Welcome to this week’s column. There’s plenty to get our teeth into this week with the ongoing Commonwealth Games, World Cup qualifiers in the football, play-offs in rugby union, tennis, lacrosse, and top-class international cricket.
So, to coin a phrase, let’s crack on.
So much going on, and so much I’m probably going to have to miss out or this column will be 5000 words long! So, again, apologies to anyone who thinks I’ve missed something vital (which I probably have).
England Roses are through to the semi-finals where they will face Jamaica. They finished top of their group. The other semi-final will be between Australia and New Zealand. Although, after watching Australia demolish Jamaica I am tempted to say just give them the gold now, I am hoping that the Roses beat Jamaica and somehow can stun the Aussies in the final.
More surprisingly, England’s basketball team (ranked 21 in the world) are through to the final of their tournament, having beaten Canada (ranked fifth in the world) in the semi-final 65-53.
They will face either Australia or New Zealand who play the second semi-final.
England’s women lost out in the semi-final to New Zealand in a penalty shootout. They now face India in the bronze medal match on Saturday. The gold medal match will be between Australia and New Zealand.
Mixed doubles pairings of Chris and Gabby Adcock and Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith are both through to the semi-finals.
Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour is through to the semis in the singles.
Doubles pairing of Lauren Smith and Sarah Walker are through to the women’s doubles semi-finals.
It’s the inaugural women’s sevens at Gold Coast 2018.
In Pool A: England won their first match, against Fiji, 17-5, but then lost to Australia 29-12.
Wales have lost both of their matches so far, 34-5 to Australia and 29-7 to Fiji.
England and Wales play each other in the final pool game on Saturday.
In Pool B: New Zealand beat Kenya 45-0 and South Africa 41-0. Canada also won their first two matches.
It’s been a mixed Games for home nations athletes. Katarina Johnson-Thompson took gold in the heptathlon, while Niamh Emerson, also from England, took bronze. Dina Asher-Smith (Eng) won bronze in a strong 200m field. Eilidh Doyle took silver for Scotland in the 400m hurdles. Shara Proctor won bronze in the long jump for England.
Also Caster Semenya of South Africa won the 800m/1500m double.
Sophie Hahn took gold for England in the T38 100m and Olivia Breen of Wales took bronze in the same event. Breen also won gold in the T38 long jump. Maria Lyle won silver for Scotland in the T35 100m. Hollie Arnold won T46 javelin gold for Wales.
Other medal highlights:
- Fabulous diving from Scotland’s Grace Reid who took gold in the 1m springboard.
- Bronze for Lesley Doig and Claire Johnston for Scotland in Women’s Pairs bowls
- Laura Holford silver for Wales in the rhythmic gymnastics Hoop.
- Kirsty Barr of Northern Ireland silver in the women’s trap and Sarah Wixey of Wales bronze in the same event.
- Seonaid McIntosh two bronzes; women’s 50m rifle prone & 50m rifle 3 positions for Scotland
One more round-up next week, including how the team sports ended up, boxing, squash, table tennis, more athletics and anything else I can fit in!
Football – World Cup Qualifiers
There have been some excellent performances from the home nations over the last week.
England 0-0 Wales
Wales’ goalkeeper, Laura O’Sullivan, put in an outstanding performance to deny England three points at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium on Friday.
But it could have been even worse for England if Tash Harding’s shot in the ninth minute had been adjudged to have crossed the line.
It wasn’t, and England went on to have 22 shots on target, none of which went in, largely due to a stalwart Wales defence and the heroics of O’Sullivan.
Unsurprisingly, Wales manager Jayne Ludlow was ecstatic with the performance,
“From a female football perspective it’s probably the best (result in Wales’ history),” she said in an interview with the BBC.
Bosnia-Herzegovina 0-2 England
England were back to goalscoring form in Sarajevo on Tuesday.
There was a momentary wobble when Alex Greenwood was sent off before half-time for a second yellow card. She was penalised for diving, when actually she was pretty obviously caught by the Bosnian defender.
But the home side couldn’t make the extra player count. Toni Duggan scored the first and Jodie Taylor a stoppage-time penalty to ensure the three points.
Bosnia-Herzegovina captain Amira Spahic was also sent off towards the end, also for a second yellow card.
With the win England went top of Group A, two points ahead of Wales.
Scotland 3-0 Poland
Scotland’s qualifying campaign got back on track with a comfortable win in Paisley on Wednesday.
The away side started well with Ewa Pajor in particular causing problems for the Scottish defence.
But in the second-half Scotland came into the game. Lee Alexander saved a penalty from Pajor and the Paulina Dudek was sent off for the Poles for a second yellow card offence.
As soon as Poland were down to ten, Scotland took advantage. Zoe Ness scored two and Erin Cuthbert a third to seal the game for the Scots, taking them to second in the Group 2, six points behind leaders Switzerland and with a game in hand.
Netherlands 7-0 Northern Ireland
Unfortunately, Northern Ireland’s chances of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup are just about over.
They were thrashed by European Champions the Netherlands in Eindhoven on Saturday 7 April.
They were 4-0 up by half-time with two from Lieke Martens, one from Vivianne Miedema and a penalty scored by Sherida Spitse.
It was more of the same in the second-half. Shanice van de Sanden, Spitse with her second and a Billie Simpson made it a woeful night for the Northern Irish.
Northern Ireland 0-3 Norway
It didn’t get any better for Northern Ireland on Wednesday as they slumped to a poor home defeat to Norway at Shamrock Park in Portadown.
After a goalless first-half, the away side took the lead on the hour through Caroline Graham Hansen. She then poached a second late on with Isabell Herlovsen scoring a third for Norway.
Football – Domestic
Just the one result this week with the international break in full swing:
London Bees 2-1 Aston Villa
Katie Wilkinson opened the scoring for the home side just before the half-hour. Bees doubled their lead in first-half injury time through Destiney Toussaint.
It looked like three points and a clean sheet until the penultimate minute when Ebony Salmon grabbed a consolation goal for Villa.
The result took London Bees up to fifth, but still five points behind Durham in fourth, having played a game more. Aston Villa stay second from bottom with seven points from 12 games.
Home Internationals 6-8 April, Edinburgh
There were no less than four tournaments taking place in Edinburgh at the weekend.
England took all four titles, as they did in Cardiff in 2017.
Senior A team:
England 21-7 Wales
Scotland 6-14 England
Senior B team:
Wales 6-19 England
Scotland 6-19 England
England 17-2 Ireland
England also triumphed in the Under 19 A and B tournaments.
Cricket – on the pitch
India sealed a fine 2-1 series win against England this week. In a see-sawing series, England took the second game easily, having been outplayed in the first. They were, however, unable to maintain this form in the third match and succumbed to the home side again to lose the series.
India 113 all out (37.2 overs)
England 117/2 (29 overs)
England won by 8 wickets with 126 balls remaining
It was all about England’s spinners in game two. Mithali Raj won the toss and elected to bat.
But 4/32 for Dani Hazell from her 10 overs and a career-best 4/14 from Sophie Ecclestone saw the home side slump to 113 all out. Top scorer for India was Smriti Mandhana with 42 with Deepti Sharma chipping in with 26 not out further down the order.
In response England motored away. Danni Wyatt scored 47 from 43 balls. Amy Jones was the only player to miss out, going for a duck bowled by Ekta Bisht. Tammy Beaumont and Heather Knight saw it home, scoring 39 and 26 respectively and reaching their total with more than 20 overs to spare.
England 201/9 (50 overs)
India 202/2 (45.2 overs)
India won by 8 wickets with 28 balls remaining
England couldn’t maintain their good form of the second ODI as they lost to India in the final game to win the series.
Knight won the toss and chose to bat.
Amy Jones was unluckily run out for 94, and while captain Knight scored 36, no-one else made a significant enough contribution to get England to a useful score. The wickets were evenly shared by the Indian bowlers with Goswami, Gayakwad, Sharma and Yadav bagging two each.
Opener Jemimah Rodrigues fell for two, caught by Beaumont off the bowling of Shrubsole. When Krishnamurthy went for seven, also to Shrubsole, England must have thought they were in with a chance. When the home side had reached 99 Mandhana retired hurt.
But a 103-run third wicket stand between Raj (74 off 124 balls) and Sharma (54 off 61) saw them home.
In the process Raj also took Charlotte Edwards’ record for the most 50+ innings in ODIs.
Cricket – off the pitch
Excellent, and somewhat surprising, news this week from Wisden. Three out of the five of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year are women! Heather Knight, Nat Sciver and Anya Shrubsole all make the list.
Of course it was a sensational year for women’s cricket as a whole with the World Cup causing such a wow in the cricketing world and so many female cricketers becoming household names. This is happening not just in England, but also particularly in Australia, New Zealand and India.
For three England players to be recognised by Wisden in this way, as well as Shrubsole appearing on the front cover is most definitely a breakthrough. Only two women have been named in the list before – a list that started in 1889; England’s Claire Taylor and Charlotte Edwards.
India’s Mithali Raj was also named World’s leading Women’s Cricketer.
Heather Knight captained the England side with a cool calmness that belied her experience. She was filling the giant shoes that belonged to Charlotte Edwards and didn’t miss a step in doing so. She scored 364 runs during the World Cup, averaging 45.
Nat Sciver’s summer will be remembered for the “Natmeg”, but was actually so much more. She scored 369 runs during the World Cup including centuries against Pakistan and New Zealand. Her bowling has also progressed this year.
Anya Shrubsole’s contribution to the tournament has been well-documented already, not least in this column! At the risk of alienating you all by saying “I was there” yet again, I can honestly say that England had lost that final if it hadn’t been for Shrubsole. She took 6/46 including the last wicket and putting herself firmly into the history books.
For the sake of balance, I must add that two chaps also made the list: West Indies batsman Shai Hope was the shining light for the Windies during their tour of England last year. He became the first man to score a hundred in both innings of a first-class match at Headingley during the second Test.
Finally, Jamie Porter of Essex was the leading wicket-taker in the County Championship Division one last season. He took 75 wickets as Essex won their first title since 1992.
Tennis – on the court
Top seed Garbine Muguruza triumphed at the Monterrey Open at the weekend. She beat second seed Timea Babos, 3-6 6-4 6-3.
There was also good news for Naomi Broady in the doubles as she won her first WTA Tour title with partner Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain. They defeated Mexico’s Giuliana Olmos and American Desirae Krawczyk in the final, 3-6 6-4 10-8.
Volvo Car Open
Meanwhile in Charleston twelfth seed Kiki Bertens took the title, defeating fifth seed Julia Görges in convincing manner, 6-2 6-1.
Tennis – off the court
World number 83, Madison Brengle is suing the WTA and ITF for injuries she alleges were sustained in the course of anti-doping tests.
Brengle has a condition which means she reacts badly to injections. Her solicitor says that,
“Tennis authorities ignored evidence of her professionally-diagnosed condition and refused to provide alternative testing or a medical accommodation.”
Brengle has been left with swelling and weakness in her serving arm and hand.
In a statement Brengle said,
“I am bringing this action in an effort to force those who control the sport I love to understand that players are not commodities and should be treated with respect and dignity.
“The unbridled authority of officials to subject players to the kind of abuse I suffered cannot be tolerated; players must have a say in matters involving our health and safety.”
News to follow as the case develops.
It was the first leg of the Premier 15s play-off semi-finals at the weekend, as although Saracens look to have already secured their place in the final, it’s still all to play for between Harlequins and Wasps, with Quins taking a six-point advantage into the second leg.
Gloucester-Hartpury 0-62 Saracens
Saracens were out of sight in this match after just twenty minutes as they scored four tries without reply. Marlie Packer drove over for the first before Helena Rowland scored a second then prop Samantha Martinez Gion and Lottie Clapp scored to put the Saracens firmly in control.
Bryony Cleall scored a fifth before half-time and the away side went in 33-0 up at the break.
There was more of the same in the second-half. Hannah Botterman scored the sixth, Packer scored her second and Garnet Mackinder added an eighth.
But they weren’t finished there. Poppy Cleall went in for a ninth and Mackinder a tenth and her second of the match.
Wasps 19-25 Harlequins
It was an altogether tighter affair at Twyford Avenue.
Wasps opened the scoring on nine minutes when Liz Crake went over to score her first try of the season.
But four minutes later Quins were level as Abbie Scott crossed in the corner. They went ahead on 16 minutes when Deborah McCormack went over to make it 10-7.
Quins scored again through Natasha Bradshaw to make it 17-7 at half-time.
In the second-half Wasps brought themselves back into it with tries from Louise Dodd and Abby Dow, making it 19-17 to the home side.
But it was Quins who were to have the last word –Ellie Green kicked a penalty and Fiona Pocock scored a last minute try to take the game and the lead back to The Stoop on Saturday.
Join me for more next week.