Women’s Sports Column 10-16 March 2018

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  There’s plenty to get through, yet again, especially in the football department, so I’d better crack on.  Stories this week come from the Winter Paralympics, football, cricket, rugby union, hockey, Commonwealth Games, netball, tennis and badminton.  Plus an “And Finally” that’s just a bit of banter, really… honest guv.

Winter Paralympics

Team GB has won three medals so far at the event in Pyeongchang.

The first medal went to Millie Knight and Brett Wild, who took silver in the visually impaired downhill.  Henrieta Farkasova and guide Natalia Subrtova of Slovakia took gold and Eleanor and Chloe Sana of Belgium bronze.  Menna Fitzpatrick and guide Jen Kehoe didn’t finish.

Fitzpatrick and Kehoe won silver in the visually impaired super combined.  Henrieta Farkasova and Natalia Subrtova won gold again, while Melissa Perrine and Christian Geiger of Australia won bronze.  The other British participants, Millie Knight and Brett Wild and Kelly Gallagher and Gary Smith finished fourth and seventh respectively.

Fitzpatrick and Kehoe struck silver again in the giant slalom.  Needless to say, Farkasova and Subrtova won gold with Perrine and Geiger won bronze.  Gallagher and Smith finished fifth and Knight and Brett, seventh.

Disappointingly, the Team GB curlers failed to make the semi-finals.  The gold medal match will be between China and Norway, while the bronze medal match will be between South Korea and Canada.  Both matches take place on 17 March.

Football – off the pitch

The FA has received 15 applications to join the new WSL and Championship.  There are nine places up for grabs in total, up to four in the WSL and five in the Championship.

We won’t know the outcome until the end of May, but it is thought that Charlton Athletic, Coventry United, Crystal Palace, Derby County and Sheffield United are amongst those vying for places in the second tier.

Anita Assante

Anita Assante has had surgery on the knee injury sustained at the SheBelieves Cup.  She will be out for some time in recovery.

Steffi Jones

Germany has sacked the national side’s national head coach, Steffi Jones after poor results at the SheBelieves Cup and at last year’s European Championships.

Former German international striker Horst Hrubesch has been appointed as interim coach.

The team has upcoming World Cup qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Slovenia in April.

Football – on the pitch

Continental Cup final
Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City

City’s dream of the quadruple crumbled on Wednesday as Arsenal won their fifth Continental Cup final at Wycombe.

The only goal in a tightly-contested game came on the half-hour through Vivianne Miedema, after she was put through by Jordan Nobbs.

City seemed out of sorts in the first-half, barely registering a shot.  In the second, they had better chances, through Nikita Parris, Jane Ross and Claire Emslie, but the Gunners’ defence held strong.

Sunday 11 March
FAWSL 2

Aston Villa 1-3 Durham

Wednesday 14 March
FAWSL1

Yeovil Town p-p Reading

Netball

Round six of the Vitality Netball Super league was completed during the week:

Friday 9 March
Team Bath 51-60 Manchester Thunder

Saturday 10 March
Celtic Dragons 49-40 Severn Stars
Benecos Mavericks 46-44 UWS Sirens
Wasps Netball 74-38 Team Northumbria

Wasps are top of the table with seven wins from seven and 21 points.  There is clear water between them and Manchester Thunder who are second on1 5 points from five matches and Benecos Mavericks lie third, also on 15, but from six matches.

This weekend’s round seven fixtures are as follows:

Friday 16 March
Manchester Thunder v Benecos Mavericks (7.30pm)
UWS Sirens v Severn Stars (7.30pm, Live on Sky Sports)

Saturday 17 March
Loughborough Lightning v Tam Bath (6pm)
Team Northumbria v Surrey Storm (6pm)

Sunday 18 March
Wasps Netball v Celtic Dragons (6pm)

Tennis

We are at the semi-final stage of the Indian Wells tournament.  The quarter-final results were:

Simona Halep (1) beat Petra Martic 6-4 6-7 6-3
Daria Kasatkina (20) beat Angelique Kerber (10) 6-0 6-2
Naomi Osaka beat Karolina Pliskova (5)
Venus Williams (8) beat Carla Suarez-Navarro (27) 6-3 6-2

In the semi-finals on Saturday, Williams faces Kasatkina, while Halep takes on Osaka.

Serena Williams lost to her sister Venus in the third round in straight sets 6-3 6-4.

Commonwealth Games News

Athletics

Kadeena Cox has withdrawn from England’s Commonwealth Games team through injury.  She was due to run in the T38 100m at the Gold Coast Games.

Hockey

England has announced its squad for the Commonwealth Games.  They will face South Africa, Wales, India and Malaysia in their Pool B games with the top two qualifying for the semi-finals.

The squad in full:
Giselle Ansley (Surbiton), Grace Balsdon (Canterbury), Sophie Bray (Kampong), Alex Danson (Clifton Robinson), Sarah Haycroft (Surbiton), Maddie Hinch (Stichtse), Kathryn Lane (Leicester), Hannah Martin (Surbiton), Lily Owsley (Uni of Birmingham), Hollie Pearne-Webb (Surbiton), Ellie Rayer (East Grinstead), Amy Tennant (East Grinstead), Anna Toman (Wimbledon), Susannah Townsend (Canterbury), Laura Unsworth (East Grinstead), Ellie Watton (Holcombe).

Hockey

Investec Hockey Women’s League Premier Division

10 March
Holcombe 1-1 Leicester
Slough 1-8 Surbiton
East Grinstead 3-1 Buckingham
Bowdon 2-2 Clifton Robinsons
Canterbury 4-2 University of Birmingham

11 March
Leicester 1-2 Slough

With their excellent win at Slough, Surbiton are top with 31 points from 16 games.  East Grinstead lie second on 28 from 15 and Holcombe are third, also on 28, but from 16 games.

Leicester are bottom on 11 from 15, with Clifton Robinsons just above them on 14, also from 15.

Rugby Union – off the pitch

New Zealand

Great news from New Zealand as it was announced this week that the Black Ferns are to be awarded paid contracts for the first time.

A minimum of 30 players will be employed on contract and will also have access to medical and life insurance as well as maternity leave entitlements.

The contracts will commit players to 10-14 hours per week training as well as 50 days a year of training camps and fixtures.

This takes the team to a semi-professional status and players are still encouraged to work or study.

Rugby union – on the pitch

Six Nations

Well, what a weekend of Six Nations action last weekend!  Round four saw wins for France, Italy and Scotland in three thrilling encounters:

Saturday 10 March
France 18-17 England

A record crowd of 17,440 (that’s seventeen thousand) saw France snatch victory in the final minutes of the game to send the home crowd into delirium.

Abigail Dow opened the scoring for England with a try converted by Katy McLean.  Rachel Burford was yellow-carded for England, but France couldn’t capitalise.  However, shortly after they were back to a full compliment, Jessy Trémoulière crossed to get the home side on the board.  Her conversion attempt went wide off the post, but France were back to within two.

Right on half-time France took the lead with a try from scrum half Caroline Drouin.  The conversion was again missed, but France went in 10-7 up.

England started the second-half strongly.   Ten minutes in they scored a second try, this time through Amy Cockayne.  McLean was successful with the conversion and it was 14-10 to the visitors.

On 55 the deficit was cut to just one as Trémoulière slotted home a penalty, but with eight minutes to go England responded with a penalty of their own to make it 17-14 to England.

But the sucker punch came with just a minute to go.  The tremendous Trémoulière cut through one more time and went over to score the winning try.  The conversion was missed, but Les Bleues had won by one point.

Now they have the chance to win the Grand Slam this weekend when they take on Wales at Colwyn Bay on Friday.

11 March
Wales 15-22 Italy

Isabella Locatelli opened the scoring for the visitors on nine minutes.  It was converted by Michela Sillari.  On the half-hour Wales were on the board with a penalty from Robyn Wilkins.  Four minutes later Wales were ahead with a try from Alisha Butchers, but this went unconverted.

But the Azzurre were not to be outdone.  A minute before the break, Maria Magatti went over and Italy were 12-8 up.

Ten minutes into the second-half the away side were over again.  Locatelli looked to be going in for her second, but she was tackled.  She managed to get the ball away to Beatrice Rigoni for the try.

Melissa Clay was sin-binned for Wales and although they held out, there was a brief period when they were down to 13 as Butchers was also yellow-carded.  Somehow they managed not only to not concede, but when Clay had returned they scored the next try,  Sioned Harries going over and Wilkins converting, thereby cutting the deficit to two points.

But in the last minute Italy had the last word.  Sillari scored Italy’s fourth try and they had won by seven points.

Ireland 12-15 Scotland

Saturday also saw a fine win for Scotland at Donnybrook.

In a tight first-half only three points were scored, a penalty to Scotland kicked by Helen Nelson.

The away side redoubled their efforts in the second-half.  Nelson went over two minutes, but the conversion was missed.

Ireland got back into it on 50 minutes when they were awarded a penalty try.  Ireland pressed again and Megan Kennedy was yellow-carded for Scotland after the scrum collapsed.

On 62 minutes Ireland were on the attack, but Scotland full-back Chloe Rollie intercepted a loose pass going over the whitewash after running the length of the pitch.  It was converted by Lana Skeldon and the score was 15-7 to the visitors.

Ten minutes from time Ireland scored their second through Paula Fitzpatrick taking it to 15-12.  It went unconverted and although they repeatedly attacked in the last ten minutes, they were unable to break down Scotland’s defence.

The final round is this weekend with France going for the Grand Slam.  For some ridiculous reason, England v Ireland and Wales v France kick off within 30 minutes of each other in the early evening of Friday 16 March – big huh? to the schedulers there.

16 March

England v Ireland (Ricoh Arena, 5.30pm.  Live on Sky and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
Wales v France (Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay, 6pm. S4C and FTV.)

18 March
Italy v Scotland (Stadio Plebiscito , 2pm GMT, Eurosport Italia)

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

10 March
DMP Sharks 5-13 Saracens
Firwood Waterloo 10-44 Gloucester-Hartpury
Loughborough 24-7 Bristol
Harlequins 14-12 Richmond
Wasps 55-5 Worcester Valkyries

Saracens are top on 72 points from 16 games, one point ahead of Harlequins who have played a game more.  Wasps lie third on 59 from 16.  The luckless Valkyries are still bottom on two points, with Firwood Waterloo second from bottom on 11.

Cricket

Australian tour of India

First ODI – 12 March
India 200 all out (50 overs)
Australia 202/2 (32.1 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets

India won the toss and chose to bat first.  Pooja Vastrakar top-scored with 51 off 56 balls and there were other good contributions from Verma and Raut, but 200 was never likely to be enough.  Jess Jonassen took 4/30 off her 10 overs and Amanda-Jade Welllington 3/24 off six.

Australia knocked off the target with nearly 18 overs to spare.  Nicole Bolton scored 100 not out from 101 balls, Alyssa Healy 38, Meg Lanning 33 and Ellyse Perry 25 not out as they went one-up in the three match series.

Second ODI – 15 March
Australia 287/9 (50 overs)
India 227 all out (49.2 overs)
Australia won by 60 runs

Nicole Bolton was at it again, this time opening with 84 from 88 balls as Australia posted a formidable total.  Perry finished 70 not out and Beth Mooney scored 56.  Shikha Pandey took 3/61 from her 10 overs and Poonam Yadav 2/52 from her 10.

India made a decent start in response with an 88 opening stand before Smriti Mandhana was out for 67.  But although most of the batters got starts, they couldn’t go on and dropped behind the required rate.  In the end they were all out in the last over.  Jonassen was again the bowling star for Australia, taking 3/51 from 10.  Perry took 2/41 from 8.2 overs and Wellington 2/20 from four.

The third ODI is on 18 March.

Badminton

Chris and Gabby Adcock are through to the mixed doubles quarter-finals at the All England Badminton Championships, being held in Birmingham.

They face Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino of Japan in the evening session on 16 March.

And finally,

In the Barcelona v Chelsea (men’s) game midweek, Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois let in two goals through his legs.   Surely this only goes to prove that all male ‘keepers are c**p?

Sorry no column for two weeks now as I am away.

Women’s Sports Column 3-9 March 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column. After saying I was going to be out and about last week, I ended up actually being very much in and not about, laid up with flu.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – when you’ve got flu, you know about it.

Anyway, I’m back up and running now and there’s plenty to get to grips with this week. Stories come from the Paralympics, rugby, netball, football, cycling, athletics, tennis, cricket and golf.

Winter Paralympics

The Winter Paralympics open today in Pyeongchang with 670 athletes vying for medals in six sports.

Team GB has been set a target of seven medals.

Downhill skier, Millie Knight, along with guide Brett Wild, will be aiming for a medal, as will Kelly Gallagher and new guide Gary Smith in the Super G.  Great Britain also has high hopes in the wheelchair curling.

Full coverage across the BBC.

 Football

 SheBelieves Cup

Thursday 1 March
England 4-1 France

The Lionesses got off to a fine start in the four-team tournament in the US.  True, this French team is but a shadow of its former self as several of the previous stalwarts, and often thorns in England’s side, have retired or are unavailable for selection.  The Lionesses too, however, are missing key players, including captain Steph Houghton, who withdrew from the squad with an ankle injury.

Toni Duggan opened the scoring, slipping Fran Kirby’s pass into the net on seven minutes.

The French offered little and were soon two down as Jill Scott grabbed the second.  Jodie Taylor scored a third before half-time and the game was done as a spectacle.

The second-half saw the Lionesses take their foot off the gas and substitutions caused the game to become disjointed.  But Fran Kirby still found time to grab England’s fourth, before Gaetane Thiney scored a consolation goal for France.

The only downside for England was Anita Asante’s injury incurred in the first-half.  She has since returned to the UK and is set to be out for some time with a knee injury.

USA 1-0 Germany

A goal from Megan Rapinoe on 17 minutes was enough to clinch the opening match for USA.

Sunday 4 March
USA 1-1 France

France recovered from their heavy loss to England to gain an impressive point against the US.  Mallory Pugh scored for the home side, ten minutes from half-time.  France equalised just three minutes later through Eugenie Le Sommer.  Neither side could find the winner in the second-half.

England 2-2 Germany

Whilst there was much to admire in England’s 2-2 draw against Germany, the Lionesses will surely watch the video rerun through their fingers, unwilling to view some of the comedy defending.

But Phil Neville will be heartened by the team’s resilience.  At one time, they would have capitulated after going behind to Germany, but on this occasion they came back – twice.

The Germans took the lead through Hasret Kayikci but England came straight back when a long-range shot from Fara Williams was deflected by Ellen White into the net.

On the resumption, Germany had the better of the play and went ahead again when a poor clearance from Siobhan Chamberlain bounced off Millie Bright and into the net.

This discombobulated England for a while, but Ellen White struck again, getting on to a fine through ball and just beating the German offside trap, to slide the ball home.

The last fifteen minutes were end-to-end, with both teams squandering chances.  England’s best came through Rachel Daly who, having done the hard work to get into a one-to-one with the goalkeeper, then chipped the ball straight to her when it seemed easier to score.

Thursday 7 March
France 3-0 Germany

No-one saw this one coming; France were abject against England and improved against the USA, but 3-0 against Germany?

Armandine Henry opened the scoring for France in the tenth minute with a great shot from 23 yards out.

Germany thought they had equalised when Dzenifer Marozsan chipped the goalkeeper nearly from the half-way line, but Sarah Bouhaddi managed to scramble back to make the save.

In the second-half, France scored through Eugenie Le Sommer (her 66th international goal) and Valerie Gauvin.

The Germans played an inexperienced side against a full-strength French side and paid the price.

The result also ensured Germany finished bottom of the SheBelieves table.

USA 1-0 England

England needed just a point from their final match to take the trophy.  But it was not to be for Phil Neville’s men as an unfortunate own goal from ‘keeper Karen Bardsley saw the points and the title go to the USA.

For most of the first-half the teams were even, but towards the break the US started to take charge.  In the second-half they came out firing again and on 58 minutes a sliced clearance from Millie Bright hit Bardsley and deflected into the net.

The Lionesses had chances to equalise, including one for Ellen White just minutes from time, but she her header came off the post and was cleared by the USA defender.

Football – Off the Pitch

League Restructure in England

From season 2018-19 the women’s game will be renamed/restructured as follows:

Current name                                                     New Name
Tier One:   WSL1                                                 FA Women’s Super League
Tier Two:   WSL2                                                 FA Women’s Championship
Tier Three: Women’s Premier League             FA Women’s national League North/South
Northern/Southern Division
Tier Four:  Women’s Premier League              FA Women’s National League 1 (4 regions)
(4 Regions)

So far, the following clubs have been awarded licences for the top two divisions:

FA WSL: Arsenal, Birmingham City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bristol City, Chelsea Ladies, Everton Ladies, Liverpool Ladies, Manchester City, Reading Women, Yeovil Town.

FA Women’s Championship: Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Durham, London Bees, Millwall Lionesses, Sheffield FC Ladies, Tottenham Hotspur.

In addition to this, there are up to four places available in the FAWSL through the second lot of applications and five in the Championship.

The second application process for places begins this month for those currently outside the two top tiers.  We already know West Ham intend to apply for the WSL and Crystal Palace for the Championship.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

It’s Round Four of the Six Nations this weekend.  The fixtures are:

10 March
France v England (8pm GMT)

11 March
Wales v Italy (11.45am GMT)
Ireland v Scotland (1pm GMT)

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

Unsurprisingly, last weekend’s fixtures were hit by the weather, with only one tie going ahead:

Gloucester-Hartpury 40-36 Harlequins

This weekend’s fixtures are as follows:

10 March
DMP Sharks v Saracens (2pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Firwood Waterloo v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby club)
Loughborough Lightning v Bristol (3pm, Loughborough University)
Harlequins v Richmond (3pm, Surrey Sports Park)
Wasps v Worcester Valkyries (3pm, Tywford Avenue Sports Ground)

Cycling

Track Cycling World Championships

Katie Archibald and Emily Nelson won gold in the madison.  Kirsten Wild and Amy Pieters of the Netherlands took silver and Letizia Paternoster and Maria Giulia Confalonieri of Italy the bronze.

Laura Kenny, Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Emily Nelson won silver in the women’s team pursuit.  The gold was taken by the USA team of Jennifer Valente, Chloe Dygert, Kimberly Geist and Kelly Catlin.  Bronze went to Letizia Paternoster, Elisa Balsamo, Tatiana Guderzo and Silvia Valsecchi of Italy.

Elinor Barker was due to take part in the madison, withdrew after a crash and then finished twelfth in the points race.  Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands won.  Jennifer Valente of the USA took silver and Jasmin Duehring of Canada the bronze.

Barker also finished sixth in the omnium.  Kirsten Wild won it with Amalie Dideriksen of Denmark in second and Rushlee Buchanan of New Zealand in third.

Lauren Bate and Katy Marchant finished sixth in the team sprint.  Gold went to Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel of Germany, silver to Kyra Lamberink and Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands and bronze to Daria Shmeleva and Anastasiia Voinova of the Russian Federation.

Golf

Michelle Wie of the US won her first tournament since 2014 last weekend when she took the Women’s World Championship title by one shot with a three-way tie for second.

Wie carded a 65 on the final round, holing a monster 40-foot putt on the last, to go to -17. Brooke Henderson of Canada and Danielle Kang and Nelly Korda of the US tied second on -16.  Best placed UK finisher was Charley Hull, back on -10.

Netball

Netball Super League round five took place last weekend, although a couple of fixtures fell foul of the weather.  The results were as follows:

Friday 2 March
Team Bath v UWS Sirens POSTPONED

Saturday 3 March
Manchester Thunder v Celtic Dragons POSTPONED
Loughborough Lightning 49-60 Wasps Netball
Severn Stars v Surrey Storm POSTPONED

Monday 5 March
Team Northumbria 53-71Benecos Mavericks

One fixture from Round Six also took place on Monday 5:

Loughborough Lightning 53-51 Surrey Storm

The table is a bit uneven now with the postponements, but Wasps are top with five wins from five and 15 points.  Team Bath are second with 12 points from four games and Loughborough Lightning third, also on 12 points, but from six games.  Severn Stars, Surrey Storm and Team Northumbria are yet to pick up a point.

This weekend’s fixtures look like this:

Friday 9 March
Team Bath v Manchester Thunder (7.30pm Live on Sky Sports)

Saturday 10 March
Celtic dragons v Severn Stars (4pm)
Benecos Mavericks v UWS Sirens (6pm)
Wasps Netball v Team Northumbria (7pm)

Hockey

Investec Women’s Premier League

Several fixtures fell victim to the weather at the weekend, with just two taking place:

3 March
Surbiton 1-2 Holcombe

4 March
East Grinstead 3-0 University of Birmingham

Surbiton are top with 28 points from 15 games.  Holcombe are second, one point behind, from 15 games and University of Birmingham are third on 26 from 14 games.

Cricket – on the Pitch

The West Indies are currently playing a one-day series in New Zealand, the results of which count towards the ICC Women’s Championship.

First ODI – 4 March
West Indies 277/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand 278/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand won by 1 run

West Indies won the toss and elected to field first.  Sophie Devine hit 108 and Suzie Bates 44 to steer New Zealand to a defendable total of 278.

The Windies chased with a vengeance.  Kyshona Knight looked to have put them on course as she hit 44 from 31 balls.  They needed 10 off the last over, to be bowled by Leigh Kasperek.

Two runs off the first two balls.  Then a wicket as Tremayne Smartt was caught by Maddy Green for five.  But the dangerous Knight was still there.  The fourth ball went for a boundary and the West Indies needed four off the last two.  The fifth ball went for only a single and the last for two and New Zealand had won by one run.

Second ODI – 8 March
West Indies 194 all out (48.1 overs)
New Zealand 195/2 (30.4 overs)
New Zealand won by 8 wickets with 116 balls to spare

The second match of the series was an altogether more one-sided affair.  Stafanie Taylor top-scored for the West Indies with 86, but it was not enough to get them to a useful score.  Kasperek took 4/44 from her 10 overs and Leah Tahuhu 3/42 from 9.1.

New Zealand were ruthless in response, knocking off the total in just over 30 overs.  Devine and Bates were again outstanding, scoring 80 and 101 not out respectively, taking the White Ferns into a 2-0 lead in the series.

The third game is on Sunday 11 March.

Cricket – off the Pitch

England

The ECB has named its squad to tour India and also compete in the tri-series with India and Australia.  Katherine Brunt has been left out with a back injury and Sarah Taylor has been rested.  Lauren Winfield, Georgia Elwiss and Laura Marsh are also left out.

There are three new names in the squad; Alice Davidson-Richards, Bryony Smith and Katie George, while Kate Cross, Tash Farrant and  Amy Jones are recalled.

The squad in full:

Heather Knight (Berkshire, capt), Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Kate Cross (Lancashire), Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Tash Farrant (Kent), Katie George (Hampshire), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Alex Hartley (Lancashire), Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire), Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wk), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Bryony Smith (Surrey), Fran Wilson (Middlesex), Danni Wyatt (Sussex).

Fixtures:

Twenty20 tri-series

(All matches played at Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai)

March
22 India v Australia (04:30 GMT)
23 Australia v England (04:30 GMT)
25 India v England (05:30 BST)
26 India v Australia (05:30 BST)
28 Australia v England (05:30 BST)
29 India v England (05:30 BST)
31 Final (05:30 BST)

India v England ODI series

(Not counting towards the ICC Women’s Championship)

April
6 1st ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)
9 2nd ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)
12 3rd ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)

News on media coverage when I have it.

Kia Super League

The ECB announced the England players’ Kia Super League allocations this week.  Now forgive me if I’m being particularly grumpy here, but it does seem that it’s all becoming a bit random.  I can’t help thinking we’re just marking time now until the new franchise system is introduced and we start again.  Now it just appears people are moving for no reason – how can supporters get to know a team that’s always changing?  Anyway, the moves are:

Beth Langston – Loughborough Lightning to Yorkshire Diamonds
Jenny Gunn- Yorkshire Diamonds to Loughborough Lightning
Tammy Beaumont – Surrey Stars to Southern Vipers
Sarah Taylor – Lancashire Thunder to Surrey Stars
Alex Hartley – Surrey Stars to Lancashire Thunder

The ECB is looking for balance, but in the end, the divvying up of England players detracts from the tournament for me.

Athletics

World Indoor Championships

There were some excellent performances by Team GB at last weekend’s Championships in Birmingham.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson was the star of the show, taking her first senior title with gold in the pentathlon.  She won with 4750 points.  Silver went to Ivona Dadic of Austria and bronze to Yorgelis Rodriguez of Cuba.

Laura Muir took bronze in the 3000m in a season’s best 8:45.78.  The winner was Genzebe Dibabe of Ethiopia, in a time of 8:45.05.  Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands took silver in a time of 8:45.68.

Muir then went one better, taking silver in the 1500m.  Dibabe was again the winner, with Hassan in bronze.

It was a one/two for the US in the 400m with Courtney Okolo taking gold and Shakima Wimbley, silver.  Eilidh Doyle took bonze for Great Britain with a season’s best 51.60.

Shelayna Oskan-Clarke took bronze in the 800m with a personal best time of 1:59.81.  The gold went to Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and the silver Ajee Wilson of USA.

Bronze also went to the 4x400m team.  United States took gold with Poland in silver.

London Marathon

Kathrine Swizter, the first woman to be given an official number in the Boston Marathon, fifty years ago, is to run in the London Marathon this year.

Switzer, 71, entered the Boston race using her initials only, hoping to pass through unnoticed.  She was roughly attacked by security men on the day, who tried to remove her from the course.  She eventually completed the race in four hours 20 minutes.

The race takes place on Sunday 22 April.

Tennis

She’s back folks!  I crave your indulgence for just a moment to mention the fact that Serena Williams is back.  Now I know that after childbirth women return to all kinds of work in ridiculously short amounts of time, and I also know that they generally neither ask for nor get recognition for that.  So I’m not necessarily shouting about the fact that she’s returning after childbirth, but just the fact that she’s back.

In her first match back at Indian Wells, she beat Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 7-5 6-3.  She plays 29th seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in round two.

And finally,

It would be remiss of me not to mention #IWD2018.  I know that in the scheme of things, when women and girls all round the world suffer daily horrific treatment, sport is not one of life’s priorities.  FGM, trafficking, pornography, rape, “honour” killing, withdrawal of abortion and health rights, harassment and forced marriage are just a few things happening to thousands of women and girls every day.

I know I’ve said this before, but while I speak out, sign petitions and protest against all of these things, my actual area of expertise is sport.  Women everywhere have the right to play, officiate, manage, take charge of and watch any kind of sport they want to without fear of reprisal, violence, discrimination or even just scorn and general derision.  But it doesn’t happen.  And while there is a sporting fight to be had, I’ll be there.  Happy #IWD2018 everyone.