Women’s Sports Column 14-20 July 2018

golfWelcome to this week’s column.  Lots to catch up with again this week with stories from cycling, tennis, netball, football, golf, cricket and athletics.

So let’s crack on.

Cricket

Just when you thought New Zealand had collapsed in a terminal heap, they came back in the third ODI to beat England convincingly and take a precious two points in the ICC Championship.

Third ODI
England 219 all out (47.4 overs)
New Zealand 224/6 (44.4 overs)
NZ women won by 4 wickets

It looked to be a case of same old, same old when England started with a stand of 10.  Beaumont was first to fall with 53 from 66 balls.   Winfield fell soon after on just five, but Jones was still going strong until she was stumped by Martin off the bowling of Watkin for 78.

After that, however, there was a succession of poor shots that saw England dismissed for 219.

Leigh Kasparek was, by far, the pick of the bowlers with 5/39 off 9.4 overs.

It should never have been enough, but we had seen collapses aplenty from this White Ferns side for nothing to be certain.

In fact it all went wrong to begin with when Jess Watkin was given lbw to Brunt for a duck in the first over.   But Sophie Devine was having none of it.  She smashed 117 not out from 116 balls, ably assisted first by Green (23), then Satterthwaite (25) and finally by Martin (23) to see them home with 32 balls to spare.

Sadly that sees the end of England’s international summer (July!) and now begins the women’s T20 showpiece, the Kia Super League.

The squads have now been announced.  It’s a quality product, so can I please suggest if you’re anywhere near a game, you go out and support it?  You can view all of the upcoming fixtures here:

https://www.ecb.co.uk/matches/super-league/fixtures

Loughborough Lightning

Georgia Elwiss (C),  Rachael Haynes, Sophie Devine, Kirsty Gordon, Georgia Adams, Tara Norris, Jenny Gunn, Sarah Glenn, Elyse Villani, Sonia Odedra, Lucy Higham, Abbey Freeborn, Amy Jones, Jo Gardner.

Western Storm

Heather Knight (C), Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Stafanie Taylor, Smriti Mandhana, Rachel Priest, Alice McLeod, Sophie Luff, Amara Carr, Naomi Dattani, Rebecca Silk, Claire Nicholas, Lauren Parfitt, Danielle Gibson, Freya Davies.

Yorkshire Diamonds

Lauren Winfield, Katherine Brunt, Beth Langston, Alice Davidson-Richards, Beth Mooney, Chamari Atapattu, Delissa Kimmince, Helen Fenby, Katie Levick, Sophie Munro, Bess Heath, Thea Brookes, Alice Monaghan, Gwen Davies, Katie Thompson.

Lancashire Thunder

Danielle Hazell (C), Kate Cross, Emma Lamb, Sophie Ecclestone, Natalie Brown, Natasha Miles, Amy Satterthwaite, Ellie Threlkeld, Nicole Bolton, Georgie Boyce, Rachel Dickinson, Alice Dyson, Alex Hartley, Eve Jones, Harmanpreet Kaur.

Southern Vipers

Georgia Adams, Suzie Bates, Arran Brindle, Ellen Burt, Izzy Collis, Charlie Dean, Mignon du Preez, Charlotte Edwards, Tash Farrant, Katie George, Hayley Matthews, Tara Norris, Carla Rudd, Linsey Smith, Danni Wyatt.

Surrey Stars

Nat Sciver (C), Aylish Cranstone, Sophia Dunkley, Grace Gibbs, Gayatri Gole, Eva Gray, Hannah Jones, Marizanne Kapp, Lizelle Lee, Laura Marsh, Bryony Smith, Sarah Taylor, Rhianna Southby, Dane van Niekerk, Mady Villiers.

This weekend’s fixtures are on Sunday 22 July:

Surrey Stars v Southern Vipers (Woodbridge Road, Guildford, 2.30pm)
Western Storm v Yorkshire Diamonds (County Ground, Taunton, 2.30pm)
Lancashire Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (Trafalgar Road Ground, Southport 2.30pm)

Tennis

Wimbledon

Angelique Kerber took the singles title at Wimbledon, defeating Serena Williams in straight sets 6-3 6-3.

The doubles title went to third seeds Barbora Krejčíková and Katerina Siniaková, who beat Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke (12) 6-4 4-6 6-0

Alexander Peya and Nicole Melichar (11) took the mixed doubles title, who defeated the unseeded Jamie Murray and Victoria Azarenka 7-6 6-3.

In the wheelchair singles, number one seed Diede De Groot beat the unseeded Aniek Van Koot 6-3 6-2

Diede De Groot then went on to take the doubles title with partner Yui Kamiji, as the number one seeds  beat Sabine Ellerbrock & Lucy Shuker 6-1 6-1.

The tournament has caused plenty of movement in the world rankings.  Serena Williams is up to 28th, but Jo Konta is down to 50th.

Netball

Mikki Austin has been appointed as Surrey Storm’s first Director of Netball.

Austin has played for the Storm since 2015, but she was injured for much of the 2018 season.

In an interview with the Netball Superleague website, Austin said,

“I am thrilled to be appointed as Director of Netball at Surrey Storm and, whilst the new season seems like a long way off at the moment, I cannot wait to get started on our preparations to make it a successful one.

“I am focusing on making sure we can attract some new players to add strength and bolster our already strong squad, so we are ready to compete at the highest level as we aim to compete for a top four spot.

“I have enjoyed every moment of my time with Storm so far, especially as we have enjoyed some great successes which I really want to be part of again; I have big aspirations for what we can achieve and I look forward to building an exciting next generation of Surrey Storm.”

Golf

Dame Laura Davies has won the first US Senior Women’s Open.

She took the title by a huge 10 shots at the Chicago Golf Club at the weekend.

Davies finished on 16 under par.  American Juli Inkster was second on six under and England’s Trish Johnson in third on four under.

Football

The biggest news of the week is that Marieanne Spacey-Cale is to leave the FA to take up the role of Head of Girls’ and Women’s Football at Southampton FC.

With 91 England caps to her name, Spacey-Cale is considered to be one of England’s best ever female players.  She had been at the FA for 11 years as was part of Mark Sampson’s staff at the 2015 World Cup.

She was also Under 23s head coach and, most recently, England Women’s Player and Coach Developer.

This is a big move for Spacey-Cale and a big loss for the FA.  Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s Head of Women’s Football, must be wondering how to replace her.

“On behalf of everyone at The FA, I would like to wish Marieanne well – she leaves behind a great legacy through her work which has had a positive impact on the female game,” Campbell said on the FA website.

It also shows Southampton’s commitment to their women’s programme.

The transfer roundabout shows no sign of slowing.

This week:

  • England international Lianne Sanderson signed for Juventus, thus joining up with good friend Eni Aluko.
  • Scotland striker Christie Murray has signed for Liverpool.
  • Kirsty Smith and Lizzie Arnot also left Glasgow City this week, having been offered contracts at Manchester United.
  • Goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley has left Birmingham City to join Bristol City.
  • West Ham are still in the market and this week have signed American defender Brooke Hendrix from Brescia and Republic of Ireland striker Leanne Kiernan from Shelbourne Ladies.
  • Erin Cuthbert has signed a new three-year contract with champions, Chelsea.

Manchester United

Of course the major hoop-la of the week surrounded the announcement of the Manchester United squad.  England defender Alex Greenwood is club captain.  It is, no doubt, an impressive squad, packed with talent.  They have, however, got to work from scratch to make it into a team.  It will be fascinating to see what happens this season.

The squad in full:

Goalkeepers
1 – Siobhan Chamberlain, 13 – Emily Ramsey, 22 – Fran Bentley

Defenders
2 – Martha Harris, 3 – Alex Greenwood, 4 – Amy Turner, 12 – Naomi Hartley, 15 – Lucy Roberts, 20 – Kirsty Smith

Midfielders
6 – Aimee Palmer, 8 – Mollie Green, 10 – Katie Zelem, 14 – Charlie Devlin, 16 – Lauren James, 17 – Lizzie Arnot, 21 – Millie Turner

Forwards
7 – Ella Toone, 9 – Jess Sigsworth, 11 – Leah Galton, 18 – Kirsty Hanson, 19 – Ebony Salmon

Athletics

The largely unheralded inaugural Athletics World Cup went to United States.  The US finished 57 points ahead of Poland, with Great Britain a further seven points behind in third.

The top GB women’s performance came from the 4 x 100m relay team of Asha Philip, Imani Lansiquot, Bianca Williams and Shannon Hylton in 42.52 ahead of Jamaica in second in a time of 42.60 and China third in 42.94.  The US team didn’t finish.

The other GB performances of notes: Lorraine Ugen continued her good form with a win in the long jump with a distance of 6.86m.  Holly Bradshaw also won the pole vault with a season’s best 4.75m.

Beth Morgan won silver in the high jump, while Adelle Tracey also took silver in the 800m. Sophie Hitchon came second in the hammer with a season’s beat 73.48m and Meghan Beesley was also second in the 400m hurdles.

Beth Dobbin won bronze it the 200m as did Jemma Reekie in the 1500m.

Final Athletics World Cup standings:

  1. United States 219 points
  2. Poland 162 points
  3. Great Britain 155 points
  4. Jamaica 153 points
  5. France 146 points
  6. Germany 137 points
  7. South Africa 135 points
  8. China 81 points

Cycling

La Course

Annemiek van Vleuten retained her La Course title on Tuesday after overtaking Anna van der Breggen in the final 25 metres.

The one-stage race from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand was undertaken by 112 riders from 20 teams.

Van der Breggen looked odds-on to take the title as she pulled away up the final climb on the Col del a Colombiere and then further ahead on the descent.

But Van Vleuten was not to be beaten and took her chance as Van de Breggen tired at the very end.

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio of South Africa had kept up with the two Dutch riders, but falling away hung on to take third.

Top Ten Finishers:

  1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned/Mitchelton-Scott) 3hrs 20mins 43secs
  2. Anna van der Breggen (Ned/Boels-Dolmans) +1sec
  3. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (SA/Cervelo-Bigla) +1min 22secs
  4. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den/Cervelo-Bigla) +1min 58secs
  5. Megan Guarnier (US/Boels-Dolmans) +2mins 19secs
  6. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol/Canyon SRAM) same time
  7. Katharine Hill (US/UnitedHealthcare) +2mins 22secs
  8. Amanda Spratt (Aus/Mitchelton-Scott) same time
  9. Ane Santesteban Gonzalez (Spa/Ale Cipollini) +2mins 24secs
  10. Erica Magnaldi (Ita/Bepink) same time

And so ends the women’s version of the Tour de France for another year.  Although it was a good race, there is no doubt that it is still a very unsatisfying experience, both for fans of women’s cycling and the cyclists themselves.

When will the (growing amount of) muttering stop and the action start?  When will we see a multi-stage event for women alongside the Tour de France?  I’m not holding my breath.  Until the big sponsors get on board there will be no change.  The will is there from the athletes and the teams, but without proactive movement from the governing body, the UCI, don’t expect anything to happen.

Other Cycling News

Lizzie Deignan will head up the new Trek Factory Racing team when she returns to the sport next season.

She is expecting her first child in September, but plans to be back in training in December.

In a telling statement she said,

“I chose Trek because rather than see me as a risk in pregnancy, they saw me as an investment and as a valued athlete.

“For me that was the biggest sign towards truly believing in equality.”

She leaves Boels-Dolmans at the end of the season, having ridden for them for five years.

And finally,

I’ve been listening to the BBC 5 Live coverage of The Open over the last two days.  And while I could definitely do without John Inverdale, there was a great discussion this morning about the perception of golf and how young people, minority ethnic people and women can be more attracted to it.  Absolutely loved Iain Carter’s impassioned arguments – brave of him to declare that however much the clubs and governing body say they are doing to be inclusive, there is, without doubt, still a problem with women in the game and they could and should be doing so much more.  I have a great respect for Carter – I pulled him up once for calling Caroline Wozniacki “Rory’s Belle” – she was engaged to Rory McIlroy at the time.  He responded to me immediately and was very apologetic that he had not recognised Wozniacki in her own right, but only as an appendage to McIlroy.  Keep at it Iain, perhaps they’ll listen eventually.

More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 7-13 July 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  When I started researching for this week’s column I thought it was going to be a quiet one, but the end of the week has brought such torrents of football news that the writing, I warn you, may just go on and on…

Stories this week come from, as I said, football (no, not that), athletics, cricket, tennis and netball.

Let’s crack on.

Netball

Superleague Grand Final
Loughborough Lightning 51-55 Wasps Netball

Wasps proved too strong for Lightning again at the weekend as they claimed their second Grand Final a row, condemning the Lightning to be runners-up yet again, and by the same score.

After Lightning took an early lead, Wasps pulled it back and by the end of the first quarter it was 12 apiece.

The second quarter was tight until Wasps missed  a shot and Peace Proscovia put hers away at the other end  and Loughborough were ahead by two 21-19.  But they didn’t hold the lead for long, and by half-time the momentum had swung and Wasps were in front by four, 28-24.

Wasps pretty much maintained their lead in the third, which saw them three up by the end, 43-40.

But Loughborough were not giving up without a fight as they brought it back to 44-all.

This was as close as they got.  In the final minutes Wasps would pull away, and then Loughborough would get it back within two.  But in the end Wasps got the better of it and took the title again.

Other news

Big news from netball both in England and Australia this week as top two Vitality Superleague sides Wasps and Loughborough change their management teams and two big Diamonds stars announce their retirement.

Wasps Netball

Grand Final winners Wasps have appointed Mel Mansfield as their new Head Coach.  Mansfield had been assistant coach for the senior team for two years.

Tamsin Greenway has stepped down as Director of Netball but will stay with Wasps as a coach and brand ambassador.

Loughborough Lightning

Runners-up Lightning, meanwhile, have announced that their new Director of Netball will be Sara Bayman, who will join Loughborough from the Sirens in September.

Bayman is a former England international with 84 caps to her name.

Emily Perry will become Pathway Head Coach, moving from the Lightning Netball Academy.

Aussie Diamonds

Two Australian greats announced their international retirement this week:

Defender Laura Geitz won 71 caps, won two World Cups (2011, 2015) and Commonwealth Games gold in Glasgow in 2014.

After giving birth to a son last year, Geitz had a break from netball, but knew she wanted to compete at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.  The final, which the Diamonds lost to England Roses, was her last international match.

It is thought that she will continue her domestic netball career with Queensland Firebirds.

Just a day later, Madi Robinson also announced her retirement.  Robinson won 61 caps in an eight-year international career, playing at wing attack.

She was part of the gold-winning 2014 Commonwealth Games squad, but did not play in the 2015 World Cup due to injury.  She made a comeback at the Gold Coast Games.

She is also planning to continue her domestic career as captain of Collingwood.

 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague

But the week has not been without controversy.  The 2019 Superleague teams have been announced and, it’s safe to say, the North does not come out of it well.  Team Northumbria has withdrawn from the elite league and has been replaced by London Pulse.

The Pulse, under CEO Natalie Seaton, will play their home matches at the Copper Box.

England Netball CEO, Joanna Adams, said:

“We are delighted to welcome London Pulse into the Vitality Netball Superleague for 2019.

“They submitted an excellent proposal and it’s brilliant to have new investment into the league.”

There has been plenty of comment across social media platforms, with the new move being widely questioned.  There will be only Manchester Thunder representing the north and nothing in the northeast region at all.  It has been suggested that Leeds Rhinos would have been a more balanced fit, but it was not to be.  I would hate to see the sport become a “southern” sport – let’s hope the development of sides in the north continues and that, vitally, England Netball offers its support to teams and clubs in the north.

The ten teams who will take part in the 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague are:

Benecos Mavericks, Celtic Dragons, London Pulse, Loughborough Lightning, Manchester Thunder, Severn Stars, Surrey Storm, Team Bath, UWS Sirens and Wasps Netball.

The 2018 Superleague awards were also announced this week.  The list of winners can be found here:

http://www.netballsl.com/2018/07/07/vnsl-2018-award-winners-announced/

Tennis – Wimbledon

Singles

It has been decided!  The Wimbledon women’s singles final will be between 25th seed Serena Williams and 11th Seed Angelique Kerber.

Both women have played some stunning tennis to get this far and both had straight sets victories in their semi-finals:

Williams beat 13th seed Julia Görges 6-2 6-4, while Kerber overcame French Open champion and 12th seed Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-3.

It is set to be a cracking final.  It all starts at 2pm on Saturday 14 July and UK coverage is via BBC Television and BBC Radio 5 Live.

Women’s Doubles

The women’s doubles semi-finals take place today (Friday 13 July) and will be as follows:

Kvete Peschke & Nicole Melichar (12) v Gabriela Dabrowski & Xu Yifan (6)
Alicja Rosolska & Abigail Spears v Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova (3)

Mixed Doubles

The semi-finals of the mixed doubles are also today (Friday) and there is still plenty of British interest, although someone will miss out as they play each other in the second semi-final:

Katerina Srebotnik & Michael Venus (9) v Nicole Melichar v Alexander Peya (11)
Harriet Dart & Jay Clarke (GB) v Victoria Azarenka & Jamie Murray (GB)

Wheelchair Singles

Of special note this year, Kgothatso Montjane is the first black South African woman to play at Wimbledon.

The ladies’ wheelchair singles semi-finals will be:

Aniek Van Koot v Yui Kamiji
Diede De Groot v Kgothatso Montjane

The wheelchair doubles semi-finals:

Diede De Groot & Yui Kamiji (1) v Katharina Kruger & Kgothatso Montjane
Sabine Ellerbrook & Lucy Shuker v Marjolein Buis & Aniek Van Koot (2)

All ties to be played today, Friday 13 July.

Football

I thought it was going to be all about the signings this week, but events have overtaken this until I am now starting to think, at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, the soul of the game is in peril.

The more news, the more my heart sinks and I wonder where it will end.  Does the FA actually have a plan?  Are they just going to wait to see who sinks and who swims?

Doncaster Rovers Belles

The news overshadowing everything this week is that Doncaster Belles will not be playing Championship football next season, but will drop down to the National League.  It a statement it said,

“The club can announce that for the 2018/2019 season we will be competing in the Women’s National League. We can confirm we have withdrawn from the Women’s Championship and await FA ratification of the move in their Special General Meeting (date to be confirmed). We have worked closely with the FA and have mutually agreed the change in leagues which will ensure the continued viability and re-growth of the club.

“Our 50th year is upon us and the recent changes have allowed us to reflect and refocus. Our philosophy has always been centred on creating opportunities for women and girls in football. We are proud of our legacy which has pioneered the women’s game. Our coaching structure focuses on individual development and has seen players hit personal achievements, move on to high profile clubs and created opportunities with national teams. Our unique female mentoring scheme for coaches and managers has seen tremendous talent enter the game and again move onto exciting opportunities within the sport including with the England Lionesses. This remains our philosophy and we are excited to see a wealth of young developing players have a great opportunity to hit their full potential under a fantastic coaching team.  More details will follow on our decision.

“We look forward to celebrating our 50th Birthday with you all #backthebelles and welcome your input and support.”

It has been said on social media that the club has only four players left, and their remaining is not a certainty.  There has been no word as to who will be taking their place in the Championship.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace, meanwhile, are celebrating as they are taking the Championship spot vacated by Sheffield FC.

Manchester United

And of course, there is always the looming presence of the new Manchester United outfit.  Casey Stoney announced this week that she now has a squad of 21 players, which will be unveiled on Friday 13 July.

Signings

There has been a considerable amount of disquiet this week amongst lovers of the women’s game about the numbers of overseas signings being made.  Are these good players, going to improve the health of the game in this country, or are they just cheap?  Is women’s football at the highest level about to go the way of the men’s Premier League in record time?  I really hope not.  Let’s hope that those signed from overseas are committed to playing here and making a difference, but let’s also hope that there are still pathways for young British players to come through and that they can get their chance at the biggest teams in the country.  I’d like to see every club with a wealth of talent and able to compete at the highest level – I don’t want it to become a fight for the title between the same four clubs every season.  Let’s see the best overseas players over here, enriching our clubs, teaching us what they have learnt in their respective leagues and making our clubs stronger both domestically and in the Champions League.

But let us not forget that professional women’s football in this country is, essentially, still in its infancy.  The FA is clearly going for a “survival of the fittest” policy and is unlikely to step in to help a club in trouble – and I have no confidence in it to have done the requisite checks before it issued licences.  I don’t think I’m alone in having a bad feeling about all of this.  More news and views as it happens.   

West Ham

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – West Ham mean business.  Matt Beard is assembling a fine squad, a good mixture of experience and youth.  They’ve been dabbling in the transfer market again this week:

Scotland striker Jane Ross has signed for them after being released by Manchester City.

They have also signed Dutch duo Esmee de Graaf from PEC Zwolle and Lucienne Reichardt from Dutch champions Ajax. De Graaf is a young striker, just 20, but she has already won two caps for the Netherlands.  Midfielder Reichardt is, by contrast, a relatively old hand at 27.

This takes the number of signings to seven, the others being Gilly Flaherty, Vyan Sampson, Rebecca Spencer and Brianna Visalli.

Reading

Reading, too, seem to be on the charge.  They have made an excellent signing, taking Gemma Davison from Chelsea.  Davison has been unlucky not to be getting regular starts for the champions and you can’t blame her for jumping ship in search of first team football.

Scotland defender Sophie Howard has also joined the Berkshire side.

Welsh international Charlie Estcourt has extended her contract with the Royals for another season and club captain Kirsty Pearce has also committed herself for another season.

Liverpool

After a mass exodus at Liverpool, it seems they are gearing up again with some major signings;

Ex- Donny Belles duo of captain Leandra Little and Rhiannon Roberts signed this week.

Goalkeeper Anke Preuss has signed from Sunderland

Athletics – World Cup

This weekend the London Stadium hosts the Athletics World Cup.  Eight countries are taking part: Great Britain & Northern Ireland, China, France, Germany, Jamaica, Poland, South Africa and USA.  Team GB largely comprises up-and-coming youngsters, but does include in-form long jumper Lorraine Ugen and high jumper Morgan Lake.

The women’s team in full:

100m Daryll Neita (Shaftesbury Barnet), 200m Beth Dobbin (Edinburgh,) 400m Anyika Onuora (Liverpool), 800m Adelle Tracey (Guildford & Godalming), 1500m Jemma Reekie (Kilbarchan), 100m hurdles: Megan Marrs (Windsor, Slouth, Eton & Hounslow), 400m hurdles Meghan Beesley (Birchfield Harriers), High jump Morgan Lake (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow), Pole vault Holly Bradshaw (Blackburn), Long jump Lorraine Ugen (Thames Valley), Triple Jump Naomi Ogbeta (Trafford), Shot put Amelia Strickler (Thames Valley, Discus Jade Lally (Shaftesbury Barnet), Hammer Sophie Hitchon (Blackburn), Javelin Laura Whittingham (Sale Harriers), 4x100m TBC; 4x400m TBC.

Para-Athletics

The GB team for the WPA European Championships, which takes place in Berlin from 20-26 August has also been announced this week.  The female athletes taking part are:

Kare Adenegan – T34 100m & 800m, Hollie Arnold – F46 Javelin, Martina Barber –T20 Long Jump, Olivia Breen – T38 100m, Sally Brown– T47 100m, 200m & 400m, Jo Butterfield – F51 Club Throw, Hannah Cockroft  – T34 100m & 800m, Hannah Dines  – RR3 100m, Sabrina Fortune – F20 Shot Put, Kylie Grimes  – F51 Club Throw, Kayleigh Haggo  – RR3 100M, Sophie Hahn – T38 100m, 200m & 4x100m mixed relay, Maria Lyle  – T35 100m & 200m, Polly Maton  – T47 Long Jump, 100m & 4x100m mixed relay, Stef Reid – T64 Long Jump and 200m* (200m subject to confirmation), Ali Smith – T38 100m, 200m, 400m & Long Jump, Laura Sugar – T44 100m & 200m, Vanessa Wallace – F34 Shot Put & Javelin, Eve Walsh Dann  – T36 100m & 200m.

Cricket

England v New Zealand ODI series

Hell hath no fury like an England team batting first.  In truth this has been somewhat of a disappointing series, with the first two ODIs hardly contested.  Let’s hope that the third, taking place at Grace Road, Leicester, today (Friday 13 July) is a closer affair.  From an England point of view, of course, it couldn’t have gone better and there are four ICC Women’s Championship points in the bag.

First ODI
England 290/5 (50 overs)
New Zealand 148 all out (35.3 overs)
England won by 142 runs

The England openers had amassed 111 before New Zealand took a wicket.  Tammy Beaumont went for 40, caught by Martin off the bowling of Tahuhu.  Amy Jones and Heather Knight both scored 63 – in fact everyone made a contribution as England scored a huge 290.

In response, as is becoming horribly regular, the Ferns’ openers made a good start, but after they were out the collapse was most definitely on.   Bates scored 28 and Devine 33, but only Maddy Green, of the rest of the side, got over 20.

Second ODI
England 241 all out (48 overs)
New Zealand 118 all out (38 overs)
England won by 123 runs

New Zealand managed to take all ten wickets in this game, but still lost the game convincingly.

Jones was out relatively early, having made 20.  Beaumont top-scored with 67 and Sciver made a useful 54.  The wickets were shared around with Devine, Kasparek and Watkin taking two each and Huddleston, Tahuhu and Kerr, one each.

Bates made 20 at the top of the order for New Zealand, but again Green with 20 was the next best scorer.  The middle order was pretty much reduced to single-figure scoring.  Katie George and Sophie Ecclestone took three wickets each and in the end it was all too easy for England.

ICC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier

Bangladesh and Ireland have booked their places in the World T20, which takes place in the West Indies in November.

They face each other in the final of the Qualifying tournament on Saturday.

Bangladesh beat Scotland in their semi-final.  Bangladesh scored 125/6 off their 20 overs, but Scotland could only muster 76/7 in reply.

Ireland overcame Papua New Guinea in their semi.  Batting first, Ireland scored 113/6 off their 20 overs.  PNG were all out for 86 in 19.2 overs.

News and report of the final next week.

And finally,

Don’t forget there is another World Cup to look forward too – and it’s getting closer!  The Women’s Hockey World Cup begins in just two weeks.  Can England follow up their Olympic gold with a World Cup win?

It all begins on 21 July at the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre in London.  TV coverage is via BT Sport.

More news and views next week.

Women’s Sports Column 10-16 September

img-20160915-006702Welcome to this week’s column.  Summer may be slipping away from us here in Britain, but there’s still plenty to look forward to in the world of women’s sport.

This week brings stories from the Paralympics, tennis, athletics, cricket, football, rugby union and a sailing update from Abby Ehler.

Paralympics

 Where to start?  As with the Olympics, there is so much to love, admire or indeed boggle at, that I can only cover a fraction.  So here are a few of my highlights from the last week:

Hannah Cockcroft

One of my sporting heroes, without doubt.  In Rio she has won gold in T34 400m with a world record and 100m.   And she’s still only 24!

Kadeena Cox

Wow, what a story!  To win gold in one Paralympic sport is amazing, but two in different sports?  On 10 September she took gold in the track cycling – the C4-5 time trial (and in a world record time) and then on 14 September she struck gold again, this time in the T38 400m (also a new world record).  Oh, and she also won a bronze in the T38 100m.

I know one shouldn’t refer it back to a person’s medical history and no-one should be labelled, but how can you not be amazed by this woman?  She’s 25 and suffered a stroke in 2014, leading to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.  She’s brilliant.

Canoeing

I love canoeing in all forms and Britain has done very well in this Paralympics.  Three golds in a day on 15 September with Jeanette Chippington winning the K1 200m KL1 title, 28 years after her first medal, a silver in the 100m backstroke L4 in Seoul in 1988.  Then Emma Wiggs blew the field away to take the k1 200m KL2 gold.  Thirdly Anne Dickens won gold in the KL3 200m final.  That was three golds in about half an hour!

Swimming

Numerous medals in swimming.  Seven golds and six silvers.  Bethany Firth took two golds and a silver, Hannah Russell, Steph Millward, Ellie Simmonds, Susie Rodgers, Ellie Robinson (just 15) all took golds with Claire Cashmore, Jessica-Jane Appleton, Rebecca Redfern, Steph Slater and Harriet Lee took silvers.

I’m sorry I’ve just concentrated on gold medals and silvers; every competitor has a story, a performance to be proud of and a unique experience.  Without descending into the mawkish, it’s exciting, awe-inspiring and moving.

Tennis

Germany’s Angelique Kerber went to world number one in the rankings this week when Serena Williams was knocked out of the US Open in the semi finals.  She then went on to win the title, beating the Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-3 4-6 6-4.

Kerber had already won the Australian Open in January and was runner-up at Wimbledon, but Pliskova was in a rich vein of form, having beaten Williams in the semi in straight sets 6-2 7-6.

Kerber was not to be denied though, becoming the first German to win the US Open since Steffi Graf in 1996.

The women’s doubles title was taken by twelfth seeds Bethany Mattek-Sands (US) and Lucie Safarova (CZ).  They beat the top seeded French pairing of Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic 2-6 7-6 6-4.

In other tennis news, the result of Maria Sharapova’s appeal against her two-year doping ban will be revealed in the first week of October.

Sharapova was banned by the ITF after testing positive for the banned substance, Meldonium, at the 2016 Australian Open.  She had been taking the drug since 2006, but it has only been listed as a banned substance since January this year.

Athletics

In athletics, the testing and re-testing of samples from the 2008 Olympics is still causing many medals to be re-awarded.  The latest is set to go to British javelin thrower, Goldie Sayers.  The silver medallist, Russia’s Maria Abakumova, will be disqualified after her re-test showed positive for the anabolic steroid turinabol.  Sayers, who finished fourth, will now receive a bronze medal.

Sayers has long been a critic of doping in athletics, particularly the systematic state-sponsored scheme employed by Russia.  In May 2016 she said she had considered withdrawing from the Rio games if Russian athletes were allowed to compete.

Cricket

In cricket, the ECB has announced that England’s women will complete their busy year with a three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka in November.  The three games will take place at the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium in Colombo on Saturday 12, Tuesday 15 and Thursday 17 November.

It will be England’s last series in the ICC Women’s Championship, the qualifying tournament for the 2017 World Cup, which will be held in England.

At the moment England is placed in third on 19 points.  Sri Lanka lies eighth.

Before the series takes place, England will have a six-day training camp in Abu Dhabi from 1-7 November.

Football

England 5-0 Estonia

Carter (3), Scott, J, Carney (pen)

Meadow Lane, Nottingham

Attendance 7,052.

I was at Meadow Lane on 15 September for England’s latest qualifier.  England have already qualified for next year’s Euros, but Mark Sampson is obviously keen to send a signal to the other top teams in Europe that England will be a force to contend with next year.

The first half-hour was excellent from England.  They came out quickly and never gave Estonia a chance to gain a toe-hold, let alone a foot-hold.  There were some lovely passing moves, close control was good, as was communication.

They were 3-0 up at half time with two goals from Danielle Carter and a Jill Scott header.

Towards the end of the first half focus slipped.  Sampson will be aware that better sides would have taken advantage of this and when they came out in the second they had regained concentration.

However, the game was disrupted in the second-half with substitutions and England found it harder to put moves together.  There were too much convoluted play, and although they had plenty of chances, there was never going to be the hatful of goals that the first half promised.

They did score two though, with Carter claiming her hat-trick and Karen Carney calmly slotting home a penalty for the fifth for a comprehensive win.

Poor Siobhan Chamberlain was reduced to running on the spot to get warm.

Quite rightly, Carter was Player of the Match; her record stands at two caps, two hat-tricks, but my other stand-out player was Gemma Davison.  She flew down the right wing in the first half; her markers hadn’t got a clue how to deal with her.  With fifteen minutes to go until half-time, she had obviously had so much fun on the right that she swapped wings with Demi Stokes to cause mayhem on the left.  Truly the best half of football I have seen from Davison.

Wales 3-0 Israel

Ward (2), Estcourt

Newport

Wales put in an impressive display to beat Israel.  Wales record scorer, Helen Ward, scored two with Charlie Estcourt adding a third in the second half.  Jess Fishlock also missed a penalty.

Although Wales are third in Pool H, they cannot qualify for next year’s finals.

Sad news from football this week as it was announced that Sylvia Gore, the scorer of the first official goal for the England’s women team, has died from cancer at the age of 71.

In 1972 she scored England’s first goal in a 3-2 win against Scotland in Greenock.

Gore had a career in football that spanned over 60 years.  As a player she once scored 134 goals in a season.  After her playing career ended, she went on to become Wales manager.  She was also an FA Women’s committee member for 20 years.  Earlier this year she was unveiled as a Manchester City Women’s FC Club Ambassador.

Rugby Union

England Rugby has announced the Elite Player Squad for 2016/17 season.  As reported in an earlier column, this will be the first time England has awarded 15-a-side professional contracts.

The 54 names are split into full-time, part-time, short-term and non-contracted players.  38 contracts have so far been awarded.

The move is with the Women’s Rugby World Cup in mind, which takes place in Ireland in August 2017, where England will be looking to retain their title.

Full time contracts – 18
Claire Allan (Saracens)
Abbie Brown (Bristol)
Rachael Burford (n/a)
Amy Cokayne (Lichfield)
Heather Fisher (n/a)
Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens)
Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
Megan Jones (Bristol)
Alex Matthews (Richmond)
Sarah McKenna (Saracens)
Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park)
Marlie Packer (Bristol)
Amber Reed (Bristol)
Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
Emily Scott (Thurrock)
Danielle Waterman (Bristol)
Kay Wilson (Richmond)
Amy Wilson Hardy (Bristol)

Part time – 9
Natasha Brennan (n/a)
Lauren Cattell (Saracens)
Lotte Clapp (Saracens)
Deborah Fleming (Saracens)
Katie Mason (Bristol)
Fran Matthews (Richmond)
Kelly Smith (Worcester Valkyries)
Millie Wood (Lichfield)
Rachael Woosey (Darlington Mowden Park)

Short Term – 11
Emily Braund (Lichfield)
Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries)
Vickii Cornborough (Aylesford Bulls)
Sarah Hunter (Bristol)
Laura Keates (Worcester Valkyries)
LaToya Mason (Darlington Mowden Park)
Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield)
Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol)
Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park)
Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park)
Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries)

Non Contracted – 16
Sasha Acheson (Bristol)
Zoe Aldcroft (Darlington Mowden Park)
Sarah Bern (Bristol)
Bianca Blackburn (Worcester Valkyries)
Poppy Cleall (Bristol)
Emma Croker (Richmond)
Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries)
Abby Dow (Wasps)
Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park)
Ceri Large (Worcester Valkyries)
Poppy Leitch (Bristol)
Justine Lucas (Lichfield)
Fiona Pocock (Aylesford Bulls)
Alice Richardson (n/a)
Leanne Riley (Aylesford Bulls)
Joanne Watmore (n/a)

England’s upcoming fixtures:

 Old Mutual Wealth Series:

England v France, Wednesday 9 November,The Twickenham Stoop 7.30pm

England v New Zealand, Saturday 19 November, The Twickenham Stoop 12pm

England v Canada, Saturday 26 November,Twickenham 5.05pm
Free entry after the men’s game

Also one-off:

Ireland v England, Sunday 13 November,University College Dublin 2pm
 

Sailing news from Abby Ehler

Paralympics from the British side: Helena Lucas, who became Britain’s first Paralympic sailing champion winning gold at London 2012 sailing the 2.4mR, 1-person keelboat is defending her Gold medal and currently leading the fleet, with more racing scheduled over the next few days, weather permitting.  In the 3-person Keelboat, Hannah Stodel and her team mates who have been together for 4 consecutive Games are currently placed 5th in the fleet with 5 races to go and all to play for.

In the single handed offshore racing circuit, Justine Mettraux (SUI) and Sophie Faguet (FRA) are 150 miles from their finish, having been at sea since September 10th up against gruelling conditions as they race from the Azores to France in the 15-strong fleet. The teams are expected into Douarnenez, near Brest this weekend.  Justine is currently lying in a respectable 7th place, neck and neck with 3 other competitors, so it will be a nail biting finish for the leading pack.

 

 

Women’s Sports Column

stumps26-12 February (with a bit of the week before)

Lots to catch up on this week so I’ll crack on. Stories from tennis, rugby union, judo, rowing, speed skating, netball and cricket.

Although the week before last passed me by in a blur, I did have time to digest the final of the Australian Open tennis. Serena Williams was odds-on favourite, but didn’t count on the sheer dogged fighting ability of seventh seed, Angelique Kerber. She took the match 6-4 3-6 6-4. It was only Williams’ fifth defeat in 26 Grand Slam finals.

The first round of Six Nations fixtures took place last weekend.

England made a good start with an impressive 32-0 win over Scotland in Cumbernauld. They scored five tries from Cattell, Millar-Mills (2), Hunter and Demaine. Other points came from conversions by Reed and Cattell and one penalty from Reed. Harriet Millar-Mills took player of the match but Scotland can take heart from the fact they showed significant improvement on recent performances, particularly in defence.

On Saturday Ireland beat Wales 21-3. Ireland started well with tries from Naoupu and Spence with the only response a penalty from Wilkins. It was a much tighter affair in the second half but Ireland rarely looked troubled. They managed to put over two more penalties, but, for all their pressure, couldn’t add to their tally of tries.

In the third game of the weekend, tournament favourites France also made an impressive start, defeating Italy 39-0. France were still smarting from the defeat they suffered at the Italians’ hands in 2015 – a defeat that cost them the Grand Slam and clearly revenge was on their minds. A record crowd of 6,771 saw France dominate from the off, especially in the first half. Billes scored the first try and Forlani the second and by the time the third try was scored by Mignot, only 23 minutes had gone and so had the game for Italy. France went in 20-0 up at half time and hungry for more. A penalty try, another from Forlani and a sixth for Poublan wrapped up the game for Les Bleues – is there anyone who can stop them from taking the title this year?

This weekend’s second round sees Ireland up against France in Perpignon and Italy against England in Ivrea on Saturday 13 and Wales v Scotland in Neath on Sunday 14.

In other rugby news, and an exciting development for Welsh rugby, Sian Williams has become Wales’ first ever professional female rugby player. The 25-year old flanker has been working for the Royal Air Force and travelling from Oxford to Cardiff to train with the Welsh side.

“I would spend around 12 hours a week in the car, travelling back and forth, so it was difficult to get a good balance between work and rugby. That will not happen anymore – that time can be spent training,” she told the BBC.

“So it is a dream come true to be Wales’ first female rugby player with elite athlete status. Hopefully this is just the start and more women will become full-time too.

“People are going to look at me and say ‘you’re full-time’, so there is a little bit of pressure, but I like pressure. It is really exciting and I have got to make sure I push myself forward and make the most of the opportunity.

The 2016 Vitality Netball Superleague got underway on 30 January with its Super Saturday event at the Genting Arena in Birmingham. All eight teams took part and the results were:

Celtic Dragons                                   39-60     Hertfordshire Mavericks

Yorkshire Jets                                    34-65     Loughborough Lightning

Manchester Thunder                     59-37     Team Northumbria

Team Bath                                          47-44     Surrey Storm

It was a fabulous occasion and brilliantly broadcast by SkySports as part of their “Netball Month”. The second week of fixtures took place last week:

Yorkshire Jets                                    38-58     Team Bath

Surrey Storm                                     57-35     Team Northumbria

Hertfordshire Mavericks               48-44     Loughborough Lightning

Team Northumbria                         45-62     Hertfordshire Mavericks

Most of the games are covered on Sky and well worth tuning into if you are able.

Loughborough Lightning suffered a blow this week when one of their stars, Sasha Corbin, was ruled out for the rest of the season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, sustained in only the second game of the season.

In judo, Sally Conway (-70kg) and Natalie Powell (-78kg) won Britain’s first medals at the Paris Grand Slam since 2008. They won Bronze in their respective categories on 8 February. Powell met teammate Gemma Gibbons in the bronze medal match, which Powell won three shidos to one. Conway’s tournament was altogether more complicated. After losing the quarter-final, her repechage opponent, world number one Kim Polling, withdrew through injury. Then, even stranger, her semi-final opponent, Estelle Fanny Posvite, was disqualified before the bout and, as you may have seen in the media, Conway was left bowing to an empty mat!

Bad news from rowing as Olympic gold medallist Anna Watkins has withdrawn from the team training for the Rio games. Watkins had recently returned to training after a three-year break, but after having tests this week, Watkins has announced that she doesn’t feel she is at the necessary level to compete.

Scottish Short track speed skater Elise Christie won gold in the 1500m at the Dresden World Cup this week. She finished in two minutes 41 seconds, 20 seconds ahead of Choi Min-jeong and Alang Kim, both of South Korea. Christie is in fine form, having won the overall European Championships short track title in January. Christie has to be one of the most under-valued (amongst many, admittedly) sportswomen in Britain. She consistently performs at the highest level, but largely goes unnoticed. If you get the chance to check her out, please take it – it’s a good watch.

In cricket England started their tour of South Africa with a win in their first ODI on Sunday 7 February. It was a rain-hit match, and this unfortunately sucked the life out it, but England showed good signs in both batting and bowling. The fielding will need to be sharper as two relatively straightforward catches went down – could be more costly against better opposition. South Africa are ever-improving and the rest of the series will be competitive, weather permitting.

The stats:

England 150 for 3 (Taylor 41*) beat South Africa 196 (Chetty 90, Shrubsole 4-29) by seven wickets (DLS method)

Player of the match was the excellent Anya Shrubsole. For a more in-depth match report please read my piece for Women’s Sports UK.

The next match at SuperSport Park, Centurion on Friday 12 and will be on TMS and online, with the third on Sunday 14 at the Wanderers, Johannesburg. The second ODI will also be Sarah Taylor’s 100th.

More good news for the England cricket team as Natalie Sciver has recovered sufficiently from an ankle injury to be selected for the T20 squad to play South Africa next week. The series of three begins on 18 with the other two following on quickly on 19 and 21 February in Paarl, Cape Town and Johannesburg respectively. All will be broadcast on Test Match Special and Sky, with the latter two as double-headers with the men’s side.

And finally, (yes it’s back), I am happy to announce that I am now Chief Cricket Correspondent for http://www.womenssportsuk.com/. I have been writing for the site for a while, but I’m really pleased to be joining the team on a more involved basis. So, if I may be so bold, please keep an eye on that fabulous site – it’s got everything you need to know about women’s sport. I’ll still be posting on my blog, though so don’t give up on it – you can read both!