Welcome to this week’s Women’s Sports Column. I’m back from hols and raring to go. There’s a lot to catch up on and this is going to be a bumper edition with stories from cricket, lacrosse, football, rugby, sports politics, netball, hockey and tennis. You can probably guess this week’s “And finally” – courtesy of Andy Murray, but it bears repeating.
So let’s crack on.
For a couple of months now I’ve been trailing the Women’s Lacrosse World Cup – well someone had to. To be honest, I’m not frightfully well up on it myself, but over the next couple of weeks I’m determined to get to grips with the ins and outs of this exciting, fast-moving sport.
The tournament is running from 12-22 July at Surrey Sport Park and if you check out the website, you can still pick up tickets for some matches.
England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are all taking part.
A brief history:
Originally a Native American sport, it continues to draw big crowds in the United States. This World Cup is the tenth, with America winning seven so far and being runners-up in the other two, won by Australia. Over here it’s very much a minority sport, but growing.
There are 25 (!) nations taking part, with Wales being the second smallest after Latvia. Wales also boasts the game’s most capped player – Ros Lloyd Rout – who currently has 106 appearances for her country.
All of the home teams are ranked highly; England are ranked fourth in the world and Wales fifth, with Scotland just behind in sixth.
The format of the tournament is somewhat complicated. The top six ranked teams; USA, Canada, Australia, England, Wales and Scotland qualify by right to the knockout stages, although they all still play each other in Pool A. There are four other pools and just two teams from these pools will qualify along with Pool A.
Wow – that’s some worldwide spread!
It all kicked off on Wednesday with an exciting home nations derby.
England 12-6 Wales
England took the lead in the third minute and between then and 26th it was neck and neck as first one team scored, then the other. But in a telling period between the 28th and 47th England scored four without reply. Wales came back with one goal but England scored another three without Wales being able to score again. England’s number 11, Jennifer Simpson must have thought her only role was to provide the pass for the goalscorers as she achieved three assists, but then she got a goal of her own in the 57th minute, England’s 11th and penultimate score.
There, I’ve done my best!
Coverage will undoubtedly be sparse, but it’s good to see that the BBC will be covering the tournament on the BBC website from the quarter-finals onwards. And, of course, I’ll do what I can to keep you updated via this blog!
In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s Wimbledon fortnight. And what a tournament it’s been! There have been some truly stunning women’s (and men’s) matches, not least of which was the quarter-final between Jo Konta and Simona Halep.
Anyway, the women’s singles final is on Saturday. It was a shame that with so many good matches up to that point, the semi-finals were a bit of a disappointment and over all too quickly.
Garbine Muguruza (14) beat Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1 6-1
Venus Williams (10) defeated Johanna Konta (6) 6-4 6-2
The semi-final line-up is:
A Grönefeld/K Peschke (12) v E Makarova/E Vesnina (2)
M Niculescu/H Chan (9) v R Voracova/M Ninomiya
The semi-final line-up is:
H Kontinen/H Watson v B Soares/E Vesnina (2)
M Hingis/J Murray (1) v M Demoliner/M Martinez Sanchez
Both British players Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker lost in the quarter-finals. Whiley succumbed to Diede De Groot of the Netherlands 6-2 7-6. Shuker lost to second seed Yui Kamiji of Japan 6-3 6-1.
De Groot plays compatriot Aniek Van Koot in the first semi-final, while Kamiji faces Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany.
On the Pitch
Scotland 1-0 Republic of Ireland
Scotland won their final Euros warm-up game against the Republic of Ireland 1-0. Substitute Christie Murray headed home in the 85th minute to see Anna Signeul’s side head off to the Netherlands with a much needed win.
Scotland’s first game at the Euros, in case you didn’t already know, is against England in Utrecht on 19 July.
In fact, of course, it will all be underway by the time I get to write my column next week, so I’d just like to say good luck to the Lionesses and to Scotland.
Off the Pitch
Good news this week as semi-professional club Lewes FC announced that they will be paying their men’s and women’s first teams the same salaries.
Lewes women play in the third tier, the Premier League Southern Division, and the men in the Isthmian League Division One South, their eighth tier.
Both teams will have the same budget, level of coaching staff and facilities.
It is all part of the club’s “Equality FC” campaign.
Director Jacquie Agnew said: “We hope to spark a change that will help put an end to the excuses for why such a deep pay disparity has persisted.”
News also came this week that England striker Toni Duggan has signed for the new Barcelona women’s team. She joins them from Manchester City on a two-year contract.
The BBC chose to announce that Duggan is the first English player to sign for Barcelona since Gary Lineker. And didn’t that get the Neanderthal footie-lovers Y-fronts in a tangle? Outraged by the audacity of mentioning Lineker and Duggan in the same breath they all went completely off their heads to point out that Lineker signed for the men’s team, not the women’s and that the two were completely different. Tee hee. I can’t help thinking the BBC was having a bit of a laugh at their expense – and boy did they rise to it!
Yeovil Town Ladies FC
Yeovil announced yesterday that their Head Coach Michelle Yeowell has left the club. She had been a player and coach for the club for more than ten years.
Her successor has not yet been named.
Some shock news this week came from the RFU when it announced that England’s full-time contracts will end after the World Cup in August.
After the much-vaunted announcement of contracts in July 2016, this volte-face is not only disappointing but embarrassing.
The RFU, in its wisdom, has decided to concentrate on developing the sevens.
Evidently professional contracts will only go to sevens players next year. England have already qualified for the Rugby World Cup Sevens and next year there is the Commonwealth Games and the World Series.
The RFU is still committed to investing in the women’s fifteen-a-side game with the introduction of next season’s new league competition, but there are going to be some pretty unhappy women who return from the World Cup, regardless of the result, to find themselves without a contract.
England produced their best performance for a while last weekend to finish second at the last Grand Prix Series tournament in Kazan, thus securing qualification to next year’s Sevens Rugby World Cup in San Francisco. England were beaten by Russia 21-0 in the final, having topped their pool with wins over Ireland, Poland and Sweden.
Wales finished second in their pool to eventual winners Russia and finished fifth altogether. Their high finish ensured their qualification for next year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. In the pool stage they beat Italy and the Netherlands but lost to Russia. They then lost to England 21-7 in the play-offs but won the repechage by beating Belgium and Poland to take fifth.
Russia were a class above over the weekend, and in fact, over the two legs. They scored 34 tries in each leg.
The European representatives at the 7s RWC in San Francisco will be Russia, Spain, France, England and Ireland.
Apart from reading a tweet today by a real gent which said it’s an “absolute disgrace” that England’s women scored 373/5 against South Africa and that “cricket is just not a women’s game. Stick to hockey or netball”, the Women’s World Cup has generally engendered a positive reaction.
One brilliant story comes out of India where apparently a young girl went into a sports shop and asked for an Indian cricket shirt. When asked if she wanted a name printed on it, she said yes. Was it Kohli? Dhoni? Nope, it was Smriti Mandhana. The shop said it was the first time they had ever been asked to put the name of one of the women’s team on a shirt! Progress.
We’re nearly at the knockout stage of the World Cup. It’s a fight between New Zealand and India for the last place in the quarter-finals.
Here’s what’s happened in the last week:
All too easy for New Zealand
New Zealand v Pakistan
Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat
Pakistan 144 all out (46.5 overs)
New Zealand 147/2 (15 overs)
New Zealand won by 8 wickets (210 balls remaining)
Pakistan’s openers needed to make a considerable opening stand to post any kind of total against New Zealand. They had only made 35 before Zafar was out and although captain Sana Mir chipped in with a bright half-century, the other wickets fell cheaply and 144 was really never going to be enough.
Hannah Rowe took 3/22 off nine overs with the rest of the bowlers all contributing.
In response Rachel Priest was dismissed for just 8, but 93 from Sophie Devine and 38 not out from Amy Satterthwaite saw them comfortably home.
Another Van Niekerk masterclass does for India’s top batters
India v South Africa
India won the toss and put South Africa in
South Africa 273/9 (50 overs
India 158 all out (46 overs)
South Africa won by 115 runs
Wolvaardt may have been dismissed for just one, but some power batting from Lizelle Lee soon put this tie in South Africa’s favour. Van Niekerk also scored 57 and was backed up well by the rest of the top order.
By contrast India struggled to get the ball off the square. Deepti Sharma scored 60 and Jhulan Goswami 43, but there were few other contributors as Dane Van Niekerk took 4/22 off her 10 overs and India ended way short.
England edge the big one – but it’s mighty close
England v Australia
England won the toss and elected to bat
England 259/8 (50 overs)
Australia 256/8 (50 overs)
England won by 3 runs
Lauren Winfield is yet to make a score, but fellow opener Tammy Beaumont is looking to have got her mojo back with a vengeance. She scored top-scored with 49, Katherine Brunt chipped in with 45 not out and there were good starts for everyone else except the skipper, Heather Knight, who was out for just one. Elyse Villani took 3/42 off 5 overs as England chased the runs towards the end.
It was on the cusp of “just enough” and when Australia had got to 56 without losing a wicket all seemed ominous. In fact everyone made runs but the rate was too slow. Ellyse Perry starred with 70 with Lanning scoring 40. It was down to Jenny Gunn to bowl the last over, with 16 needed. Five were scored off the first three, then Gardner was out, caught by Brunt. The fifth ball of the over brought another four and then Australia needed six off the last ball, but Jonassen could only grab two and England had won by three runs.
An excellent, nail-biting game and a great advert for women’s cricket with a crowd of over 4,000 at Bristol cheering both sides on.
West Indies chalk up their first win
Sri Lanka v West Indies
Sri Lanka won the toss and put the West Indies in.
West Indies 229/9 (50 overs)
Sri Lanka 182 all out (48 overs)
West Indies won by 47 runs
When were the West Indies going to turn up? This game was a bit more encouraging for the World T20 champions. They made a healthy 229 with Merissa Aguilleira top-scoring on 49.
In reply Sri Lanka needed their star, Atapattu to fire, but when she was out on 26 the writing was on the wall. Anisa Mohammed was best bowler for the Windies taking 3/39 off her 10 overs and was Player of the Match.
West Indies win again as rain hits Leicester
Pakistan v West Indies
Pakistan won the toss and put the West Indies in
West Indies 285/4 (50 overs)
Pakistan 117/3 (24 overs)
West Indies won by 19 runs via D/L method
West Indies batted well for probably the first time in the tournament. Their two biggest stars, Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin both fired with 90 and 104 respectively. And when they fire the whole team looks a different prospect.
We were lucky to get as much cricket as we did with the sides playing through some quite heavy rain. With a delay to the Pakistan reply the total was revised to 245 in 38 overs. Pakistan had reached 117 before the heavens opened again and the match was abandoned.
South Africa ease past Sri Lanka
South Africa v Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka won the toss and batted
Sri Lanka 101 all out (40.3 0vers)
South Africa 104/2 (23.1 overs)
South Africa won by 8 wickets
It was an early finish at Taunton as South Africa put Sri Lanka to the sword. Van Niekerk struck again with 4/24 off 8 overs while Ismail took 3/14 off 7.3.
South Africa polished off their target with ease. The usually reliable Lee fell for a duck but Wolvaardt was 48 not out and du Preez 38 not out as they knocked off 104 in the 24th over.
Indian total never a problem for Australia at Bristol
Australia v India
Australia won the toss and put India in
India 226/7 (50 overs)
Australia 227/2 (45.1 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets
A fine century by opener Punam Raut was the highlight for India and without her 106 India would have faltered badly. She was ably supported by captain Mithali Raj with 69. Raj became the highest scorer in women’s ODIs in this match. She overtook Charlotte Edwards’ 5992, reaching 6028 in 16 fewer innings than Edwards and with an average of 51.52. So two good knocks, but unlikely to be enough to put Australia in any trouble.
And indeed it wasn’t. The great pairing of Lanning and Perry took it home with 76 not out and 60 not out respectively.
Sciver does it again as England too strong for New Zealand
England v New Zealand
England won the toss and batted
England 284/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand 209 all out (46.4)
England won by 75 runs
Nat Sciver’s second century of the tournament was the highlight for England. Winfield went cheaply again with just 11 but Beaumont continued her good form with a fine 93. Without Sciver’s 129 England would have been in trouble with Fran Wilson (10) the only other player to get into double figures.
Young leg spinner Amelia Kerr took 4/51 off her 10 overs.
New Zealand started steadily but an injury incurred by Sophie Devine in the field clearly hampered her in batting. Suzie Bates top-scored for New Zealand with 44, but a regular clattering of wickets meant they quickly fell behind the required rate. Alex Hartley took 3/44 off 9.4 overs.
It was a good team performance by England.
The Saudi Education Ministry has announced that girls attending public schools will be given access to physical education. The changes will be made “gradually” and “in accordance with (Islamic) Shariah regulations.”
Four years ago changes were made to allow girls in private schools to take part in sport.
It’s a big move, but we’ll have to see how things progress.
I’m ashamed to say I had missed the start of the Netball World Youth Cup, but here’s a recap of what is happening and what has occurred so far.
It’s happening in Gaborone, Botswana, the first time it has taken place in Africa. Twenty teams have qualified and the format is quite complicated. We begin with four pools of five and after the pool games we go into the knockout stages. The final is on 16 July.
In their first game, on Saturday 8 July, they beat Wales 69-23. On Sunday they played Grenada, winning 98-25. Their third pool game was against Trinidad & Tobago on Monday. The score was 75-27 to England and finally they played Fiji on Wednesday with England coming out on top 63-29.
Wales lost to England in their first match, and then to Fiji on Sunday 35-48. On Monday they defeated Grenada 72-30 and their fourth match was a tight loss to Trinidad and Tobago 32-36.
The Scots defeated Sri Lanka in their first match on Saturday 69-48. On Monday they lost to New Zealand 78-26. On Tuesday they defeated Northern Ireland 55-36 and their last pool game on Wednesday was a two-point victory over Samoa 46-44.
Northern Ireland is the British Isles’ lowest ranked team and found it difficult. They lost all of their pool matches: 22-89 to New Zealand, 44-56 to Sri Lanka, 26-65 to Samoa and 36-55 to Scotland.
England and Scotland qualified for the 1st-8th place quarter-final, which took place on Thursday 13 July. England defeated Jamaica 55-38, while Scotland drew the short straw, playing Australia. Australia won the game 95-22.
Find out who came where and who won what next week!
Hockey World League semi-final – Johannesburg
After a comfortable 3-0 win over Poland on Monday 10 July, England suffered a shock defeat against Japan on Wednesday. Mami Karino’s goal in the third minute was enough to defeat the Olympic champions. They play Germany on 14 July and Ireland two days later. They currently lie fourth in the pool.
Ireland have already qualified for the last eight with two draws against Japan and Germany and a win over Poland.
Andy Murray’s feminist credentials struck again this week. Lots of people (men) didn’t like it, especially when the BBC kept tweeting it, but hey ho. In the press conference after his loss to American Sam Querrey in the Wimbledon quarter-final on Wednesday, a journalist said Querrey was “the first US player to reach a major semi-final since 2009”. “Male player”, replied Andy immediately.
Several people were quick to point out that it was “obvious” that they were talking about men’s tennis. But I hate to tell you folks, that’s how casual sexism works. Murray was calling out the assumption that men’s tennis is the default and we only qualify it when we talk about women’s tennis (or any other sport for that matter). Good stuff from Murray.