Welcome to the women’s sports column. It’s a long one this week and features stories from football, cricket, golf, hockey, horse racing, rugby union, netball and winter sports – phew!
The football transfer window is still in full swing and top signing this week goes to Manchester City women who have signed Republic of Ireland defender Megan Campbell. Campbell has been playing for Florida State University, where she has been studying on a sports scholarship.
On the international front, good news from the BBC this week which has announced it will show all three of England’s matches at the SheBelieves Cup live. The tournament comprises Germany, France, USA and England and begins on 3 March. Mark Sampson will name his 23-player squad on Monday.
England v USA 4/3/16 00.45 GMT
England v Germany 6/3/16 22.45 GMT
England v France 9/3/16 22.00 GMT
Also England’s next home match, the Women’s Euro 2017 qualifier against Belgium on 8 April will be screened live on BBC 2.
In cricket, England’s women finally took the three-match ODI series 2-1. After South Africa’s momentous win in the second game, England had to make sure they worked hard to secure the series win.
England made two changes, bringing in Kate Cross for the injured Brunt and, most significantly, Georgia Elwiss as an extra bowling option for Lydia Greenway. Edwards put SA in and seemed to be justified when they were 85/6 after 27 overs. But they didn’t reckon on Lizelle Lee and Sune Luus. An excellent innings of 74 from Lee, supported by 20 from Luus, gave them a base to at least post a total that could be defended. In the end this was 196.
England managed to put on 30 before losing a wicket – a big improvement on the previous match, when they were 16/3. Taylor was out cheaply again but Edwards and Knight put on 53 before the captain was out for 29. Then Elwiss came in and hit a massive 61 off 67 balls before she was bowled by Ismail. It was up to Knight and Wyatt to see the game home and England won by 5 wickets with 37 balls to spare. Player of the Match, Heather Knight, ended on 67 not out, with Danni Wyatt on 10 not out. For a more in-depth report see my piece on http://www.womenssportsuk.com.
The first T20 in a series of three took place on 18 February. This was always destined to be a close series as SA play more T20 cricket than anything else. England were put in on what appeared to be a good wicket. After the openers went relatively cheaply it was down to a rejuvenated Sarah Taylor to take it on. She made an unbeaten 74, but none of her colleagues could stay long enough to build a meaningful partnership. At one point England looked to be about to post 160-170, but subsided to 147 – they only scored that many thanks to Taylor.
South Africa got off to a fine start, albeit quite slow and were 95/0 after 14 overs. The big problem was the run rate, which by this time had risen to 8.83. After Van Niekerk went in the 15th for 52 and Chetty for 46 in the following over, South Africa were way behind. When they tried to accelerate they lost wickets and finished on 132/6, 15 runs short. Sarah Taylor was player of the match for her unbeaten 74.
The second T20 on 19 February was rain-interrupted. Du Preez won the toss again and put England in to bat. Beaumont went early again, and it was up to Edwards and Taylor to build a partnership again. Taylor was imperious form again and together they put on 61 before Edwards was bowled for 34 by SA’s best bowler, Ismail. When Jones went Taylor and Knight batted well to take the score to 133 in the 17th over. However, momentum was lost in the latter overs and England posted 156.
South Africa learned their lessons from Thursday as the opening partnership not only played well but at a good scoring rate. Van Niekerk was impressive for the second day in succession and carried on when Chetty went for 8 to score 63 from 43 balls. The teams went off a couple of times for rain, but it didn’t really affect South Africa. Good batting and uncharacteristically bad bowling and fielding meant South Africa were well ahead on D/L. When the teams went off for a second time the game was abandoned and South Africa won by 17 runs via the D/L method. All to play for in Johannesburg on Sunday 21 February.
England’s squad for the ICC World T20 in March has been announced. Katherine Brunt has been named in the squad – she should be back from injury, but there is no place for Lauren Winfield. The squad in full:
Charlotte Edwards (Cap), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Georgia Elwiss, Natasha Farrant, Lydia Greenway, Rebecca Grundy, Jenny Gunn, Danni Hazell, Amy Jones, Heather Knight (Vice cap), Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Danni Wyatt.
Had to put this golf snippet in. Lydia Ko won the New Zealand Women’s Open golf championship last week. That’s not the news though – the last round saw an earthquake registering 5.7 cause the Clearwater Resort clubhouse to wobble. The tremor lasted for 10-15 seconds, but the players continued to play without interruption! Ko went on to win the competition by two shots.
In hockey, the Great Britain team have just played the fourth game in a marathon six game series against Australia.
The first game, on 12 February, went to the Hockeyroos 4-3 with the host’s goals coming via two from Kathryn Slattery and one each from Mariah Williams and Ashleigh Nelson. It was a hard-fought game with Britain’s goals from Hannah MacLeod, Ellie Watton and Sophie Bray.
The second match, on 14 February, went to Great Britain, the telling strike from a first half penalty-corner from Susie Gilbert. Needless to say the Aussies fought for it, but couldn’t convert any of their chances to level the match.
So it was 1-1 going into the third on 16 February and both teams were desperate to take the initiative. It was the most exciting game in the series so far and ended with the honours shared on 3-3. Britain led the game three times, but each time the Australians came back. Britain’s goals came from Crista Cullen, Ellie Watton and Helen Richardson-Walsh. The Aussies’ goals were from Gabrielle Nance, Karri McMahon and Ashleigh Nelson.
Still 1-1 then, going into the fourth match on 18 February. And in this game again the two sides couldn’t be separated as it ended 2-2. Australia took the lead through Georgia Nanscawen but Great Britain equalised through a penalty corner from Giselle Ansley. Ten minutes from the end of the second half Ansley scored her second penalty corner, but the Aussies weren’t done and Emily Smith equalised to make it 2-2.
The last two matches will be on the 20 and 21 February.
Another sport I don’t feature often is horse racing, but I can’t ignore the waves being made by jockey Lizzie Kelly. On Saturday 13 February she rode 16-1 chance Agrapart to victory in Britain’s richest handicap hurdle, the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, winning by an impressive 11 lengths.
The second round of the Six Nations took place last weekend and saw wins for England, France and Wales.
Wales beat Scotland 23-10 at The Gnoll with both teams looking for their first win of this year’s championship. Sioned Harries and Hannah Jones scored tries for Wales in the first half but Scotland were only down by 15-10 at half-time after they scored their own try through Megan Gaffney. The second half, however, was a different story as Wales asserted their superiority in both attack and defence with a try from Alisha Butcher while preventing Scotland from adding to their points tally.
England made no mistake in Italy on Saturday 13 with a 33-24 win. Italy will be heartened from this defeat as they played well and made good progress. England were up 19-12 at the break with tries from Lauren Cattell, Katie Mason and Lotte Clapp. Italy, however, scored two of their own from Maria Grazia Cioffi and Sofia Stefan – the first time they had ever scored more than one try in a match against England. In the second half Elisa Giordano scored their third and their hopes must have been high before England responded with tries from Abbie Scott and Bianca Blackburn. Italy weren’t finished, though, and scored an impressive fourth try through Silvia Folli to reduce the deficit. If points were given for heart, Italy would have won it hands down.
The third victors of the weekend were France, who continued their impressive start with an 18-6 win over Ireland in Perpignan. It was largely a kicking game, with the two tries scored by France, one from Captain Gaelee Mignot and the other a spectacular interception by Caroline Boujard, who ran the length of the field to score, being the difference between the two sides. The French were too strong in both defence and attack and have put an end to Ireland’s chances of a Grand Slam, while reinforcing the chance of their own.
This week’s round of Netball Superleague matches saw the following results:
TeamBath 37 62 Manchester Thunder
Loughborough Lightning 58 53 Celtic Dragons
Surrey Storm 59 36 Yorkshire Jets
Loughborough Lightning 47 56 Manchester Thunder
I know it seems some teams are playing more than others, but I want to bring the scores as they happen in each week I report.
I’m venturing into winter sports again this week. Usually it’s just Elise Christie (and yes, she’s here again), but there have been several events of note this week that deserve mention.
15-year old Madi Rowlands took gold in the ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games this week. She scored 88.60, with Paula Cooper from the US in second with 79.00 and Austria’s Lara Wolf won bronze with 74.20.
Katie Ormerod, 18, earned her first top-three finish at the World Cup Big Air event in Quebec City in Canada. She finished second behind US Olympic slopestyle champion, Jamie Anderson. Big Air will be a new event at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in 2018.
Elise Christie won another two gold medals in the final World Cup of the season, taking her tally to four World Cup golds for the season. She won both the 500m and 1,000m in Dordercht in the Netherlands. She will be in buoyant mood for the World Championships, which take place in Seoul in March.
And finally, if you want a reason to get angry, check out the reception broadcaster Lynsey Hipgrave got when she dared to voice an opinion about Lionel Messi’s penalty this week. What can I say?