NSW, a leading epidemiologist has warned, as the Northern Beaches cluster grows to 83.UNSW Professor Raina MacIntyre is urging the NSW Government to lockdown Sydney if the infection rate doesn’t drop today.She said people who are infectious and don’t know it pose the biggest danger as one infectious person can transfer the virus to about three others. “So if we have 40 new cases on Monday that’ll be 120 new infections that those people pass on by Christmas Day,” UNSW Professor Raina MacIntyre told The Australian.If they have lunch or dinner with family and friends they will in turn infect 360 people. Six days later, on New Year’s Eve, those 360 people will be out partying at the peak of infectiousness.“That 360 cases becomes over 1000 cases on New Year’s Eve, so by the end of the first week of January we could be looking at 3000 cases,” she said.

The entire city needs to go into lockdown immediately or face disaster.“New Year’s Eve is going to be the mother of all super-spreading events because the people who get infected on Christmas Day are going to be at their absolute maximum infectiousness on New Year’s Eve,” Professor MacIntyre warned.“That’s a disaster waiting to happen.”UNSW epidemiologist World Health Organisation advisor Mary-Louise also told ABC News Breakfast on Monday she backed calls to cancel New Year’s Eve celebrations.“Hard ring fencing [of the Northern Beaches], not light ring fencing, of not allowing anyone else without a rapid point of care test even if they’re essential services might be able to prevent Christmas from being an accelerator, but certainly New Year’s Eve, sadly, should be cancelled this year,” she said.Almost all coronavirus cases in the latest NSW outbreak have been linked to two events in Avalon on the Northern Beaches last week. NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said health authorities were still investigating how the virus spread from the US to the Northern Beaches.“We know a woman got off a flight from Los Angeles on 1st December,” he said. “She went straight into hotel quarantine but her genomic sequencing indicates it is extremely close to the strain of the virus that is circulating on the Northern Beaches.“She is certainly a person that we have got to look more closely at. “How could it have possibly got from her to the beaches when she is still in a quarantine hotel? “It is a human system.“People have to accept this is a human system and if someone picked up a bag by mistake and then put it down, it could be anything that she might have handled. “It just could be anything at all on that front. We don’t know the answer at this point.”
NED-1859 State of our borders
FLIGHTS CANNED AS BORDERS SHUTQantas and Jetstar will be cancelling a large number of flights today after many travellers cancelled trips due to border closures over Sydney’s COVID-19 cluster on the Northern Beaches. In a statement from Qantas online, it states it saw a surge in bookings for flights between Sydney and Melbourne yesterday. “Other routes including Sydney-Brisbane and Sydney-Adelaide are also nearly at full capacity,” it stated.“Both airlines have seen large numbers of customers cancelling their bookings between Sydney and Melbourne and a number of other routes from Monday onwards. “A number of flights will be cancelled as a result. We’ll be contacting customers directly impacted by any flight changes.”Qantas stated it has offered customers extra flexibility when they book, with the ability to hold the value of the ticket as credit or change their flights once with no change fee – though, a fare difference may apply when re-booking.“We are seeing a high level of inquiry from customers travelling to and from Sydney looking to change their travel plans, so we’d ask anyone not travelling in the next 48 hours to please avoid calling our contact centre to help us manage these volumes,” it stated.

The news comes as Greater Sydney has been declared a hotspot by the Queensland government. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the move on Sunday, telling Greater Sydney travellers, “please do not come”. Ms Palaszczuk asked Queensland residents currently in Greater Sydney to return before 1am tomorrow, where a COVID-19 test and quarantine will be required. The Premier also requested any travellers who had returned from Greater Sydney in the last week to present for testing. The government also issued a stern warning to Queensland pubs, clubs and cafes after contact tracers were met with illegible check-in information from the Glen Hotel, where a positive case visited. ”You have 72 hours to get your house in order … People have had months to get their house in order. We must be able to contact trace at any point in time,” Ms Palaszczuk said.Businesses now have until midnight on Wednesday to ensure QR codes or electronic check-ins are in place. Ms Palaszczuk said any businesses failing to use the measures would be required to return to the rule of one person per four square metres and have no standing patrons. “I’m not going to allow anything to destroy our incredible effort,” Ms Palaszczuk said.Earlier in the day, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced his government was not confident the situation in NSW remained safe, while the Berejiklian government refuses to impose mandatory mask rules and stay-at-home orders across Sydney.All of Greater Sydney and the Central Coast will be declared a “red zone”, while the Northern Beaches will be deemed a “hot zone”.Nobody from or who has visited those parts of Sydney will be allowed to travel to any part of Victoria.

“If you do arrive back or travel here you will face 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine,” Mr Andrews said.Victoria recorded two new cases of coronavirus within hotel quarantine yesterday.South Australia has closed its border with Greater Sydney from at midnight last night. Anyone who has been to Sydney’s Northern Beaches will now not be allowed to fly into SA. Travellers from the Greater Sydney area must complete a COVID-19 test and quarantine for 14 days. The state recorded three new cases of coronavirus yesterday, all overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.NSW CLUSTER GROWSNSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the cases were contracted through community transmission in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday.“We have not seen evidence of massive seeding outside of the Northern Beaches community,” she said.Restrictions have been expanded for the Greater Sydney area and will be in place until midnight on Wednesday.No more than 10 people will be allowed in a home and the city will also revert back to the four square metre rule in all indoor settings.

Of the new cases, 28 are linked to the Northern Beaches cluster that is believed to have spread from Avalon RSL and Avalon bowling club last week.The source of two cases is under investigation, but the patients are residents of the northern beaches.Western Australia also put up its hard border again, banning anyone coming from NSW. Premier Mark McGowan said NSW had moved to a “medium risk state”, and the increase in the Sydney COVID-19 cluster on the Northern Beaches had forced his government’s hand.The hard border kicked in again last night. He said this was “not what anyone wanted before Christmas”.

Mr McGowan said he wasn’t “pointing the finger” at NSW, but urged NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to get the virus under control for the sake of the nation.“I know the changes are going to be hard for many people. This is not an easy decision to make,” he said.“NSW needs to get it under control. They need to stop the virus in NSW.”Mr McGowan said the changes had been made on the advice of the state’s chief health officer and also encouraged Western Australians not to travel to Sydney.Australia’s Acting Chief Medical Officer hopes the states and territories will have a “proportionate” response to their borders with NSW as the Sydney COVID-19 cluster grows.Dr Paul Kelly said the federal government had labelled Sydney’s northern beaches, where the virus cluster is growing, a hotspot and welcomed other states’ moves to do the same.He reiterated states and territories had jurisdiction over their borders but hoped their responses would be “proportionate” as Christmas nears.“They are the elected governments of those states and they need to make the decisions about safety for their own states by themselves. I would hope they will make that a proportionate thing in the lead-up to Christmas,” Dr Kelly said.

The growing Sydney COVID cluster has changed every state’s rules on how you can travel right before Christmas. This is how it affects you.
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VICTORIAVictoria closed its border to Greater Sydney and the Central Coast at midnight last night.If people from those areas who are not Victorians enter the state today, they will be placed into 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine.Victorians are being told not to travel to Sydney. If they do, they will have to enter mandatory hotel quarantine for two weeks. For Victorians returning from greater Sydney, they have until midnight tonight to return to the state to be able to do self-quarantine at their homes. They will also need to be tested with A “traffic light” system of three different zones now exists where those from the Northern Beaches are in the “red zone”, and cannot enter without going into quarantine.Anyone from the rest of NSW are in the “green zone” and can enter without restrictions.

SOUTH AUSTRALIASouth Australia also closed its border with Greater Sydney last night. Anyone who has been to Sydney’s Northern Beaches can now not fly into SA. Travellers from Greater Sydney area, the Wollongong, or the Central Coast LGA will be required to quarantine for 14 days and complete a COVID-19 test on days one, five and 12.Anyone else entering South Australia from NSW will require a COVID-19 test on days one, five and 12. These people will not be required to quarantine, but must monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and self-isolate and seek another test if they become unwell.

NSWRestrictions have been expanded for the Greater Sydney area and will be in place until midnight on Wednesday.No more than 10 people will be allowed in a home and the city will also revert back to the four square metre rule in all indoor settings.Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in the Northern Beaches area, from 5pm Saturday until 11.59pm on Wednesday December 23, residents of the Northern Beaches local government area must stay home unless it is for an essential reason.The four reasons you may leave your home include:• Shopping for food or other goods and services• Medical care or compassionate needs• Exercise• Work or education, where you cannot work from homePeople should only enter the Northern Beaches LGA for essential purposes.Residents across greater Sydney should also limit unnecessary activity in coming days as broader restrictions are considered.Those with any symptoms at all must come forward and get tested.Everyone in Sydney is being urged to monitor for symptoms and wear a mask when outside.

QUEENSLANDGreater Sydney has been deemed a hotspot by the Queensland government.Premier Palaszczuk asked any Queenslanders currently in Sydney to return home immediately, and any Queenslanders who recently returned from Greater Sydney to present for COVID-19 testing immediately, and could be required to quarantine. Health Minister Yvette D‘Ath said 11 people had been tested and asked to isolate after Queensland recorded no new cases overnight.“New South Wales has advised us that there are 11 people in Queensland who are close contacts with positive cases from the Northern Beaches,” Ms D’Ath said.“These 11 people have been contacted by Queensland Health, have been asked to be tested and have also gone into self-contained (quarantine).”These rules apply to visitors and returning Queensland residents.

NORTHERN TERRITORY The Northern Territory has declared the Northern Beaches local government area a hotspot.Anyone planning to come have been advised to cancel their travel. Those who have been in the Northern Beaches in the 14 days before they arrive must enter supervised quarantine, in either Alice Springs or Darwin, and pay $2500 per person.That includes returning residents.

TASMANIATasmania has also declared the Northern Beaches local government area a hotspot. People from this area are not permitted to enter Tasmania.Anyone who is already in Tasmania and has been in the Northern Beaches on or after December 11 must immediately self-isolate.ACTThe ACT has no border restrictions but those who were in the Northern Beaches area from December 11 need to immediately self-isolate and get tested. WESTERN AUSTRALIAWestern Australia reinstated its hard border as of Sunday night for NSW. No one can travel there unless they are one of the following: * active military personnel* a Commonwealth MP* a senior government official* anyone who works in transport, freight and logistics* anyone given approval by the state emergency co-ordinator* those who have a compassionate reason – including those who travelled recently and need to returnEach person’s case here will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.Those who were in NSW since December 11 and arrive must go into hotel quarantine for 14 days.Those already in WA but came from NSW since December 11 must get tested and self-isolate until they get a negative result.



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Brexit negotiations – Britain and the EU edge closer to a trade deal | Britain


BORIS JOHNSON has often claimed that a story he wrote as a journalist in May 1992 entitled “Delors plan to rule Europe” helped swing Danish voters towards a narrow rejection of the European Union’s Maastricht treaty. That the article, like much that he wrote about the EU, bore little relationship to the truth has never appeared to trouble him much; yet the suspicions around his character which his coverage of Brussels engendered in the European Commission are now coming back to bite him, for they threaten to undermine his chance of doing a last-minute trade deal with the EU.

Britain’s year-long transition out of the EU ends on December 31st, and several deadlines for the two parties to complete a trade deal have already passed. On December 13th Mr Johnson marked another supposedly final deadline by agreeing with Ursula von der Leyen, the Commission’s president, that negotiations should continue for an “extra mile”. This deadline extension raised hopes that the two sides may be shifting from their entrenched positions. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, reportedly detected a narrow path to a deal. Yet Mr Johnson insisted that no-deal was still the most likely outcome, and both sides repeated that the gaps over the two toughest issues remained wide.

The highest-profile one is the EU’s desire to retain access to British fishing waters. This has prompted hysterical chatter about gunboat diplomacy in the channel. Yet the industry’s economic insignificance (it is worth barely 0.1% of GDP) and the fact that both sides sell much of their fish to each other means that fisheries were never likely to be a deal-breaker on their own.

The other big issue, the “level playing field” for competition, could be. Right from the start, the EU made clear that granting Britain tariff- and quota-free access to its single market (a more generous deal than Canada’s) required measures to guarantee a level playing field for social, environmental, labour and state-subsidy standards. Yet Britain insisted on its sovereign right, as a third country, to diverge from EU rules if it chose. The political declaration appended to the withdrawal treaty duly promised “robust commitments to ensure a level playing field”. But soon after its ratification, David Frost, Mr Johnson’s Brexit negotiator, declared in Brussels that the right to diverge from EU rules was the whole point of the Brexit project. In effect, Mr Johnson’s government is saying that the pain and dislocation it will entail is worthwhile in large part because of the future benefits of no longer being bound by the EU’s hidebound and inflexible regulations. On the other side the EU sees unfettered access to its single market as a prize that can safely be awarded only to those willing broadly to comply with its rules.

Despite such differences, it should be possible to find a compromise that acknowledges the trade-off that exists between full sovereignty on one side and unfettered access to the single market on the other. Early on Britain conceded the principle of “non-regression”, meaning a promise not to dilute existing regulatory standards. For its part, the EU backed away from its initial tough negotiating position that Britain must adhere strictly to any future changes to its rules against excessive state subsidies. But differences have persisted over the consequences of future divergence, over a mechanism to settle disputes and over the right of either side to retaliate swiftly if it deems the other to be stealing an unfair competitive advantage.

That’s where the trust problem comes in. An agreement over these issues depends on a degree of trust, which is essential for any comprehensive trade deal that relies not just on legal enforcement mechanisms but also on its signatories showing good faith in the commitments they have made. EU leaders believe they have every reason to distrust Mr Johnson, and not just because of his journalistic past. They think the Brexit referendum was won on the back of a campaign of untruths, and their confidence in him has been further undermined by this autumn’s saga of the internal-markets bill, in which Mr Johnson proposed unilaterally to amend the Northern Irish provisions that were part of the withdrawal treaty. Although he has now dropped this plan, the damage to the relationship lingers. It was little surprise that Mrs von der Leyen was moved recently to declare that “trust is good, but law is better”.

Britain is more vulnerable to the consequences of no-deal than is the EU, so if a deal is to be done it is Mr Johnson who will have to make concessions. But he is under pressure from hardliners in his own party not to concede anything on the principle of full sovereignty. And he knows that, even if a trade agreement is struck, disruption will be inevitable. It would be a lot easier to blame this on the malevolent EU if there were no deal than if he had acquiesced to one at the last minute.

Yet business is piling pressure on the government to avoid no-deal, which would mean not just disruption (see article) and broken supply chains but also tariffs that could bankrupt farmers and carmakers (who would be subject to tariffs of up to 40% and 10% respectively) and send unemployment rocketing. The distance between the two sides remains considerable and the path narrow. But the smart money is on Mr Johnson conceding just enough over retaliation under the level-playing-field provisions to secure a deal.

For more coverage of matters relating to Brexit, visit our Brexit hub

This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “An extra mile, a narrow path”

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Virat Kohli’s calamitous run out with century beckoning gives hosts the edge


It was not how Kohli had seen things panning out. Knowing he was only playing one Test in Australia this summer before returning home to be with his wife for the birth of his first child, he had walked out onto Adelaide Oval intent on making it count.

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For several hours it appeared he was on track to do just that, ready as he was with an answer for just about everything including a short-ball barrage from Pat Cummins and Starc that at one point drew blood from his thumb.

Having carefully constructed an innings spanning 180 balls, he hadn’t realised the greatest danger would come from his partner up the other end.

Kohli was left in no man’s land as Rahane pushed a ball from Nathan Lyon to mid-off, called “yes” then “no” to his captain, who had committed to the run before being turned back. With Josh Hazlewood firing a straightforward throw to Lyon at the non-striker’s end, the only word left for Rahane to say to a furious Kohli was “sorry”.

Lyon was reminded by teammates of his infamous missed run out in the Ashes thriller at Headingley last year after removing the bails.

“It’s good to be back on the board after the Ashes so I’m pretty stoked with that,” Lyon said.

“Josh ran up to me saying ‘he’s back, he’s back’. There was a bit of banter being thrown around out there.“

The calamitous dismissal meant Australia did not pay too steep a price for potentially letting Kohli off the hook earlier in the day when, with the batsman on 16, they hesitated with a chance to try and remove him via the Decision Review System.

That incident occurred following the tea break after captain Tim Paine had appealed for a catch when Kohli had tried to turn a ball from Lyon down the leg side.

The bowler himself wasn’t as interested as Paine or the nearby Matthew Wade, nor was umpire Bruce Oxenford, who gave it not out, and Paine allowed the DRS clock to count down, opting not to mount a review with third umpire Rod Tucker.

However, replays indicated the ball might have just brushed Kohli’s glove and the Hot Spot thermal imaging technology appeared to show a small mark even if Snicko didn’t.

“From my angle, it was totally out of sight for me. It wasn’t my best ball and I couldn’t hear any noise. It was quite windy out there,” Lyon said.

“We didn’t really hear anything. Wadey said there was a sound and it looked to be in the right area but at the end of the day we weren’t 100 per cent sure about that. And even talking to Virat, he said he didn’t feel anything on his glove. Some days you get them, some days you don’t.”

Paine seized on a later opportunity to remove India’s marathon man Cheteshwar Pujara with a review, ending his 160-ball 43 when an inside edge from Lyon flew to Marnus Labuschagne at leg slip.

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Kohli and Rahane, though, still looked on track to make it India’s night until the self-inflicted setback and Rahane’s own exit for 42.

When Hazlewood then had Hanuma Vihari leg-before for 16, India were suddenly on a slippery slope, although Wriddhiman Saha and Ravi Ashwin managed to hold out until stumps to leave the match well poised.

Australia had earlier put the tourists on the back foot immediately when Privthi Shaw chopped the second ball of the match from Starc onto his stumps, lighting up the flashing pink bails that the left-arm quick has been no stranger to setting off.

India were then 2-32 when an outstanding Cummins sent fellow opener Mayank Agarwal packing in the same fashion, bowling him through the gate for 17.

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The Australian bowling quartet was assisted by Cameron Green, called “Jungle” in the field by Paine.

Green, who became Australia’s 459th men’s Test cricketer, was picked primarily as a batting all-rounder but was eager to demonstrate what he could provide with the ball with his 198cm frame.

After being brought into the attack with 10 minutes left until the tea break, he put Pujara on notice immediately with a short ball the No.3 fended to short leg but was so excited he had overstepped and was called for a no-ball.

Green impressed in his first outing, however, regularly tipping over the 140km/h mark, keeping the pressure on the batsmen and taking it off Australia’s other bowlers.

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