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Oscar Pistorius granted parole a decade after killing girlfriend



Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius leaves after a 2016 hearing at North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa (Aljazeera)

South African Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius, jailed in 2014 for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, has been granted parole effective from January 5, the Department of Correctional Services says.

Known as the “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fibre prosthetic legs, Pistorius went from a public hero as a Paralympic champion to a convicted killer in hearings that caught the world’s attention a decade ago.

Pistorius, who turned 37 this week, shot and killed Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day in 2013.

He was initially jailed for five years in 2014 for culpable homicide by a high court, but the Supreme Court of Appeal in late 2015 found him guilty of murder after an appeal by prosecutors.

He was sent back to jail for six years in 2016, less than half the 15-year minimum term sought by prosecutors. In 2017, the Supreme Court more than doubled his sentence to 13 years and five months, saying the six-year jail term was “shockingly lenient”.

The hearing held on Friday at a correctional centre outside Pretoria, where he is currently detained, was Pistorius’s second shot at parole in less than eight months. He lost a first bid in March when the board found Pistorius had not completed the minimum detention period required to be let out.

The Constitutional Court last month ruled that was a mistake, paving the way for a new hearing.

Pistorius was at the height of his fame and one of the world’s most admired athletes when he killed Steenkamp. He shot her multiple times in the bathroom of his Pretoria villa in the predawn hours with his licensed 9mm pistol. He had pleaded not guilty and denied killing Steenkamp in a rage, saying he mistook her for a burglar.

Earlier, Steenkamp’s mother told the parole hearing that she did not believe Pistorius was rehabilitated because he had not shown true remorse. “Rehabilitation requires someone to engage honestly with the full truth of his crime and the consequences thereof. Nobody can claim to have remorse if they’re not able to engage fully with the truth,” June Steenkamp said in a statement to the board.  “I do not believe Oscar’s version,” she said in her submission to the board, which was read to the media outside the detention centre by a family spokesman.

“My dear child screamed for her life loud enough for the neighbours to hear her. I do not know what gave rise to his choice to shoot through a closed door four times at somebody with hollow-point ammunition when I believe he knew it was Reeva.”

But her spokesman told the board she was not opposing parole for Pistorius, and she said she forgave the sprinter “long ago as I knew most certainly that I would not be able to survive if I had to cling to my anger”.

As part of his rehabilitation, Pistorius met Steenkamp’s parents last year in a process authorities said aims to ensure inmates “acknowledge the harm they have caused”. June Steenkamp was not present at the parole hearing on Friday and was represented by a family spokesman and a lawyer. Steenkamp’s father, Barry, died in September aged 80. “I’ve no doubt that he died of a broken heart,” the widow said in her statement.


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Afghanistan sneak consolation win in high-scoring thriller




Zazai and Gurbaz set the tone for Afghanistan with a rollicking opening stand (Cricbuzz)

Fireworks from Rahmanullah Gurbaz (70 off 43) and Hazratullah Zazai (45 off 22) led Afghanistan to a big total that eventually proved just enough for a three run win against Sri Lanka in the final T20I in Dambulla on Wednesday (February 21). Pathum Nissanka (60 off 30) and Kamindu Mendis (65* off 39) fought hard for the hosts but they fell agonisingly short of the target in a pulsating finish.

On what was easily the best batting surface of the series, Afghanistan opted to bat and were given the perfect start by their openers. Gurbaz was the initial aggressor as he found his mojo from the get-go. Zazai took a bit of time before exploding into his own set of powerful strokes. The duo plundered 72 off the powerplay and it put Sri Lanka firmly on the back foot.

With Gurbaz and Zazai going great guns, Sri Lanka needed a breakthrough to stem the momentum. Akila Dananjaya did just that by getting the left-hander LBW. It started a passage of play where the scoring rate dipped a bit. Sri Lankan captain Wanindu Hasaranga produced the big breakthrough of Gurbaz while Dananjaya took out Zadran to inflict a slowdown to the innings.

Afghanistan looked set for a score in excess of 200 when their openers were firing but the middle overs slowdown threatened to end their score on a much lower level. However, Azmatullah Omarzai (31 off 23) produced a few big hits and young Mohammad Ishaq struck a few blows in the final over to take the score well past the 200-run mark. Sri Lanka were guilty of bowling a few freebies at the death, notably Matheesha Pathirana who sprayed the ball to gift too many wides.

In-form Nissanka got going, like he had all through the ODIs and T20Is, to give Sri Lanka the perfect tempo to the chase. Kusal Mendis was scratchy in his stay and played second fiddle to Nissanka who went hammer and tongs in the powerplay which yielded 64 for the hosts. Mendis fell at the fag end of that phase while Kusal Perera perished for a duck shortly thereafter. Nissanka, though, kept playing his shots and looked in ominous touch. Afghanistan suffered a blow with Sharafuddin Ashraf injuring himself while taking the catch of Mendis. Qais Ahmad came in as the concussion sub.

Moments after playing a slog-sweep for six, Nissanka clutched his hamstring in pain and was forced to retire hurt. With the series already sealed and a World Cup in few months time, it was the wise call. But in the context of this game, it was a huge blow for Sri Lanka and it gave Afghanistan the opportunity to put on a squeeze. They not only managed to do so but also picked up wickets including the big one of Hasaranga.

Afghanistan thought they could run away with the game but Kamindu and Samarawickrama got stuck into the bowling, using the batting-friendly pitch to their advantage. The required rate continued to be steep and although Samarawickrama fell to the pressure of the chase, Kamindu didn’t back off. He saw senior players in Angelo Mathews and Dasun Shanaka (who did hit a couple of handy blows) perish but kept going, almost single handedly keeping Sri Lanka in the game.

It came down to the final over with Sri Lanka needing 19 for a win against Wafadar Momand. Kamindu found the fence off the first and third ball with a dot in between, to get the equation to 11 needed off 3. This is when Wafadar bowled a beamer of sorts, clearly a waist-high no ball except that the two on-field umps didn’t think so. Kamindu had stepped out slightly but it still seemed a clear no-ball. Eventually, that proved massive to the eventual result, with Kamindu hitting the final ball for six – a shot that didn’t matter as Sri Lanka fell just short.

Brief scores:
Afghanistan 209/5 in 20 overs (Rahmanullah Gurbaz 70, Hazratullah Zazai 45, Azmatullah Omarazi 31; Matheesha Pathirana 2-42, Wanidu Haaranga 1-35,  Akila Dananjaya 2-37) beat Sri Lanka 206/6 in 20 overs (Kamindu Mendis 65*, Sadeera Samarawickrema 23,  Pathum Nissanka 60*; Fareed  Ahmad 1-30, Noor Ahmad 1-37, Quais Ahmad 1-17,  Mohammad Nabi 2-35) by three runs.

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“Operation ‘Yukthiya’ will persist despite pressure” – Minister of Public Security




Minister of Public Security, Mr. Tiran Alles, attending a news conference held at the Presidential Media Centre today (21) under the theme ‘Collective Path to a Stable Country’.emphasized his unwavering commitment to continue operations aimed at suppressing drugs, tackling the underworld and preventing violence against women and children, regardless of any pressure encountered.

Furthermore, Minister Alles disclosed that operation ‘Yukthiya’, which commenced on December 17, has resulted in the seizure of narcotics valued at Rs. 7.8 billion and assets including vehicles and buildings confiscated by law enforcement amount to Rs. 725 million. . A total of 58,562 raids have been conducted, leading to the arrest of 58,234 individuals involved in illicit activities.


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Marsh, David leave New Zealand bruised in Australia’s thrilling last-ball win




Mitchell Marsh's 44-ball unbeaten 72 held the Australia chase together (Cricinfo)

Australia captain Mitchell Marsh produced a powerful all-round performance before Tim David batted superbly at the death to complete a last-ball win over New Zealand in a high-scoring series opener in Wellington.

Chasing 216 after Devon Conway emerged from a form slump with a half-century, Australia appeared on the brink of defeat despite Marsh’s effort. But David took over with 31 off 10 balls punctuated by a boundary through the leg-side off Tim Southee to seal Australia’s remarkable heist.

Australia drew first blood in the fight for the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy,  which had previously only been awarded to the winner of bilateral ODI series between the teams. With the T20 World Cup just over three months away, the three-match series is vital preparation for both teams.

There was no room for Steven Smith in Australia’s batting order, with Travis Head returning after missing the West Indies series. He opened alongside David Warner for the first time in T20Is. But neither could capitalise on starts. Warner was booed off the ground by the partisan crowd and responded by giving them a wave.

It was left to Marsh, who obliged with typically belligerent batting. Anything in his hitting zone was handled with disdain as he motored to his half-century off 29 balls. But Marsh lacked support as Australia fell away and needed a seemingly improbable 32 runs off nine balls to win. But David took over with a boundary off Adam Milne before launching consecutive sixes to reduce Australia’s target to 16 runs off the final over.

Southee bowled well at the start of the final over by bowling a few yorkers, but David again showed his prowess at finishing with a six over the leg-side off the full-tossed fourth delivery of the 20th over. Two balls later, his swat through wide long on with two fielders converging went for four, and underlined a remarkable chase that showcased their firepower. It also illustrated that there may not be room for Smith at the T20 World Cup.

Milne and Lockie Ferguson were only playing their 10th T20I together. They menaced with prodigious swing at rapid pace with Ferguson reaching speeds of 150 kmph.

Milne claimed the much-needed first wicket after a flier from Head, while Ferguson chimed in by getting through Glenn Maxwell to halt Australia’s momentum.

Ferguson was superb throughout and bowled accurate yorkers under pressure in a brilliant 18th over that appeared to put New Zealand in the box seat. But New Zealand ultimately rued sloppy fielding, most notably Glenn Phillips missing a chance on the boundary when Marsh was on 36.

Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, who had both rested for the past three weeks since the Test summer ended, played their first T20I since the 2022 T20 World Cup as Australia unveiled a full-strength attack.

Starc was on the money immediately as he angled a delivery past Finn Allen on the first delivery of an excellent first over. He returned in the sixth over to pick up Allen having not let him have any width to hit.

Starc was the pick of the bowlers until he was thrashed for 16 runs in the penultimate over of the innings. Cummins had also mostly defied the onslaught with his canny array of slower deliveries before being dispatched for 15 runs in the last over.

After recording the worst-ever figures by an Australian bowler in T20Is in their last match against West Indies, legspinner Adam Zampa copped another flogging with 0 for 42 from three overs. Australia, who sloppily conceded 15 extras, became the first team ever to concede four straight 200-plus totals in T20I cricket.

In better news for Australia, Marsh utilised slower deliveries effectively and claimed the wicket of Conway to finish with 1 for 21 off three. Marsh didn’t use himself against West Indies but stepped up here with Marcus Stoinis missing from the series.

Conway entered the series finding himself in his career’s first prolonged form slump. Conway got out of it by perhaps channelling the last time he batted against Australia in a T20 match when he made an unbeaten 92 to launch the 2022 T20 World Cup.

It was deja vu with Conway and Allen again monstering a half-century inside four overs just like they did at the SCG. Conway relished a surface that was fast with a consistent bounce to notch his first international half-century since last year’s ODI World Cup. His knock was marked by superb back-foot play as he continually whacked shorter deliveries in a confidence-boosting innings.

After Allen fell just before the end of the powerplay, Conway combined with Rachin Ravindra, who was sluggish early and was halted initially by Cummins’ nagging line and length. But Ravindra eventually found his groove and pummelled Zampa for a trio of sixes in the 15th over.

Ravindra raced to his second T20I half-century off just 29 balls to make the most of his opportunity with skipper Kane Williamson not playing due to the birth of his third child. The top-order batting, plus the finishing touches by Phillips and Mark Chapman, meant big-hitting debutant Josh Clarkson was not required.

Brief scores:
Australia 216 for 4 in 20 overs (Travis Head 24, Mitchell Marsh 72*, David Warner 32, Glenn Maxwell 25, Josh Inglis 20, Tim  David 31*; Adam Milne 1-53, Lockie Furgeson 1-23, Mitchell Santner 2-42) beat New Zealand 215 for 3 in 20 overs (Finn Allen 32, Rachin Ravindra 68, Devon Conway 63,Glenn Phillips 19*, Mark Chapman 18*; Mitchell Starc 1-39, Pat Cummins 1-43, Mitchell Marsh 1-21) by six wickets

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