Hockey: England face an Indian mystery: Women's World Cup run-in begins

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S women begin the final run-in to their July World Cup challenge in Dublin this weekend with two Test matches against India at Basingstoke, while the Under-21s play the Austrian seniors twice at the same venue.

Not too much is known about the Indian side, although they are the reserve nation for the World Cup. The two sides last met in 1971 in Auckland, when England, whose side included the present manager, Jenny Cardwell, won 2-1, a vast improvement by India on their earlier meeting, in 1956, when England won 18-0 with Vera Chapman netting eight times.

Injury news from the England camp is that second-choice goalkeeper Carolyn Reid, who has had a minor operation on a toe, will not be in the line-up. Jo Holroyd, of Bradford Swithenbank, replaces Michaela Morton in the Under-21 line-up.

Tomorrow's Hockey Association Cup semi-finals will be played at Birmingham University before Sky television cameras, with Hounslow, the holders, meeting Teddington in a repeat of the last two finals. The second semi, between Old Loughtonians and Reading, follows.

With Hounslow clear-cut winners in both final appearances, and out to equal Southgate's four successive wins in the early 1980s, the odds must be stacked in their favour.

Teddington's player-manager, Neil Campling, who has come back into the squad as the second-choice goalkeeper following the departure of Jon Clark, said yesterday: 'We may start as underdogs but the mood in the camp is fairly relaxed and confident. With our main focus on the European Cup-Winners' Cup at Easter we are less likely to be as uptight as we were last year, which should be to our advantage.' Defender Stuart Blan returns to the squad following a back injury.

Reading have their England Under-21 centre-half, Jon Wyatt, back in the squad for their game against Old Loughtonians, and are looking to reverse the 4-2 league defeat in January. Whoever wins this semi will be first-time finalists. . The odds must favour Old Loughtonians, who have had their best League season, finishing third behind Havant and Hounslow, with England's Nicky Thompson latterly in fine scoring form.

Only a win for Slough in the last remaining Pizza Express First Division game, this afternoon at East Grinstead, will be enough to save the first club to qualify for the National League from the drop to the Second Division. Should they win, St Albans will join Bromley in going down.

ENGLAND WOMEN'S SQUAD (v India, Basingstoke, today and tomorrow): J Atkins (Bradford Swithenbank), A Bennett, S Wright (both Slough), C Cook, T Cullen (both Hightown), M Davies, J Sixsmith (both Sutton Coldfield), T Miller, A Swindlehurst (both Clifton), H Rose, L Youngs, J Thompson, S Lister (all Ipswich), J Smith (Chelmsford , M Nicholls (Ealing), K Johnson (Balsam Leicester).