5 Dec 2019

Today's sports news: what you need to know

12:29 pm on 5 December 2019

Latest - Former England captain Bob Willis, who bowled his country to a famous Ashes test victory in 1981, has died aged 70 after a short illness.

Bob Willis

Bob Willis Photo: Photosport

Willis, known for his long, curving run-up and inspired spells of fast bowling, played in 90 tests and 64 one-day internationals from 1971 to 1984.

"We are heartbroken to lose our beloved Bob, who was an incredible husband, father, brother and grandfather. He made a huge impact on everybody he knew and we will miss him terribly," a family statement broadcast on Sky Sports said.

Willis, who finished with 325 test and 899 first-class wickets despite bowling with pain from 1975 after surgery on both knees, worked for the broadcaster as a cricket expert and was known for his blunt criticism of the England team delivered in a distinctive deadpan style.

The 1.98m fast bowler instilled fear in batsmen at a time when most of the world's best pace bowlers were from the West Indies or Australia.

Unforgettably, he took eight wickets for 43 runs to fire England to an 18-run victory in the third Ashes Test against Australia at Headingley in 1981 after Ian Botham's iconic innings had dragged the hosts back into a game they looked certain to lose.

At the time of Willis's retirement, only Australia's Dennis Lillee had claimed more victims in test cricket and he remains fourth on the all-time list of England wicket takers after James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Botham.


Fiji sports federations battle measles outbreak

Fiji has asked its sports federations to postpone all competitions until January, in a bid to rein in the spread of a measles outbreak that has killed dozens in the neighbouring Pacific nation of Samoa.

The highly infectious disease has been crossing the globe, recently finding a susceptible population in Samoa, where the death toll is 60.

Fiji, with a much higher vaccination rate than Samoa, has recorded only 15 cases and no deaths, health authorities say, but has warned people to avoid affected areas and cancel events likely to draw crowds.

Fiji's soccer, beach volleyball and netball governing bodies have already suspended competitions.

Pacific nation Tonga is also battling a measles outbreak that led to its women's rugby team having to be quarantined from a major regional championship in Fiji last month.


Lions eye record-breaking 2021 South Africa tour

The British and Irish Lions will play the first test of their 2021 three-match series in South Africa at the giant Soccer City stadium in front of what is likely to be a record-breaking crowd against the newly crowned rugby world champions.

Lions supporters in New Zealand

Lions supporters in New Zealand Photo: Photosport

The match will be played on 24 July of that year, with the second test to be staged at the Cape Town Stadium a week later.

The third game is scheduled to be back on the Highveld at the Springboks' traditional fortress of Ellis Park in Johannesburg on 7 August.

The record attendance for a single Lions test is 84,188 in Australia in 2001, but should be surpassed at Soccer City, which was the venue for the final of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

A total of 94,713 came to watch the Boks play New Zealand at the venue just months after the end of the football showpiece.

The combined capacity of the venues for the three tests is a shade under 205,000, with the expected sell-out attendances to therefore surpass the 192,972 spectators who watched the 2013 visit to Australia.

The Lions will open their tour with a series of warm-up matches, starting against Super Rugby side the Stormers in Cape Town on 3 July.


Bouchard earns Classic wildcard

Canadian star and former world No. 5 Eugenie Bouchard will return to the ASB Classic for the another shot at the title after being given a wildcard to the main draw.

Eugenie Bouchard

Eugenie Bouchard Photo: Icon Sportswire

The 25-year old had a very successful start to her 2019 season in Auckland, reaching the quarter-final in singles and winning the doubles title with American Sofia Kenin.

Tournament director Karl Budge said organisers were rapt to add more star power to the already strong line-up for 2020.

"Genie had a strong tournament this year, making it through to the quarter finals in the singles before going out to our eventual champion Julia Goerges.

"And in doubles she and Sofia lifted that trophy after a great week on court, really a well deserved win for them both."

Bouchard's confirmation caps off the strongest ever line-up in the Auckland tournament's history, and includes five Grand Slam Champions, two former world No.1s, the defending champion and the current world No.5.

South African cricketers threaten strike

The South African Cricketers' Association (SACA) have threatened strike action by players weeks before England are due to arrive for a four-Test tour as growing dismay at the country's governing body threatens to boil over.

South Africa and England are due to meet on Boxing Day in the first Test at Centurion, but the chaos engulfing Cricket South Africa (CSA) has placed that under threat as players meet to discuss industrial action this Friday.

SACA chief executive Tony Irish told Reuters the England fixtures are "unlikely" to be affected by any industrial action, but could not rule it out.

"We still have to discuss the principle of it (industrial action), this is a very early stage of discussion and we will be very mindful of the importance of the international fixtures. It is unlikely those will be affected," he said.

Irish said any strike action will be a last resort, but added the players have been left exasperated by CSA's refusal to engage with them on a number of issues.

SACA are embroiled in a court battle with CSA over plans to restructure the local game, expanding it from six domestic franchises to 12, but which could mean a reduction in earnings for players.

SACA, which represents 310 professional cricketers, have previously bemoaned a lack of transparency from CSA on a range of issues relating to the financial position of the organisation and concerns around its governance.


Marathon and distance walks rescheduled for Tokyo Games

The women's marathon at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and all the race walks have been rescheduled, following the controversial decision taken in October to move the events out of the capital 800km north to the city of Sapporo.

Mary Keitany

Mary Keitany Photo: Photosport

Tokyo 2020 organisers announced the rescheduling on Wednesday, following discussions with the International Olympic Committee and World Athletics, to ease the burden on National Olympic Committees and athletes travelling to northern Japan.

It now means that all the marathon and race walk events are scheduled to be held on four consecutive days, from 6-9 August, with the men's marathon remaining on the final day of the Games, as per tradition.

"Athletes' health and well-being are always at the heart of our concerns, and the decision to move the marathon and race walk events to Sapporo shows how seriously we take such concerns," the IOCG's Athletes' Commission chair, Kirsty Coventry, said in a statement.

The IOC stunned Games organisers in October by announcing the marathon, one of the most prestigious events at any Olympics and one especially beloved in Japan, would be moved to the northern Japanese city of Sapporo to avoid the worst of Tokyo's summer heat.

Tokyo temperatures in July and August, when the city will host the Games, regularly exceed 30C with high humidity adding to the discomfort.

Next year's Games run from 24 July to 9 August.