Arthur urges Eels to make most of NRL shot

Don’t waste your chance now.

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That’s the message Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has for his players after the club broke the NRL’s longest finals drought with last week’s win over Gold Coast.

The victory means the Eels will end a seven-year absence from September football no matter the result of their final two home-and-away games.

But ahead of Thursday’s crunch clash against second-placed Brisbane, Arthur demanded his men to reach for higher honours and make the most of their finals shot.

A win over the Broncos could lift them into the top four for the first time since March, however Arthur admitted the team had been anxious in recent weeks.

“The monkey’s off our back so to speak because we are in the finals, but we had a bit of nervous energy about us against the Titans. We bombed quite a few opportunities,” he said.

“So we know that we secured a spot in the finals, now it’s up to us to try and win as many games between now and the end of the year to get ourselves up the ladder.”

Arthur said the team had learnt from their shock loss to Newcastle a fortnight ago.

“I know the Newcastle game was a bit of a backwards step for us but we learnt a good lesson out of it, the way we played the following week,” he said.

“There’s no complacency. We’ve got an opportunity, you don’t get these opportunities every year. It doesn’t mean because we’re in the finals this year we’re going to make it next year.

“We’ve got an opportunity to do the best we can. It’s been a long time and the boys have been waiting a long time. We’ve been working hard, and we want to make sure we’ve got no regrets.”

Arthur also predicted a big game from star five-eighth Corey Norman against his old club.

“The big-time players like to get themselves up for the big games, and it’s a big game,” he said.

“I shouldn’t have to do a great deal today or during the week to motivate our boys to play.”

Aussies brace for Bangladeshi spin barrage

A wary Australian squad have gone to bruising lengths to prevent Bangladesh from springing a Test series upset.

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Steve Smith’s men will slump to No.6 in the Test rankings if the Tigers manage to win both games during the two-Test series that gets under way in Dhaka on Sunday.

Such an outcome is not beyond the realms of possibility considering Australia’s poor record on the subcontinent, having not won a Test series there since beating Sri Lanka 1-0 in 2011.

Bangladesh have improved rapidly over the past 18 months and are particularly dangerous on their home turning tracks, as shown in their maiden Test win over England last year.

Teenage offspin prodigy Mehedi Hasan looms as a particularly significant threat after claiming man-of-the-series honours against England with 19 wickets from two Tests.

Australia have prepared accordingly, even reprising an old trick encouraged by former Test opener Justin Langer during his stint as national batting coach.

Opener Matt Renshaw and likely No.3 Usman Khajawa have spent time during the squad’s training sessions in Dhaka facing spinners in the nets without their front pads on.

Allrounder Glenn Maxwell said the technique had been adopted to help counter the relentless pressure the Bangladeshi spin brigade were capable of producing.

“If you don’t have the safety of your front pad there, it makes you get your leg out of the way and actually use your bat,” he said.

“It’s more about refining your defence and making sure you’re trusting the fact you’ll hit the ball, and not hoping that your pad’s there just to save you.

“It’s more for the guys that are hitting the stumps repeatedly, and Bangladesh do that really well.

“They bowl the ball stump to stump and they put pressure on your defence.”

The Bangladeshi monsoon season has made for punishing training conditions, with periodic rain and thunderstorms giving way to sweltering heat and humidity.

Maxwell felt the pinch more than most, suffering a bout of heatstroke during the first day of training.

The forced cancellation of Australia’s only tour match raised questions about their preparedness, but Maxwell said the squad’s pre-tour training camp in Darwin had been ample preparation.

“We put extreme conditions in Darwin with the wickets where we made them ridiculously tough to bat on, and guys tested themselves really well during that week,” Maxwell said.

“I think the guys are more than well-equipped to handle whatever comes at us in this first Test.”

Law urges Windies to ignore criticism

Stuart Law has urged West Indies to ignore the condemnation they have received from various former professionals following their first Test horror show.

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Windies great Curtly Ambrose labelled the current crop “pathetic” and “embarrassing” following their abject defeat to England by an innings and 209 runs at Edgbaston.

Geoffrey Boycott and Michael Vaughan were also quick to lament the state of Windies cricket, with the difference in class stark as England wrapped up victory inside three days.

Law was saddened by the criticism of ex-bowling coach Ambrose but the Australian acknowledged the only way to silence the doubters is to improve on their display in the second Test at Headingley, which gets under way on Friday.

“That is disappointing, Curtly not long ago was the coach of this team so it is disappointing that criticism comes,” he said.

“We have to understand why it is there. We are not performing as well as we want.

“It would have been nice if he had come into the dressing room to talk to the guys and express his displeasure to us. That would have been awesome but that didn’t happen. What can we do? We have to get our noses down, our backsides up and play better.

“I believe in these young men. They have got high skills. It is just the experience of learning how to play in a very tough environment.

Law was heartened by the counter-attacking resolve of diminutive batsman Jermaine Blackwood, whose flashy 79 not out in the first innings was a rare highlight on a day where the Windies lost 19 wickets to go 1-0 down in the three-match series.

“He played his role beautifully,” Law said. “He showed a beautiful solid defence and hit the bad ball away, we can’t ask much more.

“It would be nice if his attitude went through the group and people who talk to Blacky know he has got something about him.”

Swift won’t shake off bad reputation

Taylor Swift has announced a new album titled Reputation just over a week after scoring a court victory at a high-profile groping trial in Colorado.

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On Wednesday, the singer announced the album via a series of Instagram post, including a possible album cover featuring a black and white illustration of Swift with newspaper-style headlines overlapping part of her face.

The album will be released November 10, and the first single will debut on Thursday.

Swift, 27, ended a six-month absence from the spotlight to deliver unflinching testimony against a radio DJ in a Denver court earlier this month.

She was awarded the symbolic $US1 ($A1.30) in damages that she had sought after a federal jury in Denver found the DJ had grabbed her bottom while posing for a photo with her in 2013.

The singer, one of the most followed people on social media, followed her court victory by deleting posts from Instagram, Twitter and removing her avatar from her Facebook page, sending fans into a frenzy speculating about whether Swift had been hacked or was preparing to launch new music or reinvent herself.

Reputation will come three years after Swift’s 2014 best-selling album 1989, which spawned hits such as Shake It Off and Bad Blood.

Swift, who broke out at the age of 16 with her debut album and has become one of pop music’s best-selling solo artists, carved a career writing songs that delve into her own experiences of love, friendship and growing up in the public eye.

Her lyrics are often scrutinised by eager fans for references to former flames or friends such as her relationships with singers such as John Mayer and Harry Styles and feud with fellow pop star Katy Perry.

Reputation may focus on the singer’s struggle with media scrutiny of her private life, which she has spoken about in previous interviews.

Swift largely dropped out of public view earlier this year after a highly publicised break up from British DJ Calvin Harris, a short-lived 2016 summer fling with British actor Tom Hiddleston and feuds with Perry, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.

Arsenic in Pakistan groundwater ‘alarmingly high’: study

The study in the journal Science Advances is the first to create a comprehensive map of arsenic in the groundwater across Pakistan, and follows earlier, smaller studies that showed high arsenic levels in some places.

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Groundwater samples were taken from nearly 1,200 sites throughout the country, and researchers used a model to project the likelihood of increased arsenic concentrations for all of Pakistan.

Areas in eastern Punjab — which includes Lahore — and around Hyderabad were especially likely to have groundwater that exposes large numbers of people to arsenic contamination.

Many parts of the densely populated plains along the Indus River and its tributaries showed arsenic concentrations in groundwater were higher than the World Health Organization guideline of 10 micrograms per liter, said the report.

“Very high concentrations, above 200 micrograms/liter, are found mainly in the south,” it warned.

Overall, 50 to 60 million people use groundwater which very likely contains more than 50 micrograms per liter, or five times higher than WHO guidelines.

“This is an alarmingly high number, which demonstrates the urgent need to test all drinking water wells in the Indus Plain,” said lead author Joel Podgorski, a geophysicist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag).

People who regularly drink water with high concentrations of arsenic face a higher risk of lung cancer, heart disease and skin disorders.

Researchers are not sure why the arsenic on Pakistan is so high, but one hypothesis is that heavy irrigation could be boosting the arsenic level in groundwater.

Rice, wheat, cotton and sugar cane are heavily farmed in the area.

Podgorski said more water from wells in high-risk areas must be tested, because concentrations of arsenic can vary widely in small areas.

Also, more testing is needed because local aquifer conditions cannot be predicted sufficiently accurately by modeling.

If the suspected link to irrigation practices in confirmed, new techniques would need to replace current practices.