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China, France launch satellite to better understand universe

Xichang, China — A French-Chinese satellite blasted off Saturday on a hunt for the mightiest explosions in the universe, in a notable example of cooperation between a Western power and the Asian giant.

Developed by engineers from both countries, the Space Variable Objects Monitor, or SVOM, will seek out gamma-ray bursts, the light from which has traveled billions of light years to reach Earth.

The 930-kilogram (2,050-pound) satellite carrying four instruments — two French, two Chinese — took off around 3 p.m. aboard a Chinese Long March 2-C rocket from a space base in Xichang, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, AFP journalists witnessed.

Gamma-ray bursts generally occur after the explosion of huge stars — those more than 20 times as big as the sun — or the fusion of compact stars.

The extremely bright cosmic beams can give off a blast of energy equivalent to over a billion billion suns.

Observing them is like “looking back in time, as the light from these objects takes a long time to reach us,” Ore Gottlieb, an astrophysicist at the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Astrophysics in New York, told AFP.

“Several mysteries”

The rays carry traces of the gas clouds and galaxies they pass through on their journey through space — valuable data for better understanding the history and evolution of the universe.

“SVOM has the potential to unravel several mysteries in the field of [gamma-ray bursts], including detecting the most distant GRBs in the universe, which correspond to the earliest GRBs,” Gottlieb said.

The most distant bursts identified to date were produced just 630 million years after the Big Bang — when the universe was in its infancy.

“We are … interested in gamma-ray bursts for their own sake, because they are very extreme cosmic explosions which allow us to better understand the death of certain stars,” said Frederic Daigne, an astrophysicist at the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris.

“All of this data makes it possible to test the laws of physics with phenomena that are impossible to reproduce in the laboratory on Earth,” he said.

Once analyzed, the data could help to better understand the composition of space, the dynamics of gas clouds or other galaxies.

The project stems from a partnership between the French and Chinese space agencies, as well as other scientific and technical groups from both nations.

Space cooperation at this level between the West and China is uncommon, especially since the United States banned all collaboration between NASA and Beijing in 2011.

Race against time

“U.S. concerns on technology transfer have inhibited U.S. allies from collaborating with the Chinese very much, but it does happen occasionally,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the United States.

In 2018, China and France jointly launched CFOSAT, an oceanographic satellite mainly used in marine meteorology.

And several European countries have taken part in China’s Chang’e lunar exploration program.

So, while SVOM is “by no means unique,” it remains “significant” in the context of space collaboration between China and the West, said McDowell.

Once in orbit 625 kilometers (388 miles) above the Earth, the satellite will send its data back to observatories.

The main challenge is that gamma-ray bursts are extremely brief, leaving scientists in a race against time to gather information.

Once it detects a burst, SVOM will send an alert to a team on duty around the clock.

Within five minutes, they will have to rev up a network of telescopes on the ground that will align precisely with the axis of the burst’s source to make more detailed observations.

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Some Olympic teams will bring their own AC units to Paris, undercutting environmental plan

EUGENE, Oregon — The U.S. Olympic team is one of a handful that will supply air conditioners for their athletes at the Paris Games in a move that undercuts organizers’ plans to cut carbon emissions. 

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic CEO Sarah Hirshland said Friday that while the U.S. team appreciates efforts aimed at sustainability, the federation would be supplying AC units for what is typically the largest contingent of athletes at the Summer Games. 

“As you can imagine, this is a period of time in which consistency and predictability is critical for Team USA’s performance,” Hirshland said. “In our conversations with athletes, this was a very high priority and something that the athletes felt was a critical component in their performance capability.” 

The Washington Post reported earlier this month that Germany, Australia, Italy, Canada and Britain were among the other countries with plans to bring air conditioners to France. 

Olympic organizers have touted plans to cool rooms in the Athletes Village, which will house more than 15,000 Olympians and sports officials over the course of the games, using a system of cooling pipes underneath the floors. 

The average high in Paris on August 1 is 26 degrees Celsius. The objective is to keep the rooms between 23-26 degrees. The rooms will also be equipped with fans. 

“I want the Paris Games to be exemplary from an environmental point of view,” Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has said about the plans for the Olympics. 

According to the International Energy Agency, fewer than 1 in 10 households in Europe has air conditioning, and the numbers in Paris are lower than that. The study said that of the 1.6 billion AC units in use across the globe in 2016, more than half were in China (570 million) and the United States (375 million). The entire European Union had around 100 million. 

The Olympics mark the most important stop on the athletic careers of the 10,500-plus athletes who will descend on Paris, which has led some high-profile countries to undercut environmental efforts for the sake of comfort. 

“It’s a high-performance environment,” Australian Olympic Committee spokesman Strath Gordon explained to the Post. 


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TikTok legal filing details case against potential US ban

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South Africa unbeaten at T20 World Cup after win over England

GROS ISLET, St. Lucia — Undefeated South Africa pulled off a seven-run win over defending champion England in the Super Eight playoffs at the Twenty20 World Cup on Friday.

Harry Brook, who made 53, and Liam Livingstone, with 33 off 17 balls, had the chase in control for England with 25 needed off 18 balls until fast bowlers Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje dismissed them in the last three overs.

Later, Shai Hope hit 82 from 39 balls as the West Indies beat the United States by nine wickets in a match between co-hosts. Hope struck eight sixes as the West Indies ran down their winning target of 129 with more than nine overs to spare.

England was restricted to 156-6 in reply to South Africa’s 163-6.

“Getting to those last three overs, the odds looked heavily against you,” South Africa captain Aiden Markram said. “But the bowlers came back, it shows a lot of skill and shows the fight inside.”

Quinton de Kock finished with 65 as he smacked the tournament’s joint-fastest half-century off 22 balls, and David Miller provided the impetus in the latter half of South Africa’s innings with 43 off 28.

South Africa’s win streak was extended to six games and it is a firm favorite for the semifinals after two wins in two matches in its group.

England suffered its first loss in the Super Eight after it beat the West Indies by eight wickets at the same venue.

Earlier, de Kock dominated South Africa’s powerplay and had them motoring along at 63-0 before England pulled them back through spinners Adil Rashid (1-20) and Moeen Ali (1-25).

De Kock put fast bowler Jofra Archer on the mat early with two successive sixes in a 21-run over. De Kock was given a life on 58 when video replays suggested Mark Wood’s fingers were not underneath the catch. The decision left England players fuming.

Hope the new star as West Indies beat US

At Bridgetown, Barbados, West Indies fans partied under the Friday night lights as new team addition Shai Hope launched a spectacular display of power-hitting to put the West Indies’ campaign back on track with its nine-wicket win over the U.S.

He finished the chase with a six from the fifth ball of the 11th over. Along with his eight sixes, he hit four fours.

After a loss to England in their first Super Eight match, the West Indies had to win to stay in semifinal contention. The United States surprised the cricket world by beating powerhouse Pakistan on the way to the Super Eight playoffs but after losses to South Africa and the West Indies in the playoff stage now cannot reach the final four.

Roston Chase took a career-best 3-19 and Andre Russell 3-31 as the West Indies limited the United States to 128 in 19.5 overs after winning the toss.

“This is my favorite place to play cricket,” Chase said. “I’m from Barbados so I grew up playing a lot of cricket here. It’s our destiny and our goal to go out there and win this World Cup.”

Hope was added to the West Indies’ lineup for Friday’s match as an injury replacement for Brandon King who was ruled out with a side strain.

The United States began well and despite the loss of Steven Taylor in the second over, reached a healthy 48-1 after the six-over power play. But from then on regular wicket falls prevented them gaining momentum.

Chase, especially, put brakes on the scoring. He bowled captain Aaron Jones for 11 in the 10th over, then removed Corey Anderson and Harmeet Singh with consecutive balls in the 14th over.

Hope powered the West Indies run chase, hitting 42 from 23 balls in the power play after which the West Indies were 58 without loss.

“A tough night for the boys,” Jones said. “Against the West Indies we needed a target of 175 or 180 and obviously we didn’t get that.”

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Women’s gymnastics league aims to expand athletes’ careers

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How does heat kill? It confuses your brain, overworks your heart, shuts down your organs

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Half a million Ukrainians in frontline city of Mykolaiv suffer through 3rd year without clean water

Going into a third year of war, life without clean water has become routine for nearly half a million residents of Ukraine’s frontline city of Mykolaiv. At the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Russian forces destroyed the water distribution system. As Lesia Bakalets reports, the city has been looking for ways to restore it since then. Video: Vladyslav Smilianets

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US charity sends medical help to Ukraine’s frontline towns

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, U.S. humanitarian group Project HOPE has provided aid to Ukrainian health clinics and residents of the country’s frontline towns and villages. Yaroslava Movchan has the story, narrated by Anna Rice. Videographer: Dmytro Hlushko.

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Trump, Biden woo voters on TikTok. Will it make a difference?

President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump agree on few things, but a ban of the Beijing-based social network TikTok is one of them. Now with a presidential election at stake, both are joining the platform they previously attempted to take down. Will it make a difference on Election Day? Tina Trinh reports.

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Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky denies it’s a hazard after the US bans its software

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India beats Afghanistan at T20 World Cup

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — Fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah took three wickets for just seven runs as India beat Afghanistan by 47 runs in their Super Eight match at the Twenty20 World Cup on Thursday.

Later, Pat Cummins took the first hat-trick of the tournament as Australia beat Bangladesh by 28 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis system due to rain delays.

Bumrah’s four-over spell was aided by Arshdeep Singh, who finished with 3-36. Spinners Kuldeep Yadav (2-32) and Axar Patel (1-15) shared three wickets as Afghanistan was bowled out for 134 runs.

Suryakumar Yadav scored 53 off 28 balls — his fifth T20 World Cup half-century — as India reached 181-8 in 20 overs after deciding to bat.

Yadav, named player of the match, hit three sixes and five fours, while Hardik Pandya scored 32 off 24 balls, including two sixes.

“I am clear in my mind how I want to bat,” Yadav said. “There’s a lot of hard work, process and routine involved in it. You just need to know your game plan and just play accordingly. In the end, we were happy with 180.”

On a slow-paced Barbados wicket, India had made a sluggish start. Skipper Rohit Sharma was out caught for eight, while star batter Virat Kohli only managed run-a-ball 24.

Rishabh Pant, batting at three, provided some acceleration — he scored 20 off 11 balls with four fours.

Afghanistan skipper and wrist spinner Rashid Khan did damage to India’s top order, dismissing both Kohli and Pant, the latter out lbw. It was the first time Khan picked up wickets against India in T20s.

India was down to 62-3 in 8.3 overs, when Yadav played a rescuing hand. He added 28 of 14 balls with Shivam Dube (10) and then the match-turning 60 runs with Pandya.

Yadav’s stand with Pandya came off only 37 balls as India scored 102 runs off the final 10 overs.

Rashid Khan finished with 3-26 in four overs.

Afghanistan’s chase got off to a poor start against Bumrah — he sent back both openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (11) and Haratullah Zazai (2) cheaply.

In between, Axar Patel struck in the fourth over as Ibrahim Zadran was out for eight, and Afghanistan slipped to 23-3 in 4.1 overs.

Ravindra Jadeja had 1-20 in three overs. Afghanistan lost its last five wickets for 32 runs across 28 deliveries as India crossed the finish line with ease.

Australia beats BangladeshAt North Sound, Antigua, Cummins claimed the first hat-trick of the tournament as Australia beat Bangladesh by 28 runs after rain delays forced the result to go to the the Duckworth-Lewis system.

Cummins dismissed Mahmdullah and Mahedi Hasan with the last two balls of the 18th over and Towhid Hridoy with the first ball of the 20th as Australia restricted Bangladesh to 140-8.

Australia was 100-2 when heavy rain set in after 11.2 overs, well ahead of the winning score it needed at the time. The umpires finally called off the match around 12.30 a.m. local time.

Cummins was the seventh player to complete a hat-trick — three wickets with three balls — at a Twenty20 World Cup and the second Australian after Brett Lee who achieved the feat, also against Bangladesh, in 2007.

“I had no idea,” Cummins said. “At the end of the over I saw it come up on the screen so I thought I’ll make sure I remember but I totally forgot about it. I had a few (hat-tricks) in juniors but never for Australia.”

David Warner and Travis Head then shared a 65-run opening partnership in 6.5 overs to set up Australia’s run chase. Head was out for 31 but Warner went on to make a half century from 34 balls. He finished 53 not out.

Mitchell Starc bowled Tanzid Hasan with the third ball of the match after Australia sent Bangladesh in and Bangladesh struggled to create momentum, hampered by regular wicket falls.

Captain Najmul Hossain Shanto made 41 from 36 ball and shared a half century partnership from 42 balls with Litton Das (16). But after the second-wicket pair were separated with the total was 58-2 in the ninth over, Bangladesh struggled to create partnerships.

Adam Zampa dismissed both Litton Das and Shanto, bowling Das with a ball that snuck under the bat and cannoned off the back leg onto the stumps. Shanto knelt to sweep a ball which skidded on a hit on the knee roll in front of middle.

Zampa also took a catch from Glenn Maxwell’s bowling to remove Rishad Hossain who had been promoted in the order to hurry the scoring but managed only two runs from four balls.

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Gas company finds 3,300-year-old ship off Israel’s coast

TEL AVIV, Israel — A company drilling for natural gas off the coast of northern Israel discovered a 3,300-year-old ship and its cargo, one of the oldest known examples of a ship sailing far from land, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Thursday.

The discovery of the late Bronze Age ship so far out at sea indicates that the navigation abilities of ancient seafarers were more advanced than previously thought because they could travel without a line of sight to land, the IAA said.

The great depth at which the ship was found means it has been left undisturbed by waves, currents or fishermen over the millennia, offering greater potential for research, it said.

“The discovery of this boat now changes our entire understanding of ancient mariner abilities. It is the very first to be found at such a great distance with no line of sight to any landmass,” said Jacob Sharvit, head of the IAA marine unit, adding that two similar ships from the same era had been discovered previously, but only close to shore.

Sharvit said the assumption by researchers until now has been that trade during that era was conducted by boats sailing close to the shore, keeping an eye on land while moving from port to port. He said the newly discovered boat’s sailors probably used the sun and the stars to find their way.

The wooden ship sank about 90 kilometers off Israel’s Mediterranean coast and was discovered at a depth of 1,800 meters by Energean, a natural gas company which operates a number of deep-sea natural gas fields in Israel’s territorial waters.

In its work, Energean said it uses a submersible robot to scour the sea floor. About a year ago, it came across the 12- to 14-meter-long ship buried under the muddy bottom, nestled under hundreds of jugs that were thousands of years old.

The boat and its cargo were fully intact, the IAA said, adding that the vessel appeared to have sunk either in a storm or after coming under attack by pirates.

The ship for now is not being retrieved.

Energean worked with the IAA to retrieve two of the jugs, which were likely used for carrying oil, wine or fruit, and bring them to the surface for research.

The IAA identified the jugs as Canaanite, a people who resided in the lands abutting the eastern Mediterranean.

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US bans Russia’s Kaspersky antivirus software

Washington — U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on Thursday banned Russia-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky from providing its popular antivirus products in the United States over national security concerns, the U.S. Commerce Department said.

“Kaspersky will generally no longer be able to, among other activities, sell its software within the United States or provide updates to software already in use,” the agency said in a statement.

The announcement came after a lengthy investigation found Kaspersky’s “continued operations in the United States presented a national security risk due to the Russian Government’s offensive cyber capabilities and capacity to influence or direct Kaspersky’s operations,” it said.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said, “Russia has shown time and again they have the capability and intent to exploit Russian companies, like Kaspersky Lab, to collect and weaponize sensitive U.S. information.”

Kaspersky, in a statement to AFP, said the Commerce Department “made its decision based on the present geopolitical climate and theoretical concerns,” and vowed to “pursue all legally available options to preserve its current operations and relationships.”

“Kaspersky does not engage in activities which threaten U.S. national security and, in fact, has made significant contributions with its reporting and protection from a variety of threat actors that targeted U.S. interests and allies,” the company said.

The move is the first such action taken since an executive order issued under Donald Trump’s presidency gave the Commerce Department the power to investigate whether certain companies pose a national security risk.

Raimondo said the Commerce Department’s actions demonstrated to America’s adversaries that it would not hesitate to act when “their technology poses a risk to the United States and its citizens.”

While Kaspersky is headquartered in Moscow, it has offices in 31 countries around the world, servicing more than 400 million users and 270,000 corporate clients in more than 200 countries, the Commerce Department said.

As well as banning the sale of Kaspersky’s antivirus software, the Commerce Department also added three entities linked to the firm to a list of companies deemed to be a national security concern, “for their cooperation with Russian military and intelligence authorities in support of the Russian government’s cyber intelligence objectives.”

The Commerce Department said it “strongly encouraged” users to switch to new vendors, although its decision does not ban them from using the software should they choose to do so.

Kaspersky is allowed to continue certain operations in the United States, including providing antivirus updates, until September 29, “in order to minimize disruption to US consumers and businesses and to give them time to find suitable alternatives,” it added.  

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Climate change intensifies US, Mexico heat wave, study finds

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African leaders, French president seek vaccines for Africa

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Donald Sutherland, ‘M.A.S.H.’ and ‘Hunger Games’ actor, dies at 88

NEW YORK — Donald Sutherland, the prolific film and television actor whose long career stretched from “M.A.S.H.” to “The Hunger Games,” has died. He was 88.

Kiefer Sutherland, the actor’s son, confirmed his father’s death Thursday. No further details were immediately available.

“I personally think one of the most important actors in the history of film,” Kiefer Sutherland said on X. “Never daunted by a role, good, bad or ugly. He loved what he did and did what he loved, and one can never ask for more than that.”

The tall and gaunt Canadian actor with a grin that could be sweet or diabolical was known for offbeat characters such as Hawkeye Piece in Robert Altman’s “M.A.S.H.,” the hippie tank commander in “Kelly’s Heroes” and the stoned professor in “Animal House.”

Before transitioning into a long career as a respected character actor, Sutherland epitomized the unpredictable, antiestablishment cinema of the 1970s.

Over the decades, Sutherland showed his range in more buttoned-down — but still eccentric — parts in Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People” and Oliver Stone’s “JFK.”

More recently, he starred in the “Hunger Games” films and the HBO limited series “The Undoing.” He never retired and worked regularly up until his death.

“I love to work. I passionately love to work,” Sutherland told Charlie Rose in 1998. “I love to feel my hand fit into the glove of some other character. I feel a huge freedom — time stops for me. I’m not as crazy as I used to be, but I’m still a little crazy.”

He received an honorary Oscar in 2017.

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Indian toxic alcohol brew kills at least 34

Mumbai, India — A batch of toxic illegal alcohol in India has killed at least 34 people with more than 100 others rushed to hospital, Tamil Nadu state officials told reporters Thursday.

The deadly mix of locally brewed arrack drink was laced with poisonous methanol, chief minister M.K. Stalin said, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Stalin said arrests have been made over the deaths and warned such crimes “ruin society and will be suppressed with an iron fist,” according to a statement from his office.

Hundreds of people die every year in India from cheap alcohol made in backstreet distilleries.

In order to increase its potency the liquor is often spiked with methanol which can cause blindness, liver damage and death.

In the Tamil Nadu case, more than 100 people were hospitalized according to M.S. Prasanth, top government official in the state’s Kallakurichi district, quoted by Indian media.

State governor R.N. Ravi was “deeply shocked” at the deaths, adding that “many more victims are in serious condition battling for (their) lives,” writing on social media platform X.

Tamil Nadu is not a dry state, but liquor traded on the black market comes at a lower price than alcohol sold legally.

Selling and consuming liquor is prohibited in several other parts of India, further driving the thriving black market for potent and sometimes lethal backstreet moonshine.

Last year, poisonous alcohol killed at least 27 people in one sitting in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, while in 2022, at least 42 people died in Gujarat.

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South Africa beats US in Super Eight playoffs at the T20 World Cup

NORTH SOUND, Antigua — South Africa had to work hard to earn an 18-run win over the fast-improving United States in the opening game of the Super Eight at the Twenty20 World Cup on Wednesday.

Co-host the West Indies also lost it first match in the Super Eight stage Wednesday, beaten by eight wickets by defending champion England. Jack Salt scored 87 runs to lead England.

Andries Gous made an unbeaten 80 off 47 balls for the U.S. — against the country of his birth — to move atop the batting charts at the World Cup before South Africa restricted the Americans at 176-6.

Fast bowler Kagiso Rabada claimed 3-18 and spinner Keshav Maharaj got the prized wicket of U.S. captain Aaron Jones for a duck — no runs — to finish with 1-24.

Quinton de Kock had earlier made a rampant 74 off 40 balls and Heinrich Klaasen provided the perfect finish with 36 not out in the South African total of 194-4 after Jones won the toss and elected to field.

“Pretty happy with the performance as a whole,” South Africa captain Aiden Markram said. “A couple of overs here and there we need to tidy up … but the wicket definitely changes and gets a bit slower.”

De Kock and Markram (46 off 32 balls) dominated both spinners and the pacers as they raised a solid 110-run stand after Saurabh Netravalkar (2-21) had provided the early breakthrough by getting the wicket of Reeza Hendricks in his second over.

“We’ve had some tricky wickets so it was nice to spend some time in the middle today,” de Kock said. “The USA put us under pressure towards the end. It was a great game.”

Netravalkar, who bowled a sensational Super Over in the United States’ historic win over heavyweights Pakistan in the group stage, struck immediately in his return spell when Markram was brilliantly caught by diving Ali Khan at deep backward point off a full-pitched ball.

But Klaasen used all his T20 experience in the last five overs and struck three sixes while Tristan Stubbs also hit two fours in his 16-ball unbeaten 20 which lifted the South Africa total.

“Hard to take a defeat after coming so close,” Jones said. “We did lack discipline in the bowling at times, (but) once we play good cricket we can beat any team in the world. We need to be a lot more disciplined.”

England beats the West Indies

At Gros Islet, St Lucia, Salt carried his bat for 87 and Jonny Bairstow made an unbeaten 48 as defending champion England beat the West Indies by eight wickets in a match between two-time World Cup champions.

It was the West Indies’ first loss of the tournament and their first defeat in eight Twenty20 internationals.

The West Indies made 180-4 batting first on the same pitch on which they made 218-5 against Afghanistan in the final match of the group stage on Monday.

The fireworks came at the end and from England as Salt made his 87 runs from 47 balls with seven fours and five sixes and Bairstow added his 48 from 26 deliveries. England reached 181-2 with 15 balls to spare.

Salt provided a solid foundation for the England run chase, initially in a 67-run opening partnership with Jos Buttler.

Salt scored 30 runs — three sixes and three fours — from the 16th over bowled by Romario Shepherd.

“I’m not looking too far ahead at the minute, just glad that I could contribute to a good team win,” Salt said. “It was a little bit tougher in the middle overs with the spin.”

The pitch may have been a little slower than on Monday but England captain Buttler also used his bowlers well and the West Indies innings included 50 dot balls.

A capacity crowd in the first night match of the Super Eight stage was out to party but the match really didn’t come alive until the end.

The West Indies started well but were disrupted in the six-over power play by the loss of Brandon King who retired hurt after 4.3 overs with a side or groin strain. King had just hit the first six of the match, a 103-meter (338-foot) blow that flew over the grandstand and out of the stadium.

He made 23 from 13 balls and was setting the early pace of the innings when he was forced to retire with the West Indies at 40-0. There was no immediate word on the seriousness of King’s injury.

“Credit has to be given to the England bowling unit. You can see they had clear plans and executed them well,” West Indies captain Rovman Powell said.

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