Women’s Sports Column 5-11 August 2017

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  I realise I am terribly late with my Rugby World Cup preview, and the KSL also returned this week, but, as you know, I’m struggling for time at  the moment – the World Athletics Championships have nearly passed me by completely!  I will do the best I can to keep up, but I’m giving my apologies now if I fall short.  The good stuff just keeps on coming with the Solheim Cup and the Netball Quad Series still to look forward to.

So, less blathering, more reporting.  This week’s stories come from rugby, golf, athletics, tennis, hockey, netball, football and cricket.

Firstly to the football and the final of the Women’s Euros.

Football

Women’s Euros Final

Netherlands 4-2 Denmark

What a fitting final to grace an excellent tournament!  It had everything; goals, tackles, great defending, great goalkeeping, mistakes and a fabulous crowd.

The largely orange crowd were silenced after six minutes when Nadia Nadim slotted home a penalty, but the Dutch were level four minutes later Vivianne Miedema poked in from close range.

Player of the tournament, Lieke Martens scored the Netherlands’ second with a 20-yard strike.  But five minutes later the Danes were level again through Pernille Harder.

2-2 at half-time after a breathless, end-to-end 45 minutes.

The second-half was just as competitive.  Six minutes after the re-start through a Sherida Spitse free-kick.  Denmark gave everything they had to come back, but in the 89th minute Danish hearts were finally broken when Miedema got her second.

Netherlands were the best team overall, no doubting that.  England’s Jodie Taylor received the Golden Boot for her five goals.

Other football news

It was announced on Wednesday that the English FA will bid to host the 2021 Women’s Euros.  England last hosted the tournament in 2005 and the current boom in the women’s game has prompted the FA to bid again.

FA Chief Executive, Martin Glenn, said,

“The Lionesses’ performances at the Euros this summer gave the country great pride.  It also showed the significant impact that hosting a major European tournament can have on growing and developing women’s football.”

Can’t wait for unreconstructed man commenting on this.

The bidding process begins in September, with a decision due in 2018.

The FA has also announced that it is looking into fielding a women’s GB side at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.  Let’s hope the home nations come to an agreement in time, after their singular failure to do so for Rio.

Women’s Under-19 Euros

Hot on the heels of the Euros comes the under-19 version, which is taking place in Northern Ireland from 8-20 August.

Eight teams have qualified for the finals – split into two groups of four.

Group A: Germany, Spain, Northern Ireland, Scotland

Group B: Italy, France, Netherlands, England

The first round of matches produced the following results:

Group A:

Scotland 0-3 Germany

It could have been more for Germany had it not been for the excellent display from Scots goalkeeper Rebecca Flaherty.  Germany took the points with goals from Giulia Gwinn (19), Annalena Rieke (39) and Ereleta Memeti (80).

Northern Ireland 0-2 Spain

Likewise Spain were too strong for the host nation.  Lucia Garcia scored the first on the half-hour with captain Patricia Guijarro scoring on 53 minutes to seal the win.

Group B:

France 0-2 Netherlands

The Netherlands scored an impressive win over Cup-holders France with two goals in the first-half.  Victoria Pelova opened the scoring after just 10 minutes and an own goal from Julie Piga sealed the points for the Netherlands.

Italy 1-2 England

Two goals from Georgia Allen in the second-half were enough to take the points against Italy.  Italy pulled one back in second-half injury time through Annamaria Senturini.

The second round takes place on Friday 11 August.

Women’s Rugby World Cup

Having watched most of the first round of games, I can, with some relief, say that my original thoughts as to the ultimate destiny of the Cup have not changed significantly.  There were some unsurprisingly big wins as minnow were rolled over, with the undoubted highlight of the round being the game between Ireland and Australia.

England and New Zealand are the teams to beat and everyone will be looking to overturn them.  Canada and France will also be in the mix and as dark horses we have to include Ireland.  Can the “Netherlands effect” work in their favour?  It certainly helped at the first game against Australia.  Actually Australia were a good deal sharper than I expected and their sevens speed will be an asset, but I do question their ability, with so many sevens players in the squad, to last 80 minutes on a regular basis.

Right, on with the scores:

England 56-5 Spain

Clinical, but not perfect for England

England ran in 10 tries in their first game with four for Kay Wilson.  The other tries came from Emily Scarratt, Amy Cockayne, Harriet Millar-Mills, Alex Matthews, Lydia Thompson and Megan Jones.  Conversions came from Kay McLean (2) and Emily Scarratt.

Spain’s dogged persistence finally paid off towards the end of the first half as they scored from and England handling-error through Diana Gasso.

Although this was a good first result for England they know they will have to tighten up in certain areas if they are to progress.  They had 88% of territory, making 911 metres compared with Spain’s 258.  But the kicking was not too sharp and the line-outs positively ropey.  Their next game is against Italy on Sunday.

New Zealand 44-12 Wales

It was a tough start for Wales and by half-time they were 20-0 down.  Sioned Harries and Melissa Clay went over for Wales, but they were undone by merciless attacking speed from the Black Ferns, whose tries came through Winiata (3), Waaka, Wickliffe (2), Woodman and Blackwell.

USA 24-12 Italy

A tight game saw the Eagles claim the win with four tries to Italy’s two.  Kris Thomas scored the USA’s first after just two minutes with Kimber Rozier adding the conversion. Rozier went in for a try of her own on 17 minutes, but missed the conversion, to make it 12-0 to the USA.  Nine minutes later Italy were back in with scoring through Lucia Cammarano, which was converted.   In the second-half Thomas and Gustaitis went in for the USA.  Italy pulled one back with a late try from Giordano after Thomas had been yellow-carded.  A good confidence-building win for the USA.

Canada 98-0 Hong Kong

A crushing win for Canada, not really doing anything for the game, but Hong Kong have to start somewhere.  I fear for Hong Kong as things don’t get any easier as they face the Black Ferns next on Sunday 13 August.

Ireland 19-17 Australia

What a match!  Gosh, so tempting it is to trot out a whole line of clichés – they went toe to toe, knocking lumps out of each other, no quarter asked or given, etc.  But it’s also all true!  Before the game I thought Ireland, even without Niamh Briggs, would have it in the bag against such and inexperienced 15s side.  But Aussies never know when to quit (another cliché) and it was mighty tight to the end.

Ireland took the lead with at try from Larissa Muldoon, converted by Nora Stapleton.  But Australia hit back with a try of their own from Mahalia Murphy.  In what soon became a kicking nightmare for Australia, the conversion was missed by Samantha Treherne as the ball fell from the kicking tee just as it was about to be kicked.

After half-time Australia silenced the crowd by going in front with a try from Shannon Parry but there was further embarrassment in the kicking department as Treherne then took, what I would consider, to be one of the worst kicks I’ve ever seen.  We all laughed at the time, but in the end the difference was two points.

Ireland went back in front with a converted try by Ciara Griffin.  And when they scored again with ten minutes to go, the try by Sophie Spence adjudged legitimate by the TMO, Ireland were well ahead and the Aussies seemed to be tiring.

But it was Australia who were to have the last word, prop Hilisha Samoa tunnelling her way through a pile of Irish bodies to get over the line.

The TV coverage kept cutting to poor Niamh Briggs in the stand who was clearly playing every ball.  I hope she has some less-close matches to watch otherwise she’ll have no nails left.

France 72-14 Japan

Japan were touted as a possible outside threat before the tournament began, but this first game surely showed that they still have some way to go before being competitive in the big arena.  Twelve tries for France saw them win easily and a red card for Makiko Tomito for Japan in the second-half did not have improved the situation.

Live coverage is on ITV4.  It’s quite good (thank goodness for Maggie Alphonsi) – sorry can’t be more enthusiastic than that.  And as beggars can’t be choosers, I’d encourage you to tune in.

Tennis – Rogers Cup

There was disappointment for Heather Watson this week as she pulled out with injury in the first round of the Rogers Cup in Toronto.

She was behind 6-1 4-1 to Naomi Osaka of Japan when she forfeited the match with a shoulder injury.

The quarter-finals take place on 11 and 12 August and the line-up is as follow:

K Pliskova (1) v C Wozniacki (6)

S Stephens v L Safarova

E Svitolina (5) v G Muguruza (4)

C Garcia v S Halep (2)

Athletics – World Championships

I think it’s safe to say that this has not been a vintage World Championships for Team GB.

So far we have only one medal – a gold for Mo Farah in the 10,000m.

Best results for British female athletes:

Laura Muir was a whisker away from taking a bronze in the 1,500m as she came in fourth.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson came in fifth in the heptathlon after really blowing her chances on the first day.

Holly Bradshaw came a creditable sixth in the pole vault but was not far away from getting a medal.

Sophie Hitchon came seventh in the hammer and Eilidh Doyle eighth in the 400m hurdles.

We still have potential medallists though on Friday 11 August with Dina Asher-Smith qualifying for the 200m and Lorraine Ugen in the long jump final.

There are plenty of events still to come through the weekend, so keep watching.  Blanket coverage on the BBC.

Netball

The netball Quad Series begins at the end of the month with England’s first game against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday 26 August at 6am.

They then play New Zealand in Auckland on Wednesday 30 August (8.30am) and South Africa in Invercargill on Sunday 3 September (3am).

Australia have already suffered a blow with top (and scariest) defender Sharni Layton pulling out of the squad, having been diagnosed with physical and mental exhaustion.

England have named a full-strength squad:

Ama Agbeze (captain), Jade Clarke (vice-captain), Joanne Harten (vice-captain), Sara Bayman, Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Eleanor Cardwell, Beth Cobden, Kadeen Corbin, Stacey Francis, Jodie Gibson, Serena Guthrie, Helen Housby, Geva Mentor, Chelsea Pitman.

Reserves: Summer Artman, Sasha Corbin, George Fisher, Natalie Haythornthwaite

Hockey

Just a quick notice!  The public ballot for tickets to the 2018 World Cup, to be held in London from 21 July -5 August opens on 19 August.  Follow this link to register – it’s a short window, the ballot closes on 6 September.

 Golf

Solheim Cup

The teams, including the captains’ picks, are in!  The Solheim Cup is nearly upon us.  The USA are the current holders, having won in Germany in 2015, 14½-13½.

Europe captain Annika Sorenstam had four wildcard picks and chose Anna Nordqvist (Swe), Madelene Sagstrom (Swe), Caroline Masson (Ger) and Emily Pedersen (Den).

Julie Inkster had two wildcard picks for the USA and chose Austin Ernst and Angel Yin.  Although not originally included, Paula Creamer has now been drafted in, as Jessica Korda has pulled out through injury.

The teams in full:

Europe: Charley Hull, Georgia Hall, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Mel Reid, Florentyna Parker, Carlota Ciganda, Karine Icher, Suzann Pettersen. Wildcards: Anna Nordqvist, Caroline Masson, Emily Pederson, Magdalene Sagstrom.

USA: Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis, Gerina Piller, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Danielle Kang, Michelle Wie, Brittany Lang, Brittany Lincicome, Lizette Salas. Captain’s Picks: Austin Ernst, Angel Yin.

The Solheim Cup takes place at the Des Moines Country Club in Iowa from 18-20 August and is live on Sky Sports.

British Open

Kim In-Kyung of Korea has won the British Open at Kingsbarns in Scotland at the weekend.  She won by two shots over Jodie Ewart Shadoff of England, finishing on -18.  Michelle Wie of the United States took a share of third with Caroline Masson of Germany and Georgia Hall of England as they finished on -13.

Kim had a six-shot lead going into the last round, but in the end she had to hold on as Ewart Shadoff shot a storming course-equalling round of 64 to pull the deficit back to just two shots.

Cricket

Kia Super League

The second season of the Kia Super League gets underway this week.  Each team still only plays each other once, with Finals Day this year at Hove on 1 September.

The ECB has revealed this week that next year’s competition will be expanded so that each team will play a more usual format of home and away ties.  This good news comes in the wake of an earlier announcement that the ECB has shelved plans for a similar women’s 50-over completion.  When the T20 competition was announced, the ECB said its plans were to extend it to a 50-over competition in a matter of a couple of years.  This is a massive U-turn and somewhat of a slap in the face for a country that has just won a 50-over World Cup.

Not sure how many times I’ve said this, but the various governing bodies have to stop using women’s sport as a guinea pig – so many initiatives announced, so many either dropped before they’ve started or after a limited time – see the RFU and its contract scandal, for example.

The ECB obviously want the women to be concentrating on T20, when really it is the grassroots county game that needs the money.  Where will the much vaunted “pathway” be for county players to get into the England one-day side? It’s a huge jump.

The odds are it will all change again in 2020 when the men’s “franchises” (hush my mouth, dirty word) for the T20 Blast will be revealed.  It is thought that the women’s Super League will then be revamped in line with these franchises.

Anyway, it all began again on Thursday 10 August with a somewhat underwhelming start at the Ageas Bowl as reigning champions the Southern Vipers took on Western Storm.

Western Storm 70 all out (18.5 overs)
Southern Vipers 73/1 (9 overs)

Not a storming start (sorry) to the KSL as the Vipers thrashed the Storm, knocking off their target in just nine overs.  Not even the missing Anya Shrubsole could have turned this round.

Top scorer for Storm was opener Georgia Hennessy, who dug in in the face of the carnage around her.

England captain Heather Knight, made only one before being bowled by Linsey Smith.  The only other player to make double figures was Fran Wilson who made 10.

In an attempt to up the scoring to make some kind of defendable total, Storm suffered three run-outs towards the end of the innings, including that of Sophie Luff who was dismissed by a direct hit from Charlotte Edwards.

In response the Vipers made it look all too easy.  They have a truly scary batting order, which was not needed on this occasion.  Hayley Matthews was the only wicket to fall as she hit out with freedom in attempt to get the game won.  She was caught by Hennessy off the bowling of Stafanie Taylor for 15.

New Zealand captain Suzie Bates (47) and Georgia Adams (3) saw them home.

Coverage is on Sky and BBC TMS.

And finally,

I still must try harder to stop reading the comments sections, particularly on the BBC.  I thought the rugby had cracked it and it was accepted that the women’s game is a quality product (not that I care whether you accept it or not), but this is not the case.  Cue the usual misogyny on the BBC comments sections.  Bored now.

Sorry, no column next week as I’ll be working elsewhere.  Don’t forget, if you’ve enjoyed reading the column please share it with your networks.  I’m also happy to discuss any (non-troll) aspects of women’s sport.

Women’s Sports Column 29 July – 4 August 2017

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column.  I’m still calming down after the amazing day that was the Women’s World Cup Final, but there’s no time to rest as the Women’s Euros come to their thrilling conclusion this weekend.  After that it’s the Rugby World Cup.  This fantastic summer of sport just goes on and on!

Stories this week come from football, tennis, cricket, lacrosse, and rugby.

Women’s Euros

Well it’s all over for the Lionesses. Can’t pretend I’m not gutted, but the better side won in the semi-final – England weren’t robbed or anything, so that’s the way the game goes.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been enjoying this tournament a lot.  It has been great to see some teams, other than the usual suspects, progressing.  There certainly would have been long odds on the final four being Austria, Denmark, England and the Netherlands.  But surely it’s all the better for that.  Germany and Sweden were particularly disappointing, but at least it gives someone else a go.

In case you missed it (and where were you, if you did?), here’s what happened in the quarter-finals.

Austria 0-0 Spain
Austria won 5-3 on penalties

Spain were clear favourites to win this match and to progress to the quarter-finals, but Austria, in their first Euros, clearly hadn’t read the script.

Silvia Meseguer missed her penalty and Sarah Puntigam put hers away coolly to take the Austrians through.

Netherlands 2-0 Sweden

Goals from Lieke Martens and Vivianne Miedema were enough to see the tournament hosts beat a disappointingly disjointed Sweden side in front of a packed house in Doetinchem to reach the semi-finals.

After Martens had scored with a free kick, the Netherlands were always in control and Sweden quickly lost heart.

The immensely impressive Shanice van de Sanden rampaged down the wing, crossing to Miedema to tap in for the second and it was all over.

Germany 1-2 Denmark

The biggest shock came in Rotterdam where the unfancied Denmark beat reigning champions Germany.

The game had to be played on the reserve day as the torrential rain caused the original fixture to be postponed.

Germany took the lead through Isabel Kerschowski.  The Danish goalkeeper was at fault, parrying the shot into the net.  Germany held the lead until just after half-time when Nadia Nadim headed in the equaliser for the Danes.

Seven minutes from time Theresa Nielsen headed in the winner as she stood unmarked in the centre.

England 1-0 France

England hung on by hook or by crook to beat France for the first time in 43 years in a competitive game in Deventer on Sunday.

England were far from perfect and it was only the stalwart defence that kept France out.

Jodie Taylor scored the winner – her fifth in three games – after being put in by Lucy Bronze.  Bronze had another excellent game – her strength and consistency are phenomenal.

Two minus points for England; Jill Scott received her second booking, thereby missing the Semi-final on Thursday and goalkeeper Karen Bardsley broke her leg in a collision with her own captain, Steph Houghton.  Somehow she played on for 15 minutes, going down a couple of times for treatment, which earned whistling and howls of derision from the French fans.  In the end she was replaced by Siobhan Chamberlain and it was revealed later that Bardsley had suffered a fracture.

Semi-finals

Denmark 0-0 Austria
Denmark won 3-0 on penalties

This was a tight game with plenty of chances for both sides.  In the 13th minute Austria were awarded a penalty for handball, but Sarah Puntigam, who had so coolly slotted in the winning penalty in the quarter-final, this time blazed over.   At the final whistle they could not be separated and the tie went into extra time.    Denmark had had the lion’s share of possession, but could not force a goal.  Both sides again had chances during extra time but it remained stubbornly goalless and it was penalties.

Austria should have been confident going into penalties after their excellent display against Spain, but this time it all went wrong.  They missed their first three spot-kicks and Simone Sorensen put away hers to send the Danes through to the final.

Netherlands 3-0 England

A largely orange crowd of over 27 thousand saw the hosts rout England with an impressive display of attacking football.  The Netherlands were on the front foot from the off and England seemed to have no reply.

The hosts took the lead after just 22 minutes when Vivianne Miedema headed in and it was only then that England started to look calmer and more possessed.  They should have equalised when Jade Moore’s shot was deflected onto her own post by a Netherlands defender.

With Shanice van de Sanden (one of my stars of the tournament) and Lieke Martens raiding down the flanks the Dutch were consistently dangerous, but managed relatively few meaningful shots.

With England 1-0 down at the break and the crowd in full voice, it was up to Mark Sampson to rally the team and get them moving.  But the second half started very much as the first, with the Netherlands coming forward and England retreating.  Fara Williams, in for the suspended Jill Scott (who was very much missed) had a poor game and on 62 minutes Danielle van de Donk capitalised on a misplaced header back to the goalkeeper, making it 2-0 and the game was effectively over.

I feel Sampson made some odd decisions regarding substitutions.  Ellen White was having a stinker and should have been replaced.  I would have liked to have seen Toni Duggan on much earlier and someone creative like Izzy Christiansen to replace Williams.

But it was not to be for the Lionesses.  In injury time Millie Bright deflected the ball into her own net, which seemed to sum up the night for England.  It made the scoreline a little flattering for the Netherlands, but there can be no doubt that they were the better side on the night, by a considerable margin.

According to all reports the England squad is “devastated”.  And rightly so.  They were the highest ranked team left in the competition and could and perhaps should have gone on to win it.  The Netherlands of course had some stunning home support, but England have shown defiance in this kind of situation again and again.  Sampson will need to look at his plans again.  He’s been a great influence for good with this side, don’t get me wrong, but I think he will have to learn, along with his Lionesses, if they are to make that final push to win a major tournament.

The final between Denmark and the Netherlands is on Sunday at 4pm and is live on Channel 4.  The programme starts at 3pm.

Rugby Union

England contracts

As we know, Scrumqueens reported the demise of England women’s fifteens contracts some weeks ago and I mentioned it soon after in my column, but it looked as if the RFU’s decision had slipped under the mainstream media radar (surprise).

But in the last week or so the wider media has finally chipped in with its pennyworth.  The RFU has come under increasing pressure to reconsider its stance.  As yet, there’s no word of this actually happening, but should there be any changes in policy, hopefully I’ll bring it to you as soon as is possible.

Tyrrells Premier 15s.

Whilst the contracts controversy rumbles on, the RFU announced this week that the replacement for the Women’s Premiership will be called the Tyrells Premier 15s.

The crisp manufacturer has signed a three-year deal to sponsor the league.

The league, which comprises 10 teams will be in the usual home and away league format.  The top four will then go to semi-finals played over two legs and the final will be on 29 April 2018.

RFU director of professional rugby, Nigel Melville said of the announcement,

“The Tyrrells Premier 15s competition is an important step forward for women’s rugby to strengthen the foundations of the women’s game as it continues to grow in popularity.

“By investing at domestic level we can build a sustainable model to support the growth of the game at elite level.

“The competition will crucially expand the playing pool of players available for international selection which will enable us to reach our long-term objective of running dual professionalised 15s and sevens programmes and allow us to compeon all fronts at the highest level.”

I think we can safely say that this was the RFU’s “subtle” way of deflecting the criticism over contracts.

There will also be a new development league for the 10 clubs’ 2nd teams who will also play in the RFU Women’s Senior Cup alongside the Women’s Championship North and South teams.

World Cup News

Ireland suffered a massive blow this week when captain Niamh Briggs withdrew from the squad through injury.

Briggs had only just come back from the hamstring injury that kept her out of the Six Nations when she suffered an Achilles injury in training.

Louise Galvin has been called up as replacement for Briggs.

Ireland have announced that their captain will now be flanker Claire Molloy.  Molloy has plenty of experience, having won 53 caps.  This will be her third World Cup.

“I’m incredibly humbled to be given the opportunity to captain my country, it’s a massive honour to be selected to lead the team in a World Cup on home soil.

“I’m fortunate that I’ll be surrounded by players with great experience, and I’m just really looking forward to pulling on the green jersey and running out with my team-mates,” she said.

Ireland are in tough group C:

Pool games:
Wednesday 9 August v Australia (UCD Bowl Dublin) 7pm
Sunday 13 August v Japan (UCD Bowl Dublin) 5.15pm
Thursday 17 August v France (UCD Bowl Dublin) 7.45pm

Ireland women’s World Cup squad in full:

Forwards: Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster), Anna Caplice (UL Bohemian/Munster), Ciara Cooney (Railway Union/Leinster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s College RFC/Leinster), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster), Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians/Connacht), Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster), Marie-Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

Backs: Louise Galvin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Eimear Considine (UL Bohemian/Munster), Mairead Coyne (Galwegians/Connacht), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Jeamie Deacon (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Claire McLaughlin (Cooke/Ulster), Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht), Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sene Naoupu (Harlequins FC), Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

Next week (a bit late, admittedly) I’ll be previewing the Women’s Rugby World Cup as we begin the fourth major women’s tournament in three months!

Tennis

Heather Watson was knocked out in the opening round of the Citi Open in Washington this week.  She lost to world number 134, Patricia Maria Tig of Romania, 7-6 7-6.  Watson had already had to play two rounds of qualifying before proceeding to the main draw.

Meanwhile Maria Sharapova beat Jennifer Brady 6-1 4-6 6-0 in the first round of Stanford’s Bank of the West Classic on her return from injury.  However, she then withdrew before her second round clash with Lesia Tsurenko with an arm injury.

Britain’s Jordanne Whiley has revealed that she was 11 weeks pregnant when she won the Wimbledon doubles title in July.

Cricket

Just when it looked like the possibility of the men’s Ashes being cancelled was a real one, Cricket Australia has finally come to agreement with both the men’s and women’s squads over pay and conditions.

Women’s pay will rise from AU$7.5 million to $55.2 million for a five year term.  For the first time there will be one agreement to cover both male and female cricketers.  A revenue-sharing scheme will encompass all cricketers.

Impressive stuff from Cricket Australia and something other governing bodies should look at.

Lacrosse

Last week the GB lacrosse team took part in the World Games in Wrocław, Poland.  It was the first time lacrosse had featured in the Games, the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) having had its application to join the International World Games Association (IWGA) accepted in 2013.

Great Britain was one of six teams to compete, finishing a creditable fourth, just missing out on bronze, losing to Australia 8-10 in the bronze medal match.

Australia were well on top, going 5-1 up early on.  They went 2-0 ahead through Abbie Burgess and Sarah Mollison.  GB then pulled one back through Ailsa Stott.

But then Australia surged ahead with scores from Rebecca Lane, Theo Kwas and Burgess again, putting them 5-1 up.

Seven minutes before half-time GB struck back, and strongly.  They hit six goals without reply to take the lead.  Claire Faram got the first and Emily Gray and Sophie Morrill scored to take GB to just 4-5 down at half-time.

Gray, Faram and Morrill all scored again within five minutes of the re-start and GB were 7-5 in front.

Australia hit back through Mollison and Courtney Hobbs to level it and then GB took the lead again through Stott with 15 minutes to go.

But Australia were not to be outdone.  Mollison hit home again followed by Hobbs and Burgess to put the game beyond the Great Britain team.

The winners of the tournaments were USA who beat Canada 11-8 to take gold.

And finally,

As you know, I’ve been trying to wean myself off the hell that is the comments section of the BBC website and the comments after BBC tweets.  I’ve been managing quite well, but I thought I’d just have a quick peak tonight at the replies to one of the tweets about England in the Women’s Euros.  I was quite heartened.  I expected to see many misogynistic “back to the kitchen” comments, but actually there was just one lone very sad man “Man Utd Fan” bleating “no-one cares”.  One.  Very.  Sad.  Individual.  Did it look pathetic when he’d got none of his equally butch mates to back him up?  It certainly did!

England win a thrilling World Cup Final – and I was there!

DSCN2134

What a day!  I know thousands of words have already been published on the Women’s Cricket World Cup Final which, in itself, is a miracle, but it won’t stop me adding my few hundred.  But if you’re looking for a straight up-and-down account of the match you will be out of luck.  My little Joe Friday voice keeps saying “just the facts ma’am, just the facts”, but if I stuck the facts it would only be half the story.  So, read on for my account of one of the best days of my sporting life.

The day dawned bright and clear.  Actually it was largely mucky and grey and the threat of prolonged rain was a real one.  I did wonder whether I was about to make it four from four washouts (see previous blog entries), but someone somewhere was obviously not going to let that happen and we got through relatively unscathed.

Top marks for the organisation skills of Lord’s – I suppose they have been doing it for a while (!), but although there were queues the staff and cricketeers were helpful, polite and largely smiling.  The queues moved at a pace and everything seemed to go like clockwork.  Not like Edgbaston, I might add, which seemed understaffed and underprepared in comparison.

Anyway, we were in and seated before the toss.  And that’s when it got a little bit much for me.  Either I had multiple pieces of grit in my eye or I found myself crying.  The crowds of people, the atmosphere, the very occasion just got to me.  I should have realised what sort of crowd it was going to be with the size of the cheer greeting Heather Knight winning the toss!

My occasional tear developed into full-blown sobbing when Eileen Ash (Whelan) was revealed as the ringer of the five-minute bell.  This small, wiry 105-year-old woman stood there with composure and grace as her list of achievements was read out and the sense of history being made was palpable throughout the ground.

And then to business.

I thought it was vital that Heather won the toss and that England batted.  England are, generally, not good at chasing.  I thought the batters would settle the side down, calm heads and all that.  But it was not to be.  In truth the batting performance was not good.  After Winfield and Beaumont were out there were a series of poor shot selections as England proceeded to lose wickets regularly.  Jhulan Goswami was pounding in with purpose and venom, scaring the life out of me and I was not 22 yards away.

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Nat Sciver was the pick of the batters, with a good 51.  Sarah Taylor probably deserved more – my but she looks fabulous when she strokes that ball!  But it was only a late flourish from former opener Laura Marsh and Jenny Gunn that saw them reach a half-decent total.  Even then I thought they were 30 or so light.

The wonderful Goswami took 3/23 off her 10 overs and didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.

At the break I ventured out to answer a call of nature (as you do).  The queue for the ladies’ was beyond imagining.  I tweeted that I would have taken a photo of the queue but would have needed a panoramic lens!  The facilities at Lord’s are good, but I don’t suppose they’d ever seen this many women at one game before.  Still, the atmosphere was good-natured – I feel sometimes I may be overstating it – but it really seemed that everyone was aware they were part of something special.

Then it was time for tears again as Rachael Heyhoe-Flint’s son, Ben, rang the bell for the second innings.  There were nerves aplenty, at least in our stand, as the Indian innings began.

These lessened somewhat as England made the perfect start when Smriti Mandhana was lbw to Anya Shrubsole for a duck.  But Raut and Raj rallied beautifully until the captain was run out unnecessarily for 17.  In came Harmanpreet Kaur.  Could she repeat her performance of the semi-final?  For a while it seemed she could as she hit three fours and two sixes (there wasn’t a six in the whole of the England innings), but all at once she tried one big shot too many as she swept Alex Hartley and was caught by Tammy Beaumont on the boundary.  A big wicket.   Shall I say it again – a big wicket.

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But we all knew there was more to come with Raut still playing beautifully, now joined by Krishnamurthy.  India were always just behind the rate, but never out of the game.

When Raut went there were murmurs around the ground as England fans dared to hope.  Then three more wickets went in quick succession.  The last of these was Goswami and with Deepti Sharma the only recognised bat left England sniffed victory.  Pandey was then run out.  England needed two wickets but India only needed 11 off 12 balls to win.

Enter Anya Shrubsole bowling the penultimate over.  Ball one and Sharma has gone, caught beautifully by Sciver.  Five wickets to Shrubsole.

But it’s not over.  Ball three, Poonam Yadav spoons it straight to Jenny Gunn at mid-off.  The crowd is on its feet roaring with delight (and relief) and Gunn – drops it!

But it’s not over.  Ball four and Shrubsole steams in.  Gayakwad is bowled.  Full and straight and the tail-ender plays down the wrong line.

Now it’s over.

And, to coin a phrase, the crowd goes wild.

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All the way through it had been India’s to lose – what a game they played.  And at the last minute Anya Shrubsole had taken it from them.  A great match and a fitting finale to a fine tournament.  As I said at the beginning, many words have already been written – some going into ridiculous hyperbole.  Will this tournament change the face, the perception, of women’s cricket?  I don’t know.  But if that crowd, the TV and radio audience are anything to go by, it will.   Already we now know that there will be new honours boards for women at Lord’s.  What else is to come?

0 out of 10 for the MCC Members, by the way, who couldn’t be bothered to turn out – so startlingly obvious in a full ground.  Where were you “chaps”?

We stayed for quite a while afterwards to watch the celebrations and to see the team greet friends and family in the stands.  The joy is something I will never forget.

And finally, many congratulations to England’s Lacrosse team who won a brilliant bronze medal at the Lacrosse World Cup at the weekend, beating Australia in overtime through a golden goal from Megan Whittle.

Women’s Sports Column 14-20 July 2017

laura 1Welcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s marathon, hopefully it’s a bit more of a sprint this week, although with so much going on it’s hard to keep it brief.  But here goes.  Stories this week come from cycling, netball, cricket, lacrosse, football, athletics, hockey and diving.  England teams managed to appear in three semi-finals in two days this week!

Cricket World Cup

I don’t have the room to go through the last group of round-robin matches, so instead I’d like to concentrate on the semi-finals.  And what games they were!

18 July

England v South Africa
Bristol

Shrubsole says “What’s all the fuss about?”

South Africa 218/6 (50 overs)
England 221/8 (49.4 overs)
England won by 2 wickets

Well that was too close for comfort for England (understatement).

When South Africa only posted 218, England must have been rubbing their hands.  But, as we know, chasing is not England’s strong point and they seemed to do everything they could to lose it.

Opener Laura Wolvaardt scored a fine 66 from 100 balls, which was needed when the dangerous Lizelle Lee was bowled by Anya Shrubsole for just seven.  Trisha Chetty was done by a remarkable world-class stumping from Sarah Taylor off the bowling of Nat Sciver.  Mignon du Preez then came in and scored 76.  But other wickets fell cheaply with both Kapp and van Niekerk run out.  The hard-hitting Chloe Tryon was caught and bowled by Jenny Gunn and South Africa were faltering.  It was a patchy and slow innings and 218 should have been well within reach for England.

They got off to a steady start in reply.  The first wicket partnership was 42 before Lauren Winfield was caught by du Preez off Khaka for 20.  Beaumont followed soon afterwards for 15 and it was up to Sarah Taylor and captain Knight to steady the ship.  At this point it was serene progress.  Then chaos ensued.  Taylor was run out needlessly for an excellent 54 – she had looked good to go on a make a big score.  It was Knight’s fault and this obviously disturbed her as she was dismissed next over, smacking a Luus full toss straight to Wolvaardt.  Four balls later Sciver was bowled by Luus for 3 and England were in disarray.

Katherine Brunt was the sixth wicket to go, bowled by Daniels and the crowd didn’t quite believe what they were seeing.

Fran Wilson was seventh to go, committing (in my eyes) the ultimate sin by trying one of those hideous scoop shots and it going straight to the keeper.  Unnecessary and reckless at this point in the game.  England were then 213 for seven with two overs to go.

Jenny Gunn was playing a storming innings at this point, but running out of partners.  When Laura Marsh came in England needed five runs from ten balls.  Sounds easy.

Last over with the intimidating and fast Shabnim Ismail to bowl it.  Three runs needed.  Third ball Marsh is bowled and England still need two to win off three balls.

Enter Anya Shrubsole.  First ball hit for four and England win.  You can practically see her saying “Why are you all messing about?  Let’s get this done.”  And she did.

The South Africans were rightly devastated, but England go on to the final.  Would they face their old foe Australia, or the only team to defeat them in the World Cup so far, India?

20 July

Australia v India
Derby

Australia have no answer to Harmanpreet Kaur

India 281/4 (42 overs)
Australia 245 all out (40.1/42 overs)
India won by 37 runs

When the Derby day dawned dark and rainy it looked as if the reserve day might come into play.  But no-one foresaw what was to come as both the weather and the play brightened until we were blinded by the brilliance of one player in particular – Harmanpreet Kaur.

In a game reduced to 42 overs India made a steady, if unspectacular start.  Smriti Mandhana fell cheaply to Schutt and Raut soon after, but captain Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur began to build a partnership slowly and steadily.  Raj fell with the score on 101 in the 25th over and from then Kaur took over.

Kristen Beams bowled possibly the widest, biggest no-ball ever seen and Kaur hit the resultant free-hit for six.  She seemed to take this as a sign to cut loose.  And so she did.  From then on it was carnage.  There were sixes and fours a-plenty as she ended up with a magnificent 171 off 115 balls.  Towards the end of the innings she began to limp with what looked like either cramp or a thigh injury, but it didn’t seem to hold her back.  She was ably backed up by Deepti Sharma with 25.  The Australian bowlers were battered and bruised and Lanning appeared bereft of ideas as India racked up an incredible 281 for 4 off just 42 overs.

So what would Australia’s response be?  In truth they got further than they should as Alex Blackwell refused to capitulate, but there was no way India were giving it up.  The scorecard makes strange reading.  The openers were dismissed cheaply and when Lanning was bowled by Goswami for an eight-ball duck they were in trouble.  Perry and Villani did their best, scoring 38 and 75 respectively, but when Perry was out in the 27th the score was 140/5 and Australia were way behind the rate.

Blackwell tried her best, but wickets fell all around her and they were all out in the penultimate over.

India were worthy winners and they will be tough opponents in the final.  I don’t suppose I’m giving anything away when I say England have got to win the toss on Sunday and bat?  I didn’t think so.

Off the pitch

Pakistan

There have been reports that Pakistan’s women team have been cold-shouldered by the Pakistan Cricket Board since their return from the World Cup.

Pakistan lost all seven of their matches, but showed definite spirit, promise and improvement in all aspects of the game.

However, this obviously wasn’t good enough for the PCB as not a single representative turned up to meet the team on their return and no onward travel was organised.  One member of the team was picked up and taken away on a motorbike by her father.

According to an article on “The Nation” website, the governing body was “very angry” at the team’s performances and that wholesale changes would be made.

An unnamed source is also quoted,

“Most of the non-performing teams as well as old players, who are now have well passed their peak will be replaced with the young and talented girls, who are performing exceptionally at national level and are knocking at the national team’s door.”

Since the situation was made public the PCB has issued a statement:

“The PCB wishes to clarify that as per the usual practice all logistical arrangements were made for the national women’s team on their arrival from England, Monday June 17. There was a bus ready to take the players to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and from there to their homes if needed.

“Officials from the Women’s Wing were present to facilitate the players and management, some of the players though opted to return home through their own transport with their families after seeking due permission from the team manager.  The PCB regrets news items in certain sections of print and electronic media that erroneously claimed that there were no arrangements made for players’ return from the airport.”

I’ll leave it with you, but you can expect the fallout to continue for some time to come.

Football

As one stunning tournament draws to a close, another begins.  And so it will be for the rest of the summer!  The Women’s Euros are finally underway, after what seems to have been a long, long build-up.

Women’s Euros

Everyone has now played one game with Group A having played two.

16 July
Group A

Netherlands 1-0 Norway

The hosts kicked it all off in front of a sell-out (and distinctly orange) crowd of 21,732 in Utrecht with a 1-0 win over Norway.  Utrecht-born Shanice van de Sanden, who plays in the WSL for Liverpool, scored the only goal, heading in from a great cross by Lieke Martens.

Denmark 1-0 Belgium

It was a one goal game in Doetinchem too as Sanne Troelsgaard headed in after Pernille Harder’s free-kick had been tipped onto the crossbar.

17 July
Group B

Two surprise results on day 2.

Italy 1-2 Russia

Russia scored twice in the first 30 minutes to shock Italy.  Elena Danilova scored the first and Elena Morozova the second to put Italy on the back foot.

In the second half Italy huffed and puffed and had chances.  They pulled one back through Ilaria Mauro and then thought they had equalised in the last minute but Elisa Bartoli was adjudged (correctly) offside.

This was Russia’s first victory in a Euros tournament.

Germany 0-0 Sweden

Shock number two of the day came in Breda, when Sweden after 11 attempts, finally managed to end on level terms with Germany.

In truth Germany didn’t play well and Sweden’s defence was organised.

18 July
Group C

Austria 1-0 Switzerland

Another first as Austria won their first game in major tournament.

Austrian captain Nina Burger’s goal in the first half was enough to take the points.  Switzerland’s misery was compounded after the break when Rahel Kiwic was sent-off for a professional foul – the first red card given in a Women’s Euros since 2009.

France 1-0 Iceland

It looked as if Iceland had earned a priceless points against one of the tournament favourites in Tilburg but five minutes from time France were awarded a penalty.  Eugenie le Sommer calmly slotted it home to seal the win.

19 July
Group D

Spain 2-0 Portugal

Portugal were all-but defeated by half-time as first Vicky Losada and then Amanda Sampedro scored for an impressive Spain side.

Portugal were completely overrun, failing to get a shot on target in the match.

England 6-0 Scotland

The Lionesses began in the best possible style with a thumping win over Scotland.

Jodie Taylor scored a hat-trick, while Ellen White, Jordan Nobbs and Toni Duggan each got one to complete an excellent win against a Scotland side that were clearly suffering from first-night nerves but also missing important players due to injury.

Taylor’s first came in the tenth minute when she got on to Fran Kirby’s flick to score.  Her second came after a melee in the goalmouth.  Ellen White then put away her seventh in nine games to make the score 3-0 at half-time.

Taylor grabbed her third in the 53rd minute as she lobbed the keeper.  She was then substituted on the hour mark to a standing ovation.

England’s fifth came through a Jordan Nobbs volley and Toni Duggan banged in another in injury time to complete the rout.

To make matters worse for Scotland, striker Jane Ross injured her shoulder during the match and may well miss their next game against Portugal on Sunday 23 July.

England are notoriously slow-starters and this result should send out a warning to the tournament’s other favourites, particularly as no-one else has had such an impressive start.  Of course England should not slip into complacency and their biggest group test will come against Spain on Sunday.

20 July
Group A

Norway 0-2 Belgium

It was another disappointing performance from Norway as they lost 2-0 to Belgium in Breda.

Belgium took the lead just on the hour when Elke van Gorp scored from close range.  Their second was headed in by Janice Cayman, who was allowed to get there first after some slack Norwegian defending.

Norway will be hard-pressed to qualify now and their last group game is against the in-form Netherlands on Monday 24 July.

Netherlands 1-0 Denmark

It’s two from two for the hosts as they held on to a goal lead to take the points against Denmark.  Although they dominated for large parts of the game, the Danes applied pressure of their own after going behind and, it could be argued, deserved an equaliser for all their hard work.

The only goal of the game was a penalty, scored by Sherida Spitse after Danielle van de Donk was fouled in the box.

Off the Pitch

WSL2 club Brighton and Hove Albion have announced their new manager will be former England Head Coach Hope Powell.

It is Powell’s first management job since she was sacked from the England post after the team’s poor performance at the 2013 Euros.

Netball 

World Youth Cup

England took a sensational bronze medal after defeating Fiji in the third-place play-off 70-35.  The winners were New Zealand who beat neighbours Australia in an exciting and tight final 60-57.

England’s placing is even more impressive when you know that the entire coaching team were out of action for several days due a sickness bug going through the camp.  At one point three players and four coaching staff were in quarantine.

Off the Court

Loughborough Lightning announced this week that head coach Karen Atkinson is to leave her role to move to Italy.

Atkinson had been in the role since 2014.

Cycling

La Course

The first stage of the two-part La Course event has been won by Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten.  She probably wouldn’t thank me for mentioning this, but you will remember van Vleuten from Rio 2016 when she suffered that terrible crash while leading the road race – yes, that crash.

Britain’s Lizzie Deignan finished second, 43 seconds behind.

The second stage is a 22.5km “chase” in Marseille and takes place on Saturday.

The top riders will go according to time gaps with van Vleuten off first.

 Stage one result:

  1. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) 2hrs 7mins 18secs
  2. Lizzie Deignan (Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam) +43secs
  3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Highs) +1min 23secs
  4. Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam) +1min 28secs
  5. Shara Gillow (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) +1min 33secs
  6. Amanda Spratt (Orica-Scott) +1min 41secs
  7. Lauren Stephens (Team Tibco – Silicon Valley Bank) +1min 51secs
  8. Ana Christina Sanabria Sanchez (Servetto Giusta) 2mins 24secs
  9. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Procycling) 2mins 52secs
  10. Hanna Nilson (BTC City Ljubljana) 3mins 04secs

Hockey

World Hockey League Semi-Finals

It was heartbreak for England on Thursday as they went out in the last four to the USA in a penalty shoot-out.

England took the lead early on through Hannah Martin.  They kept the lead until three minutes from time when, down to 10 players, after Lily Owsley was yellow carded, Jill Witmer equalised.

The penalty shoot-out was a mass of blanks!  Melissa Gonzalez scored the only penalty for the USA and Sarah Haycroft England’s only penalty to take it into sudden death.

Alex Danson missed her attempt, but Gonzalez scored again to win the game.

Sunday’s final will be between USA and Germany, who beat Argentina 2-1 to get there.

England will play Argentina in the third-place play-off.

Lacrosse

Rathbone’s Lacrosse World Cup
Quarter-finals:

England 9-5 Wales

England ‘s fast start saw them take a 6-1 lead by half-time and although Wales fought back they couldn’t quite pull it back enough.

Sophie Brett scored a hat-trick and the other goals came through Olivia Hompe, Laura Merrifield, Torz Anderson and Jenny Simpson with a brace.

By the time Wales put the pressure on it was too late.

USA 20-3 Israel

World number ones USA worked their magic again as they convincingly defeated eighth seeds Israel.

Israel started strongly, but once the USA were back in the game they took over and at the half-way stage it was 13-3 to the USA.

After the break it was a one-sided affair as the reigning champions added another seven goals.

Australia 21-6 Scotland

Another one-sided affair in the third quarter-final as Australia beat Scotland for the second time in two days.

Scotland started well, but by half-time they were 11-3 down and struggling.  Australia continued to dominate in the second period and won comfortably.

Canada 16-1 New Zealand

Canada are ranked second in the world for a reason.  They took New Zealand apart to take up the fourth spot in the semi-finals.

Canada took the lead after just 57 seconds and were 11-0 up at half-time.

New Zealand never stopped fighting but it was in the final third that they couldn’t convert.

Semi-finals

USA 19-8 England

Semi-final heartbreak part two for England came within hours of England hockey’s defeat.

It was always going to be an uphill task for England against the world’s number one ranked team.

It was a tight game in the first-half, even though England were 2-0 down after just two minutes.

They drew level after five minutes through Laura Merrifield and Lucy Lynch and were only 5-9 down at half-time.

In the second-half England kept up until a devastating 15 minute spell with eight unanswered goals for the USA took the game away from the hosts.

England will now play Australia in the Bronze Medal match on Saturday 22 July.

Canada 8-6 Australia

By half-time Canada were 5-3 ahead with all to play for.

Thirty seconds after the break Australia pulled the deficit back to one.  With two minutes 45 to go and Australia ahead for the first time it took a Dobbie score to take it into overtime.

Kinna and Jimerson scored for Canada in overtime to seal the victory.

The final, between USA and Canada will be on Saturday 22 July.

Athletics

World Para-athletics Championships

I have been most remiss in recording the excellent performances by British women athletes at the World Para-athletics Championships over the last couple of weeks, so here’s a round-up of what has happened so far:

Gold medals have gone to Georgina Hermitage (400m T37), Hannah Cockroft (100m T34, 400m T34, 800m T34), Sophie Kamlish (100m T44), Olivia Breen (Long jump T38), Samantha Kinghorn (200m T53), Sophie Hahn (200m T38), Hollie Arnold (Javelin Throw F46) and Stef Reid (Long jump T44).

Hannah Cockroft has yet again shown she is amongst the very best in the world this week.  She has won three golds and has now won 10 world titles and five Paralympic gold medals.

Georgie Hermitage won the T37 400m in a world record time of 1:00.29.

Kare Adenegan claimed a silver and two bronzes in the 100m T34, 400m T34 and 800m T34 respectively.

Bronze medals have also been won by Sammi Kinghorn (400m T53), Maria Lyle (100m T35), Kadeena Cox (200m T38) and Gemma Prescott (F32 club).

And finally,

To keep the wolf from the door I have had to get a non-writing, but paid, job.  I will endeavour to keep up with the column, but there may be times when it is brief, or indeed, non-existent.  I realised when I went freelance that it was going to be an uphill struggle to get paid work.  Let’s face it, I’ve painted myself into the smallest corner possible: I’m a woman, of an “advanced” age, writing about sport, focussed on women’s sport, and not living in London!  I’ll keep at it, that’s for sure – there are so few of us still that I have to do it (and I’m still available for commissions).  So thank you all for your support and bear with me.

There will be no column next week as I will be working elsewhere, but I will be at the World Cup final at Lord’s on Sunday so look out for a report and photos midweek.

Women’s Sports Column 8-13 July 2017

Lacrosse05Welcome 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.

Lacrosse

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.

Pool B
Italy
Hong Kong
Haudenosaunee
Korea
Switzerland

Pool C
Israel
Netherlands
Czech Republic
China
Belgium

Pool D
Japan
Germany
Latvia
Spain
Mexico

Pool E
New Zealand
Ireland
Sweden
Colombia

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!

Tennis

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.

Women’s Singles

Garbine Muguruza (14) beat Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1 6-1
Venus Williams (10) defeated Johanna Konta (6) 6-4 6-2

Women’s Doubles

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

Mixed Doubles

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

Wheelchair Singles

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.

Football

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

Lewes FC

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.”

Toni Duggan

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.

Rugby Union

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.

Kazan Sevens

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.

Cricket

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:

Match 17

All too easy for New Zealand

New Zealand v Pakistan
Taunton
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.

Match 18

Another Van Niekerk masterclass does for India’s top batters

India v South Africa
Leicester
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.

Match 19

England edge the big one – but it’s mighty close

England v Australia
Bristol
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.

Match 20

West Indies chalk up their first win

Sri Lanka v West Indies
Derby
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.

Match 21

West Indies win again as rain hits Leicester

Pakistan v West Indies
Leicester
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.

Match 22

South Africa ease past Sri Lanka

South Africa v Sri Lanka
Taunton
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.

Match 23

Indian total never a problem for Australia at Bristol

Australia v India
Bristol
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.

Match 24

Sciver does it again as England too strong for New Zealand

England v New Zealand
Derby
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.

Sports Politics

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.

Netball

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.

England

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

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.

Scotland

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

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

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.

And finally

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.

Women’s Sports Column 24 – 30 June 2017

water-815271_960_720Welcome 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.

Football

Injuries

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.

Horse Racing

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.

Rugby Union

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:

Pool B

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

Taekwondo

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.

Golf

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.

Tennis

Eastbourne

The top players are preparing for Wimbledon this week.  Eastbourne has its usual impressive line-up.

British players

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.

Wheelchair tennis

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.

Hockey

Women’s Hockey World League semi-finals
Quarter-final results:

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.

Wheelchair Basketball

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.

Cricket

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:

Match 1:

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.

Match 2:

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.

Match 3:

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.

Match 4:

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.

Match 5:

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.

Match 6:

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…)

Match 7:

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.

Match 8:

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.

And finally,

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.

Women’s Sports Column 17-23 June 2017

laura 1Welcome to this week’s column.  I hope you’ve all had a happy Women’s Sport Week.  There have been plenty of articles in praise of women’s sport with encouraging facts and figures around participation, the prize money gap, new initiatives and so on.  Needless to say there has also been the usual raft of sloppy, nasty or calculated misogyny, but I think we were all expecting that.  Let’s face it, you don’t have to be one of the world’s greatest minds to type “should be in the kitchen” as a response to a piece on women’s sport.

Anyway, let’s crack on.  News this week comes from rugby, cricket, boxing, Formula 1, athletics, tennis and football.  We also look at those women given honours in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List and the new Daily Telegraph list of the 20 most influential women in sport.

My “And Finally” this week is a quick guide to the Women’s Cricket World Cup, starting on Saturday 24 June.  If I put it in the “And finally” section I know I can’t witter on – I could write for hours on this subject, but I’m saving you all – just the pertinent points make the cut.

Football

Signings – WSL

Manchester City announced this week that their number one Goalkeeper, Karen Bardsley has signed a new contract with the club.

She will be staying for another two years.   Bardsley has been a City player since 2013 and has so far made 66 appearances for the club.

Indian Football

The WIFA (Western India Football Association) Women’s Football Championship begins in Mumbai on 23 June.

It is part of a FIFA – AIFF (All India Football Federation) State Development Project.

Eight teams will take part, two from Mumbai; Bodyline SC and Aadhar Pratishtan, two from Pune; Pune City FC and United Pooja SA, two from Kolhapur; KSA Women’s FC and Poddar International and two from Nagpur; Tulip FC and Pirpude FC.

The teams play in two groups with the top two going to semi-finals.  The tournament will be played at the Cooperage ground in Mumbai and the final will be on 8 July.

WIFA are also hosting a FIFA “Live Your Goals” grassroots leaders’ course for women from 6-8 July.

As I have reported recently, there now seems to be a real will to encourage women in sport in India.  The cricket in India is the strongest it has ever been and there seems to be no end to the initiatives appearing.  I’m not saying this is the be all and end all when it comes to women’s rights, as it clearly isn’t, but it’s got to be a step in the right direction.

Italian Football

Top Italian club Juventus have announced that they are going to launch a women’s team.

They already have youth teams and a developing structure and will enter a team into next season’s Serie A Femminile.

(Am I allowed to say, over to you then Man Utd?)

England Football

The FA has announced that England Women’s assistant coach Marieanne Spacey will be leaving her role to lead a new international player development programme.

The scheme begins in September 2017.  Players from the FA WSL will be selected to go on the programme and given individual support, focusing on technical aspects of the game and education.

The programme will also aim to develop and support female coaches and coaches working in the women’s game, alongside the FA’s head of women’s coach development, Audrey Cooper.

Spacey said:

“This programme is a real opportunity to enhance the development of some of the best young players in the women’s game.

“There are many talented players in our pathway but we know that with the extra support in key areas on and off the pitch, their talent could truly be realised and make such a difference to them both as individuals and as part of the teams they are playing for.

“It’s personally exciting to be leading such an innovative programme that will really drive forward the development of the elite women’s game and hopefully help us meet our goal of a winning England team in 2023.”

It does also mean, however, that there are no longer any women involved in Mark Sampson’s backroom team.

Gender Prize Money Gap

A new study from BBC Sport has found that 83% of sports now pay equally.

The biggest disparities, understandable in most cases still come in cricket, golf and football, although great strides have been made in all of these sports.

It’s a comprehensive study and an interesting piece that I really can’t do justice to here, so I would encourage you all to read it in full.  Here’s the link.

Rugby Union

New Zealand 21-29 England

 The Red Roses pulled off a fabulous win in Rotorua to finish the series unbeaten.

It was England’s first victory away in New Zealand since 2001.

The Red Roses took the lead with a try from Emily Scarratt in the left corner.  She converted her own try to make it 7-0 to the visitors.

The Black Ferns responded quickly and well, scoring a try of their own from Kendra Cocksedge who also kicked the extras to level the score.

On the 20th minute Portia Woodman intercepted a Scarratt offload to run the length of the pitch and score under the posts.  Cocksedge converted and it was 14-7.

Difficult conditions were soon made worse as the rain turned into a downpour.  It was time for the England forwards to take the stage.

Lock forward Abbie Scott went over after a period of pressure and Scarratt put over the extra two.  The teams went in 14-14 at half-time.

England continued the pressure after the break and Lydia Thompson went over to score.  Then the sublime Marlie Packer forced her way over for England’s fourth after dominant work from the England pack, taking the score to 14-24.

On 60 minutes England were awarded a penalty but Scarratt pushed it wide.

But nothing could stop the England forwards.  Vicky Fleetwood smuggled her way over for their fifth try of the match.

New Zealand scored a late consolation try through Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, which was converted, but the game was won for England.

Sevens

England finished fourth at the Malemort Sevens at the weekend. They lost the play-off for third to Ireland.

Third place final
England 7 – 26 Ireland
Try: Fisher
Conversion: A Richardson-Watmore

Cup semi final
England 15 – 24 Russia
Tries: Smith, Clapp, J Richardson-Watmore

Cup quarter finals
England 12 – 10 Wales
Tries: Fisher, Jones
Conversions: A Richardson-Watmore

The winners were Russia, who beat France in the final 22-21.

The final leg of the series is in Kazan during the weekend of 7-8 July, with qualification for the Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 at stake, it is sure to be a thrilling, if nervy, weekend.

Loughborough Lightning (Rugby!)

Nothing recently has happened to convince me that Loughborough University is not trying to take over the world.  It will, controversially field a team in the competition that will replace the Women’s Premiership later this year.

The University announced that is week that it has appointed Rhys Edwards as Head Coach to lead the women’s rugby programme.

Edwards used to be the Attack and Skills Coach at Championship club Rotherham Titans.

In a press release from the University Edwards said,

“I’m very excited and honoured to be joining such an illustrious sporting institution here at Loughborough University. The opportunity to work here and be part of the new RFU Women’s Rugby Competition was too good to ignore. It’s a hugely exciting time to be involved in women’s rugby, with 7s at the Rio Olympics last summer, and the 15s World Cup coming up in August. I feel there is a clear opportunity to create a World Class development/performance programme here with the facilities available and the historical sporting heritage that inspires players to achieve.”

Boxing

Natasha Jonas makes her professional debut at the Walker Activity Dome in Newcastle on Friday.

She fights Monika Antonik of Poland.

If Jonas progresses as expected she could line up in a future bout against Ireland’s boxing star Katie Taylor.

Queen’s Birthday Honours List

Several women have been awarded honours this June:

Jennie Price (Head of Sport England) CBE
Judy Murray OBE (for services to tennis, women in sport and charity)
Heather Stanning OBE (services to rowing)
Laura Smith (for services to disability sport)
Michelle Adams MBE (for services to girls’ and women’s football in Wales)
Natalie Gilmour MBE (for services to women’s rugby league)
Diane Lampard MBE (for services to equestrianism)
Angela Malone MBE (for services to wheelchair curling

Athletics

Two more female athletes have been banned by Russia for four years after their 2008 Olympic sample was retested.  Anastasiya Kapachinskaya won silver in the 4x400m relay at Beijing, whilst Inga Abitova came sixth in the 10,000m.

With Kapachinskaya’s disqualification, the Team GB quartet of Christine Ohuruogu, Kelly Sotherton, Marilyn Okoro and Nicola Sanders should receive bronze.

The athletes admitted their guilt to the governing body of athletics, the IAAF.

Formula 1

Monisha Kaltenborn has left her position as Team Principal at Swiss Formula 1 team, Sauber.  She was the leading light for women in senior positions in the sport as the first (and still only) female team principal.

She had disagreed with owners Longbow Finance as to the future running of Sauber and leaves “by mutual consent”.

Claire Williams is currently vice-principal at Williams, but, in reality, looks after most of the day to day running of the team as her father, Frank, unable to fulfil his principal role due to ill health.

This is a great loss, not only for formula 1, a sport where women are woefully under-represented, but for all those girls growing up with no role model to emulate.

Tennis

Johanna Konta

It’s been a strange old week for British number one, Johanna Konta.  She stormed into the final at Nottingham, defeating Magdalena Rybarikova in straight sets in the semi-final 6-2 7-5.  She seemed to be on track to win her first grass court tournament, but it was not to be.  After taking the first set 6-2, she then lost the next two 7-6 7-5 to the unseeded Donna Vekić of Croatia.

This week was even worse for the 26-year old as she crashed out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham in the second round.  She beat Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine in the first round 6-3 7-6, but then was totally outplayed by Coco Vandeweghe of the USA 6-1 6-3.

Other British scores:

Naomi Broady had a fine win over Alizé Cornet of France in the first round 7-6 6-0, but then succumbed to seventh seed Petra Kvitova in the second, 6-2 6-2.

Heather Watson lost in the first round to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-2 5-7 6-3.

Birmingham quarter-finals

The quarter-finals, to be played on 23 June are as follows:

L Safarova v D Gavrilova
G Muguruza v Coco Vandeweghe
K Mladenovic v P Kvitova
A Barty v C Giorgi

Victoria Azarenka

Former world number on Victoria Azarenka made her return from maternity leave this week at the Mallorca Open.

She beat Risa Ozaki of Japan in the first round 6-3 4-6 7-6.

She went out in the second round to Ana Konjuh of Croatia 6-1 6-3.

She is using her protected ranking to be able to play at Wimbledon later on this month.

Injuries

World number five Elina Svitolina has announced she may miss Wimbledon due to a foot injury sustained at the Birmingham tournament.

“I was really looking forward to this year at Wimbledon but today the court was slippery and it’s so bad for my foot,” she said.

“I will do my best. But for the moment it’s very uncomfortable.”

Daily Telegraph 20 most influential women in sport

The list, published to coincide with Women’s Sport Week was chosen by a panel of 14 influential women in British sport.

1.  Clare Balding
2.  Baroness Campbell
3.  Dame Katherine Grainger
4.  Tracey Crouch MP
5.  Baroness Grey-Thompson
6.  Barbara Slater
7.  Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill
8.  Liz Nicholl
9.  Judy Murray
10. Annamarie Phelps
11. Jennie Price
12. Nicola Adams
13. Dame Kelly Holmes
14. Tammy Parlour/Jo Bostock (Women’s Sports Trust)
15. Clare Connor
16. Victoria Aggar
17. Kate Richardson-Walsh
18. Jessica Varnish
19. Dame Heather Rabbatts
20. Dr Eva Carneiro

It’s a pretty good list and not too much controversy there.  I’m quite surprised though that Clare Balding is still at the top – I’m not sure that she’s the most influential woman out there.  There are also plenty of names that could have been included; Ruth Holdaway, CEO at Women in Sport, for example, Anna Kessel or Vicky Orvice, the sportswriters, or Sally Hancock – how’s that for starters?

Cricket

As we career headlong into the wonderful event that is the Women’s Cricket World Cup, each team has been playing warm-ups to get in the swing.  Here are some selected results:

19 June
Chesterfield
Sri Lanka 155 all out
England 156/2 30.2 overs
England won by 8 wickets (118 balls remaining)

Derby
India 130 all out
New Zealand 133/3 (26.3 overs)
New Zealand won by 7 wickets (141 balls remaining)

20 June
Oakham
Australia 324/5 (50 overs)
South Africa 221 all out (49.3 overs)
Australia won by 103 runs

Leicester
West Indies 246/7 (50 overs)
Pakistan 249/5 (47.4 overs)
Pakistan won by 5 wickets (14 balls remaining)

21 June
Derby
New Zealand 130 all out (38.3 overs)
England 132/3 (27.2 overs)
England won by 7 wickets (136 balls remaining)

Chesterfield
India 275/8 (50 overs)
Sri Lanka 166 all out (48.4 overs)
India won by 109 runs

22 June
Leicester
Pakistan 156 all out (46.4 overs)
Australia 159/2 (23.2 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets (160 balls remaining)

Oakham
West Indies 63 all out (23.5 overs)
South Africa 65/4 (19 overs)
South Africa won by six wickets (186 balls remaining)

Two other World Cup snippets:

Opener Lauren Winfield is out of England’s first game against India with a wrist injury.  It may be touch and go to get her ready for the second game against Pakistan on Tuesday.

In other news, Indian captain Mithali Raj has summed up the feelings of most of us frustrated women in sport.  When asked in an interview who her favourite male cricketers are, she shot back,

“Do you ask a male cricketer who their favourite female cricketer is?”  Class.

Tickets are still available for most of the matches, although Saturday’s England v India clash at Derby has sold out.  I would urge you, if you’re in the vicinity of Leicester, Derby or Bristol, to check at least one match out.  If you can’t, there will be pretty comprehensive coverage on TV via Sky and radio via Test Match Special.   Check out listings for details.

And Finally

Cricket again!  So what have we learnt from the warm-up matches?  England are looking good, as are Australia.  No big deal there.  West Indies are having a nightmare so far and will be particularly concerned about losing to Pakistan.  This, however, probably means they will win it!

It’s going to be the most open World Cup yet, I reckon.  Australia are favourites, with England just behind.  A few months ago I would have put a plea in for New Zealand, but now I think they’ve gone off the boil at just the wrong time, although they did have a good win over India in the warm-ups.

I would like to think India will put in a good performance here and Pakistan are, of course, dark horses.  We’ve just seen what their men could do in the Champions Trophy, so watch out for them.

West Indies?  Who knows?  South Africa?  Too uneven.  And Sri Lanka propping everyone up, I’m afraid.

I’m going to be really boring and say Australia v England in the final, but with India and Pakistan the surprise packages.  From an England point of view, if someone could kindly knock Australia out before the final I’d be more than happy (sorry Aus fans).

Women’s Sports Column 10-16 June 2017

netball2Welcome to this week’s column.  I got the feeling when I was preparing this that it would be a big one – so much news from so many different sports.  So forgive me if I’m brief with each piece – just trying to get as much in as possible.

So here we go.  Stories this week come from athletics, hockey, diving, netball, football, rugby union, cycling, tennis, triathlon and cricket.  It’s also Women’s Sport Week next week, so this makes my “and finally”, with my usual combination of enthusiasm and cynicism.

Netball

Super League Final Four

I made no secret of it as I nailed my colours firmly to the Loughborough Lightning mast at the beginning of the season.  But I could not help but have that sinking feeling at the weekend when both Lightning and Wasps won well to go into the Final Four final.  And so it was borne out by the final result.  Loughborough will have the satisfaction of winning the league (by a whopping nine points), but they will be angry that the only team they couldn’t beat during the whole season was Wasps – twice.

Saturday 10 June

Semi-Finals

Loughborough Lightning 66-45 Team Bath

Wasps Netball 63-48 Manchester Thunder

Sunday 11 June

Third place play-off 

Manchester Thunder 56-48 Team Bath

Final

Loughborough Lightning 51-55 Wasps Netball

So congratulations to Wasps.  It’s been a great Super League season.

Tennis

French Open

Twenty-year old Jelena Ostapenko became French Open champion on Saturday.  She defeated third seed and tournament favourite Simona Halep 4-6 6-4 6-3.

The unseeded Ostapenko was one set and 3-0 down before she came roaring back and in doing so became the first unseeded woman to win at Roland Garros since 1983. She also became Latvia’s first Grand Slam champion.

It was an amazing performance and hopefully the world number 47 will have a great future.

Surbiton Trophy

Magdalena Rybarikova won the Surbiton trophy, beating Britain’s number two Heather Watson in in the final in straight sets, 6-4 7-5.

Nottingham Open

Laura Robson exited the Nottingham Open in the first round.  She went out to American Julia Boserup 6-4 6-3.

Heather Watson also lost in the first round, going out to fourth seed Alison Riske of the USA 6-2 6-3.

Meanwhile Britain’s number one, Johanna Konta is through to the quarter-final.  Her first round opponent, fellow Briton Tara Moore, retired with a foot injury.  At the time Konta was up 6-2 3-0.  It was Konta’s 300th career singles win.

She played Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium in round two, winning comfortably 6-4 6-1.

Konta plays Australia’s Ashleigh Barty in the last eight.

Aegon Trophy, Manchester

Britain’s number three, Naomi Broady is through to the quarter-finals with a second round win over American Maria Sanchez 7-6 7-6.

She will play top seed Kai-Chen Chang of Chinese Taipei in the last eight.

Injuries

Simona Halep

The French Open runner-up has pulled out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham next week with an ankle injury.

This means that wildcards will now be given to Naomi Broady and Heather Watson and there will, therefore, be three Britons, including British number one Johanna Konta, in the draw.

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova has pulled out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham and Wimbledon qualifying at Roehampton due to a thigh injury.  She had been awarded a wildcard to compete in Birmingham.

She is not expected to return until the end of July.

Cycling

The Women’s Tour

Poland’s Katarzyna Niewiadoma claimed the overall Women’s Tour at the weekend, after the final stage in London.

The Stage Five results were:

  1. Jolien D’Hoore – 1hr 28mins 23secs
  2. Hannah Barnes – same time
  3. Christine Majerus – same time
  4. Roxane Fournier – same time
  5. Katie Archibald – same time

Overall standings:

  1. Katarzyna Niewiadoma – 16hrs 34mins 53secs
  2. Christine Majerus – +1min 18secs
  3. Hannah Barnes – +1min 30sec

Other British finishers were Alice Barnes in 6th, Dani King in 9th, Katie Archibald in 18th and defending champion Lizzie Deignan who finished in 42nd place.

Hockey

England had a disappointing international weekend at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.

10 June

England 1-5 Argentina

Argentina took the lead through an Agustina Habif penalty corner on 17 minutes.  Lily Owsley almost equalised a couple of minutes later but her shot went wide.

On 22 minutes England were level from Surbiton’s Hannah Martin’s well worked penalty corner.

The teams went in all square and with all to play for in the second-half.

But it was all downhill for England as two penalty corners, from Martina Cavallero on 44 and Magdalena Fernandez on 48 took Argentina well in front.

And English misery was complete when Delfina Merino on 56 and Eugenia Trinchinetti on 60 scored field goals to make it 5-1.

It was a somewhat experimental England side with several new faces but it was also an excellent performance from the Argentinians.

11 June

England 2- 2 Netherlands

Netherlands won 4-3 on penalties

As always seems to be the way between these two, this was a game to savour as England came from 2-0 down to force the game into a penalty shootout.

The Dutch took the lead on just three minutes with a goal from Laura Nunnink after a pinpoint Frederique Matla cross.

They doubled their lead on 15 minutes after some fine counter-attacking hockey – the shot from  Laurien Leurink to powerful for Maddie Hinch to keep out.

But England were not out of it.  Alex Danson scored on 42 minutes and and then Sophie Bray pulled them level on 52 from a great cross by Susannah Townsend.

The shootout went to sudden death.  Hollie Webb thought she had scored the winning goal, but it was disallowed for having touched her foot.

Matla put the next Dutch penalty away, Nicola White’s was saved and the Netherlands had won.

 EuroHockey Club Cup (EHCC)

With German teams finishing as runners-up in the top division of the women’s EHCC and winning the second division (the Trophy), they will have two places for next year’s event and England will only have one.

Surbiton Ladies will be the England’s representatives in 2018.

Rugby Union

Red Roses on Tour

England 53-10 Australia

England started their International Women’s Rugby Series with a convincing win over Australia at Porirua Park, New Zealand.

Although the Wallaroos took the lead in the third minute when Ashleigh Hewson went over for a try, it was pretty much all Red Roses action from then on.

They scored nine tries in all with Sarah McKenna bagging a hat-trick and Kay Wilson a brace.  The other tries came from Izzy Noel-Smith, Abbie Scott, Vicky Fleetwood and Harriet Millar-Mills.  Emily Scott put over four conversions.

Canada 20-27 England

The Red Roses continued their fine form against Canada in Christchurch.  They scored four tries; two from Lydia Thompson and one each for Abbie Scott and Kay Wilson.  Emily Scarratt kicked seven points.

Canada’s tries came from Carolyn McEwen and Karen Paquin, while Magali Harvey kicked two penalties and two conversions.

New Zealand are also in fine form.  They defeated Canada in their first match, 28-16 and Australia in their second, 44-17.

The two unbeaten sides, the Black Ferns and the Red Roses meet on Saturday at the Rotorua International Stadium in a winner-takes-all shoot-out.

Japan

Just as Japan were the surprise package at the men’s World Cup in 2015 (who can forget their incredible win over South Africa?), it seems the Japanese women should not be underestimated in this year’s tournament in Ireland.

They have just undertaken a short tour of Ireland and Wales and although they lost narrowly twice to an Ireland XV, they defeated Wales 52-10 this week.

They have been drawn in Pool C with Australia, France and Ireland.  And all should ensure they don’t take the points for granted when playing the Asian Champions.

Sevens

England’s sevens squad, meanwhile takes part in the Malemort Sevens at the weekend.  The squad is Natasha Brennan, Katie Mason, Alice Richardson-Watmore, Millie Wood, Olivia Jones, Deborah Fleming, Heather Fisher, Kelly Smith, Lotte Clapp, Jo Richardson-Watmore, Holly Aitchison and Chantelle Miell.

Malemort is the first leg of Rugby Europe Women’s Grand Prix Series.

Pool A: Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain

Pool B: France, Belgium, Wales, Sweden

Pool C: England, Ireland, Italy, Portugal

England’s pool games will be as follows (all times BST):

Saturday 17 June
v Portugal, 9.44am
v Italy, 12.29pm
v Ireland, 3.14pm

It’s an important two-part series for England as it will be their last chance to quality for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco in July 2018.  Qualification through the HSBC Rugby Women’s Sevens Series is unlikely as England are currently eighth after five of the six rounds.

Football

On the Pitch

England’s Euros warm-up

Switzerland 0-4 England

England put in another impressive display in Biel to win comfortably against Switzerland this week.

After a first half-hour’s stalemate Jordan Nobbs broke the deadlock with a fine 20-yard curler.

Ten minutes later they were two-up when Fran Kirby went round the Swiss Goalkeeper, Gaelle Thalmann to score from close range.

In the second-half Jodie Taylor scored twice and England could have had more.

Scotland’s Euros warm-ups

Mixed fortunes for Anna Signeul’s side as they prepare for the Euros next month.

Scotland 2-0 Romania

Lisa Evans started the scoring for the home side after just two minutes, when she headed in from a Fiona Brown cross.  They went in 1-0 up and then doubled their lead just after half-time when Jane Ross headed in another cross from Brown to seal the win.

It was a good, positive, attacking performance from the Scots.

Sweden 1-0 Scotland

Scotland’s second game was against altogether tougher opponents.

Although Sweden dominated the game they were unable to break through the Scottish defence until the 84th minute, when Caroline Seger headed home after almost constant Sweden pressure.

Off the Pitch

News broke this week that Dame Heather Rabbatts has announced she is to step down from her role as an FA non-executive director and board member.

In her resignation letter she cited her frustration “at the lack of progress for BAME coaches.”

The FA will now have to recruit three, not two women to its board in time for the beginning of the 2018/19 season, in order to adhere to the new Code for Sports Governance.

She made such a significant contribution in what must have been, at the very least, an unhelpful atmosphere.  She will be missed and I hope those women that come after her can harness some of her confidence and strength and will be able to make their own telling contributions.

Signings

Manchester City have made their first signing of the summer.  They have signed defender Mie Jans from Brondby for next season.

City fans will also be relieved that captain Steph Houghton has signed a new contract.  The club’s website stated:

“I’ve only ever seen my future at the club.

“This will be my fourth season and I’ve loved every single minute of it. I had no intention of going anywhere else and this is my home now.”

The length of the contract has not been disclosed.

Bristol City Women have also been dabbling in the transfer market this week.  They have signed Belgian striker Yana Daniels from Anderlecht.

WSL Structure

Everton will be the team to replace Notts County in WSL next season.

Only they and Doncaster Rovers Belles applied.  Everton finished top of the WSL2 Spring Series.

The Belles have seven days to appeal the decision.

Cricket

England continued their World Cup warm-up with a match against India this week.

They beat India by 140 runs in Loughborough.  Returning captain Heather Knight took three wickets, as did left-arm spinner Alex Hartley.  Nat Sciver continued her fine form with 69.  Lauren Winfield also put in a good knock of 50.

England 243 all out

India 103 all out

Next warm-up will be against Sri Lanka on 19 June in Chesterfield.

Triathlon

Leeds Triathlon (World Triathlon Series)

The winner of the Leeds event was Flora Duffy of Bermuda in a time of one hour 57 minutes, 02 seconds.  Second was Taylor Spivey of the USA in one hour 58 minutes, 32 seconds and in third was Alice Betto of Italy in one hour 59 minutes, 36 seconds.

First Briton home was Jessica Learmonth, who finished sixth in a time of two hours, one minute and 06 seconds.

Non Stanford finished in 11th.

Speaking of whom, Stanford has had to withdraw from the European Championships in Kitzbuhel, Switzerland at the weekend, due to illness.  No further details have been given, but she is believed to have been feeling ill since competing in Yokohama in May.

Diving

Britain’s Lois Toulson won 10m platform gold at the European Championships in Kiev this week.

She scored 330.70, with Russians Anna Chuinyshena (326.90) and Iuliia Timoshinina (313.3) capturing silver and bronze.

The World Championships take place from 14 July in Budapest.

Athletics

There was sad news this week as it was revealed that double Paralympic champion Kadeena Cox has had two of her gold medals stolen.

She had left the medals, from the 2015 IPC World Championships T37 100m and T35-38 4 x 100m relay, in her car outside her house in Prestwich.

Let’s hope they are returned.

And finally,

It’s that time again!  It’s Women’s Sport Week next week.  And those of you who have been with me for some time will know of my mixed feelings about this.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for shouting about women’s sport (as well you know), but I still think every week should be “Women’s Sport Week”.

But until this is the case, and let’s face it this is a long, long way away, let’s celebrate.  I want you all to go out and talk about women’s sport next week.  Tweet about it, Facebook it.  Do all those lovely social media things.  But also watch it and read about it.  I know you’ll have to make a bit of an effort to find it (hence this column), but I promise you it will be worth it.

And of course, if you’re a female reader of this column, you can always get out and play something!  Book a court, go for a run, go bowling, walk up a hill, have a kickabout in the park – then shout about it!

I’d love to hear what you’re doing to celebrate Women’s Sport Week.  Let me know and I’ll Tweet the best and check out www.womeninsport.org for more ideas and information.

 

 

 

Women’s Sports Column 3-9 June 2017

fieldhockeysticksBack to usual this week with a new column.  It’s a relief really after seeing (or not seeing) the rained off Aus V NZ Champions Trophy match at Edgbaston on Friday.  And thanks also must go to the foul-mouthed Kiwi who was sitting behind me f-ing and blinding throughout.   He was so miserable that when the kids came on to play kwik cricket all he could say was “those kids suck at cricket”.  At least he didn’t say “those f-ing kids suck at cricket”.   Hey ho.  Let’s crack on.

Stories this week come from netball, canoeing, judo, cricket, football, tennis, hockey, triathlon, mountain biking and cycling.

Netball

The Final Four line-up is decided.  I went to see Lightning v Team Northumbria on 27 May.  Loughborough won comfortably, having already qualified for the Final Four, but I was a bit concerned about some of the complacent play that took place later on in the game.  It wasn’t very professional, and better opponents would have taken advantage.  Altogether, though, a job well done and on to the Finals.

Results from round 18

Sirens 57-43 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Celtic Dragons 52-47 Team Northumbria

Wasps Netball 49-35 Team Bath

Manchester Thunder 60-45 Severn Stars

Loughborough Lightning 71-63 Surrey Storm

So, in the regular season, Lightning finish top of the table by a whopping nine points on 51.  Wasps Netball, the only team to defeat Lightning, finished second with 42, Manchester Thunder third on 39 and fourth were Team Bath on 33.  Last season’s champions, Surrey Storm, finished fifth on 30 and do not qualify.

The Final Four extravaganza will take place this weekend at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham, the event having been moved from the Manchester Arena.  The two semi-finals and the final will be live on Sky and the fixtures are:

Saturday 10 June

Loughborough Lightning v Team Bath (15.30)

Wasps Netball v Manchester Thunder (17.45)

Sunday 11 June

Final (16.30)

There will also be a 3rd-4th place play-off.

 All will be covered on Sky Sports

Judo

Britain’s Sally Conway won a silver medal at the European Judo Open in Romania this week.  She was lost in the final of the -70kg category by Marie Eve Gahie of France.

Conway had beaten fellow Briton Gemma Howell in the semi-final.  Howell went on to take bronze by defeating Carola Paissoni of Italy.

It is all good build-up for them as they work towards the World Judo Championships, which take place in Budapest from 18 August to 3 September.

Cricket

On the Pitch

England played a World Cup warm-up match against West Indies at Loughborough on 7 June.

Nat Sciver was outstanding with both bat and ball.  West Indies won the toss and chose to bat first.  They were bowled out for 150 in the 50th over.  Captain Stafanie Taylor top scored with 59, while for England Sciver took 4/39 from her 10 overs.  Offspinner Dani Hazell took 3/21.

England reached their target with 14 overs to spare, but the teams decided that England would bat out their 50 overs for practice.   Sciver made 85 and Tammy Beaumont a half-century.  Katherine Brunt hit quick 49 and England made 281/7 off their 50 overs.

Off the Pitch

Cricket Australia announced this week that from now on their international sides will be known as “Australian men’s cricket team” and “Australian women’s cricket team”.   This may sound like nothing new, but actually it’s a big deal.  When do you ever hear the Men’s Cricket World Cup described as the Men’s Cricket World Cup and not the Cricket World Cup?  They have also dropped the “Southern Stars” name unless using it colloquially.  It puts the two teams on an equal footing when being spoken or written about.  And that’s got to be good news for women’s sport in Australia. 

Cycling

Women’s Tour

The Women’s Tour started on Wednesday 7 June.  The first stage, from Daventry to Kettering in Northamptonshire was won by Katarzyna Niewiadoma of Poland.  Marianne Vos of the Netherlands came in second with compatriot Christine Majerus in third.  Highest placed Briton was Alice Barnes who came in seventh.

The second stage was through Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire and was won by Dutch rider Amy Pieters.  Second was Hannah Barnes, who took over the best-placed Briton position from sister Alice.

In general classification, Niewiadoma is still first with Vos in Second and H Barnes in third.

The third stage on Friday 9 June will be Atherstone to Leamington Spa, while the fourth is on Saturday and is Chesterfield and Derbyshire.

The whole race finishes on Sunday 11 June in London with a route that begins and ends in Regent Street St James.

Full details of the winners and timings next week.

Cicle Classic

There was a tight sprint finish to the Cicle Classic in Melton Mowbray on Sunday.  Katie Archibald took the win with Laura Massey in second and Nikki Juniper, third.

After four of nine rounds, Chanel Mason leads overall.

Football

Chelsea Ladies were crowned Spring Series champions on Saturday.  It went down to the wire on the last day as any one of the top four could have clinched the title.  But Chelsea were in pole position and there was no way they were going slip up.

Saturday 3 June

Sunderland 1-1 Reading Women

Reading had most of the pressure in the first half-hour before they finally took the lead on 30 minutes through Mel Fletcher.

But Reading were rueing their missed chances on 53 when substitute Beverly Leon unleashed a fierce shot which nestled in the bottom corner of the Reading goal, earning the home side a point.

Liverpool Ladies 1-3 Manchester City Women

The visitors took the lead on 29 minutes when Jill Scott headed home a Jennifer Beattie flick from a Toni Duggan corner.  The lead was doubled on the stroke of half-time when Mel Lawley hit a shot from 20 yards into the top corner.

After the break City soon got their third when a Megan Campbell free kick from 25 yards slipped in and the game was over as a contest.

Liverpool grabbed a consolation goal in the 90th minute from another long-range shot.

Liverpool will be disappointed with their season’s end as they were going well as early leaders in the Spring Series.

Bristol City Women 0-5 Arsenal Ladies

Arsenal ended their campaign with a storming win at Bristol on Saturday, and in doing so ended the Spring Series unbeaten.

It was all square until just before the half-hour when defender Louise Quinn headed home for Arsenal’s first.

Despite pressure, there was no further scoring in the first-half, but after the break it took Jordan Nobbs only four minutes to get their second from a Jodie Taylor pass.

Chloe Kelly scored Arsenal’s third in the 73rd minute with substitute Danielle Van De Donk getting the fourth five minutes later.

Beth Mead was last on the scoresheet when she put away Arsenal’s fifth on 83.

Birmingham City Ladies 0-2 Chelsea Ladies

Chelsea sealed the title with a 2-0 win at Solihull Moors on Saturday.

After a tight opening spell Chelsea were awarded a penalty when Birmingham goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger fouled Fran Kirby in the area and Karen Carney scored the resultant penalty.

Gemma Davison and Kirby missed relatively easy chances to increase the lead before half-time, but could not take them and the league leaders went in just 1-0 up.

Kirby turned poacher on 58 when she turned in from close range after Berger lost a Davison cross.

After that the champions-elect never looked in trouble and duly celebrated their deserved win at full time.

The table finished with Chelsea on 19 points from eight games.  Manchester City finished second with an inferior goal difference to Chelsea’s.  Arsenal Ladies finished third a point behind, with early leaders Liverpool fourth on 14.

Triathlon

Lucy Charles won the inaugural triathlon Championship in Samorin, Slovakia at the weekend.   She finished the event in four hours, 13 minutes and 59 seconds.

Annabel Luxford of Australia was second.

Tennis

French Open

The women’s final will be between the unseeded Jelena Ostapenko and number three seed Simona Halep.   Ostapenko becomes the first unseeded woman to reach the final at Roland Garros since 1983.

Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) beat Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) (11) 4-6 6-2 6-2

Ostapenko lost the first five games of the match

Tamea Bacsinszky (SWI) (30) beat Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) (13) 6-4 6-4

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) (2) beat Caroline Garcia (FRA) (28) 7-6 6-4

Simona Halep (ROM) (3) beat Elina Svitolina (UKR) (5) 3-6 7-6 6-0

Semi-Finals 8 June

Ostapenko beat Bacsinszky 7-6 3-6 6-3

Halep beat Pliskova 6-4 3-6 6-3

The final is on Saturday.  Radio coverage is on 5Live from midday.

Mountain Biking

There was elation and disappointment for Rachel Atherton this week at the Mountain Bike World Cup Downhill at Fort William.

She qualified well ahead of the field in five minutes 29.222 seconds, a full 13 seconds of Tracey Hannah of Australia, who finished second.

Fellow Britons Tahnee Seagrave and Manon Carpenter both crashed, although Carpenter recovered to qualify in fourth.

Myriam Nicole of France finished qualified third.

But it was not to be for Atherton in the final.  She had to pull out before the race even began after dislocating her shoulder in a practice run.

Tracey Hannah won the race and Manon Carpenter finished fourth.

The next round is this weekend in Leogang, Austria.

Canoeing

The Canoe Slalom European Championships were held in Slovenia from 1-4 June.

Great Britain’s women claimed two golds the individual gold in C1 went to Kimberley Woods and she was also part of the three that claimed top spot in the C1 team event.

Woods won individual gold with 110.31 points, ahead of Tereza Fišerová of the Czech Republic on 112.90 with Nadine Weratschnig of Austria on 116.19 in bronze.

The C1 team of Woods, Mallory Franklin and Eilidh Gibson won the event for the second year in a row.  Their points tally was 153.24.  Silver went to Germany on 157.32 with the Czech Republic winning bronze on 158.48.

Hockey

Surbiton’s and Canterbury’s women were in action representing English hockey in the EuroHockey Club Cup in Den Bosch last weekend.

Eight teams took part with Surbiton finishing fourth and Canterbury sixth.

Surbiton beat CSV Complutense of Spain to reach the semi-finals, but couldn’t overcome hosts HC‘s-Hertogenbosch, losing 7-1.  They lost the 3rd/4th place play-off to the other Dutch team, AH&BC Amsterdam 3-1.

Canterbury lost their 5th/6th place play-off to CSV Complutense.

Final standings:

  1.  HC’s-Hertogenbosch (Netherlands)
  2. UHC Hamburg (Germany)
  3. AH&BC Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  4. Surbiton (England)
  5. SPV Complutense (Spain)
  6. Canterbury Ladies HC (England)
  7. Hermes – Monkstown HC (Ireland)
  8. CSP Krylatskoye (Russia)

And finally

Long jumper Jazmin Sawyers admitted this week that she pulled out of a competition in Boston because of the “very bad periods” from which she suffers.

And boy did she pay for that admission on social media.

Even though she said,

“Can’t walk, intense pain radiating down my legs, head spinning, full body sweating, shouting, crying kind of bad,”

It brought out all the “boys” with their “ugh – too much information” kind of comments.  Fabulously Sawyers bit back,

“Ah so lovely to see so many men with insightful things to say in response to this article.”

And interestingly she also said that those making comments on the BBC site are usually the worst.  Funnily enough this is what I have also found.  It seems to be a platform for jokers and fools (and worse).

At last women in sport and in all walks of life are beginning to speak out about their period problems. And it’s only by discussing, analysing and gaining more information that we are going to be able to develop possible solutions.  Sorry chaps if it offends your delicate sensibilities, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to deal with it.

Women’s Sports Column 20-26 May 2017

county2Welcome to this week’s column.  We’re heading towards some exciting stuff this summer – but then there’s always exciting stuff in the world of women’s sport, isn’t there?  Well I think so, and I’m glad to see my followers do too.  This week I have stories from football, netball, tennis, athletics, hockey, cricket and lacrosse.  Plus a disheartening “And finally” from cricket – remember I said I was going to stop reading the comments sections after articles?  Well I haven’t yet, but this week has made me even more resolved to do so.

Onward!

Netball

Round 16 of the Super League was completed over the weekend.  Loughborough are still top of the pile after a convincing win over Celtic Dragons on Saturday.  Lightning lead the table by nine points.  The others in the top four are Wasps, Thunder and Storm.  Bath are still in the hunt for a Final Four place as they are level with Bath on 30 and lie in fifth.  This week’s scores were:

Friday 19 May

Severn Stars 64-47 Team Northumbria
Team Bath 63-47 Sirens

Saturday 20 May

Loughborough Lightning 74-44 Celtic Dragons
Hertfordshire Mavericks 46-60 Manchester Thunder

Monday 22 May

Wasps Netball 64-70 Surrey Storm

This Bank Holiday weekend it is round 17.  I will be at Loughborough v Team Northumbria on Saturday, so if you see me come and say hello!

This round’s televised match is on Monday 29 May and is Manchester Thunder v Team Bath.  It will be live on Sky Sports at 7.30pm.

Lacrosse

As usual thanks to Martin for keeping me on my lacrosse toes.  Last week Centaurs were crowned National Club Champions.

The three winners of the North, South East and South West leagues played in a round-robin format tournament to decide the champions.

The scores were as follows:

Oxton 15-4 Bristol Bombers
Centaurs 25-3 Bristol Bombers (15-3) Mercy ruling
Centaurs 10-10 Oxton

Thinking of the Lacrosse World Cup, which is only 50-odd days away, there were several England and Wales players on show.  Oxton had England players Torz Anderson, Sophie Brett, Charlotte Lytollis and Olivia Wimpenny.  The Centaurs had five Wales players in their team as well as England player Sophie Morrill.

Although the two teams could not be separated at the final whistle, the title went to Centaurs on goal difference.  As the mercy ruling had been applied at 15-3, the difference was just one goal.

Tennis

Off the Court

Injuries

Caroline Wozniacki withdrew from the Strasbourg Grand Prix with a back injury.  She retired during the second set of her first-round match against American Shelby Rogers.

With the French Open only a week away there must be a doubt as to whether Wozniacki will take her place in the draw.

World number four Simona Halep may also be a doubt as she tore an ankle ligament during the Italian Open final.  She has described her chances as “50-50”.

Players returning

Petra Kvitova is hoping to play at Wimbledon, she has revealed this week.  We still do not know if she will play in Paris, but if not she definitely has her sights on a return at Wimbledon.  She has already won the title twice and it will be good to see her back on the court as soon as possible.

Another player who may make her return at Wimbledon is Victoria Azarenka.  She gave birth to a son in December and now she says she is “ready to start competing” again.  She will play in one of the warm-up tournaments and then hopefully take her place in the main draw.

If she plays her first tournament within 12 months of giving birth she will retain her ranking of six in the world.

Qualifying for Roland Garros

Heather Watson is through to the second round of qualifying after beating Russian Anastasiya Komardina 3-6 7-5 6-1.   She has to win two more matches to make it to the main draw.  However, British numbers three and four, Naomi Broady and Tara Moore lost in the first round of qualifying and will not compete.

Laura Robson

Laura Robson is still on the comeback trail. Her persistence and tenacity cannot be denied, and it seems to be paying off.  She won the ITF 60k Kurume tournament in Japan last week and now moves back into the world top 200.  She moves from 218th to 169th.  She defeated fellow Briton Katie Boulter in the final 6-3 6-4.  It is hard to believe she is still only 23.

On the Court

Italian Open

Eighth seed Elina Svitolina won the Italian Open last weekend.  She defeated sixth seed Simona Halep 4-6 7-5 6-1.  As mentioned earlier, Halep tore an ankle ligament during the match and is now a doubt for the French Open.

Strasbourg Grand Prix

The quarter-finals took place on 25 May and the results were:

Samantha Stosur(6)  beat Carla Suarez Navarrro(4) 7-5 6-4
Daria Gavrilova (7) beat Ash Barty 6-4 6-7 7-6
Caroline Garcia (5) beat Karolina Pliskova 7-6 6-2
Peng Shuai (8) beat Shelby Rogers 6-0 6-4

The semi-finals will be on 26 May and the draw is:

Peng v Stosur
Garcia v Gavrilova

Hockey

Hannah Macleod has announced her retirement from international hockey.

She was part of the GB team that won gold so thrillingly at Rio in 2016.

Macleod will now concentrate on her coaching role with the England Under-21 squad.

Cricket

Quadrangular Series

19 May

South Africa 323/8 (50 overs)
Ireland currently 203/6 (50 overs)
South Africa won by 120 runs

Third place play-off

Ireland finished their tournament on a winning note as they beat Zimbabwe in the third place play-off.

Ireland 254/5 (50 overs)
Zimbabwe 235 all out (49.4 overs)
Ireland won by 19 runs

Captain Laura Delaney led from the front as she scored 81 for Ireland with Shauna Kavanagh backing her up with 67.  But Ireland will be really happy that they were able to take 10 Zimbabwe wickets.  Pick of the bowlers was seamer Aoife Beggs who took 5/52.

Final

India continued their excellent form in the final as they reduced South Africa to 156 all out in just over 40 overs.  They then reached their target losing only two wickets and with 102 balls to spare.

South Africa 156 all out (40.2 overs)
India 160/2 (33 overs)
India won by 8 wickets

Top scorer for South Africa was Sune Luus with 55.  The phenomenal Jhulan Goswami was in the wickets again taking 3/22 off 8 overs, while Poonam Yadav took 3/32 off 9.

India lost Deepti Sharma early on for 8 and Mona Meshram for 2, but the in-form Punam Raut with 70 and captain Mithali Raj with 62 saw them home. South Africa also bowled 15 wides.

Athletics

The news came this week that Welsh discus thrower Philippa Roles has died at the age of 39.  Roles competed at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 for Team GB.  She finished fourth at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and Delhi and sixth in Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne.

No cause of death has yet been revealed.

Her personal record was 62.89 metres, which is fourth in all-time British rankings.

Football – On the Pitch

Spring Series

Saturday 20 May

Arsenal Ladies 4-2 Birmingham City Ladies

Arsenal are now second in the table with this win over the Blues at the Hive.  The away side took the lead in the first minute when Rachel Williams headed home a Sarah Mayling cross.  Heather O’Reilly equalised for the Gunners two minutes before half-time from a through-ball by Danielle Van De Donk.

After the break Van De Donk got a goal of her own to put the home side ahead, but just three minutes later Williams was on the scoresheet again to equalise for Birmingham.

But in an inspired substitution saw Arsenal take the points as Louise Quinn headed in from a free kick in the 78th minute to make it 3-2 and again from a corner in the 90th to make the final score 4-2.

Bristol City Women 1-1 Liverpool Ladies

It was honours even at the Stoke Gifford stadium as Bristol took a valuable point from the Spring Series’ early pace-setters, Liverpool Ladies.

The away side were on top throughout but were held until the 80th minute when Katie Zelem fired in after a poorly-cleared cross.

It looked as though Liverpool had secured the win, but City weren’t beaten and five minutes later Lily Agg headed in from Claire Emslie to see the points were shared.

Sunday 21 May

Manchester City Women 5-1 Yeovil Town Ladies

It is safe to say that City have hit their straps.  Things started badly for Yeovil when on 10 minutes Ann-Marie Heatherson turned a Lucy Bronze cross into her own net.  Two minutes later City were two up when Jill Scott lobbed keeper Megan Walsh.

On 20 minutes Lucy Quinn got one back for the Lady Glovers, but there was to be no comeback.

Jane Ross scored the Champions’ third before half-time and the game was effectively over as a contest.

In the second-half Ross grabbed a second and Kosovare Asllani City’s fifth.  Ellie Roebuck saved a penalty from Sarah Wiltshire for Man City.

The only fly in the ointment for City was Carli Lloyd’s 89th minute straight red card for an elbow.

Sunderland AFC 0-7 Chelsea Ladies

Chelsea were five-up by half-time in this match and even had time to miss a penaly – a complete mauling for the Lady Black Cats.

Gemma Davison missed the spot kick that would have put Chelsea one-up, but it obviously did not knock their confidence.

Erin Cuthbert scored the first on 17.  Karen Carney doubled the lead on 31 after a precise pass from So Yun Ji.  Three minutes later Maren Mjelde got their third and substitute Ramona Bachmann the fourth on 41.  Cuthbert scored her second just before half-time and a dejected Sunderland team left the field.

Sunderland’s defence performed much better in the second-half, but they couldn’t stop the returning Fran Kirby from scoring a double on 80 and 85 minutes to complete the rout.

Chelsea would have been very heartened to welcome back Kirby after injury but disappointed to see Eni Aluko limp off in the first-half.

Thursday 25 May

Manchester City Women 1-0 Chelsea Ladies

After their stunning win on Sunday, Chelsea would have been fancying their chances against the champions.  There was, unsurprisingly, an emotional atmosphere at the Academy Stadium as a minute’s silence was held for the victims of the attack on the Manchester Arena on Monday.

But it was Chelsea who had trouble in settling.  They were defence-minded in the first-half and by the time they decided to take the attack to City it was too late and Manchester had got into their stride.

The only goal of the game came from Toni Duggan just before the half-hour.  How Chelsea must be sick of the sights of Duggan who has now scored 10 goals in 10 games against them.  Nikita Parris also looked lively for City although her finishing left something to be desired.

Off the Pitch

Notts County

Well, I didn’t see this coming.  New Notts County owner Alan Hardy has confirmed that he plans to bring women’s football back to the club.

As you will know, I have had plenty to say on this subject and could say plenty more, but this new announcement has thrown me somewhat.  I don’t want to be sceptical or cynical and would be more than happy to see a new team, so I’ll hold my thoughts until we see just what comes next.

This is what Hardy has said so far:

  • He wants to put together a sustainable model, which first sees a girls’ academy being set up.
  • He wants a clear pathway for academy players to progress through to a women’s first team.
  • He sees it as a long-term project
  • He knows they will have to work through the leagues and divisions but is willing to commit to that

On the problems he had with the previous set-up:

“Unfortunately, the ladies’ team I inherited was an entity on its own. There was just the first-team; there was nothing that was attaching it to the club in any way – probably because it was brought over from Lincoln and it had no structure or foundations.

“As of next season, we will have an under-nines, under-10s and under-11s girls’ academy, which will be playing in the boys’ Young Elizabethan League (YEL).”

All good words so far.  I just hope that the FA offers as much support as it can – very often (and I know I’ve said this before) I feel the FA has all the ideas (the “initiatives” – ugh beginning to dislike that word) regarding women’s football, then sets everyone adrift to fend for themselves with little or no back-up.  And before you all yell that clubs have to sustain themselves and why should they be propped up by the governing body – I don’t mean that they should be propped up – just that the FA should be aware of potential problems or issues and should be available to provide assistance.

It’s not just football that does this, but I would suggest the ECB and RFU are equally culpable.  And to support this, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes had her say about the FA this week.

Emma Hayes

The Chelsea manager pulled no punches on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.  She said that the FA is guilty of treading women’s football as an “afterthought” – something with which I would heartily agree.

She made the claim with reference to the training and pay of match officials.  She said that the pool of referees is too big and when it comes to payment, officials at WSL matches are paid around half the amount of those in the men’s National League (the top division of which is the fifth tier of English football).

The FA was quick to issue a response to the criticisms.  With respect to the officiating “problem” it has a “Gameplan for Growth” strategy:

“We acknowledge there is more to do but our commitment is clear”, it said.

“The FA is also: developing a pathway to recruit, train, deploy and mentor more women and men, from all walks of life, to referee at every level of the women’s game, and we’re reaching out to everyone involved, including clubs, to get a clearer understanding of peoples’ perceptions of officiating and seeking ways in which standards could be improved.”

It’s very interesting that the FA felt the need to issue a statement only hours after the interview.

Bibiana Steinhaus

The Bundesliga will see its first female referee next season.  38-year old policewoman Bibiana Steinhaus had previously been a fourth official at a Bundesliga match and has been a German FA referee since 1999.

She has already refereed the 2011 Women’s World Cup final and the women’s 2012 Olympic final.

Did I read some of the comments after this article on the BBC?  Yes I did.  Were they as bad as you think?  Yes, they were.

Signing

Arsenal have signed Netherlands international Vivianne Miedema from Bayern Munich for the new 2017/18 winter WSL season.

Miedema, a forward, already has 48 caps for the Netherlands and had been at Munich for three seasons.

And finally,

The BBC released a “Breaking news” item online this week that said that both Heather Knight and Sarah Taylor are included in Mark Robinson’s World Cup squad.  Any genuine cricket fan will see this as great news.  It is a real result that Taylor is available for selection and that Knight looks to be overcoming injury.

So, and yes, I know I should know better by now, I thought I’d look at the congratulatory comments after the article.  Except at that point, there weren’t any.  There were just four or five from men saying this was not news and why were the BBC covering it?

For a brief, fleeting but naive moment I thought the comments meant that both players were so good they couldn’t be left out.  Alas no.  What they were actually saying was that the article was not news because there was no competition for places in the squad and they just put anyone available in it, and of course, by implication, that women’s cricket was beneath notice.  They were, of course, displaying their total ignorance of the subject: Sarah Taylor has been out of the England set-up for a year, dealing with her anxiety issues, whilst Captain Heather Knight sustained a stress fracture in her foot at the training camp in the UAE and was (and still may be) a doubt for the World Cup.

So what makes these men think they are qualified to comment?  Do they care that they are so spectacularly wrong?  Probably not, but I just wish the wilfully uninformed would stay out of it.

If you can’t be bothered to get your facts right, don’t be bothered to comment.  Thanks.

And finally (2)

I’m currently writing a short four-part history of cricket for WiSP Sports.  If you would like to read part one here’s the link:  WiSP Sports.

There will be no column next week as I’m away watching the Champions’ Trophy – yes I do watch men’s sport too…..