This week’s stories come from cricket, football, hockey, tennis, gymnastics, rugby and sailing – plus a good news “and finally” that should make you punch the air with delight!
Cricket stories coming thick and fast. Lydia Greenway became the latest senior England player to retire this week. This comes after the shock departure of Charlotte Edwards and Sarah Taylor’s break from cricket for an unspecified period.
Greenway was an accomplished batter, scoring 4.108 runs in an international career which spanned 13 years. She won 14 test caps, 126 one-day caps and 85 in T20s.
But it is for her fielding prowess that she will be remembered. She took women’s fielding to another level with her athleticism and willingness to put her body on the line.
Head Coach, Mark Robinson, made it clear to Greenway that she has no part in his future plans – the Robinson revolution is now in full swing. She will still play for Kent in the county championship and for the Southern Vipers in the inaugural Kia Super League later in the summer.
In better news, the ECB announced today (Friday 3 June) that Heather Knight will take over from Charlotte Edwards as captain of England, with Anya Shrubsole stepping up to the vice-captain’s role.
Knight’s career has been impressive thus far; five test caps, 55 ODI caps and 33 T20I caps and while she has built her reputation on her batting, her bowling has improved immensely over the last couple of seasons and now she is seen as a significant threat with both bat and ball. With a top score of 157, she was named Player of the Series in the 2013 Ashes. Her bowling best is currently 4 for 47, achieved on the tour to New Zealand in 2015.
She should be under no illusion that this will be an easy task. In the past few weeks England has lost Edwards and Greenway, with Taylor unavailable for selection for an unspecified period. Many commentators on the women’s game are asking where the runs are going to be coming from. As well as captaining, Knight will be expected to score plenty and contribute with the ball.
Somerset bowler Anya Shrubsole has been appointed vice-captain. The 24-year old is currently enjoying her best England and domestic form and should be a great support to the captain. She was named Women’s Cricketer of the Year this year, taking 32 wickets in all formats in the last 12 months.
Knight’s first series as captain will be against Pakistan. The tourists will play three one day internationals and three twenty20 internationals. The first match will be at the Fischer County Ground, Grace Road, Leicester on Monday 20 June.
The England Lionesses take on Serbia home and away in quick succession over the next week in two Euro 2017 qualifiers. On Saturday they are at Adams Park, home of Wycombe Wanderers. Kick-off is 5.30pm and will be live on BBC2 and 5Live Sports Extra.
Star striker Fran Kirby and defender Gilly Flaherty have withdrawn from the squad with injury.
England are currently second in the table, one point behind Belgium, who are away to Estonia on 3 June.
Also tonight (Friday 3) Scotland play Iceland at home, kicking off at 7pm, Northern Ireland v Georgia at the same time, while BBC2 Wales will show Wales v Norway on 7 June, kicking off at 5pm.
In domestic football, Brighton and Hove Albion have been promoted to WSL2 from the Women’s Premier League (yes, it is complicated). They beat Sporting Club Albion in the play-off 4-2.
They will take their place in Women’s Super League 2 in spring 2017 and are the second team to do so after Sheffield United were promoted last year. Even though they won the play-off they had to comply with licensing requirements of the Super League before they would be admitted.
The requirements included financial and business management checks, facilities and marketing capabilities. All of these have been satisfied and they will take their place next season in an expanded league of 20 teams.
The 2016 French Open final will between world number 1, Serena Williams, and world number 4, Garbine Muguruza in a repeat of last year’s Wimbledon final.
In the semi-finals Williams won a scrappy match with the unseeded Kiki Bertens of Netherlands 7-6 6-4. Both players seemed to be struggling with injury. Indeed Williams has not looked happy all week. Bertens should really have taken the first set, but Williams broke back in the tenth game to bring it back to 5-5. The sent went to a tie-break which went Williams’ way 9-7. After that it was difficult to imagine Williams letting it go – and she didn’t, taking the second set 6-4.
The second semi-final was a peculiarly one-sided affair, which was unexpected. Sam Stosur had been playing some spectacular tennis to get this far, but she was totally outplayed by Muguruza, winning the match in straight sets 6-2 6-4.
The final will take place, weather permitting, on Saturday 4 June.
Great Britain’s women’s hockey team put in two impressive performances this week to remain unbeaten in their two-test series against world champions Netherlands this week.
They won the first 2-1 in Amsterdam. GB took the lead through Lily Owsley but Netherlands equalised just before half time through Kitty van Male. Helen Richardson-Walsh’s 39th international goal took the match for Great Britain.
The second game, played on 2 June ended as a 1-1 draw. Alex Danson socred her 90th international goal with just three minutes to go after Netherlands had taken the lead through an Eva de Goede penalty.
The team’s next competition will be the Champions Trophy in London. They will compete against Netherlands, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and United States. The tournament begins on 18 June.
The European Gymnastics Championships have been taking place in Bern this week. Great Britain’s women have qualified in first place for the team final. They finished on 173.363, one tenth of a point ahead of Russia. The team final is on Saturday.
The individual competition is on Sunday with the women competing in the following disciplines:
Becky Downie – beam and uneven bars
Gabby Jupp – uneven bars
Ellie Downie – floor and vault
Claudia Fragapane – floor and vault
Australia have won their first Women’s Sevens Series title. They take the crown from New Zealand, who had won it for the previous three years.
They lost the final of the last round at Clermont-Ferrand in France to Canada but still finished 14 points ahead of New Zealand in the overall standings.
England finished fourth in the competition and also finished fourth in the last round, having been beaten by New Zealand in the third place play-off 22-5.
England will be greatly heartened by their performance during this series. They will be looking to put in a good show at the Olympics in Rio later in the summer, when Women’s Sevens makes its Olympic debut.
I have a new section to offer in the column this week. As everyone probably knows by now, my knowledge is not encyclopaedic, and one sport I know very little about is sailing. So I have to thank Abby Ehler, professional sailor and someone much more in tune with it than I, for this excellent update which will, hopefully, become a regular feature.
The Atlantic Cup
Libby Greenhalgh, former navigator onboard Team SCA, joined forces with Oakcliff Sailing (headed by Dawn Riley, legend in Sailing), to do a double handed race known as the Atlantic Cup. The duo were new to short handed sailing, however they have finished 3rd on the podium, and were the first female team to compete in this event, so great news! Here is a link to the event website news page.
World Match Race Tour
American, Sally Barkow, again ex Team SCA, is currently competing in the World Match Race Tour which is a series of events held around the world in high performance catamarans, she heads up Team Magenta 32 and they are currently competing in Newport, RI. Sally is the first female World Match Race Tour card-holder. The World Match Racing Tour is the longest running, global, professional sailing series. This is the first time in its 22-year-history that a tour card has been awarded to an all-female team.
Sally and team have qualified through to the Super 16 and the Newport event concludes on Saturday, so all eyes on Team Magenta 32, who have steadily been progressing through the ranks throughout the events.
We will have more news mid June at the start of the Figaro single handed French Elite Champs, there are 5 girls competing, which is a record number for this event.
And finally, let’s have a good fist pump story, shall we? Australian netball has made a brilliant advert for its team and for women in sport in general. Watch it – it’s great. It encompasses everything I fight for regarding women’s sport.