Hundreds ‘remember those lost’ at Port Arthur 20th anniversary service

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was among those who laid a wreath near a cafe where the shooting unfolded 20 years ago.

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Thirty-five people were killed and 23 wounded by a gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle on April 28, 1996.

On Thursday, some 500 people gathered at the Port Arthur Historic Site for the official memorial service.

Mr Turnbull reflected on the shock experienced by Australians, especially visitors to Port Arthur, 20 years ago.

“Some came to work, some came to relax and learn. It was to be another calm day amid the sandstone ruins,” he said of those at the historic site that day.

“And then the horror.

“Despite the years, despite the healing, the sense of loss weighs heavy. We will never be the same.”

Mr Turnbull acknowledged his coalition predecessor John Howard who he said “acted decisively” to tighten gun laws.

“(He) set a benchmark in our resolve,” Mr Turnbull said.

He said his government would continue to crack down on gun crime and illegal gun ownership.

Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority chairwoman Sharon Sullivan explained that while there are people who opposed the idea of holding an event for the 20th anniversary, it was important for many people.

“There are some people affected by the tragedy who have come back to Port Arthur for the first time in 20 years,” Professor Sullivan said.

“That is incredibly gratifying for us.

“We also understand there are some people who cannot bear to return and perhaps never will.”

Port Arthur’s history as a convict settlement in the 1800s had a new layer of disbelief, sadness, fear and trauma added in 1996, Tasmanian Governor Kate Warner said.

“The gunman seemed to have no comprehensible explanation for his actions,” she said, before acknowledging the subsequent gun reforms.

The events of 20 years ago took a punishing toll on the local community, Prof Warner added.

“For many, the pain and anguish will never end.”

Organisers of a commemorative service marking 20 years since the Port Arthur massacre worked to shield survivors, family and friends from a media throng.

The former convict settlement is being divided into distinct areas where attendees can get moments of quiet reflection during official proceedings which will be attended by guests expected to include Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority boss Stephen Large says the 10th anniversary in 2006 was to have been the last marked by a special event but plans changed.

“Last June, we were approached by somebody that lost his wife in the massacre and said he was inquiring as to what we were intending to do for the 20th anniversary,” Mr Large told ABC online on Wednesday.

“He wasn’t ready to come back for the 10th anniversary but felt ready now.”

Further investigations found strong community interest in an event to remember the sunny Sunday 35 people were killed and 23 were injured by an armed gunman.

It won’t be a typical budget: Morrison

Treasurer Scott Morrison has said his first budget won’t be a typical one.

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It will be a sober, responsible economic plan, which won’t be throwing money around but shows the government living within its means.

“We will continue to reduce the deficit and we will do that by not spending more than we save,” the treasurer says.

While that sounds fairly typical for any treasurer, there are many threads to the May 3 budget that remain unsaid.

With an early federal election potentially just weeks away, this budget more than usual has to stop the government’s slippage in opinion polls.

It has to show voters why they should return the coalition to power at a July 2 election, rather than restoring Labor to government after just one term.

It has to satisfy Morrison’s own backbench with some still smarting from Tony Abbott’s exit at the hands of Malcolm Turnbull last year – and why Morrison is delivering his first budget instead of Joe Hockey handing down his third.

Crucially, it also has to get the nod of approval from global credit rating agencies if Australia wants to retain its triple-A rating.

While agencies like Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings fell from grace in the run-up to the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, they still wield enormous power.

A credit rating downgrade would have huge repercussions for government and business because it lifts the cost of borrowing money abroad.

The potential loss of even one AAA rating would be an extremely bad look during an election campaign likely to centre around economic management.

Moody’s took the unusual step just weeks out from the budget to raise concerns that potentially limited spending cuts won’t be enough to get a meaningful improvement towards a promised balanced budget by 2021 without taking measures to raise revenue.

“Government debt will likely continue to climb, a credit negative for Australia,” it said.

An analysis by Deloitte Access Economics showed the budget out to 2018/19 being $21 billion worse off than just a few months ago as the slowdown in China hits company tax receipts and subdued wage growth restrains personal income tax revenue.

That would mean a deficit of $41.7 billion in 2015/16, $4.3 billion worse than forecast in December and larger than the $37.9 billion recorded in the previous year.

It could have been worse if not for a substantial rise in the iron ore price, recently hitting a two-year high of $US70 per tonne compared with the $US39 figure used in the mid-year budget review.

For 2016/17, Deloitte and other economists are expecting a deficit of between $31.5 billion to $38.6 billion compared to the government’s $33.7 billion forecast.

The budget will contain the result of the government’s year-long review of the tax system, but Morrison has made it clear it will be aimed at lowering the overall tax burden, not increasing it.

Neither will it be the broad-brush reform as initially promised.

GST and tax concessions through negative gearing and capital gains tax will remain unchanged.

Previously promised tax cuts to counter the effects of wage inflation, or bracket creep, are expected to be limited to some modest tinkering of thresholds while there could be a plan for a staged cut in the company tax rate.

There could also be some modest changes to superannuation tax concessions.

“Every page that you see in this budget will be about growth and jobs,” Morrison says.

Voters won’t have to wait long to show whether they agree.

Supply bills to keep government running

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has unveiled a plan to keep money flowing to the government until the budget is passed after the election.

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The program for the lower house sitting next week shows three supply bills have been slated for introduction on Monday along with a fast-tracked debate.

“These bills will ensure continuity of the normal business of government in the context of a double-dissolution election,” Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told AAP on Thursday.

The budget appropriation bills will be introduced when Treasurer Scott Morrison gets to his feet on Tuesday evening, but they will not be considered by parliament until after the election.

Mr Turnbull will need to secure supply before he seeks the governor-general’s approval for a double dissolution on July 2.

The deadline for that approval is midnight on May 11.

Labor has a long-standing policy of not blocking supply.

The supply bills will contain funding for about five months of 2016/17, and no new budget measures will be included.

Labor leader Bill Shorten will deliver his budget-in-reply speech on Thursday before the prime minister visits the governor-general.

In the Senate on Monday, indigenous leader Pat Dodson will be sworn in to replace retiring Labor senator Joe Bullock.

The upper house will debate a bill to set up a new northern Australia infrastructure fund while it waits for the supply bills to pass the House of Representatives.

While the lower house sits from Monday to Thursday, the Senate will sit from Monday to Wednesday, with two days of estimates hearings on Thursday and Friday.

A sitting of both houses is scheduled for the following week.

China calls for North Korea, US restraint

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for all sides to exercise restraint in a call with US President Donald Trump, as a nervous South Korea and Japan sought to join drills with a US aircraft carrier strike group headed for Korean waters.

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Reclusive North Korea said at the weekend it was ready to sink the US aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, which Trump had ordered to waters off the Korean peninsula as a warning to the nuclear-armed North.

Japan said on Sunday it had sent two Japanese destroyers to join the carrier group for drills, and South Korea said it was also in talks about holding joint naval exercises.

China is increasingly worried the situation may spin out of control, leading to war and a chaotic collapse of its isolated and poverty-struck neighbour.

Xi told Trump that China resolutely opposes any actions that run counter to UN Security Council resolutions, a Chinese foreign ministry statement said.

China “hopes that all relevant sides exercise restraint, and avoid doing anything to worsen the tense situation on the peninsula”, the statement paraphrased Xi as saying.

The nuclear issue can only be resolved quickly with all relevant countries pulling in the same direction, and China is willing to work with all parties, including the US, to ensure peace, Xi said.

Tensions have risen sharply in recent months, with Washington and its allies fearing Pyongyang could conduct another nuclear missile test or launch more ballistic missiles in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

North Korea celebrates the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People’s Army on Tuesday, and has marked similar events in the past with nuclear tests or missile launches.

Earlier, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described his conversation with Trump as a “thorough exchange of views”.

“We agreed to strongly demand that North Korea, which is repeating its provocation, show restraint,” Abe told reporters.

“We will maintain close contact with the United States, keep a high level of vigilance and respond firmly.”

Abe also said he and Trump agreed that China, North Korea’s sole major ally, should play a large role in dealing with Pyongyang.

The US government has not specified where the carrier strike group is, but US Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday it would arrive “within days”.

South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun gave no further details about the South’s plans, other than saying Seoul was holding discussions with the US Navy.

“I can say the South Korean and US militaries are fully ready for North Korea’s nuclear test,” Moon said.

Canberra recommits to China extradition

The federal government has sought to reassure China it remains committed to a controversial extradition treaty during high-level security talks.

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The government was forced to pull debate on the treaty from parliament in March because of its likely defeat amid internal and Labor opposition.

But senior ministers, including Attorney-General George Brandis, recommitted to the treaty during talks with China’s domestic security chief Meng Jianzhu in Sydney on Friday.

“It does remain the policy of the Australian government to move towards the ratification of the extradition treaty with China. We’ve told the Chinese that, they understand it,” Senator Brandis told Sky News on Monday.

“This is terribly important, particularly for dealing with transnational crime and with counter-terrorism.”

Senator Brandis hopes to persuade Labor there are appropriate protections in the extradition treaty, which was first signed by the Howard government in 2007.

“There is absolute ministerial discretion on the part of the Australian minister to ensure that nobody is extradited if there were to be, for example, human rights issues of concern,” he said.

Meanwhile, Australia and China agreed not to launch or support cyber attacks aimed at stealing intellectual property from each other after high-level security talks.

“Australia and China agreed that neither country would conduct or support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets or confidential business information with the intent of obtaining competitive advantage,” Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop said in a joint statement on Monday.

The deal is similar to an arrangement between China and the United States, and follows the prime minister raising cyber intellectual property theft with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his visit to Australia in March.

The countries also vowed to work together in a fight against cyber crimes including child pornography and email scams, terrorism and transnational crimes such as money laundering, fraud and corruption.

Tatts predator to allow dividends

Pacific Consortium will allow Tatts Group to continue to pay dividends if the consortium’s proposed acquisition of the lotteries and wagering firm can’t be completed the end of the 2017.

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The private equity group last week revised its takeover bid, offering $4.21 in cash for each Tatts share in the hope of boosting its chance of success against a proposal that would merge Tatts and wagering giant Tabcorp.

The Tatts board supports the merger proposal.

Under the consortium’s revised proposal, the consideration of $4.21 may include a special dividend of up to 25 cents per Tatts share.

Pacific’s proposal had assumed that, with the exception of any special dividend, Tatts would not pay any further dividends or capital returns prior to completion.

On Monday, the consortium said that should the transaction timetable extend beyond December 31, 2017, the consortium is willing to allow Tatts to continue to pay dividends to ensure the company’s shareholders are treated equitably.

“In this event, the future dividends would be received in addition to the $4.21 consideration received by Tatts shareholders,” the consortium said in a statement.

Pacific Consortium chair Dr Kerry Schott said confirmation that Tatts shareholders could continue to receive dividends showed that its revised proposal was superior to the Tabcorp proposition.

“In the interests of Tatts shareholders, the consortium believes the independent chairman and directors of Tatts should consider our proposal seriously and to allow access to due diligence,” Dr Schott said.

“We see no reason to not allow the prompt commencement of due diligence by the consortium.”

Tatts on Monday said, in a statement, it had not yet formed a view on how the consortium’s revised proposal compared to the Tabcorp merger proposal.

The Pacific Consortium comprises Macquarie Capital, Morgan Stanley Infrastructure, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and First State Super.

Tatts shares closed three cents higher, or 0.68 per cent, at $4.45.

Spotless rejects Downer EDI takeover bid

The board of cleaning and catering company Spotless has rejected mining services group Downer EDI’s $1.

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26 billion takeover bid, describing it as hostile and highly conditional.

A statement from Spotless on Monday said the $1.15 per share offer was opportunistic, timed to take advantage of Spotless’s historically low share price, and did not represent adequate value for shareholders.

It described the bid as “hostile, highly conditional and not certain to proceed”.

“The Spotless board is unwavering in its belief in the fundamental strengths of the business,” Spotless chairman Garry Hounsell said.

“These include a blue-chip customer base and a strong portfolio of long-term government, health, defence and PPP (public private partnership) contracts.”

He said the company’s turnaround strategy was already delivering results.

The board recommends shareholders reject the offer

Spotless said it had also engaged in detailed discussions with a global facilities services company for a potential merger that had greater value than the Downer offer.

But talks ended on April 22 when an agreement could not be reached.

Spotless shares hit an all-time low of 79.5 cents in February after the troubled company signalled a reduction in dividends following a $358 million half-year loss that included heavy writedowns.

Downer launched a takeover bid in March and planned to fund the acquisition through a $1.01 billion rights share issue and debt.

Shares in Spotless closed down 0.45 per cent at $1.105, while shares in Downer were steady at $5.63.

Lethal injections scheduled in Arkansas bid to rush through executions

What began as a macabre plan to put eight convicted murderers to death in 11 days – a record, had it been carried out – has now seen one prisoner executed and four win reprieves.

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The US Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to deny staying the executions of all eight condemned inmates.

But with the clock still ticking, Arkansas authorities are preparing to administer lethal injections Monday to Marcel Williams and Jack Jones. Four days earlier, on Thursday, Ledell Lee was put to death in the state’s first execution in more than a decade.

One more execution is scheduled for later in the week: Kenneth Williams, whose lawyers say he is intellectually disabled, on Thursday.

Arkansas’s Republican governor Asa Hutchinson has said the accelerated execution timetable is necessary as the state’s stock of a controversial sedative will expire at the end of the month.

Death-row inmates Jack Jones, left, and Marcel Williams. The two Arkansas inmates scheduled to be put to death Monday, April 24, 2017.Arkansas Department of Correction

The state attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, has pledged to overcome the stays and haul the convicts back into the death chamber.

Many of the legal clashes over Arkansas’s plan focus on use of the drug midazolam, a sedative meant to render a condemned person unconscious before other drugs induce death.

Critics say it does not always adequately sedate prisoners, potentially causing undue suffering.

And McKesson Medical-Surgical, a distributor for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, had asked courts to ban the use of a paralytic it sells, vecuronium bromide, in the chemical cocktail used to kill prisoners.

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Clubs pushing Anzac parties may face fines

Sydney nightclubs advertising Anzac-themed parties could face large fines for disrespectful “misuse” of the term, the federal Department of Veterans’ Affairs has warned.

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A cluster of venues along Oxford Street are under scrutiny for advertisements promoting events this week that feature scantily clad models in some military clothing.

The poster for Stonewall Hotel’s “Anzac Day – Annual Uniform Party” on Tuesday depicts a shirtless male model in a sailor’s cap and pants and competitions including karaoke, best abs and “sexy sailor”.

The nearby Colombian Hotel’s “Anzac Week” line-up includes “sexy caged boys” and a DJ on “Anzac Eve”.

The Colombian’s licensee on Monday told AAP he wouldn’t comment on the furore.

But a Facebook post advertising the event, which showed a shirtless man in camouflage pants and warpaint, has since been taken down.

A department spokeswoman said formal permission to use the word “Anzac” had to be sought from the veterans’ affairs minister to protect against its “misuse”.

An Act in place since 1920 ensures the term is treated with the respect and dignity it deserves, she added.

“However, it should be noted that the words ‘Anzac Day’ may be used in connection with certain events or entertainment held on April 25 itself, or on consecutive days, including April 25.

“This means some advertising that may be considered to be in poor taste can be compliant with the regulations.”

The posters will be reviewed by the department and the clubs will be contacted if it’s determined they breached the regulations.

A formal “cease and desist” letter can be issued to organisations that fail to stop using the term.

Further action can take the form of large fines or in extreme cases, pursuing a prison sentence, the spokeswoman said.

NSW Veterans’ Affairs Minister David Elliott said businesses should think twice before using the term because Anzac Day is to be commemorated, not celebrated.

It’s a “very, very emotional time for lots of families across NSW”, Mr Elliott said on Monday.

“It (inappropriate advertising) is distasteful, it’s wrong, it’s unethical and it’s a breach of the law,” the minister said.

“That’s not to say we shouldn’t have a game of two-up and a drink … as far as I’m concerned it’s a given.

“But don’t use it as an opportunity to tout for business, don’t use it as an opportunity to promote commercial interests, and don’t use it as a reason to get drunk and beat up your mates.”

Stonewall Hotel has been contacted for comment.

Boy, 12, who drove across NSW had bingle

A 12-year-old boy who drove 1300 kilometres across NSW on his own in the family car managed to evade suspicion partly because he looks much older and is “about six foot tall”.

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After leaving the state’s east coast on Friday morning, the boy topped up at Cobar service station without paying for the fuel on Saturday morning.

He was only stopped a few hours later in Broken Hill when police noticed the car’s bumper dragging on the ground.

The boy’s attempt to drive to Perth started after 11am on Friday when he took off from the family home in Kendall, near Port Macquarie.

“His parents reported him missing immediately after he left home, so they were looking for him,” Detective Inspector Kim Fehon told AAP on Monday.

The boy stopped to get petrol about 6am on Saturday at a Caltex service station in Cobar.

Manager Vamshi Reddy said the boy took $19 worth of fuel but left without paying.

“When I saw him, he looked like a nice person who was maybe 19 or 20,” Mr Reddy said on Monday.

“When police told me he was 12 … I was shocked.”

Det Insp Fehon confirmed that “despite being 12 years old he is about six foot tall”.

Mr Reddy said the boy was driving what looked like a white Hyundai SUV.

Det Insp Fehon said the car had suffered some damage.

“So it appears (the boy) did have an accident while driving,” she said.

Highway patrol officers spotted him at Broken Hill about 11am on Saturday.

The boy was arrested and taken to Broken Hill police station before being released to his distressed parents. Police said they were “extremely relieved” to see him.

The family are expected to arrive back on the state’s mid north coast on Monday afternoon, with the boy to be questioned by local detectives there.

It’s likely he’ll be charged under the Young Offenders Act with three offences, including the illegal use of a car, unlicensed driving and failing to pay for petrol.

Some people on social media praised the boy’s escapade, calling him a “pretty clever kid” who deserved a “gold star for effort”.

“Clearly he’s a top driver. No ticket in 1300km,” Lou Steer wrote on Facebook.

But Det Insp Fehon said the boy should not be commended.

“Not only was the child’s life at risk but all the people he went past and came in contact with,” she said.

“He was lucky he had an escape (after his accident).

“But so did all the motorists on the way from Kendall to Cobar. They all had a lucky day as well.”

Titans downplay Hayne attitude issues

Jarryd Hayne has every right to impose himself over his Gold Coast teammates, according to Titans forward Joe Greenwood.

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Hayne was spotted in heated discussions with halfback Ashley Taylor in the Titans’ 16-12 win over Cronulla on Saturday night.

He also appeared to express frustration at Titans winger Dan Sarginson after he dropped a routine catch in a try-scoring position.

But Greenwood said Hayne’s high expectations were warranted in his return match from an ankle injury.

“He’ll (Hayne) float around and speak to Ash about where he wants to go – he sees a lot at fullback and he’ll just let Ash know where he needs to be,” Greenwood said.

“He’s a really good organiser. He played a little bit in the halves for a couple of minutes he just organises the team around him.”

Hayne’s attitude has regularly been questioned since he signed with the Titans at the end of last year after returning from the NFL and rugby sevens with Fiji.

He is signed until the end of next year, but has an option to leave the club at the end of 2017 in his favour.

His commitment was a regular topic of conjecture throughout the pre-season, before he missed the past five matches through injury.

And despite winning the Anzac Medal for the best player on field in Saturday night’s win, he earned the ire of former Australian players Mark Gasnier and Justin Hodges for his blow up at Sarginson – who feared a negative influence on the club’s young squad.

But Greenwood said it was just a sign of Hayne’s passion.

“We’re all competitive and he’s just as competitive as anyone,” Greenwood said.

“If you drop a ball it is a chance missed and then we have to defend a set so there’s a lot more pressure on you so it’s just competitive nature.”

Griffin out for NRL redemption: Thaiday

This time, it’s personal.

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Sam Thaiday believes Penrith coach Anthony Griffin will be out for redemption when he faces off this week with the man who replaced him at Brisbane – Wayne Bennett.

The third-last Panthers are in need of inspiration ahead of Thursday night’s NRL clash with Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium after losing four straight.

And Thaiday believed Griffin would provide it in a bid to “get one over” the man who replaced him at the Broncos helm after the 2014 season.

“I am sure Hook (Griffin) will have them fired up this week to play us,” Thaiday said.

“It’s almost a redemption round for him.

“He likes coming up against Wayne now.

“I am sure throughout this week he will be getting the boys pumped to play on Thursday night.”

Thaiday admitted Brisbane were wary of Griffin, who groomed a number of current Broncos as the club’s Under-20s coach.

“He has coached a lot of the boys in the team, some since 18, 19 years of age,” he said.

“He knows a fair bit about us and I am sure he will be using that knowledge to come up with a gameplan to try and beat us at home.”

Asked if it would be good to get one over his former coach, Thaiday said: “It would be good just to get a win in an easier fashion than the last couple of rounds.

“We have cut it close. It’s almost as if we are trying to kill off Wayne with a heart attack nearly every week.”

Brisbane needed a late field goal to down South Sydney 25-24 last round.

Six of their eight games have now been decided by three points or less.

Thaiday said pre-season favourite Penrith’s record may not be the best but believed it was a matter of time before they clicked into gear.

“I think they have been a little unlucky of late,” he said.

“They have been there or thereabouts but haven’t closed out a lot of games.

“I am sure at some point they will flick the switch and play some good footy – hopefully it is not against us.”

Meanwhile, winger Jordan Kahu ran freely at Monday training after missing the win over South Sydney with a groin strain.

Halfback Ben Hunt trained separately but is not expected back from a hamstring injury for another three weeks.

Bangalore’s star power refuses to translate into IPL success

Their blockbuster batting line-up, containing the likes of prolific India captain Virat Kohli, swashbuckling West Indian Chris Gayle and the versatile South African AB de Villiers, were bundled out for 49 inside 10 overs.

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Skipper Kohli fell for a first ball duck, Gayle made seven and de Villiers managed eight with none of the Bangalore batsmen reaching double digit after restricting Kolkata to 131.

“Our worst batting performance,” Kohli said after the team’s spectacular meltdown at Eden Gardens. “It really hurts. After the kind of half that we had, we thought we could capitalise and chase it down.

“Reckless batting, I can’t say anything at the moment. It was that bad. This is just not acceptable.”

Rajasthan Royals’ 58 against Bangalore in 2009 was the previous lowest total.

With their fifth defeat in seven matches, last year’s runners-up Bangalore slipped to the bottom of the points table at the halfway stage of the Twenty20 tournament.

“We need to forget it and move forward. We’re a much better team,” said Kohli, who missed Bangalore’s first three matches with a shoulder injury.

“We got 200 plus in the last game. I’m sure everyone realises what they’ve done wrong. You have to come out, show intent and back yourselves. I’m sure we won’t bat like that again in the tournament.”

Kolkata’s pace attack claimed all 10 Bangalore wickets with Australian Nathan Coulter-Nile, England’s Chris Woakes and New Zealander Colin de Grandhomme claiming three each.

Woakes said the track at Eden Gardens was fair to the seam bowlers.

“It definitely assisted the seamers and it is probably the first time that we had good pace and carry since the time we started playing here,” said the 28-year-old all-rounder.

“It swung a bit to start with as well which helps. But you still got to put the ball in the right areas and we managed to do that tonight.”

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)