Welcome to this week’s column. Having seen my third cricket match in a row abandoned on Tuesday, I’m now officially considering myself a curse, so if I were you I wouldn’t be inviting me to a wedding or garden party-type event any time soon.
This week’s stories come from tennis, horse racing, cricket, golf, football, basketball, rugby union and taekwondo.
Two major injury blows for Scotland this week ahead of the Euros, which begin next month. Defender Jen Beattie and striker Kim Little have both been ruled out.
Beattie, who plays for Manchester City in the WPL has an ankle injury, whilst Arsenal star Little ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament during training and faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Melbourne Cup-winning Australian jockey, Michelle Payne has been stood down from riding after testing positive for a banned substance.
After being tested on 11 June her urine sample showed traces of Phentermine, an appetite suppressant.
An enquiry into the findings will be held this week.
England head coach, Simon Middleton, has announced his squad for the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, taking place in Ireland in August.
He has clearly placed his faith in experience as between them the squad has 1,207 caps.
The squad in full:
Forwards: Zoe Aldcroft (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 4 caps), Sarah Bern (Bristol, 10 caps), Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries, 124 caps), Amy Cokayne (Lichfield, 28 caps), Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins, 25 caps), Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens, 61 caps), Sarah Hunter (C) (Bristol, 93 caps), Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 8 caps), Justine Lucas (Lichfield, 22 caps), Alex Matthews (Richmond, 31 caps), Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield, 46 caps), Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol, 31 caps), Marlie Packer (Bristol, 47 caps), Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 17 caps), Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 105 caps).
Backs: Rachael Burford (Harlequins, 67 caps), Natasha Hunt (Lichfield, 37 caps), Megan Jones (Bristol, 4 caps), La Toya Mason (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 66 caps), Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 85 caps), Amber Reed (Bristol, 39 caps), Leanne Riley (Harlequins, 10 caps), Emily Scarratt (VC) (Lichfield, 69 caps), Emily Scott (Saracens, 23 caps), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries, 34 caps), Danielle Waterman (Bristol, 70 caps), Kay Wilson (Richmond, 44 caps), Amy Wilson Hardy (Bristol, 7 caps).
As a reminder here are England’s pool games:
England v Spain
Wednesday 9 August – UCD Bowl, Dublin (KO 2pm)
Live coverage ITV4 from 1.30pm
England v Italy
Sunday 13 August – Billings Park UCD, Dublin (KO 2.30pm)
Live coverage ITV1 from 2pm
England v USA
Thursday 17 August – Billings Park UCD, Dublin (KO 2.30pm)
Live coverage ITV4 from 2pm
On Wednesday Bianca Walkden became the first British fighter to defend a World Championship title when she took gold in Muju, South Korea.
Walkden beat home favourite Saebom An 9-3 in the semi-final, before going on to defeat Jackie Galloway of the USA 14-4 in the final of the +73kg category.
Jade Jones had to settle for bronze on Friday after losing in the semi-final 14-8 to Lee Ah-reum of South Korea.
The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is currently underway in Chicago. The first round was cut short due to thunderstorms, but the leaderboard stands as follows:
-5 C Choi (Kor), A Yang (Kor)*, -4 B Altomare (US), J Klatten (Fra)*, -3 M Wie (US), B Henderson (Can), A Lee (IS), S Oh (Aus), K Kaufman (US)*, E Pederson (Den)*
Of the British players Jodie Ewart Shadoff (Eng) is -2 but is yet to complete round one. Catriona Matthew of Scotland is +2 and also has to finish off her first round. Mel Reid of England lies +3 and Charley Hull +4.
*Denotes unfinished round.
The top players are preparing for Wimbledon this week. Eastbourne has its usual impressive line-up.
Johanna Konta is seeded five. She had a great start to the week, and on Thursday completed an impressive double as the tournament struggled to get back on track after severe rain delays. However, during her defeat of Angelique Kerber in the quarter-final she fell heavily and suffered a back injury, causing her to withdraw from her scheduled semi-final with Karolina Pliskova.
What a good week it had been until then, though. In the second round she easily defeated Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-2 6-2. On Thursday she had to play two matches; In the third round she faced French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko. Konta took the first set 7-5, Ostapenko hit back to take the second 6-3 and the decider went to Konta 6-4. Later on she played world number one Angelique Kerber, defeating her in fine style 6-3 6-4.
Obviously there will now be concern over Konta’s participation at Wimbledon, which begins on Monday. Let’s hope her withdrawal from Eastbourne is just precautionary.
Heather Watson has also had an excellent week. In the first she defeated Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-4 4-6 6-4. In the second she had a fine win against fourth seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, 7-5 6-4. In the third she faced Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia and beat her 6-4 6-3. In the quarter-final she faced Barbora Strycova and again won, this time in three sets, 6-1 1-6 6-4. She plays Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated second seed Simona Halep 5-7 6-4 6-1.
Stop press: Watson has just been defeated by Wozniacki in a tight match -6-2 3-6 7-5. Wozniacki plays Karolina Pliskova in the final on Saturday 1 July.
Naomi Broady lost in the first round 6-2 6-7 6-1 to Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic.
Off the Court
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced this week that starting in 2018 the Davis Cup and Fed cup will combine to become a World Cup of Tennis.
The finals of the men’s and women’s tournaments will be brought together. For the first three years the competition will be held in Geneva. Geneva fought off bids from Copenhagen, Miami, Istanbul, Turin and Wuhan to win the right to host the event.
It may also be that the Fed cup semi-finals will also be included which would allow the ITF to expand the top group to 16 teams, the same number as are in the Davis Cup’s top group.
This year there will, for the first time, be a warm-up event before Wimbledon for the top wheelchair players.
It will be at Surbiton and will be over three days from 6 July. The top 13 men and women players will take part and there will be both singles and doubles events.
Women’s Hockey World League semi-finals
New Zealand 2-0 Italy
Australia 0-2 China
Netherlands 2-0 Spain
South Korea 3-2 Belgium (After extra time. 1-1 after 60 minutes)
The semi-final line-up will now be:
South Korea v China
Netherlands v New Zealand
Both ties will be played on Saturday 1 July.
Great Britain’s women lost in the semi-final of the European Championships this week. They were defeated 59-42 by the Netherlands. They will now play for bronze against France on Friday 30 June.
The final also takes place on 30 June. The Netherlands will play Germany who defeated France 46-33 in the other semi-final.
Women’s World Cup
Right, we’re eight games in and what do we know? I don’t think my predictions have been too bad so far. Australia have been excellent from the start, England have started slowly (as usual) and are improving, and India are looking ominous indeed. West Indies look as if they’ve never met each other before and Pakistan show promise, but not enough. South Africa and New Zealand are bobbling along, possibly under the radar, and Sri Lanka have a new star in Chamari Atapattu. So far, so good. So what have been the facts and figures:
Straightforward for New Zealand
New Zealand v Sri Lanka
Bristol – 24 June
New Zealand won the toss and put Sri Lanka in to bat.
Sri Lanka 188/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand 189/1 (37.4 overs)
New Zealand won by 9 wickets with 74 balls remaining
Atapattu top scored with 53 for Sri Lanka, but 188 was never likely to be a challenging total for the powerful New Zealanders. Holly Huddleston with 5/35 was the pick of the bowling.
As expected, New Zealand reached the target with plenty to spare, losing only one wicket, that of Rachel Priest for 2, in the process. Captain Suzie Bates scored the first century of the World Cup, finishing on 106 not out. She was ably backed up by Amy Satterthwaite who was 78 not out at the end.
Good Start for England (not)
England v India
Derby – 24 June
England won the toss and put India in to bat
India 281/3 (50 overs)
England 246 all out (47.3)
India won by 35 runs
Poor bowling and even poorer batting for England is only half the story. India batted, bowled and fielded with talent and passion on Saturday, and England were lagging sadly behind. In fact England got further than they should have done as India were clearly the better side.
The first wicket stand was 144 and when Smriti Mandhana was out for 90 it was captain Mithali Raj who took it on. Punam Raut was second to go, but not until she had scored a fine 86. Raj hit 71 and Harmanpreet Kaur 24 not out. The bowling was not good with Katherine Brunt particularly being hit to all parts, conceding 50 from just seven overs.
England are not particularly known for their chasing either, so it was always going to be a battle to reach this target.
Captain Heather Knight scored 46 and there was a fine knock of 81 from Fran Wilson, but they were both run out. In fact there were four run outs in the innings as England strove to score at the high rate required. In the end they fell short.
Pakistan close to upset
Pakistan v South Africa
Leicester – 25 June
South Africa won the toss and put Pakistan in to bat
Pakistan 206/8 (50 overs)
South Africa 207/7 (49 overs)
South Africa won by 3 wickets with 6 balls remaining
When Pakistan posted a total of only 206, South Africa must have been confident they would chase it down easily. But they were made to fight every step of the way.
Nahida Khan top scored for Pakistan with 79, with pretty much everyone else making a contribution.
When South Africa started with an opening stand of 113 they seemed to be cruising. Laura Wolvaardt scored 52 and Lizelle Lee 60, but after that the scoring rate was relatively slow. Three quick middle order wickets saw Pakistan in with a chance, but Sune Luus and Shabnim Ismail saw them home.
Controversy at the toss ends with West Indies batting when they should have bowled
Australia v West Indies
Taunton – 26 June
West Indies won the toss and batted
West Indies 204 all out (47.4 overs)
Australia 205/2 (38.1 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets
There was confusion and controversy at the toss in Taunton when Stafanie Taylor, on calling correctly said “bat” and then changed her mind and said “bowl”. It seemed that they were going with bowl, when Australian captain Meg Lanning decided to challenge the decision saying that they should go with what Taylor said first. Taylor didn’t press it and said they would bat.
Turns out they perhaps should have bowled. Opener Hayley Matthews made a fine 46 and Taylor 45, but the going was slow and the target a small one for a crack Australian side. Ellyse Perry took 3/47 in nine overs. But Australia also bowled eight wides, a total they would look to improve upon.
In response Nicole Bolton made 107 and Beth Mooney 70 as they reached their target with 12 overs to spare.
Sciver and Knight take it away from Pakistan
England v Pakistan
Leicester – 27 June
Pakistan won the toss and put England in to bat
England 377/7 (50 overs)
Pakistan 107/3 (29.2)
Match abandoned – England won by 107 via D/L method
As I have already said, I was there to see the rain come down, but I was also there to see a heartening performance by England after their poor display against India. England began badly. Both Taylor and Beaumont scratched around, timing very little and were both out cheaply. But Knight and Sciver then took it on. Knight began slowly, but it seemed as soon as Sciver came in it gave the captain confidence to play her shots.
It was a very enjoyable to see the battle to get to the century mark. Both players scored their maiden centuries, Knight out first for 106 then Sciver for137. Katherine Brunt came in and scored 9 off 5 balls, but was then out and was clearly so angry I was surprised she didn’t explode as she stomped off the pitch. Jenny Gunn was out first ball – in fact she had a poor match but a nice cameo from Dani Wyatt (42 not out) in her fiftieth ODI and Fran Wilson (33) led England to an enormous score. Pakistan were not helped by some friendly bowling and some less than sharp fielding.
In response Ayesha Zafar looked classy again. In fact Pakistan batted well, but they were well behind the rate when the rains came. Zafar was 56 not out and I would have liked to have seen more of her.
Great stuff from England though – a much needed shot in the arm after the first match and a large, appreciative crowd at Grace Road enjoyed the spectacle.
Nothing doing at a soggy Derby
New Zealand v South Africa
Derby -28 June
Match abandoned without a ball being bowled (no, I wasn’t there…)
West Indies snail’s pace no match for India
India v West Indies
Taunton – 29 June
India won the toss and put West Indies in to bat
West Indies 183/8 (50 overs)
India 186/3 (42.3 overs)
India won by 7 wickets with 45 balls remaining
This match just made us all who were watching or listening, say “what on earth were you doing, West Indies?” Put in to bat they never got going at all. Hayley Matthews did her best scoring 43 off 57 balls, but there was no back up. With Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin on strike it should have been a run-fest, but when Dottin ran Taylor out it all went to pot. Dottin went completely into her shell, scoring a terrible 7 from 48 balls and this timidity seemed to communicate itself through the team as the ball was repeatedly patted back to the bowler or just a few feet away. The Indian spinners bowled ridiculously tightly with the pick Poonam Yadav, taking 2/19 off her 10 overs.
India were never going to have a problem in chasing it down. Raut went for a duck but the classy Smriti Mandhana was great again, scoring 106 not out. Mithali Raj chipped in with 46 and the result was never in doubt.
Lanning century eclipsed by new Sri Lankan superstar, but Australia still win
Australia v Sri Lanka
Bristol – 29 June
Australia won the toss and put Sri Lanka in to bat
Sri Lanka 257/9 (50 overs)
Australia 262/2 (43.5 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets with 37 balls remaining
Remember the name – Chamari Atapattu – potentially Sri Lanka’s first superstar. Atapattu scored a marvellous 178 not out, over 68% of her team’s runs, the third highest score in women’s ODIs and second highest at a World Cup. She hit 22 fours and 6 sixes off 143 balls.
But it was not enough. Australia kept their heads and wickets intact. Opener Mooney went for a duck, but Bolton scored fifty and the captain Lanning 152 not out as they won with over six overs to spare.
We can only wait with bated breath to see what happens in the second week! Coverage continues on Sky (seems to be only occasionally on screen but mostly online) and BBC Test Match Special on 5Live Sports Xtra.
No “and finally” as such except to say there will be no column next week as I am away, but it will be back the week after, packed with more World Cup news, Wimbledon news and anything else I can pick up along the way.