THE looks were priceless. Tailenders Nathan Bracken and Stuart Clark looked like they’d been asked to fill in a job application in Urdu as cricket’s newest doosra bowler, Saeed Ajmal, played with their minds in Dubai in the first one-dayer against Pakistan.
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They weren’t alone in having problems, as Ajmal completely unsettled the Australians. Leg-spinner Shahid Afridi claimed the wickets (6-38) but it was Ajmal (2-19) who started the mental disintegration. Captain Michael Clarke followed a doosra – the off-spinner’s googly, which turns away from the right-hander – from Ajmal right across the crease and edged it into the gloves of keeper Kamran Akmal. Nathan Hauritz shouldered arms to the one that broke back and broke his stumps.

Immediately, the Australians hit the video, to study this latest challenging off-spinner, treading the same path as South Africa’s Johan Botha, who caused plenty of headaches in the recent South African tour.

The main problem, coach Tim Nielsen said, was their batsmen were trying to learn the right techniques to counter it at the international level. Why can’t white men do the doosra – a fact which remains largely true with Botha having been reported for a suspect action when he bowls the delivery named from the Urdu and Hindi word for "the other one".

Flexibility was the key, said Hauritz, who has spent two years on an-as-yet unsuccessful search for the delivery. "A lot of the Asians are a lot more flexible than we are and I think they’re taught to bowl it a lot earlier," he said. "I think it takes a lot of time, a lot of practice and it’s a matter of trying to get all the body parts right."

Bowlers need flexibility all the way down their bowling side, in the wrist, arm and shoulder. Although Pakistani great Saqlain Mushtaq is credited with cricket’s version of patent rights for the doosra, Australian players first saw "the other one" on a tour of India in the late 1970s, although the as-yet-unnamed delivery didn’t make it to the Test arena at that time.

The other problem is bowlers need to be front-on at the point of delivery, which is difficult for Australian spinners, who are taught to bowl side-on. If you want to bowl the doosra, you have no choice: changing your approach for the other one would telegraph your intentions.

"I’ve been doing it now for about two years: trying to," Hauritz said. "It goes straight, it looks like a normal off-spinner, it just doesn’t spin. It takes a lot of time."

Time is the key to batting against it as well, with the Australians more settled on Friday night when Andrew Symonds, who top-scored with 58, and Clarke, who made 39 not out, beginning to read Ajmal out of the hand.

Doosra bowlers have long had trouble before cricket’s twin courts – both the ICC review process, after being referred by umpires, and the court of public opinion. Sri Lankan record-breaker Muttiah Muralitharan, who picked up the delivery after it was popularised by Saqlain, was banned from bowling it in 2004. After an investigation revealed many other bowlers were straightening their arm by more than the permitted five degrees, the limit was increased to 15 per cent, and the doosra show was back on, with Murali, India’s Harbhajan Singh and Pakistan’s Shoaib Malik employing it to great effect. Earlier, Saqlain had been so worried about being called by umpires he spent the entire 1999 World Cup wearing long sleeves.

Hauritz, who took 3-41 in the second match, reckons he’ll nail the doosra eventually, however retirement might beat him to the punch. "It would be good to have it. I try and practise it about two or three times a week, for probably 10 balls but it gets very painful because my body is not used to it.

"[Queenslander] Chris Simpson was probably the closest to it some years ago. [South Australian] Dan Cullen said he had it but I never saw it. I definitely don’t have it, and I haven’t seen anyone in Australia bowl it."

Australia play Pakistan tonight in Abu Dhabi, with the best of five-match series tied at 1-1.

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CHAMPION jockey Damien Oliver, back in group 1-winning form with success on Danleigh in the All Aged Stakes at the weekend, heads to the Gold Coast on Saturday in a bid to continue his winning charge.
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In addition to scoring on the Doomben 10,000-bound Danleigh for trainer Chris Waller, Oliver also won the Emancipation Stakes on Melbourne mare Amberino at Randwick.

He has been booked to ride the West Australian Scenic Shot in the Hollindale Stakes at the Gold Coast as well as Skiddaw Peak for Mike Moroney in the Prime Minister’s Cup.

Scenic Shot is out to make it successive Hollindale Stakes victories after winning the race last year when Glen Colless was aboard. The gelding is a stablemate of Lightning Stakes and Newmarket Handicap winner Scenic Blast, which is a chance to travel to the UK for the Royal Ascot meeting in June.

Sydney’s leading jockey, Corey Brown, will join Oliver at the Gold Coast with the ride on the Anthony Cummings-trained pair Prima Nova (Hollindale) and Miss Darcey (Gold Coast Bracelet) awaiting.

Prima Nova was a last-start winner of the JRA Plate at Randwick while Miss Darcey won the Adrian Knox Stakes en route to a third in the AJC Australian Oaks.

"Miss Darcey is racing in great form and while she’s dropping back from 2400 metres to 1800m she’ll be very hard to beat," Brown said.

Cummings will also start talented staying filly Nothin’ Leica Cat (Oliver) in the Bracelet. Brown links with Brisbane trainer Liam Birchley when riding Sarge In Charge in the Ken Russell Memorial Classic while stablemate Court Command, a former Golden Rose winner when trained by Darren Smith, resumes and has his first start for Birchley in the Prime Minister’s Cup.

Cummings will send Solo Flyer and Duporth, both of which were scratched from the All Aged Stakes, as well as Rose Of Cimmaron, to Queensland on Tuesday to be set for feature races up north.

The trainer said Solo Flyer missed the All Aged because "he just hadn’t recovered in time for the race after running in the Doncaster".

"And Duporth drew another wide barrier so I thought it would be best suited heading north too," Cummings said. "It should be a decent sort of winter up there for us. Prima Nova and Turffontein did well for us last year."

Saturday’s Gold Coast Guineas is shaping as a classy event with the Peter Snowden-trained Desuetude (Kerrin McEvoy) set to return alongside Youthful Jack (Robert Thompson) for Allan Denham and the Clarry Conners-prepared Court (Oliver).

Snowden will also produce last year’s Gold Coast Guineas winner El Cambio (McEvoy) in the Prime Minister’s Cup.

Rockpecker, from Victoria, goes around in the Prime Minister’s Cup with Michael Rodd while the jockey will also partner Sphenophyta in the Hollindale Stakes.

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NRL clubs have been asked to provide feedback on the effect two referees are having on games this season but a survey of coaches yesterday indicated that there was little support for Ricky Stuart’s call to scrap the system.
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NRL chief operating officer Graham Annesley said speculation the dual refereeing model was due to come under review after the completion of this weekend’s round of matches was incorrect but revealed that clubs had been asked to provide feedback at tomorrow’s CEOs conference.

"It’s just the first time we’ve had the clubs together since the competition started so I wrote to the clubs and asked them to talk to their coaching staffs about it," Annesley said. "But we’re not anticipating any major changes and I don’t expect much to come out of that in effect to there being an immediate change to things."

The success of the dual refereeing system was bought into question by Stuart after his Cronulla side slumped to their sixth successive loss, against South Sydney on Friday night, and in his Sunday newspaper column he called for the NRL to revert to a single whistleblower.

But a straw poll of coaches conducted by the Herald yesterday found few others agreed with Stuart. Of the seven rival coaches to respond, only Parramatta’s Daniel Anderson thought consideration should be given to scrapping the system.

"Not yet, but there are some bumps," he said. "The bumps are still there with one referee."

However, Penrith’s Matthew Elliott, South Sydney’s Jason Taylor, Newcastle’s Brian Smith and the Warriors’ Ivan Cleary all offered strong backing for the system, while Roosters mentor Brad Fittler said he supported it "but in a different format".

Bulldogs coach Kevin Moore said he was "concerned about the experience of individual referees, but hopefully that will improve in time".

Annesley agreed, saying: "If we fast forward to this time next year when they’ve all got a full season under their belt, we might find that we’ve suddenly got 16 top referees as opposed to eight.

"But it wouldn’t matter if we had one, two or 10 referees in a game – there is still going to be complaints about performances and there is still going to be controversy around refereeing decisions. However, having two referees is an attempt to reduce the number of errors that are made in games, just as the introduction of the video referee was. But anyone who thinks it is going to eliminate mistakes or eliminate controversy is kidding themselves."

Tigers coach Tim Sheens believes the NRL should have trialled the two refereeing system in the under-20s competition but is not opposed to the concept.

Meanwhile, Cronulla captain Paul Gallen and Parramatta’s Nathan Hindmarsh are expected to be charged by the match review committee today over incidents in Friday night’s games. Both face suspension.

Eels star Jarryd Hayne will also come under scrutiny for two high shots on Brisbane centre Steve Michaels in the 40-8 loss at Suncorp Stadium.

With his poor judiciary record, Gallen is likely to have to successfully challenge any charge arising from his high shot on Rabbitohs utility Craig Wing in the Sharks’ loss to be eligible for the Australian team to play New Zealand in Brisbane on May 8.

Hindmarsh also has loading and 68 carryover points that will impact on his likely dangerous conduct charge after striking Broncos captain Darren Lockyer in the head with his foot while trying to stop a try.

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EVEN though they have lost Mat Rogers and probably Luke Bailey, Gold Coast playmaker Preston Campbell believes his side has enough spirit to put his former club, Penrith, to the sword when he returns to the foot of the mountains tonight.
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Campbell expects the Gold Coast’s young talent will step up in place of the experienced heads at CUA Stadium.Co-captain Bailey is not expected to play as he is still recovering from a knee injury suffered against Canberra last round, while Rogers has neck and shoulder problems.

The in-form Campbell, who will play five-eighth tonight, says the Titans are confident they can counter the Panthers’ loose style of play.

"We are feeling pretty good," Campbell said. "We’ve got a couple of blokes that have been ruled out in Matty Rogers and Luke Bailey. With those two players in, we are at full strength, but we are still feeling pretty confident that we can go out and play well.

"[It’s] just one of those things in rugby league. We’ve got a couple of young blokes coming through. A couple of fresh faces in the team at the moment and they’re going really well. We are a bit careful, treading lightly, because the Panthers are that sort of team, it doesn’t look like they have any structure or anything … they like to play a game of touch. We hope to go out and play with a bit of structure. If the game’s played like that, I think we’ve got a bit more of a chance of winning. If the ball’s being thrown around and there is a lot of offloads, it’s going to be really tough to hold the Panthers back."

Six rounds into the NRL season the Titans have the best defensive record in the competition having conceded just over 12 points a match.

While the Penrith side is laced with new talent, Campbell said the Titans were acutely aware not only of the young, but also the more experienced Panthers.

"They’ve got a lot of fresh faces," Campbell said. "But then they’ve got blokes like Luke Lewis, Frank Pritchard and Trent Waterhouse, and obviously Petero Civoniceva, who are experienced campaigners. With the young blokes like Jarrod Sammut, young Michael Jennings, young Lachlan Coote, these guys can score tries from pretty much anywhere with the experience and the skill they have."

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THE Michael Ennis show screened at Canberra Stadium yesterday. It received five-star reviews for its all-round brilliance, but it remains to be seen if further scheduled screenings over the next week or two will go ahead.
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There is a possibility they will have to be cancelled after Ennis was reported for making a so-called "chicken-wing" tackle on Canberra fullback Josh Dugan.

That incident, in the ninth minute of a game in which the Bulldogs trailed 12-0 before hitting the lead 18-16 going to half-time and staying in front from there, was the only thing that wasn’t finger-licking good about the Bulldogs hooker’s game. Ennis scored a try, set up two others, made a 40-20 kick and came up with a crucial, smashing tackle on Raiders halfback Josh McCrone that forced a turnover when the home side was deep in attack.

The battle between Ennis and Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah for the NSW job will heat up over the next two weekends. The Bulldogs are at home to Wests Tigers on Sunday, and they are the clear-cut selection choices for the City (Farah)-Country (Ennis) game the following weekend. What happens now is in the hands of the NRL’s match review committee, which will make a decision today on whether to charge Ennis.

The Bulldogs rake felt he had done nothing but complete a legitimate tackle. "I was just trying to get him on his back like every guy I tackle. I was surprised I got called out for it. There was certainly no intent in it. I didn’t feel like I grabbed his arm and twisted him. It’s just the way the game goes sometimes – these things just happen. It wasn’t as if I hit him in the chops or dropped him on his head.

"It’s never pleasant [to be reported], but I’m confident I haven’t done anything wrong. They’ll look at it and make their own decision – hopefully they’ll see some common sense and realise there was no intent."

Ennis, not wanting to appear presumptuous, didn’t want to get involved in a debate over whether he had the edge over Farah in the race for the Blues No.9 jersey.

"I haven’t got a great deal to say about Origin, because I haven’t been involved before," he said. "I’m proud to have been selected in the 40-man squad and given the opportunity. I would love to play, but you see a lot of guys get talked about for Origin and then they start to fall by the wayside. So I’m just concentrating on my footy. If I started wondering how other blokes are going or what the selectors think, it would all get too much to worry about."

Ennis revealed he had spoken during the week to his former Brisbane coach, Wayne Bennett, and that the conversation had touched on the hooker’s feeling that he was finding it difficult to adjust to the two-referee system. Bennett set him straight with some typical words of wisdom.

"I’ve got a very good coach [Kevin Moore] here, but I talk to Wayne occasionally as well," Ennis said. "And he said the great players, like Darren Lockyer, are able to play their own game regardless of the circumstances."

Canberra knew what Ennis could do. Their coach, David Furner, prepared the team to handle all of his smart plays.

"You know how dangerous he is," Furner said. "And when you talk about it and it happens, it’s disappointing."

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