Nat Sciver and England’s spinners combined to devastating effect as victory over West Indies secured their place in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 semi-finals.

All-rounder Sciver picked up from where she left off to score her third half-century of the tournament, helping England to post 143 for five on a tricky track.

West Indies’ response never got going with Lee-Ann Kirby top-scoring with 20 at the Sydney Showground.

That was largely thanks to the spin trio of Sophie Ecclestone (three for seven), Sarah Glenn (two for 16) and Mady Villiers (one for 30), helping dismiss West Indies for 97 to win by 46 runs.

England started afresh with Tammy Beaumont joining Danni Wyatt atop the order but the move didn’t work out, the new opener trapped lbw by Shakera Selman in the first over.

Wyatt then fell to a superb catch in the deep from Hayley Matthews off Anisa Mohammed but in Sciver and captain Heather Knight, England had the best duo for the rebuild job.

With more than 70 per cent of their team’s runs in the tournament, the importance of Knight and Sciver is not lost with the latter reaching her third half-century in four games in this Women’s T20 World Cup.

By then Knight (17) was run out brilliantly by Selman and Fran Wilson had holed out to Britney Cooper at deep midwicket off Afy Fletcher, with England 102 for four with four overs remaining.

Amy Jones, in a new role at No.6, found back-to-back off-side boundaries off Stafanie Taylor but had to watch Sciver finally depart for 57 in the same over to take her tournament tally to 202 runs in four matches.

Just six balls remained as Brunt joined Jones in the middle, the bowler striking boundaries from the last two balls of the innings to take England to 143 for five.

West Indies also tinkered with their top order as Deandra Dottin opened up, but her innings ended on just nine with Ecclestone having her snaffled by short midwicket.

Taylor struck two boundaries off Brunt to end the Powerplay but that was to be her last significant contribution, stretchered off in the eighth over and retiring hurt from the innings.

From there England seized the impetus as star leg-spinner Glenn got into her work, bowling Hayley Matthews with her eighth ball to leave West Indies two down in the ninth over.

It was to get even better for the spin unit, off-spinner Villiers marking her first Women’s T20 World Cup over with a wicket maiden after taking a smart return catch off Shemaine Campbelle.

At 42 for three come halfway, West Indies had work to do with 102 still required and their task was tougher still when Chedean Nation edged Glenn to wicket-keeper Jones without scoring.

Lee-Ann Kirby (20) did her best to inject some momentum with towering sixes off Glenn and Villiers but Anya Shrubsole ended her exploits when the big-hitter was held by Sciver at long-on.

England boast the best economy rate for spinners in the Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 and with each of Ecclestone, Glenn and Villiers bowling a maiden, they weren’t letting up.

Ecclestone, who has now taken wickets in her last 18 T20I matches, had Britney Cooper stumped while Villiers completed back-to-back run-outs of Afy Fletcher and Aaliyah Alleyne.

Ecclestone then had the last say, taking her 100th international wicket by bowling Anisa Mohammed to send England into the last four.

Scores in brief

England beat West Indies by 46 runs, Sydney Showground

England 143-5, 20 overs (Nat Sciver 57, Danni Wyatt 29; Anisa Mohammed 1-23)

West Indies 97 all out, 17.1 overs (Lee-Ann Kirby 20; Sophie Ecclestone 3-7, Sarah Glenn 2-16)

The Trinidad and Tobago Red Force have it in their hands to decide if their West Indies Championship game against the Leeward Islands Hurricanes at Warner Park in St Kitts ends in a win, loss or draw.

The Red Force, going into Sunday’s final day, enjoy a lead of 130 runs with four second-innings wickets still intact.

Of course, they need quite a few more runs to ensure they do not lose to the Leeward Islands Hurricanes, who made 251 in their first innings.

Batting first, the Hurricanes scored 287 thanks to a lower-order fightback from Terrance Ward, who scored 89 to save them from a particularly poor total against an all-round bowling performance from the Hurricanes, including 3-62 from Jermiah Lewis, 2-87 from Sheeno Berridge, 2-43 from Nino Henry, and 2-74 from Rahkeem Cornwall.

The Hurricanes’ 251-run reply came on the back of Amir Jangoo’s 90, and against Imran Khan’s 4-67.

There were also two wickets apiece for Anderson Phillip (2-54), Akeal Hosein (2-52), and Uthman Muhammed (2-51).

On Saturday, the penultimate day of the contest, the Red Force made their way to 94-6, with Joshua Da Silva not out on 45. Hosein has joined him at the crease but is yet to score.

The Red Force have to bat long enough to ensure the Hurricanes do not have time to overhaul their target but must be wary of Cornwall who has sent five of the six batsmen to have fallen back to the pavilion. Cornwall has 5-29 so far this innings and seven wickets in the match.

Thierry Henry made a winning start as Montreal Impact coach in MLS, while Javier Hernandez's LA Galaxy debut ended in a draw on Saturday.

At the helm of Montreal, Henry's Impact came from behind to beat the New England Revolution 2-1 on the opening day of the MLS season.

The Arsenal great's side had fallen behind after just 13 minutes at Stade Olympique, where Teal Bunbury volleyed in a Cristian Penilla cross.

However, Romell Quioto headed in from close range to bring Montreal level just eight minutes before half-time.

And the hosts found an 80th-minute winner as Maximiliano Urruti spectacularly lobbed stranded New England goalkeeper Matt Turner.

Hernandez made his LA Galaxy debut in a 1-1 draw away to the Houston Dynamo.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward played 90 minutes as Houston came from behind, Mauro Manotas cancelling out Cristian Pavon's opener.

Atlanta United spoiled Nashville SC's first MLS game with a 2-1 victory at Nissan Stadium.

Walker Zimmerman scored Nashville's first goal to cancel out Ezequiel Barco's opener, but Emerson Hyndman's 37th-minute strike proved to be the winner in front of a crowd of 59,069.

Elsewhere, Oswaldo Alanis' brilliant 95th-minute free-kick helped the San Jose Earthquakes hold Toronto to a 2-2 draw.

The Colorado Rapids recorded a 2-1 win over DC United, Dallas beat Philadelphia Union 2-0, Orlando City and Real Salt Lake played out a 0-0 draw and Sporting Kansas City overcame the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1.

Not for the first time this season, veteran first-class cricket batsman, Devon Smith, has been asked to do a repair job and save the Windward Islands Volcanoes from outright defeat.

Playing against the Barbados Pride at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, the Volcanoes find themselves 325 runs in arrears on the final day with seven second-innings wickets in hand.

The situation was created, first by Kyle Mayers’ fabulous batting in the Barbados middle order with his 140 helping the Pride to 417. The Volcanoes had no answer, as, despite half centuries from kavem Hodge, 53, and Andre Fletcher, 52, Chemar Holder’s 5-73 restricted them to 258.

From there, they were in real trouble, as the Pride would bat again to put on 239-4 in just 56 overs. Mayers, again, played a big part in the outcome, slamming 62 off just 43 balls to give the Pride time to bowl out the Volcanoes for a second time.

Justin Greaves, 53, Shayne Moseley, 60, and Kraigg Brathwaite, 49, also contributed to the scoreline.

Batting a second time, the Volcanoes are 73-3, with Roland Cato, 22, Hodge, nought, and Andre Fletcher, four, already back in the pavilion.

The not-out batsmen, tasked with the duty of batting out the day for the Volcanoes include Smith, who came to the crease at number five on Saturday, is now not out on 16. Alick Athanaze is the other man at the crease, he is on a patient 21 from 80 deliveries.

With just 24 runs to get on the third day of their West Indies Championship game against the Jamaica Scorpions, the Guyana Jaguars were always in the driver’s seat though they made heavy weather of it, taking eight overs and losing three wickets at the Trelawny Stadium on Saturday.

The seven-wicket victory was achieved courtesy of a first-day rout from Jaguars spinner Veerasammy Permaul, whose 7-59, left the hosts 216 all out, with just Jermaine Blackwood, 59, really putting up any resistance.

In reply, the Jaguars depended on half centuries from Chanderpaul Hemraj (82) and Vishaul Singh (93) to get to 304 and a healthy lead of 88. That lead was too much for the Scorpions who buckled under the pressure, collapsing for 111, a lead of just 24.

Permaul was back at it again in the second innings, bagging eight wickets this time. Those eight wickets cost just 18 runs to end with figures of 15-77. The other two wickets went to Kevin Sinclair, who ended with 2-26.

For the Scorpions, the only batsman into double figures, John Campbell, scored all of 66 runs as his side meekly gave up the ghost.

Sinclair, nine, Leon Johnson, two, and Tagenarine Chanderpaul, two, all lost their wickets in chase of the minuscule total, with Singh on five and Christopher Barnwell on four, the not out batsmen.

Shafali Verma and Radha Yadav shone as semi-finalists India made it four from four at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 with a comfortable victory over Sri Lanka.

Yadav was the latest Indian spinner to shine as her four-wicket haul proved pivotal in restricting Sri Lanka to 113 for nine in Melbourne while Verma’s knock of 47 put them in cruise control in the chase,

They eventually hit the target with 32 balls to spare, bringing up India’s fourth successive victory in the tournament.

The win means India, who had already qualified for the semi-finals, will top the Group A table with eight points while Sri Lanka will aim to clinch their first win against Bangladesh on Monday.

Deepti Sharma got India going by removing Umesha Thimeshani for two when Rajeshwari Gayakwad caught her slice at point.

And Gayakwad was the architect of the next to fall, bowling Harshitha Madhavi to leave Chamari Athapaththu holding the fort in the eighth over.

The Sri Lanka captain is no stranger to coping with pressure but this time the skipper holed out to Shikha Pandey when she ambitiously went for her second six off Yadav in two balls.

From there Sri Lanka struggled to regain momentum as Hasini Perera was caught behind by Tanya Bhatia for seven off Yadav.

And it didn’t take Yadav long to stake her claim as India’s spinner of the afternoon, but she had to thank Veda Krishnamurthy for her third wicket as she kept her balance to catch Hansima Karunaratne at the long-on boundary.

The wickets kept on falling in the middle overs and Gayakwad took her second when Krishnamurthy was again alert at long-on to catch Shashikala Siriwardena for 13.

Yadav finished her spell with four for 23 after trapping Anushka Sanjeewani lbw in the 16th over but a late cameo from Kavisha Dilhari (25 not out) helped lift Sri Lanka to 113.

Verma set the tone for India’s successful chase by belting a boundary off the first ball but was lucky she lasted beyond the second over when Dilhari spilled a catch at extra cover.

It proved costly as the 16-year-old sensation produced yet another impressive opening display, hitting five boundaries and a six in the Powerplay to take India to 49 for one.

Dilhari made up for dropping Verma by catching her opening partner Smriti Mandhana at mid-on off Udeshika Prabodani for 16.

It was a brighter outing for Harmanpreet Kaur, the India skipper hitting two fours and a six in the eighth over to reach double figures for the first time in the tournament, but was halted at 15 when Karunaratne caught her off Siriwardena.

Verma led the charge and sent the India fans in Melbourne wild when she crashed one to the boundary through square leg from behind the stumps.

But she fell three short of her maiden World Cup half-century when she was run out by Dilhari.

With Verma having laid the foundations, Sharma and Jemimah Rodrigues, both 15 not out, had no trouble polishing off the win with 32 balls to spare.

 

Scores in brief

 

India beat Sri Lanka by seven wickets, Junction Oval, Melbourne

Sri Lanka 113-9, 20 overs (Chamari Athapaththu 33; Radha Yadav 4-23, Rajeshwari Gayakwad 2-18)

India 116-3, 14.4 overs (Shafali Verma 47, Smriti Mandhana 17; Udeshika Prabodani 1-13)

Nat Sciver believes West Indies’ indifferent ICC Women’s T20 World Cup campaign makes them a dangerous prospect for England to face in Sydney.

Sciver’s side know a win at the Showground would almost certainly put them into the semi-finals, marking a significant comeback since their opening defeat to South Africa in Perth.

But the all-rounder feels a tough test is in store when they face the 2016 champions, despite Stafanie Taylor’s side failing to hit their straps Down Under - edging out Thailand before losing to Pakistan.

England themselves have been far from perfect, particularly with openers Amy Jones and Danni Wyatt struggling for form, prompting Sciver to rein in expectations of a comfortable victory.

“I think the pressure of these two games has brought the best out in us,” she said. “We’ve had two pretty clinical performances and put things right that we didn’t do well against South Africa.

“You don’t know what you’ll get from West Indies on the day. The two games they’ve had probably makes them more dangerous. We’ll have to be on our game.

“It’s a tight turnaround, I’m not sure how much training we’ll be doing. We’ll have a review meeting so we know what we need to know about their batters and bowlers ahead of the game.

“It’s hard when batters have a run when they don’t get as many runs as they want to, really. It’s hard to keep putting yourself out there and keep going for the shots that are your strengths.

“I thought Danni did that well against Pakistan and tried to get a few away. She got some luck, which is helpful when you’re feeling a bit out of form.

“I’m hoping that between now and Sunday she can rethink or just take her mind off it.”

For West Indies, meanwhile, there’s no room for anything less than clinical cricket.

Women’s T20 World Cup champions just four years ago, expectation follows Taylor’s charges at every turn but they have flattered to deceive with two far-from-perfect performances to date.

Victories over both England and South Africa are likely required if they are to reach the last four, but belief is still evident for a team that knows they have plenty more to offer.

“It’s about putting partnerships together, believing in themselves and being able to handle the situation as it comes,” said coach Gus Logie.

“Hayley Matthews, Deandra Dottin – these are the people you expect to do well. The captain has been getting scores, but we just haven’t got big scores to put pressure on the opposition.

“It’s do-or-die. The players know that if you win you can go through, but lose and you go home. The onus is upon everyone to dig deeper and produce the performances which they know they can.

“They have done well against England and South Africa in past World Cups, they know they can beat them.

“There’s nothing in the stars that say we can’t make the semi-finals so we have to believe we can.

“The approach will have to be positive and that’s what we’re looking at.”

Legendary Australian seamer Glenn McGrath has picked West Indies great Brian Lara as a tougher opponent to face than Sachin Tendulkar.

The Australian bowler dismissed the West Indian star more than any other batsman, claiming Lara’s wicket 15 times in 24 matches.  McGrath also had good success in seeing off the Indian legend 13 times, one less than fellow Australian Brett Lee.

“I may have got him out 15 times, but he also scored big hundreds and double hundreds against us when both me and Warnie (Shane Warne) were playing together for Australia,” McGrath told the Times of India.

 “When it was his day, he could do absolutely anything. Sachin was equally as good, but there was something about Brian where he could just keep going and he was slightly harder to bowl to than Sachin. He was more fearless,” he added.

Lara holds the record for the highest individual score in a Test after scoring 400 not out in 2004 against England.  The batsman could also be particularly brutal against Australia.  Lara struck 277 runs against Australia in Sydney, his maiden Test century and the fourth-highest maiden Test century by any batsman.

 

 

 

 

England spin twins Sarah Glenn and Sophie Ecclestone inspired England to a 42-run win over Pakistan as their semi-final bid strengthened at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020.

Heather Knight (62) and Nat Sciver (36) continued their fine form as England posted 158 for seven, enough to seal back-to-back wins and close the gap on South Africa in Group B.

Glenn (three for 15) and Ecclestone (two for 12) exercised unrelenting control over the Pakistan run-chase as Bismah Maroof’s side failed to back up their opening win over West Indies.

Diana Baig had terrorised the West Indies and found early movement once again as Pakistan chose to field, trapping Amy Jones (2) in front with the opener’s review unsuccessful.

Any partnership between Danni Wyatt and Sciver is attractive to watch and the former showed shades of form with three boundaries off an Aiman Anwar over.

Sciver crashed three fours to take the score to 40 for one from four but Wyatt (16) slashed at an Aiman delivery and offered a catch to Muneeba Ali.

Knight and Sciver, fresh from a record-breaking stand against Thailand, look at home batting together and the skipper took ten off an Aliya Riaz over to keep things ticking.

Reaching 74 for two at the halfway stage, England looked comfortable before a moment of brilliance from wicket-keeper Sidra Nawaz, who stumped Sciver off a wide to turn the tide.

Fran Wilson stayed with her captain for six overs, Knight showcasing her increasing range with power through cover and midwicket and Wilson bringing out the sweep.

Pakistan squandered chances in the field, Omaima Sohail dropping Knight on the boundary and return catches squandered by Aiman and Diana.

Knight cleared long-on with a six in the penultimate over but wickets tumbled late on as she was dismissed alongside Tammy Beaumont (6) and Katherine Brunt (0).

England joined the dots at the start of the Pakistan chase and when teenager Muneeba Ali tried to break the shackles, she misjudged an Anya Shrubsole cutter and was bowled.

Javeria Khan was also slow out of the blocks but took a liking to the medium-pace of Sciver, striking back-to-back off-side boundaries amid a slew of dot balls.

Pakistan captain Bismah Maroof (4) was unable to repeat her match-winning hand against West Indies, shaping to ramp and offering a tame catch to keeper Jones.

Glenn then went to work, coming back from being hit for four by Javeria (16) to bowl the experienced opener before accounting for Iram Javed (4) with a beautifully-flighted ball.

Ecclestone and Glenn proved potent in tandem and the left-armer reaped the rewards of remorseless accuracy with the key wicket of Nida Dar, plumb lbw for 5.

Knight put pace back on the ball and that suited pinch-hitter Aliya Riaz perfectly, planting Sciver over long-on for six and then taking Brunt for two boundaries.

But it didn’t last as Ecclestone bowled Sidra Nawaz (6), Aliya was castled on 41 attempting another slog and Shrubsole took her 100th T20I wicket by dismissing Diana caught and bowled.

Brunt then took the tenth and final wicket by trapping Sadia Iqbal lbw in the last over.

 

Scores in brief

England beat Pakistan by 42 runs, Manuka Oval, Canberra

 

England 158-7, 20 overs (Heather Knight 62, Nat Sciver 36; Aiman Anwar 3-30)

Pakistan 116 all out, 19.4 overs (Aliya Riaz 41; Sarah Glenn 3-15, Anya Shrubsole 3-25)

Lizelle Lee was at her brutal best as her century saw South Africa to a tournament record total and a 113-run win over Thailand at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup.

Lee took the Thai attack apart with the T20 World Cup’s fifth ton and 88 of her 101 runs came from boundaries as the Proteas posted 195 for three, the highest team total in the tournament’s history.

With Sornarrin Tippoch’s debutants slipping to 82 all out, South Africa strengthened their grip on Group B as they face Pakistan on Sunday with the semi-finals in sight.

Thailand have a knack for nabbing early wickets and were gifted one when Dane van Niekerk (2) patted Ratanporn Padunglerd’s full toss to mid-on.

Lee, tenth in the MRF Tyres ICC T20I Batting Rankings, dominated the scoring and slog-swept Onnicha Kamchomphu for a 75-metre six.

Thailand used seven different bowlers inside nine overs but none could withstand Lee’s assault and she reached 50 from 35 balls with a straight six.

Sune Luus, featuring in her fourth Women’s T20 World Cup aged 24, batted on the undercard but still swung Chanida Sutthiruang’s full toss for six over fine leg.

Lee came in without a half-century in nine international innings but glided towards a century in 59 balls, showing her touch with a late cut for four before bringing up a ton fittingly with a four.

No sooner had she raised her bat to salute a jubilant South Africa dugout than she chipped a catch back to Suleeporn Laomi to end the partnership on 131.

Luus ticked to her fourth T20I fifty and Chloe Tryon carted Tippoch over the leg-side fence twice in a penultimate over that cost 20, lifting her side to a record total.

It didn’t take long for Thailand to lose their first wicket as Natthakan Chantam was run out by a fine throw from keeper Trisha Chetty.

Ismail tore the Thai order asunder, beating Nannapat Khoncharoenkai and then Naruemol Chaiwai for sheer pace in successive balls to complete a team hat-trick.

Tippoch and Nattaya Boochatham played out two maidens before a world-class catch from Laura Wolvaardt at midwicket accounted for the Thailand captain.

Kamchomphu led a lone resistance, taking Ayabonga Khaka for back-to-back boundaries and striking Thailand’s first six at the Women’s T20 World Cup off Van Niekerk.

Kamchomphu (26) nicked Luus behind in the 12th over, Chetty whipped off Boochatham’s bails to end her 31-ball vigil and also stumped Wongpaka Liengprasert (6) for the seventh wicket.

Chanida Sutthiruang was given out lbw on review off Nadine de Klerk, Laomi looped a catch to Van Niekerk and Ismail castled Padunglerd to complete a comprehensive win.

 

 Scores in brief

 

South Africa beat Thailand by 113 runs, Manuka Oval, Canberra

South Africa 195-3, 20 overs (Lizelle Lee 101, Sune Luus 61 not out; Ratanporn Padunglerd 1-19)

Thailand 82 all out, 19.1 overs (Onnicha Kamchomphu 26; Shabnim Ismail 3-8, Sune Luus 3-15)

A pugnacious hundred from Kyle Mayers pulled current leaders Barbados Pride out of trouble against Windward Islands Volcanoes in the West Indies Championship on Thursday.

Put into bat, Pride stumbled to 132 for five in the first hour after lunch on a rain-marred day.

But Mayers transformed the complexion of the innings with an array of meaty strokes to all parts of the ground to complete his second hundred of the season, against these same opponents, following his 106 in their first-round match at the Arnos Vale Cricket Ground in St. Vincent

The left-hander, playing for his home franchise after spending four seasons with the Volcanoes, built strong alliances with the lower order to drag the Pride from the precipice, gaining admirable support from Kevin Stoute and West Indies pacer Kemar Roach in successive half-century stands.

Mayers shared 92 with Stoute for the sixth wicket and put on a further 92 for the seventh wicket with Roach to frustrate the Volcanoes in between two brief stoppages for rain.

Stoute scored 46, Roach made 41, Justin Greaves added 38, left-handed opener Shayne Moseley got 36 and West Indies batsman Shamarh Brooks gathered 33.

Mayers’ innings carried him to the brink of becoming the first batsman this season to clear the 500-run mark. He needs only two more.

 

 Guyana Jaguars spin sensation Veersammy Permaul led a stunning fightback for the defending champions, who had seemed on course to be hit for a big total on day one of the West Indies Championship, at Florence Hall.

Led by a half-century from Test batsman Jermaine Blackwood the Scorpions appeared to be on course for a more promising total at 118 for three.  Permaul, however, then grabbed 7-59 from 30.5 overs to destroy the Scorpions batting.

Having racked up wins in their two previous matches, the Scorpions were dismissed about 25 minutes before the close of play.  Blackwood led the way with a typically flamboyant 59, his third half-century in four innings, and Denis Smith made 23 and was the only other Scorpions batsman that passed 20.

 Scorpions were 60 for three when Blackwood and Nkrumah Bonner put on 58 for the fourth wicket.

But there was little resistance be found in the Scorpions batting line-up after Blackwood was dismissed lbw to Permaul, the home team found themselves wobbling on 156 for five.

There was to be no comeback for the Scorpions, and they lost their last five wickets – three to Permaul – for 44.  The spinner has carried his tally of wickets to 37 this season.

MLS returns this week for the 2020 season and some of the biggest names in league history are back too.

Former New York Red Bulls superstar Thierry Henry is the new head coach at Montreal Impact, while LA Galaxy great David Beckham is introducing expansion franchise Inter Miami.

However, Galaxy have lost the league's latest superstar after Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored 53 goals in two seasons, returned to Milan.

Both Los Angeles clubs are still plotting big seasons, and champions Seattle Sounders look well set for a title defence.

We pose five key questions heading into the new campaign.
 

Can Chicharito follow in Zlatan's footsteps?

The biggest departure of the offseason was followed by the most significant arrival. Javier Hernandez has long been linked with a move to MLS, and Galaxy secured the signing of the ex-Manchester United striker as Ibrahimovic's replacement.

Hernandez does not have the same global appeal as Ibrahimovic, but he may ultimately prove a better fit at Dignity Health Sports Park.

While Ibrahimovic competed for the MLS Golden Boot, Galaxy continued to fall well short of team titles, playing a direct style that suited their talisman but not the rest of their squad. Cristian Pavon and company should now thrive alongside Hernandez.
 

Are Supporters' Shield holders LAFC one-season wonders?

Galaxy did not need to look far for evidence of what could be achieved by a team all pulling in one direction, with Hernandez's Mexico team-mate Carlos Vela leading Los Angeles FC to a dominant record-breaking Supporters' Shield success.

Bob Bradley's LAFC were a joy to watch, but Shield winners have struggled in recent years to maintain standards - Toronto FC providing the most striking example as they slumped from first in 2017 to 19th a year later.

Defender Walker Zimmerman has departed, striker Adama Diomande is starting the season injured, and LAFC suddenly could have their work cut out in 2020.
 

Could Seattle finally provide a serious title defence?

It is not just the Shield that has proven tricky to retain. Not since Galaxy in 2011 and 2012 have a team won MLS Cup two years on the bounce.

Seattle have played Toronto in three of the past four finals, winning twice, and yet there is a decent argument Sounders have not been the best team in the league at any point over this stretch. That should be about to change - despite the disappointment of Thursday's CONCACAF Champions League exit.

The defence has been restructured over the past 12 months, with retired centre-back Chad Marshall a big miss, but there is real depth in midfield and attack. Joao Paulo is an exciting addition, while Jordan Morris is in the form of his career as Seattle aim to build on their second title.
 

Will Henry bounce back from his Monaco misery?

Henry turned Red Bulls into contenders in the twilight of his playing career, but his coaching exploits have not been quite so successful to date. The Arsenal legend lasted just 20 matches in his first senior role with Monaco, losing 11 times and conceding 36 goals.

There was still excitement in Montreal as Henry arrived at Impact, though, with the club in need of a boost. They have missed the playoffs in each of the past three seasons.

But this is no simple second job for Henry as he aims to prove Monaco was a disappointing one-off. Montreal have lost veteran captain Ignacio Piatti and are short in several areas.
 

Do Inter and Nashville look more like Atlanta or Cincinnati?

Beckham's Inter are not the only expansion franchise in 2020, as Nashville also make their debut. The league has swollen from 20 teams in 2016 to 26 today, and there are therefore plenty of examples to consider as they arrive in MLS.

The Miami outfit look to have taken heed of the ambitious Atlanta United, champions in their second season. For Tata Martino, Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez, read Diego Alonso, Rodolfo Pizarro and Matias Pellegrini.

Nashville's spending has been more modest, trading within the league, but that does not necessarily mean they will follow miserable 2019 basement side FC Cincinnati. Nashville at least look solid.

Australia strolled to back-to-back victories at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup as a potent opening partnership between Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney helped beat Bangladesh by 86 runs.

Healy’s return to form continued as she made a carefree 83 to hit the top of the tournament’s run-scoring charts, ably supported by Mooney who ended unbeaten on 81.

Sri Lanka gave them a fright three days earlier but there were no such scares for the hosts as Bangladesh only managed 103 for nine in reply and Meg Lanning’s side climbed to second in Group A.

Healy began with bristling intent, peeling three boundaries from Jahanara Alam’s opening over as Bangladesh’s seven-strong off-side field failed to foil the opener.

Salma Khatun opted to take pace off the ball with five overs of spin in the Powerplay but Healy rocked back and cleared long-on to take the score to 53 without loss from the first six overs.

The keeper-batter made it look easy as she struck sixes over long-off and then midwicket from Khadiza Tul Kubra, bringing up a brutal 26-ball fifty.

Mooney turned over the strike before showing her own strength down the ground with three boundaries in as many overs, helping bring up the first T20I century partnership for the openers.

Their first reprieve came when Rumana Ahmed beat Mooney’s bat and Nigar Sultana Joty was ponderous in whipping off the bails, saving the batter’s skin.

Mooney reverse swept for four to take the stand to 122, Australia’s highest partnership for the first wicket in T20Is.

The breakthrough finally came when Healy sliced to point off Salma, departing for 83 from 53 balls.

Ashleigh Gardner had licence to swing and did just that in the penultimate over, carting Salma for three boundaries in her 22 from nine balls.

The final two overs went for 30 runs and Australia rose to 189 for one from their 20 overs, their second-highest total at the Women’s T20 World Cup.

Bangladesh’s reply began with Murshida Khatun (8) lofting Megan Schutt down the ground at the start of the fourth over but departed two balls later as Jess Jonassen took a fine catch pedalling back at mid-on.

Sanjida Islam toe-ended to the third man boundary from her first ball and was comprehensively bowled by Schutt on her second as an eventful over ended with the score 23 for two.

Annabel Sutherland’s first T20 World Cup spell yielded a maiden wicket as Sanjida was strangled down the leg side for three, with the score on 26 for three.

The youngster was punished for straying down leg soon after by Fargana Hoque Pinky, who built a handy partnership for the fourth wicket with keeper-batter Nigar Sultana.

Nigar stroked Nicola Carey through the covers for four when Lanning turned to spin, and Sutherland leaked more runs as Fargana stroked two boundaries from an over that cost 13.

Nigar and Fargana, who struck Carey for a handsome off-drive, assembled Bangladesh’s second fifty partnership at the T20 World Cup, and it ended on exactly 50 when Nigar skied one to Lanning off Carey on 19.

Rumana made a sprightly 13 from 12 balls but picked out Wareham on the midwicket fence to make it 95 for five and Schutt had her third when Fargana’s top-edge was gleefully caught by Healy.

Three wickets in three balls rounded it off - Jonassen clean bowling Jahanara before Salma and Khadija were run out in successive balls.

 

Scores in brief

 

Australia beat Bangladesh by 86 runs, Manuka Oval, Canberra

 

Australia 189-1, 20 overs (Alyssa Healy 83, Beth Mooney 81 not out; Salma Khatun 1-39)

Bangladesh 103-9, 20 overs (Fargana Hoque Pinky 36; Megan Schutt 3-21, Jess Jonassen 2-17)

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