Women’s Sports Column 18-24 August 2018

cricket-ballWelcome to this week’s column – the last before I’m off on my hols for two weeks.  So, I’d better get through as much as I can before I slope off to exotic climes.  Stories this week come from rugby union, cricket, football, gymnastics, hockey, athletics, golf, netball and tennis.

Let’s crack on.

Cricket

Big news from India this week as Jhulan Goswami has announced her retirement from T20s, just three months before the start of the T20 World Cup.  She took 56 wickets in 68 T20 internationals and is the leading T20 wicket-taker for India.

In an interview with ESPNcricinfo she said,

“My mind and body have been at loggerheads for a while now. I wasn’t able to focus properly on the format and it’s been difficult for me to motivate myself. Given the demands of T20, it doesn’t help when the body of a 35-year-old fast bowler takes longer to recover than she wants it to.

“The workload in T20s is different to that in the 50-over game and I don’t think my body had been supporting me in T20s. With age, my movements have got slower, so as a player, if I’m not able to give my best on the field, then I don’t think I should be in the T20I side. I saw no point dragging myself in the format beyond a point. And, for me, this is the point in T20s.”

She has been my favourite Indian cricketer for some time and it will take some time to get used to not seeing her charge in.  Her commitment, drive and sprit, as well as her frightening ability, has been something to behold.  But it is also good that she has withdrawn on her own terms and has realised when the time is right for her.

Kia Super League

The line-up for Finals Day is decided.  In the end, Loughborough were thanking their Surrey Stars as the Stars beat Western Storm, which not only meant the Lightning finished top but also that the Stars claimed the third place.  Here’s what happened in the last round of competition:

Lancashire Thunder 162/3 (20 overs)
Southern Vipers 153 (19.4 overs)
Thunder won by 9 runs

Harmanpreet Kaur top-scored with a stunning 44 not out from 20 balls and Nicole Bolton scored 43 from 34 balls as Lancashire posted a competitive 162.

The Vipers started well in response with an opening partnership of 42 between Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont.  But they lost wickets regularly, as they fell behind the required rate.  Sophie Ecclestone took 4/20 from her four overs and Amy Satterthwaite 2/14 off just 1.4 as the Vipers were all out nine short of their target.

Yorkshire Diamonds 148/6 (20 overs)
Loughborough Lighting 145/6 (20 overs)
Diamonds won by 3 runs

Lightning lost their third game, but first full-length match, on Saturday as they fell just three short of their target.

Lightning dismissed Lauren Winfield for just eight, but Beth Mooney scored 76 from 50 balls to be the spine of the Diamonds innings.  When the useful Thea Brookes went for only one and Delissa Kimmince two, Loughborough must have thought they were going to restrict the Diamonds to a low total.  In the end they managed 148, which was good, but should not have been beyond the Lightning.

In response the openers started well, but Loughborough really needed Sophie Devine to continue in her fine vein of form.  She was out for 22, and while Rachael Haynes battled on to 47 from 38 balls, those around her began to fall as they dropped behind the rate.

Ellyse Villani bashed 26 from 23, but after she departed the innings slowed and the Lightning were unable to get over the line.

Western Storm 158/5 (20 overs)
Surrey Stars 160/5 (19.4 overs)
Stars won by 5 wickets with 2 balls remaining

It was so close.  For once Smriti Mandhana, in her last match for the Storm after being recalled by India to attend a training camp, did not fire, making only five before she was run out.

Rachel Priest scored 30, but it was up to captain Heather Knight to hold it together which she did, scoring 62 off 47 balls before she too was run out.  Fran Wilson contributed 28, but the innings somewhat subsided to the end as the Storm posted a fair 158.

What could Surrey Stars do?  They needed to win to get through to Finals Day.  They couldn’t rely on the Vipers beating Lancashire Thunder.

They started well.  The openers took it on and Lizelle Lee, who has been improving with every match this tournament, scored 48 from 28 balls as the opening stand with Bryony Smith totalled 90.  Lee was the first to go, and when Sarah Taylor went for one just two balls later, the Stars appeared to be faltering.

But 30 from Nat Sciver and 25 from Dane van Niekerk saw them keep up with the required rate and into the 19th over.  It was then up to Sophia Dunkley and Marizanne Kapp to get them over the line, which they did with two balls to spare.

Finals Day is on Monday 27 August and to my eternal shame I will not be around to see it.  It will be televised live on Sky, but if you are in the Hove area can I encourage you to get down to what will be a fabulous day of cricket, ridiculously underpriced at just £5 for adults and £1 for children.

The semi-final, between Western Storm and Surrey Stars starts at midday with the winners playing Loughborough Lightning in the final at 4pm.

Also happening on Bank Holiday Monday (27 August) and thanks to Richard Clark for the information:

The women’s One-Day Cup Div 3 promotion play-offs
Suffolk v Essex* (Long Melford CC)
Oxfordshire v Durham (Bicester & North Oxford CC)
Worcestershire v Cornwall (New Road, Worcester)
*Essex are seeking to avoid demotion from Div 2, rather than gain promotion from Div 3.

Richard tells me that it’s free admission at New Road for the Worcestershire game and that the County have been very supportive of the women’s team and of this game in particular, staging it at the County ground at New Road and giving it great publicity.

Thanks for that Richard, and good luck to all those taking part.

Golf

With one round of the Canadian Women’s Open completed, the lead is shared by three golfers; Aryia Jutanugarn of Thailand, Mariajo Uribe of Colombia and Nasa Hataoka of Japan on -8.

Of the British players, Georgia Hall and Charley Hull are both on -4, Bronte Law is -3, Mel Reid -2, Jodie Ewart Shadoff and Gemma Dryburgh on -1 and Catriona Matthew is level.

Gymnastics

Is anyone surprised?  Simon Biles this week became the first woman to win five US Women’s Gymnastics Championships all-round titles.

She scored 119.850, 6.55 points ahead of Morgan Hurd.

She also used the opportunity to show her support for survivors of sexual abuse, wearing a teal leotard – the colour associated with surviving sexual abuse.

Biles has only been back into training and competition for nine months after she announced she was going to take a break from the sport in 2016.

Athletics

There were some fine performances from Team GB’s women at the Birmingham Grand Prix last weekend.

Dina Asher-Smith finished second in the 200m, with Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas in first place.  Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands finished third.

Laura Muir won the 1,000m.  She was aiming to take Dame Kelly Holmes’ British record, but finished outside it by just over a second.  Fellow Briton Adelle Tracey was third.

Meghan Beesley finished third in the 400m hurdles with Eilidh Doyle in fourth.  Lea Sprunger of Switzerland was the winner with Janieve Russell of Jamaica in second.

Shara Proctor also finished third in the long jump.  Malaika Mihambo of Germany took first place and Caterine Ibargüen of Colombia was second.

Football

Under 20s World Cup

England’s Young Lionesses failed in their bid to make it to the Under 20s World Cup final.  They fell 2-0 to an excellent Japanese side.

To be honest, I thought England had a real chance they way they had been playing, until I saw Japan absolutely demolish Germany in their quarter-final.

 Quarter-finals

Spain 2-1 Nigeria

Aitana Bonmati scored after 13 minutes for Spain.  Patricia Guijarro got a second in first-half injury time.  Peace Ewomazino Efih got one back just before the hour mark, but it was only to be a consolation.

France 1-0 North Korea

The only goal of the game came just on the half-hour through a penalty, scored by Amelie Delabre.

England 2-1 Netherlands

This was a good performance by England, marred only, I feel by Georgia Stanway’s obsession with getting a hat-trick, which meant she was a bit too greedy in possession.  Mind you, one person’s greed is another’s single-mindedness.

The Netherlands actually took the lead in the twelfth minute through Victoria Pelova.  But Stanway struck on 20 and 23 to give England the lead.

The second-half was largely a tense England defensive display.

Germany 1-3 Japan

Three goals in 14 minutes put an end to any hope for Germany.  In truth, they had been lucky to get into the second-half without conceding.

The technical ability of the Japanese was a joy to watch; they completed 538 passes in the match compared to Germany’s 429.

Japan took the lead in the 59th minute through Jun Endo.  Ten minutes later they were two-up through Riko Ueki and the third was scored on 73 minutes by Saori Takarada.

Germany pulled one back on 82 minutes through Janina Minge, but there was no doubt as to the winner of this one.

Semi-finals

England 0-2 Japan

It was not to be for England as they were outclassed by Japan, whose passing, awareness and technical ability were again a joy to behold.

England should not be downhearted though as I think they would have proved a match for any other team in that tournament.  From a selfish point of view, it’s a pity they couldn’t have met in the final, rather than the semi.

The dynamic duo of Riko Ueki and Jun Endo bagged another goal each and while England tried hard to the very end, Japan were comfortable.

France 0-1 Spain

The hosts have been largely underwhelming in this tournament and succumbed rather limply to a single goal from Spain, who played the last 20 minutes with 20 players after Bonmati was sent off.

Patricia Guijarro scored the only goal of the game on 51 minutes, but the saddest sight was that of Bonmati who practically had to be carried off the pitch in floods of tears after she was dismissed.  She will miss the final.

France play England on Friday 24 August at 3pm UK time, in everyone’s least favourite match – the third place play off.  If England can get themselves up for it, and if I’m not cursing them, they should win this match and bring home a bronze medal.

The final, between Spain and Japan (Japan to win barring a major upset) is also on Friday 24 at 6.30pm UK time.

TV coverage via Eurosport.

Continental Tyres Cup

There is a new Conti Cup format in place this season.  We start with a group stage of 22 teams in four groups – two North, two South.  If a group match ends in a draw it goes to straight to penalties and the team winning the shootout is awarded two points and the loser one point.  The top two finishers in each group go through to the next stage.

The first round of matches was last weekend:

Results North
Group One

Birmingham City 0-0 Manchester City (Man City won on penalties)
Leicester City 2-2 Bristol City (Leicester won on penalties)
Aston Villa 1-2 Sheffield United

Group Two

Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United
Reading (yes, in the North) 4-1 Durham Women

Results South
Group One

Chelsea 3-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
London Bees 1-1 Yeovil Town (London Bees won on penalties)
Crystal Palace 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur (Crystal Palace won on penalties)

Group Two

Arsenal 3-1 West Ham
Lewes FC 5-0 Charlton Athletic

The next round of fixtures is this weekend.  See here for details.

The FA

Whilst trying to hide the sarcasm in my thoughts and feelings on this matter, the FA has announced it now has a new website for the WSL and Championship.

It also has the news on the FA Cup and Conti Cup.

Check it out: https://womenscompetitions.thefa.com/

Rugby Union

Australia 11-31 New Zealand

The Black Ferns took a one-nil lead in the two test series at the weekend.

They took the lead through Kendra Cocksedge in the eleventh minute.

The Wallaroos were awarded a penalty soon afterwards which was converted by prop Emily Robinson.

New Zealand’s captain Fiao’o Faamausili then got her first try of the afternoon.  Australian number eight Grace Hamilton was then sin-binned.

Just on half-time the Black Ferns scored again through Aldora Itunu and went into the break 19-3 up.

Into the second-half Australia started well and Robinson put over another penalty to make it 19-6.

But then Fa’amausili kicked into gear and scored two tries from driving lineouts.

Australia didn’t give up, though, and bagged a consolation try through Alisha Hewett.

The second game is at Eden Park this weekend.

Netball

World Cup Regional Qualifers – Africas

Uganda and Zimbabwe have qualified for the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool, this is alongside Malawi who qualify by right due to their world ranking.

World Cup Regional Qualifers – The Americas

This next qualifying tournament is for the Americas and takes place from 24 August to 2 September in Barbados.  Eight teams are vying for two spots: Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago are favourites due to their current world rankings, but it will be up to the others, Argentina, St Vincent & the Grenadines, USA, Grenada, St Maarten and Canada, to cause an upset.

To follow the tournament while I’m away check out https://www.nwc2019.co.uk/the-americas-teams-go-head-to-head-for-a-place-at-next-years-world-cup/.

Tennis

Cincinnati

The Cincinnati Masters title went to Kiki Bertens at the weekend as she defeated world number one Simona Halep in the final 2-6 7-6 6-2.

Halep took the first set comfortably in just half an hour, but in the second Bertens was 4-1 up before Halep came back to level at 4-4.  The set went to a tie-break and Halep had a championship point before Bertens took it 8-6.

Bertens again went 4-1 up in the third set but this time Halep could not bring it back, taking only one more game before Bertens sealed the match.

Halep has since withdrawn from the New Haven tournament which serves as the warm-up to the US Open.

Connecticut Open, New Haven

There have been several withdrawals from the tournament – the last before the US Open begins on 27 August.  As well as Simona Halep, Cincinnati winner Kiki Bertens has also withdrawn, as has top Briton Jo Konta, who has a virus and could be a doubt for the US Open.

Forbes Women’s Sports Rich List

Talking of tennis, eight out of ten of the highest earning female athletes are tennis players.  Serena Williams is top and the only two who are not from tennis are badminton player PV Sindhu and racing car driver Danica Patrick.

From June 2017 – June 2018 the top 10 earned $105m (£81.4m) which is DOWN 4% from last year and a whopping 28% down from five years ago.

  1. Serena Williams (tennis) – $18.1m (£14m)
  2. Caroline Wozniacki (tennis) – $13m (£10.1m)
  3. Sloane Stephens (tennis) – $11.2m (£8.7m)
  4. Garbine Muguruza (tennis) – $11m (£8.5m)
  5. Maria Sharapova (tennis) – $10.5m (£8.1m)
  6. Venus Williams (tennis) – $10.2m (£7.9m)
  7. PV Sindhu (badminton) – $8.5m (£6.6m)
  8. Simona Halep (tennis) – $7.7m (£6m)
  9. Danica Patrick (race car driving) – $7.5m (£5.8m)
  10. Angelique Kerber (tennis) – $7m (£5.4m)

Hockey

New Zealand women’s sport governance appears to be in some kind of crisis at the moment.  Hockey is the latest sport to initiate an independent review of the culture surrounding the national team.

The review has been ordered by Hockey NZ and the Hockey Players Association after a number of former and current players gave feedback about the team culture under coach Mark Hager, who has been in post since 2009.

In a statement to organisers said,

“We have agreed a plan to address the feedback, which involves an independent person to look into the feedback and gather more information if appropriate.

“There is absolutely no question that athlete welfare is paramount. At the same time, we must consider and protect the rights of employees.”

The situation came to a head after Hager mistakenly sent an email “to all” rather than to the person he meant to send it to, probably one of the coaches, during the Hockey World Cup.  It was an email that was deeply critical of the fitness and abilities of some players and everyone could read it.

Hager has apologised for the mistake, but it has encouraged players to speak out about the alleged “culture of fear” surrounding the team.

This latest problem comes hot on the heels of similar issues in football, cycling and rowing.

And finally,

As I have already said, I’m off on holiday next week.  I’ll be in Italy, but I think it’s safe to say I won’t be going to see Lazio any time soon.  The Lazio Ultras have issued a flyer suggesting that women should be banned from the first ten rows of the Curva Nord stand in the Olympic Stadium in Rome.  Apparently it’s a “sacred place”, whatever that means.  If it means that it’s a place where violence, anti-Semitism and racism are rife, I’m not sure why any woman would want to be there anyway……

More news and views in a couple of weeks. 

Women’s Sports Column 31 March – 6 April 2018

netball1Welcome to this week’s column – it’s good to be back!  This week will be a bit of a past, present, future round-up, going over a few of the things I missed over the last couple of weeks and a bit of what’s coming up.

Stories this week come from the Commonwealth Games, cricket, football, hockey, golf, ice hockey, tennis, and rugby union.

So let’s crack on.

Commonwealth Games

Many consider it an historical and political anachronism, but there is no doubt that the next two weeks of Commonwealth Games action will be filled with elite sportspeople doing their very best in competition – for some it will be the pinnacle of their sporting careers.  So why should we begrudge these athletes their moment?  For the time being, let’s just enjoy the sport.  I will, almost certainly, miss something or someone out so apologies for that, but let’s give it a go.

The home nations story so far:

Triathlon

First home nations medal went to Jess Learmonth who won silver in the triathlon.  Gold went to Flora Duffy, who won Bermuda’s first ever gold.  Joanna Brown of Canada took the bronze.

Netball

While the domestic Superleague takes a break, we can relish the opportunity to watch top class netball on terrestrial television.

In Pool B England have started well with two wins from two: 74-28 v Scotland and 74-49 v Malawi.

Scotland play Wales next.

In Pool A Northern Ireland, in a ridiculously tough group have played just one game, losing to Australia 94-26.

Squash

In the women’s singles the home nations players are going well with one win each from one match.  Tesni Evans of Wales beat Aifa Asman of Malaysia 3-1.  England’s Laura Massaro, Sarah-Jane Perry and Alison Waters all beat their opponents 3-0.  Still a way to go.

Table tennis

Wales got through to the quarter-finals of the team competition, but were beaten 3-1 by Australia in that round.  The Welsh team included 11-year old Anna Hursey, the youngest person to ever represent Wales at a Commonwealth Games.  She lost in her singles, but won the doubles rubber with partner Chloe Thomas.

England play Canada in their quarter-final.

Cycling medals

Katie Archibald (SCO) Gold in the 3000m Individual Pursuit

Sophie Thornhill (ENG) Gold in the Women’s B& VI Sprint

Lauren Bate & Katy Marchant (ENG) Bronze in the Women’s Team Sprint

Swimming medals

Aimee Willmott (ENG) Gold in 400m Individual Medley

Sarah Vasey (ENG) Gold in 50m Breaststroke

Eleanor Robinson (ENG) Gold in S7 50m Butterfly

Alice Tai (ENG) Gold in S9 100m Backstroke

Hannah Miley (SCO) Silver in 400m Individual Medley

ENG bronze in 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay

Gymnastics

England’s women won silver in the Team event with Canada taking gold

Hockey

Pool A

India 2-3 Wales

England 2-0 South Africa

India 4-1 Malaysia

England 5-1 Wales

Pool B

Scotland 1-6 New Zealand

Australia 1-0 Canada

New Zealand 12-0 Ghana

International Football -World Cup Qualifiers

The Lionesses play Wales at Southampton on Friday evening.  The squad has suffered a number of withdrawals through injury.  Alex Greenwood has been called up to cover for Hannah Blundell, who is unwell.

Wales have a full-strength squad to pick from.

The match starts at 7pm and is live on BBC Two.

England then go on to face Bosnia-Herzegovina in Zenica on Tuesday.

The Republic of Ireland will play two home games; on Friday against Slovakia and on Tuesday against the Netherlands.

Northern Ireland play on Tuesday at home to Norway.

Scotland played on Thursday 5 April, losing a tight game against Switzerland 1-0.  The only goal of the game came through Lara Dickenmann on the half-hour.

Scotland play again on Tuesday, at home to Poland.

FAWSL

The scores from the latest round of WSL matches were as follows:

Saturday 31 March

FAWSL2

Doncaster Rovers Belles 3-1 Watford

All the goals in this game came in the first-half.  The home side were three up just after the half-hour.  The Belles scored through Jess Sigsworth (9), Sam Tierney (12) and Maz Pachaco (32), before Anneka Nuttall scored the consolation for Watford a minute before the break.

Sunday 1 April

FAWSL1

Yeovil Town 0-4 Liverpool

Liverpool ended a poor streak with a good win at Yeovil on Easter Sunday.  They took the lead in the first minute through Laura Coombs.  Gemma Bonner added a second on 17 and two minutes later they were three up through an Ash Hodson tap-in.  A fourth was scored in the second-half through Beth England.

Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea

It was honours even at Meadow Park.  The away side took the lead just after the half-hour through an in-form Fran Kirby.  Arsenal equalised just before half-time through Beth Mead.  Neither team could break the stalemate in the second half and the points were shared.

Birmingham City 2-0 Sunderland

A fine streak of form saw Birmingham up to third after this win on Sunday.  Ellen White opened the scoring on 19 minutes, her 11th goal in 11 games.  Four minutes later Rachel Williams made it two and Sunderland had no reply.

Manchester City 0-2 Reading

There was a shock defeat for the WSL1 champions as an inspired Reading took all three points at the Academy Stadium.

Remi Allen opened the scoring with an impressive bicycle kick on 34.  Kirsty Pearce doubled the lead on 61 minutes.  Reading worked  hard to maintain the lead and even managed to work through Jo Potter’s red card ten minutes from time.

So Chelsea are still top of WSL1 with 29 points from 13 games.  Manchester City are second on 26 with Birmingham City breathing down their necks in third on 22.  At the bottom it’s still Yeovil, yet to get a point from 11 matches, with Bristol City above them on seven.

FAWSL2

Durham 1-1 Oxford United

Jordan Atkinson’s strike on 31 opened the scoring for the home side.  Imogen Lancaster, making her debut for Oxford, equalised in first-half injury time.

Brighton & Hove Albion 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur

Brighton are up to third with this win over Spurs.  Chloe Peploe scored the first from a free-kick just before half-time.  The crowd  had to wait then until the 92nd minute for a second when Amanda Nilden slotted home to ensure the points went to the home side.

Sheffield FC P-P Millwall Lionesses

WSL2 sees Doncaster Rovers Belles top with 32 points from 12 matches.  Millwall  Lionesses are second on 26 from 11 and Brighton & Hove Albion third on 25 from 11.  At the bottom Watford have only one point from 10 matches and Aston Villa seven from 11.

Tennis

Thirteenth seed Sloane Stephens triumphed at Miami last week, beating sixth seed Jeļena Ostapenko in the final 7-6 6-1.

This week Naomi Broady and Heather Watson were competing at Monterrey and Charleston respectively.

Broady had a good win over Carol Zhao of Canada in the first round 6-3 6-7 6-2, but lost in the second to fourth seed Timea Babos of Hungary 6-3 6-7 7-5.

Watson’s bad run continued as she lost to American Taylor Townsend in the Charleston first round, 6-3 6-4.

British number on Jo Konta lost in the second round to Hungarian qualifier Fanny Stollar 6-3 6-4.  Konta had a bye in the first round.  This continues a disappointing series of results for Konta at the start of the 2018 season.

The Monterrey quarter-final line-up is:

S Vickery (USA) (7) v M Rybáriková (SLO) (2)

M Puig (PUE) (5) v T Babos (HUN) (4)

D Collins (USA) v D Bogdan (ROM) (6)

G Muguruza (ESP) 1 v A. Tomljanović (AUS) (8)

The Charleston quarter-finals look like this:

B Pera (USA) v M Keys (USA) (7)

(J. Görges (GER) (5) v D Kasatkina (RUS) (3)

A. Sevastova (LAT) (8) v K. Plíšková (CZE)

A Cornet (FRA) (14) v K Bertens (NED) (12)

Ice Hockey

World Championship Division II Group A

Great Britain are currently competing in the World Championship Division II Group A tournament in Maribor, Slovenia.  At stake is promotion to Division I Group B.

Team GB have made an excellent start and need one more win to finish top.

Great Britain 5-1 Australia

Australia took the lead through Michelle Clark-Crumpton, but GB then scored five unanswered goals to win the game.  GB’s goals came through Beth Hill, Angela Taylor (2) and Leanne Ganney (2).

Great Britain 3-1 North Korea

Leanne Ganney was on the scoresheet again as GB took the lead, with Angela making it two on 25 minutes.  Kim Un-hyang scored for North Korea, but Georgina Farman restored GB’s two-goal lead to ensure the win.

Great Britain 5-0 Mexico

Five goals from five different scorers saw GB comfortable winners over Mexico.  GB’s goals came from Kimberley Lane, Clara Ashton, Saffron Allen, Katie Henry and Louise Adams.

Slovenia 1-4 Great Britain

Team GB took their fourth win in a row in beating tournament hosts, Slovenia.  They scored four unanswered through Beth Hill, Katie Henry, Angela Taylor and Sophie Herbert, before Slovenia pulled one back through Sara Confidenti.

The Netherlands are top of the table on goal difference, with GB in second.  The top two play on Friday 6 April in a winner-takes-all match.  It will be GB’s sternest test as Netherlands finished as runners-up last year, while GB finished third.  The match takes place at 3.30pm UK time and there is coverage on BBC radio.

Golf

Augusta National, not America’s most forward-thinking golf club, has announced that it will host a new women’s tournament before the Masters in 2019.

Augusta, which didn’t even admit women as members until 2012, will hold the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship over 54 holes.

The first two rounds will be played at Champions Retreat Golf Club in Augusta and the final round, the cut to the lowest 30 scores will be at Augusta National.

It’s a good development for the women’s game, although the first women’s major of the season, the ANA Inspiration, will potentially clash as it usually played the week before the Masters.

Rugby Union

Tyrell’s Premier 15s 

The regular season is now over and the Finals places are decided.

After the season’s 18 games, Saracens finished top with 79 points.  Joining them in the Finals are Harlequins, who finished second on 76, Wasps, third on 69 and Gloucester-Hartpury, who ended on 60 points and in fourth place.

The fixtures look like this:

7 April

Semi-final 1, first leg

Wasps v Harlequins (Twyford Avenue Sports Ground, 1pm)

Semi-final 2, first leg

Gloucester-Hartpury v Harlequins (4.15pm)

14 April

Semi-final 1, second leg

Harlequins v Wasps (The Stoop, 3pm)

15 April

Semi-final 2, second leg

Saracens v Gloucester-Hartpury (Allianz Park, 6pm)

Grand Final

29 April, Ealing Trailfinders RFC, 3pm

Cricket

Tri-Series Final

A quick review of the final between Australia and England, which took place on 31 March

Australia 209/4 (20 overs)

England 152/9 (20 overs)

Australia won by 57 runs

In the end England were well beaten by Australia.  Although England had beaten the Southern Stars at the round-robin stage, their last game against India was poor and they went into the final having lost some form.  Australia, on the other hand, had improved throughout the tournament.

Stand-in captain Dani Hazell won the toss and elected to field first.  She must have rued that decision as Australia piled on 209 runs, including 32 fours, the most in a T20 international innings (men or women).

Meg Lanning scored 88 not out from 45 balls – an innings that included 16 fours and one six.  She was ably supported by Elyse Villani who scored 51 from 30.

In response, England lost Bryony Smith and Tammy Beaumont early on for ducks, and while Dani Wyatt tried to hold it together, she couldn’t replicate her earlier form and was dismissed for 34.  Nat Sciver contributed 50 from 42 and Amy Jones 30 from 28, but the chase was too stiff and they fell well short, leaving Australia worthy winners.

The biggest disappointment was the lack of media coverage in the UK of the tournament.  England coach Mark Robinson said,

“I’m led to believe there are a lot of people back home that are disappointed,” Robinson told BBC Sport.

“It might be a wake-up call to broadcasters that there is a demand.

“That’s a healthy thing that we should make the most of.

“It is disappointing.   Danni Wyatt’s innings deserved to be seen by a global audience.

“But to be at a stage where people are demanding to know why it isn’t on TV is a good thing.

“I’d rather look at the positive side of it. How exciting is it that we’re at the stage where people are clamouring to watch the tour, complaining and making a stink that they can’t?”

The tournament was shown live in both India and Australia.  I can’t add much to that, can I, except to agree wholeheartedly.  Come on ECB, put your money where your mouth is.

England v India ODI series

First ODI 6 April

England 207 all out (49.3 overs)

India 208/9 (49.1 overs)

India won by 1 wicket with 5 balls remaining

England captain Heather Knight was still missing for England as she continues to recover from a hamstring strain.  Anya Shrubsole, herself returning from injury, captained the side, winning the toss and opting to bat first.

England made a fair start, making 71 before the first wicket was taken.  Wyatt was out for 27 and, as so often happens, the second wicket just three balls later as Jones went for a duck.  Beaumont was third to go for 37.  Although Fran Wilson scored 45, it was from78 balls and all was a bit slow.  As they tried to speed up they lost wickets and were eventually all out for a disappointing 207.  Star bowler for India was Poonam Yadav, who took 4/30 from her 10 overs.

England never really had enough runs to play with, although the chase was tighter than India would have wanted.  Although Raj went for a duck, Mandhana made 86, Kaur 21 and Sharma 24 to put them well in front.   There was a flurry of wickets towards the end of the innings, but Bisht (12) and Yadav (7) saw India home with five balls to spare.

Other fixture dates:

Second ODI 9 April

Third ODI 12 April

Both games to be played in Nagpur.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League

We are at the end of the regular season in the Women’s Hockey League with just the play-offs to come.

After 18 games, Surbiton finished top of the league with 34 points.  Holcombe were second with 31 and East Grinstead and Buckingham both finished on 29 with East Grinstead finishing third on goal difference.

Leicester finished bottom of the pile with 16 points and are relegated.  Slough finished second-from-bottom with 18.

It gets a bit complicated here, so here’s the official explanation of what happens next from the England Hockey website:

“A series of play-offs determines who is promoted, relegated, qualifies for Europe and crowned champions in the Investec Women’s Hockey League. 

Investec Women’s Hockey League Champions and European Qualification
At the end of the regular season the team who finishes top of the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division will receive an automatic place in the EuroHockey Club Championships as England’s second ranked team. They can improve on this ranking, and compete to be crowned English Champions, in the Investec Women’s Hockey League Finals tournament. 

The team who wins the Investec Women’s Hockey League Final will be crowned Investec Women’s Hockey League Champions and will be England’s first ranked team in the EuroHockey Club Championships for the subsequent season. In the event that the team finishing top of the league at the end of the regular season also wins the Final, the runners-up in the Final will be England’s second ranked team in the EuroHockey Club Championships.

What are the Investec Women’s Hockey League Play-Offs?
There are two types of play-off that determine which teams are promoted and relegated in the Investec Women’s Hockey League.

Investec Premier Division Play-Off
Here the winners of the three Conferences join the ninth-placed team from the Premier Division to battle it out in a round robin tournament for two spaces in the top tier, with the tenth-placed side having been automatically relegated.”

For all the details of who plays whom, where and when, check it out here.

And finally,

The Forbes list of the most powerful women in international sport 2018 has been published.  It comprises 25 names from nine sports.

Like all of these lists there are those we are going to say “who?” to and those we would add.  And sorry, but for me no-one ever gets in who deals in “gaming”.  I’m not quite sure how Caroline Wozniacki makes it at eight, while Serena Williams doesn’t get on at all.  Great to see Mithali Raj at 12 and Nadia Nadim at 20.  Here’s the list in full:

1) Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura (Secretary General, FIFA)

2) Lydia Nsekera (Council Member, FIFA & Member, IOC)

3) Florence Hardouin (Executive Committee, UEFA & Director General, French Football Federation)

4) Angela Dong (Vice President, Nike & General Manager, Nike Greater China)

5) Marina Granovskaia (Director, Chelsea FC)

6) Barbara Slater (Director, BBC Sport)

7) Moya Dodd (Executive Committee, Asian Football Federation & Member, FIFA Player Status)

8) Caroline Wozniacki (Tennis player)

9) Nita Ambani (Owner, Mumbai Indians)

10) Claire Williams (Deputy Team Principal & Commercial Director, Williams Formula 1)

11) Aoife Brodigan (Head of Games Marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Facebook)

12) Mithali Raj (Indian Women’s Cricket Captain)

13) Mary Davis (CEO, Special Olympics)

14) Rimla Akhtar (Council member, the FA & Chair, Muslim Women’s Sports Foundation)

15) Sophie Goldschmidt (CEO, World Surf League)

16) Japan’s Women’s Baseball League (!)

17) Beng Choo Low (Secretary General, World Baseball Softball Federation & Member, Olympic Council of Asia)

18) Blanca Uribe (Deputy Executive President, Toros de Tijuana

19) Po-chun (Sophiyah) Liu (Umpire)

20) Nadia Nadim (Footballer)

21) XinYi Hua (Sports Journalist, Xin Min Evening News)

22) Lieke Martens (Footballer)

23) Sung Hyun Park (Golfer)

24) Sasha Hostyn (Gamer)

25) Leticia Bufoni (Skateboarder)

Don’t think I’ve got much of a chance to get on this list, but it does give me something to aim for……