Women’s Sports Column 18-24 May 2019

speedometerWelcome to this week’s column.  Not for the first time, last week’s offering was full of FA frustration.  Hopefully this week’s will be a bit calmer (stranger things have happened, although I can’t think of many).

News and results this week come from netball (didn’t see that result coming), motor racing, cricket, taekwondo, tennis, basketball, hockey, rugby league and football.

Let’s crack on……

Motor Racing – on the Track

It was Round Two of the W Series last weekend.  Dutch driver Beitske Visser took the win with Jamie Chadwick and Alice Powell in second and third respectively.

Visser dominated the race, leading from start to finish.

There were two safety car periods; one when Sarah Tovy’s car got stuck on the grid at the start and one when Gosia Rdest and Esmee Hawkey collided.

Chadwick started on pole, but was overtaken by Visser at the start.  The Briton is still top of the leaderboard after this weekend’s result.

The third round is in Misano, Italy on 8 June.

Motor Racing – Off the Track

It was also confirmed this week that Jamie Chadwick has been offered a role as development driver with the Williams Formula 1 team.

Of course, Williams already have form for promoting women in motorsport.  Susie Wolff was a development driver for the team before she retired in 2015 and, of course deputy team principal is Claire Williams who said of the move,

“Promoting women in motorsport is extremely important and having a female role model as part of our driver academy will hopefully inspire young girls to take up racing at a young age.

“We hope to show that motorsport is inclusive and exciting, be that as a driver or on the engineering side. Jamie is a great talent and I look forward to working with her.”

Football

Champions League

Olympique Lyonnais 4-1 Barcelona

Yet another emphatic win for Lyon as they produced an exceptional first-half performance to mean that even in this season of ridiculous comebacks, the deficit was just too much for Barcelona to overcome after the break.

Ballon d’Or winner and now BBC Women’s Footballer of the year (see below), Ada Hegerberg, hit a hat-trick in the first-half.

If Toni Duggan had hit the target early on, rather than shooting wide, perhaps it would have been different.

Shanice Van de Sanden also starred, setting up the first two goals for Dzsenifer Marozsan and Hegerberg with excellent crosses.

Hegerberg then scored two more – a hat-trick in just 16 minutes and Lyon were four up by half-time.

Asisat Oshoala pulled one back for Barcelona late on, but it was a meagre consolation.

Nikita Parris

And it appears Lyon will only be stronger next season as it was announced this week that England’s Nikita Parris has signed for the French champions.  She will have to prove herself to make a place in such a successful side, but if anyone can, Parris can.

BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2019

Ada Hegerberg has been named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2019.

As we already know, she has had yet another excellent season, culminating in her Champions League final hat-trick.  This season she scored 29 goals in 33 games for Lyon and the team won the French league (again) and French Cup as well as the Champions League title.

Pernille Harder was second and Sam Kerr third.  It is Hegerberg’s second title, having also won it in 2017.

It is just a shame that we won’t get to see her playing for Norway in the World Cup.

England

Talking of which, there are two warm-up matches coming up for England as they continue to prepare for the World Cup:

England v Denmark (25 May, Banks’s Stadium, Walsall, 1pm kick-off, live on the BBC)
England v New Zealand (1 June, Amex Stadium, Brighton, 1pm kick-off, live on the BBC)

Scotland

Scotland also play a warm-up:

Scotland v Jamaica (28 May, Hampden Park, Glasgow, 7.35m kick-off)

Wales

Wales play New Zealand in a friendly before they begin their 2021 Euros qualification campaign:

Wales v New Zealand (4 June, Leckwith Stadium, Cardiff, 7pm kick-off)

Netball – on the Court

Manchester Thunder 57-52 Wasps Netball

Well I can honestly say I didn’t see this result coming.  Wasps have been so dominant this year, I thought it was practically a foregone conclusion that they would win the Grand Final, but that, without hopefully sounding too sententious, is the beauty of sport.

Wasps started well and were leading throughout the first quarter. In fact, Thunder didn’t come into their own until half way through the second quarter, when they took the lead for the first time.

At the beginning of the third quarter Wasps roared back and went back into the lead, but couldn’t hold it and the lead changed hands almost with every goal.

It looked as if Wasps had regained their equilibrium towards the end of the third quarter, and going into the final period they had a lead of 45-39.

But it was the Thunder who took the initiative in the fourth and final quarter.  They achieved two turnovers in the first few minutes and from that point never looked back, scoring 19 goals in the last quarter as they secured their third Super League title.

Team Bath 62-56 Loughborough Lightning

By half-time Lightning had a five-goal lead at 30-25, but were unable to maintain their form until the final whistle.

But Bath came back in the third, scoring 18 to Loughborough’s 14 and reducing the deficit to just one.

But it was in the fourth quarter that Bath took control, scoring 19 goals to Loughborough’s 12, giving them a six point victory and a third place finish.

Netball – off the Court

England Roses Squad

Tracey Neville has named her squad of 12 for the World Cup in July.  One person who will not be there is captain Ama Agbeze who has been left out due to ongoing injury.

Unsurprisingly Agbeze is devastated to be missing out.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“I think I’m dealing with it quite well but I’m really disappointed.

“I feel like I’m at peace with the decision, which I never thought I would say because I’m usually a wreck.

“It wouldn’t be fair for me to go not to my full capacity. I did think I had time but obviously that has been taken out of my hands.”

Agbeze has been a star for England, leading them to the historic Commonwealth gold medal last year.  Let’s hope she can come back from injury and fight her way back into the team.

The squad in full:

Defence
Geva Mentor, GK
Eboni Usoro-Brown, GK/GD
Fran Williams, GK/GD
Layla Guscoth, GD/WD

Centre court
Jade Clarke, WD/C
Serena Guthrie, WD/C
Natalie Panagarry, WD/C/WA
Chelsea Pitman, WA

Shooters
Natalie Haythornthwaite, WA/GA
Helen Housby, GA/GS
Jo Harten, GS/GA
Rachel Dunn, GS/GA

It is a squad combining youth and experience with Geva Mentor, Rachel Dunn and Jade Clarke, all into their mid-thirties.  Eight of the squad played in the Commonwealth Games with just two making their big tournament debuts, Layala Guscoth and Fran Williams.  There is also a well-earned place for Loughborough Lightning captain Nat Pangarry.

You realise the strength of English netball when you realise who won’t be there; Agbeze, Sasha and Kadeen Corbin and Jodie Gibson all miss out.

Hockey – FIH Pro League

Great Britain 2-0 Belgium

The first-half was goalless, but Great Britain took the lead in the third quarter through Grace Balsdon.  Lily Owsley bagged the second.

Great Britain are now sixth in the table.

Next up is Germany at the Lee Valley Centre on 6 June.

Basketball – WBBL

Sevenoaks Suns won the play-off title for the second year running on Saturday, beating Leicester Riders in the final at the 02 Arena 60-55.

It was a tight game throughout and with four minutes to go the two sides were locked at 50-50.  But Sevenoaks stretched ahead to win the tie by five.

Suns’ top scorer was Janice Monakana with 23 points, while Riders’ was Brea Elmore with 17.

Tennis

Rome Open

Jo Konta got through to the Rome final with an excellent comeback against sixth seed Kiki Bertens in her semi-final, 5-7 7-5 6-2.

In the other semi-final, fourth seed Karolina Pliskova beat Maria Sakkari 6-4 6-4.

However, Konta fell short in the final, losing to Pliskova 6-3 6-4.

Konta’s performance at the Rome Open has earned her a seeding in the French Open, which starts on 26 May.

Strasbourg Open

We are at the semi-final stage of the Strasbourg Open.  Top seed Ash Barty withdrew at the round of 32 stage with an arm injury.  Hopefully she will be fit for the French Open.

The semi-finals look like this:

Dayana Yastremska (6) v Aryna Sabalenka (2)
Chloe Paquet v Caroline Garcia (4)

We are also in the midst of qualifying for the French Open.  Katie Swan is one win away from making the main draw and will face Slovakian Kristina Kucova in the final round, but Heather Watson is out, falling to world 193 Valentini Grammatikopoulou 7-5 6-7 7-6.

In the first round proper, Katie Boulter is scheduled to play 23rd seed Donna Vekic, although Boulter may still be nursing a back injury and the match could be in doubt.  Jo Konta is scheduled to play a qualifier.

There are some fascinating first round match-ups in prospect, including Jelena Ostapenko v Victoria Azarenka (both unseeded), Aryna Sabalenka v Dominika Cibulkova, Barbora Strycova v Sam Stosur and Venus Williams v ninth seed Elina Svitolina.

Taekwondo

Great Britain’s top two, Bianca Walkden and Jade Jones, duly claimed gold in their respective categories at the World Championships in Manchester last week – but in very different circumstances.

Bianca Walkden claimed her third successive world title after a bout mired in controversy.  She was 21-10 down to Olympic champion Shuyin Zheng of China, when Walkden forced her opponent into conceding penalties, aggressively getting her off the mat.  Eventually Zheng was disqualified.

Although Walkden fought within the rules, there was booing when she was declared champion and more boos when she received her medal on the podium.  Zheng refused to acknowledge the Briton’s win and then collapsed in tears on the podium when she received her medal.

Jade Jones finally secured the world title that had eluded her, after previously winning two Olympic golds.  She beat defending champion Lee Ah-reum of South Korea in the final 14-7.

A big shout-out too, to Aaliyah Powell, who became Britain’s youngest taekwondo medallist when she won bronze in the -53kg category.

Rugby League

I managed to miss the rugby league results last week, so here they are:

Super League – 12 May
Wigan Warriors 4-12 Leeds Rhinos
Castleford Tigers 30-14 St Helens
Wakefield Trinity 8-40 Featherstone Rovers
York City Knights 4-40 Bradford Bulls

So after four rounds of fixtures, Castleford Tigers are top with four wins from four and eight points. Then follow Bradford, St Helens and Leeds all on six points, but in this order on points difference.

Cricket – County Championship

Last weekend’s County Championship results:

Division One
Kent 235/7 (47.4 overs) 16 points beat Hampshire 233/6 (50 overs) 7 points
Nottinghamshire 207/9 (50 overs) 18 points beat Warwickshire 203/9 (50 overs) 8 points
Sussex 176/7 (50 overs) 5 points lost to Surrey 177/5 (47.2 overs) 16 points
Yorkshire 160/5 (48.3 overs) 17 points beat Lancashire 158 all out (46.2 overs) 5 points

Division Two
Cricket Wales 163/8 (50 overs) 12 points TIED with Middlesex 163 all out (47.4 overs) 11 points
Devon 203/5 (48.1 overs) 9 points ABANDONED Berkshire 22/2 (5 overs) Revised target 213 from 50 overs 7 points
Durham 152 all out (47.4 overs) 17 points beat Worcestershire 121 all out (43.4 overs) 6 points
Essex 124/9 (49.3 overs) 16 points beat Somerset 123 all out (45 overs) 6 points

England v West Indies

As I’m not here next week, I’d thought I’d just remind you of the upcoming England fixtures.  Tickets are still available, so if you’re in the vicinity, get out and watch the women in action.

West Indies have suffered a blow before the series starts with the withdrawal from the squad of Deandra Dottin through injury.  Her place is taken by Britney Cooper.

West Indies squad: Stafanie Taylor (capt), Shemaine Campbelle, Britney Cooper, Afy Fletcher, Chinelle Henry, Stacy-Ann King, Kycia Knight (wk), Kyshona Knight, Natasha McLean, Hayley Matthews, Chedean Nation, Karishma Ramharack, Shakera Selman.

There are three ODIs, all of which qualify for ICC Women’s Championship points.  There are also three T20s.

ODIs
First ODI, Thursday 6 June, Grace Road Leicester, 2pm start
Second ODI, Sunday 9 June, New Road Worcester, 11am start
Third ODI, Thursday 13 June, County Ground Chelmsford, 2pm start

T20s
First T20, Tuesday 18 June, County Ground Northampton, 7pm start
Second T20, Friday 21 June, County Ground Northampton, 7pm start
Third T20, Tuesday 25 June, County Ground Derby, 7pm start

And Finally,

It’s not just the FA that sets the bar high in incompetence.  It seems that FiFA too (are we surprised) are excelling themselves once again.  There have been reports – and it is a number, not just one or two – that groups or families just receiving their World Cup tickets, have been split up and are sitting in different places.  Are these people who have ordered at the last minute and are picking up the odd one?  No, these appear to be people who have been in from the start.  Let’s just hope the problem isn’t as widespread as it first appears and that everyone has a fabulous experience in France.

No column next week as I’m out and about. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 11-17 May 2019

netball2Welcome to this week’s column.  Going to be a bit brief this week due to competing priorities.  But hopefully all that should be covered will be covered!

News and stories this week come from netball, golf, football, tennis, cricket and taekwondo.

Netball

The top two finishers in the league will contest the Super League Grand Final on…

Wasps Netball 74-54 Loughborough Lightning

Wasps showed why they finished the regular season so far ahead with a demolition of Loughborough at the University of Warwick Sports and Wellness Hub.

Wasps coach Mel Mansfield made no changes throughout the match and the team seemed to get stronger, possibly because of it.

Lightning actually made the better start and were one goal ahead after the first quarter.  In the second, Wasps came back and by half-time they were three ahead.

In the second-half Wasps found an extra gear and were dominant throughout.  They were soon ahead by six and then by nine at the end of quarter three.

They reinforced their dominance in the last fifteen minutes, taking the margin of victory out to an impressive 20 goals.

It was altogether tighter in the second semi-final.

Manchester Thunder 57-54 Team Bath

Bath started well, taking a four-goal lead after ten minutes, but Thunder got into their game and before the end of the first they were ahead and although Bath levelled it at various points, Thunder were never behind again in the match.

It was nip and tuck in the second and going into half-time Thunder were only one goal ahead.

Thunder started well in the third and although Bath came back, going into the last quarter Thunder were five in front.

Bath pulled it back while Thunder spent minutes just holding possession, but in the end Thunder were just too strong, maintaining their three goal lead until the final whistle.

The Grand Final is this weekend at the Copper Box in London.  The third-place play-off, between Loughborough Lightning and Team Bath starts at 3pm, with the final at 5.30pm, where Wasps will be going for their third title in a row.  I thought both games were going to be live on Sky, but it appears that they are now only showing the final, which is a shame.

England Roses

There was a blow this week for England as Beth Cobden ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament playing for Adelaide Thunderbirds on Sunday and is out of the World Cup.

She suffered the same injury during the Super League Grand Final in 2018 and had only just returned to competition.

Football

It was the final round of matches in both the Super League and Championship last weekend.  The results were as follows:

FAWSL

Yeovil Town 0-2 Birmingham City
Wellings 59’, Mason 64’ (OG)

Reading 2-3 Chelsea
Harding 50’, Williams 52’
So-yun Ji 8’, Carney 51’, England 64’

Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City
Mitchell 88’

West Ham United 0-4 Brighton & Hove Albion
Green 21’, Connolly 39’, Nilden 79’, Brazil 93’

Liverpool 3-1 Everton
Sweetman-Kirk 26’, Charles 31’, Rodgers 88’
Stringer 39’

Arsenal left it late to seal their win, but finished the season with 54 points from their 20 games, losing just two along the way.  Manchester City were second on 47 with Chelsea third on 42.

FAWC

Sheffield United 6-0 Millwall Lionesses
Gilliatt 11’, Rayner 17’, Salmon 36’ (Pen) 63’, Pennock 59’ 83’

Durham 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Filbey 60’ 90’

Manchester United 5-0 Lewes
James 11’, Sigsworth 33’, Galton 66’, Palmer 74’, Turner 78’

Charlton Athletic 4-0 Leicester City
Graham 1’ 63’ 92’, Ejupi 49’

Aston Villa 0-0 Crystal Palace

Manchester United were confirmed as Champions, ending with 55 points from 20 matches, suffering just one draw and one defeat all season.  Tottenham were promoted in second on 46 with Charlton Athletic third on 41.

That’s the domestic season wrapped up.  Now just the small matter of a World Cup to come.  Speaking of which…..

Scotland World Cup Squad

Shelley Kerr named her squad on Wednesday.  Rachel Corsie will captain the team and the squad comprises:

Goalkeepers: Lee Alexander, Jenna Fife, Shannon Lynn

Defenders: Chloe Arthur, Jennifer Beattie, Rachel Corsie, Nicola Docherty, Sophie Howard, Hayley Lauder, Joelle Murray, Kirsty Smith.

Midfielders: Elizabeth Arnot, Leanne Crichton, Kim Little, Joanne Love, Christie Murray, Caroline Weir.

Forwards: Fiona Brown, Lana Clelland, Erin Cuthbert, Claire Emslie, Lisa Evans, Jane Ross.

Transfers

Ellen White has left Birmingham City to join Manchester City on a two-year contract.  This is very disappointing for the Blues who had a good season and will be looking to build on their progress in 2019-20.  In a statement she said,

“I want to be in an environment and with a group of players that have that same winning mentality, that same professionalism, that same commitment and passion, and I think that’s a great fit at City.”

I’m not quite sure why she thinks Birmingham don’t have a “winning mentality” or “that same professionalism” – I’m hoping this is not a euphemism for having a lot of money to throw at it.  Either way, Birmingham fans probably won’t be pleased at the comment.

Millwall Lionesses

What is going on at Millwall?  After nearly going into administration in April, it was saved by nearly £17,500 raised through crowdfunding.

Now the Lionesses’ board of directors and senior management have broken away from the parent club and plan to go it alone.

The FA, in its infinite wisdom, has apparently approved “in principle” the formation of a “new” club, the London City Lionesses, which could take Millwall’s place in the Championship if it fulfils all of the qualifying criteria.

There is obviously a lot going on behind the scenes here, but one of the FA’s aims in the latest restructuring of the women’s game was to make it stable and sustainable.  With Yeovil’s administration, Sunderland’s woes and Millwall’s complicated story, I think we can safely say it has a long way to go before we reach this point.

Champions League Final

This Saturday sees the final of the Champions League in Budapest.  In our most parochial manner it is Lucy Bronze and Jess Fishlock against Toni Duggan!  Kick-off is 5pm BST and there is live text commentary on the BBC website.

Taekwondo

The World Championships are taking place from 15-19 May in Manchester.

Bianca Walkden is through to the final in the +73kg category, having won two fights before beating Briseida Acosta of Mexico in the semi-final 19-9.

She faces Shuyin Zheng of China in the final on Friday 17 May – the same fighter who beat Walkden in the Rio Olympics semi-final.

Still to come over the weekend we have Jade Jones in the -57kg, Aaliyah Powell in the -53kg and Lauren Williams in the -67kg,

Tennis – on the Court

Madrid Open

Seventh seed Kiki Bertens pulled off a fine win to take the Madrid title, beating third seed Simona Halep in straight sets 6-4 6-4.

Bertens had beaten eighth seed Sloane Stephens in her semi-final 6-2 7-5, while Halep overcame the unseeded Belinda Bencic in hers, 6-2 6-7 6-0.

In the doubles, fifth seeds Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova beat sixth seeds Xu Yifan and Gabriela Dabrowski in straight sets, 6-3 6-1.

Rome Open

It’s been an incident-packed tournament in Rome this week.  Serena Williams pulled out with a knee injury before her third round tie against sister Venus.  Jo Konta is still in the running, having had to complete two matches on Thursday.  First she beat seventh seed Sloane Stephens in three sets 6-7 6-4 6-1 and then an injury-hampered Venus Williams in straight sets 6-2 6-4.

After withdrawing from the Stuttgart Open through injury, top seed Naomi Osaka has again pulled out in Rome, before the start of her quarter-final with Kiki Bertens.  Bertens now receives a bye into the semis.

There are now only two seeds left standing; Bertens (6) and Pliskova (4).

The other quarter-finals looks like this:

Marketa Vonrousova v Jo Konta
Victoria Azarenka v Karolina Pliskova (4)
Kristina Mladenovic v Maria Sakkari

Tennis – off the Court

American player and world number 117, Nicole Gibbs, has been forced to withdraw from the French

Open after being diagnosed with salivary gland cancer.

The growth on the roof of her mouth was spotted by her dentist.  A biopsy showed it to be cancerous.

Gibbs will have surgery this Friday.  In a statement Gibbs said,

“Fortunately this form of cancer has a great prognosis and my surgeon is confident that surgery alone will be sufficient treatment.

“He even okayed me to play an extra couple of tournaments these past few weeks, which served as a nice distraction.”

She hopes to make a return at Wimbledon qualifying in June.

Golf

There was good news for women’s golf this week as the organisers of the Northern Ireland Open announced that men and women will compete for equal prize money.

It will be called the World Invitational and the $500,000 prize fund will be split equally between the men’s challenger event and the women’s event.

Cricket

T20 Challenge Final
Velocity 121/6 (20 overs)
Supernovas 125/6 (20 overs)
Supernovas won by 4 wickets with 0 balls remaining

It was a bad start for Velocity, whose top five mustered 30 between them, including a five-ball duck for Dani Wyatt.  They were rescued, somewhat, by Sushma Verma who scored 40 not out from 32 balls and 36 from New Zealander Amelia Kerr.

Lea Tahuhu took 2/21 from her four overs while the other wickets were shared around.

In response, Chamari Atapattu went early for just two, but fellow opener Priya Punia scored 29, Jemima Rodrigues 22 and Harmanpreet Kaur 55 from 37.  Both Punia and Rodrigues fell when the score was 53 and although Kaur steadied the ship, Supernovas wobbled again when the overseas stars Nat Sciver and Sophie Devine fell for two and three respectively.

Kaur was out in the last over with just four balls to go of the Amelia Kerr over and seven runs still to get.  They had Radha Yadav on strike and Lea Tahuhu at the other end.  Yadav scored two from the third ball, two from the fourth ball, two from the fifth ball and then Yadav drove the last ball for four and Supernovas took the match by four wickets.

County Cricket

Results from the fixtures on 12 May in the first and second divisions of the County Championship were as follows (home side first):

Division One
Hampshire 128 all out (45.4 overs) 6 points lost to Sussex 129/9 (46.4 overs) 16 points
Lancashire 241/6 (50 overs) 18 points beat Nottinghamshire 195/9 (50 overs) 5 points
Surrey 148 all out (44.1 overs) 3 points lost to Kent 152/3 (30.1 overs) 18 points
Warwickshire 108 all out (47.1 overs) 6 points lost to Yorkshire 112 all out (42.1 overs) 16 points

After three matches, Kent are top with 53 points.  Lancashire are one point behind and Sussex are way behind in third on 39.

Division Two
Berkshire 160 all out (43.3 overs) 17 points beat Somerset 86 all out (25.4 overs) 5 points
Cricket Wales 211 all out (50 overs) 17 points beat Essex 139/8 (50 overs) 6 points
Durham 171/6 (50 overs) 4 points lost to Middlesex 173/4 (44.3 overs) 15 points
Worcestershire 69 all out (32.1 overs) 0 points lost to Devon 70/1(16.4 overs) 18 points

We’re three games down in division two also, with Devon at the top on 52 points.  Behind them are Berkshire on 51 and Wales on 39.

More news and views next week as we hurtle headlong into this mad summer of top-class women’s sport!

 

Women’s Sports Column 15-21 December 2018

IMG-20160720-00581Welcome to the last Women’s Sports Column of 2018.  It’s been an invigorating, strange, frustrating, air-punching year, punctuated by big highs and fairly rotten lows.  On the whole, I’d say women’s sport (with some exceptions) is on the up.  The respect for female athletes is improving and attendances and viewing figures are improving.

But it only takes me a minute to cast my eye over some of my “And finally” sections this year to realise that there is still work to do, attitudes to change and sexism to rigorously call out.

Anyway, for the final time this year, here are stories from football, cricket, darts, rugby union, taekwondo, SPOTY, sailing and cycling.

Let’s crack on…

Sports Personality of the Year

I’ve honestly never seen so much hot air in my life as that generated by the SPOTY shortlist/winners/event.  Really folks if you are so outraged about this as a subject, you must have had a very easy life not noticing the things in the real world that are going on around you.

Is it disappointing that Georgia Hall was not shortlisted?  Yes.  Is it disappointing that neither of the two women shortlisted made it into the top three?  Yes.  Is it the end of life as we know it because Harry Kane didn’t win?  No.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all so subjective that it’s not worth worrying about.  The contenders’ accomplishments are facts, but when it comes to voting, if you don’t like athletics or cycling or perhaps, women, then you’re not going to vote for them.  Football supporters are particularly one-eyed, as we all know.

The shortlist: Harry Kane, Geraint Thomas, Lewis Hamilton, Dina Asher-Smith, Lizzy Yarnold, James Anderson.

The top three:
Geraint Thomas
Lewis Hamilton
Harry Kane

I have my own preferences, as I’m sure you all do.  I would have liked to have seen Dina Asher- Smith win it, but it was always, I’m afraid, unlikely.

But the women did well elsewhere.  Two awards for the England Roses; Greatest Sporting Moment of the Year for their Commonwealth Games win against Australia and Team of the Year.  It’s a pity that Tracey Neville didn’t win Coach of the Year, but that was always going to be Gareth Southgate (perfectly nice man and nothing against him) for winning nothing and wearing a waistcoat.

The Unsung Hero award went to 28-year old Kirsty Ewen, swimming coach with Inverness ASC.  Kirsty had issues with her mental health since her teenage years and was reluctant to become a volunteer.  Now she says, “volunteering in sport saved my life” and although she still experiences difficult patches, her swimming coaching lessens the effects and gives her joy and the chance to inspire others.  There’s a great short film about her on the BBC website.  Check it out here.

The Lifetime Achievement award went to Billie Jean King.  As you will all know, King no only had an outstanding tennis career (35 singles and doubles Grand Slam titles, including 20 Wimbledon titles), but has spent her whole life fighting for equality in sports for women.  She founded the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and was its first president.  She and then husband Larry King also founded the Women’s Sports Foundation, specifically aimed at ensuring that all girls and women have access to sport.

She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and was awarded the highest US civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Obama in 2009.

Football

Continental Cup Draw

The quarter-final draw was made this week:
Manchester United v West Ham United
Chelsea v Reading
Manchester City v Brighton & Hove Albion
Arsenal v Birmingham City

Ties will take place 9-10 January 2019

Sailing

British Yachting Awards

I am most happy to say that Dee Caffari duly won the Pro Sailor of the Year award at the British Yachting Awards last week.  It was a good night all round for female sailors:

Maria Stanley was awarded Amateur Sailor of the Year, Emily Mueller was Youth Sailor of the Year, while the Outstanding Achievement Award went to Tracy Edwards MBE.

Cricket

Ireland Women

There was excellent news from Cricket Ireland this week as it announced it is to offer professional contracts to some women players in 2019.  The number has not been specified and the contracts will be part-time, but it is a veritable step forward for Irish cricket.

Cricket Ireland chief executive, Warren Deutrom, said,

“We are delighted to become one of a very select number of sports in Ireland to offer professional contracts to women players.  It has been an ambition of ours for a number of years, and we now find ourselves in the position to push ahead with this much-needed improvement to our sport.

“The professionalism shown by our senior women’s team during preparation, qualification and performance at the recent ICC T20 World Cup was a demonstration that this side of our sport is ready to progress and grow.

“Like we did with the men’s side a number of years ago, we will now bring a measured approach to player contracts. A small number of part-time contracts will be offered in early 2019, with the plan to expand this programme over subsequent years.”

WBBL

December 15
Hobart Hurricanes 133/5 (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 155/3 (14.4 /15 overs – target 152)
Sixers won by 7 wickets (DLS)

The Hurricanes had reached 112/4 off 14 when the rain came, causing the match to be reduced to 15 overs.  England captain Heather Knight scored 51 not out off 35 balls.  The target was revised to 152 via DLS.

The Sixers openers for once went cheaply, Alyssa Healy for 8 and Ellyse Perry for 10.  But Ash Gardner powered her way to 79 not out from 50 balls, supported ably by Erin Burns with 43 from just 20 balls.   When Burns was out, Sara McGlashan came in and she and Gardner squeaked home with two balls remaining, McGlashan hitting a four to win it.

Adelaide Strikers 132 all out (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 134/4 (17.3 overs)
Thunder won by six wickets

If it hadn’t been for captain Suzie Bates, this might have been much, much worse for the Strikers.  Opening the innings with Tahlia McGrath, she anchored the innings, scoring 79 not out from 60 balls.

But the support was not there.  The only other Strikers player to reach double figures was Alex Price, coming in at number 10.  Rene Farrell took 3/12 from four overs, Stafanie Taylor 3/36 from her four and Maisy Gibson 3/23 from four.

The chase was measured and untroubled.  Rachel Priest opening scored 58 not out and although Taylor was run out for a duck, Stalenberg (19) and Kaur (33) broke the back of the target and it was left to Nicola Carey to score the winning runs, ending the game with a boundary.

Melbourne Stars 124/9 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 125/2 (19 overs)
Scorchers won by 8 wickets

Stars lost wickets disappointingly regularly in this innings and their top-scorer was Georgia Elwiss with just 26.  The wickets were shared across seven bowlers.

The Scorchers took their time with the chase, anchored by captain Elyse Villani, who scored 52 not out from 49 balls.  Amy Jones went for just five, but Nicole Bolton (23) and Heather Graham (39 not out) steered it home with one over remaining.

December 16
Brisbane Heat 174/8 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 153/7 (20 overs)
Heat won by 21 runs

Sammy-Jo Johnson top-scored for the Heat with 31 and there were other solid contributions from Beth Mooney (25), Jess Jonassen (26) and Laura Harris (29) as they posted a good 174.  Molly Strano was pick of the bowlers for the Renegades, taking 4/21 off her four overs.

The Renegades’ response began well with an opening stand between Danni Wyatt and Amy Satterthwaite of 75.  But after those two were out, Satterthwaite first for 38 and Wyatt for 32, only one other batter made double figures.  They fell behind the run-rate and fell 21 short of their target.

Sydney Sixers 158/3 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 141 all out (19.1 overs)
Sixers won by 17 runs

Ellyse Perry was at it again on Saturday as she scored 72 not out to lead the Sixers to another win.  Alyssa Healy contributed 30 and Erin Burns 44 as they posted 158.

In response, Fazackerley went for just four and the Hurricanes found it hard to build partnerships, regularly losing wickets.  Georgia Redmayne provided the only stiff resistance for the Hurricanes, scoring 47 not out from 36 balls.  But they were always going to be short.  Marizanne Kapp took 4/27 off her four overs and Alex Hartley was the last wicket to fall, run out without facing a ball as the Hurricanes finished well short.

Adelaide Strikers 145/4 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 146/5 (18.2 overs)
Thunder won by five wickets

Bridget Patterson top-scored for the Strikers with 36 from 40 balls as they posted a decent 145.  The Thunder used seven bowlers, the pick of whom was Stafanie Taylor, who took 2/33 from her four overs.

Rachel Priest went for a first ball duck with Stalenberg following for just one in the second over, but Stafanie Taylor provided the anchor, scoring 55 from 42 balls before she was run out in the fifteenth over.  Harmanpreet Kaur took it on further down the order and was 52 not out from 34 balls at the end.  She hit two fours off the first two balls of the penultimate over, bowled by Devine, but the winning run came from a wide and the Thunder had won with 10 balls to spare.

Perth Scorchers 90/7 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 91/6 (15.3 overs)
Stars won by 4 wickets

The Scorchers had a nightmare against the Stars, scoring a paltry 90 from their 20 overs and although the Stars lost wickets in the chase, they still won with 27 balls to spare.

Nicole Bolton made 36, but took 44 balls in doing it.  The only other player to get into double figures was Hayley Jensen who scored 12 from 15 balls.  All of the bowling figures looked impressive with Kristen Beams taking 3/13 from three overs and Georgia Elwiss 2/10 from three.

Stars never looked in any trouble in their chase.  Opener Lizelle Lee scored 26 from 19 and Katie Mack 33 from 31. Nicola Hancock hit the winning run in the sixteenth over.

December 18
Hobart Hurricanes 173/7 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 173/6 (20 overs)
Match tied – Scorchers won in the Super Over

Hobart got off to a good start, with a partnership of 59 between Smriti Mandhana and Erin Fazackerley, before Mandhana fell to Heather Graham for 38.  She was top scorer, Fazackerley made 36 and Stefanie Daffara 31 as they posted a decent total for the Scorchers to chase.

Amy Jones and Elyse Villani also got off to a good start.  Jones was the first to go for 21.  Heather Graham top-scored with 44 and Villani made 41.  The two sides couldn’t be separated over 20 overs and so the game went to a Super Over.

The Hurricanes recorded 10/2 in the Super Over, but the Scorchers made 16/0 and took the two points.

19 December
Melbourne Stars 132/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 138/0 (10.5 overs)
Heat won by 10 wickets

Move over Ellyse Perry, there’s a new kid in town.  Grace Harris stole the show in Brisbane as she smashed a 42-ball 100 as the home side chased down their target with more than nine overs to spare.  With her team needing one to win and with Harris on 95, she hit her sixth six of the innings to win the match and to take her to her century.

The Stars started badly with Lizelle Lee out for just one in the second over.  The rest of the middle order got a start but no-one could put together the big innings needed.  Angela Reakes top scored for the Stars with 30 as they posted 132/7 off their 20 overs.

Enter the Heat openers.  No-one else got a look-in as Harris and Mooney took it on and cruised to victory.  Mooney played the steady back-up, scoring 28 from 25 balls, but it was Harris and her stunning 101, containing 13 fours and six sixes who will remain in the memory.

21 December
Hobart Hurricanes 153/9 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 156/4 (17.2 overs)
Thunder won 6 wickets

Hurricanes again got off to a good start with an opening stand of 43. Fazackerley was out for 35 and was top-scorer.  The top five batters all got into double figures, but none was able to push on to a big score.  None of the next five batters scored over seven and so although the score was competitive, it did tail away towards the end.  Stafanie Taylor was pick of the bowlers for the Thunder, taking 3/24 from her four overs.

By contrast, the Thunder got off to a poor start in their chase with Rachael Haynes perishing in the first over for five.  But Rachel Priest (40) and Naomi Stalenberg (55) with Kaur, Blackwell and Taylor all contributing as they reached their target with 16 balls to spare.

Adelaide Strikers 144/7 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 145/6 (19.3 overs)
Stars won by four wickets

Two batters stood out for the Strikers.  Opener Sophie Devine hit 46 from 36 balls and towards the end of the innings Tegan McPharlin 41from 34.  In between there were a lot of single-figure scores.  Erin Osborne took 2/16 from her four overs.

The Stars went well in response until they lost two wickets in the tenth over as Dani Hazell got Du Preez went for 17 and Mack for a duck.   It was a tight finish, but the Stars got home with three balls to spare.  Erin Osborne top-scored for the Stars with 54 not out from 45 balls.

As it stands, Sydney Thunder are top with 10 points from six matches.  Sydney Sixers are second with eight from five and Melbourne Stars are third with eight from seven matches and an inferior net run-rate.  At the bottom, Hobart Hurricanes have only one win from seven games and have two points.  Melbourne Renegades are just above them on three, but from only four matches.

In the UK, there is coverage of some WBBL matches on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra and BT Sport.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were as follows:

15 December
Loughborough Lightning 29-10 Gloucester-Hartpury

16 December
Firwood Waterloo 0-65 Harlequins
Saracens 48-0 Richmond
DMP Sharks 7-5 Bristol Bears
Worcester Valkyries 5-48 Wasps

After 12 games, Saracens are top with 55 points.  Harlequins are second on 51 and Loughborough Lightning are third with 49.  At the bottom, the Worcester Valkyries have just four points, DMP Sharks are just above them on 13 and Firwood Waterloo are one point ahead of them and third from bottom.

This weekend’s fixtures, the last of 2018, are:

22 December
Harlequins v Worcester Valkyries (1.30pm, Surrey Sport Park)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Firwood Waterloo (2pm,)
Wasps v Saracens (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Richmond v DMP Sharks (5pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Bristol Bears v Loughborough Lightning (5.30pm, Shaftesbury Park)

Volleyball

There were just two games in the Women’s Super League last weekend:

TeamBU Wessex 2-3 Tendring VC Ladies (25-23, 25-23, 17-25, 13-25, 12-25)
Birmingham Volleyball Club1 0-3 London Orcas (15-25, 12-25, 16-25)

All nine teams have now played eight games.  Durham Palatinates are top with 23 points, Tendring VC Ladies are second with 19 and London Orcas are third on 17.  At the bottom, Polonia SideOut London and Birmingham VC1 have three points each.

Cycling

Track Cycling World Cup IV – London

Team GB’s women riders claimed two golds at the fourth event in the Track Cycling World Cup in London at the weekend.

Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald won gold in the madison and they were also part of the team, along with Neah Evans and Ellie Dickinson, that took gold in the team pursuit.

Results:

Sprint: Stephanie Morton (Aus) beat Emma Hinze (Ger) in the final.  Laurine van Riessen (Ned) took bronze.

Keirin: Stephanie Morton (Aus) took gold, Daria Shmeleva (Rus) silver and Urszula Los (Pol), bronze.  Katy Marchant finished fourth.

Omnium: Kirsten Wild (NED) won gold, Jennifer Valente (USA) silver and Allison Beveridge (CAN), bronze.  Elinor Barker was fifth.

Team sprint: China won gold, Germany the silver and Netherlands the bronze.

Team Pursuit: Great Britain took gold, USA silver and Italy the bronze.

Madison: Great Britain (Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald) won gold, Australia (Amy Cure and Annette Edmondson took silver and, Belgium (Julien D’Hoore and Lotte Kopecky) took bronze.

Taekwondo

It was two out of three golds for Great Britain’s female finalists at the World Taekwondo Grand Slam finals in China.

Bianca Walkden defeated Madelynn Gorman-Shore of the United States to win the +67kg category.

Lauren Williams overcame Nur Tatar Askari of Turkey to win the -67kg category.

Jade Jones took a silver, losing out in the final to Lijun Zhou of China in the -57kg class, while Rebecca McGowan just missed out on bronze in the +67kg category.

Each winner took home over £54,000, the largest prize even given in the sport.

Darts

The second female qualifier for the PDC World Darts Championship, Anastasia Dobromyslova, lost in straight sets in the first round to Ryan Joyce of England.

And Finally,

I hope you have enjoyed the column this year.  I have enjoyed writing it!  I love getting the stories together, to see just how much women all over the world are contributing to the sporting landscape, very often for little but personal satisfaction in return.

2019 promises to be a storming year with the football World Cup in France, netball World Cup in Liverpool and the Ashes during the English summer to look forward to.

Hopefully I’ll be about to bring it all to you (hopefully I’ll get to see some of it in person!).

But until then, I would like to wish you all a happy sport-filled Christmas and New year and I look forward to writing for you and interacting with you all again in 2019.

Penny

Women’s Sports Column 30 December 2017 – 5 January 2018

new tennisWelcome to the first Women’s Sports Column of the New Year and let me wish you all a happy, sport-filled 2018.

It’s the relative calm before the storm at the moment, but there is plenty to come this year.  Stories this week come from taekwondo, tennis, a shocking story from cycling, New Year’s Honours, cricket, football and winter sports.

I’m also happy to say this week’s TWO “And Finally(s)” are positive ones.

Let’s crack on and start with taekwondo (don’t get to say that very often, but it’s a big (and a great) story.

Taekwondo

Bianca Walkden may have missed out on any kind of recognition from the Great British Public at SPOTY, but she completed her stellar year by annihilating all-comers last week to win the inaugural World Taekwondo Grand Slam Series title for the +67kg category.

She beat An Saebom of South Korea 14-1 in the quarter-finals and then recorded an 11-0 golden point victory over Nafia Kus of Turkey in the semi-final.

In the final she faced Jackie Galloway of USA, defeating her 10-2 to take the title and £52,000 prize money.

In 2017 she defended her world title and won all four Grand Prix events.

Next to compete in the Grand Slam Series will be Wales’ Lauren Williams, who fights in the -67kg category.  Charlie Maddock is next on 13 January in the -49kg category and Jade Jones competes on 20 January in her -57kg division.

Tennis

The world’s best tennis players are currently gearing up for the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, which begins on Monday 15 January.

There are several warm-up events going on, the main ones being in Brisbane and Shenzhen, China.

Brisbane International

Heather Watson bowed out early on.  She won her first match, against Danielle Lao of the USA 7-5 6-3.  She won her second versus Misaki Doi of China 6-2 6-4, but succumbed in the third to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-4 6-1.  She still advanced to the round of 32, though, to Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-0 6-3.

British number one, Jo Konta, began well.  She was seeded five at Brisbane and in the round of 32 she defeated American Madison Keys 4-6 6-4 6-3.  In the round of 16 she beat wildcard Ajila Tomljanovic of Croatia 4-6 6-1 6-4.  These have been two gruelling three-set matches.  And this told on Konta as she withdrew with injury on Thursday as she played third seed Elina Svitolina.

Konta had been playing well up to that point, taking the first set 6-1 against the third seed.  The second went to Svitolina on the tie-break and she was 3-2 up in the third when Konta pulled out.

Konta had treatment on her right hip on the court and the injury is thought to be in the right hip/groin area.  There is no news yet as to whether she will compete in the Sydney International, the next warm-up tournament, which takes place next week and which she won in 2017.  .

The other quarter-finals were:

Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) beat Kaia Kanepi (Estonia) 3-6 7-5 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova  (Latvia)beat Aleksandra Krunic (Serbia) 6-2 6-4
Aliaksandra Sasnovich(Belarus) beat Alizé Cornet (France) 3-6 6-2 6-3

In the semi-finals:

Sasnovich beat Sevastova 7-6 6-4
Svitolina beat Pliskova 7-5 7-5

The final is on Saturday 6 January.

Petra Kvitova had to withdraw before the start of the tournament with a virus and Wimbledon champion, Garbine Muguruza, withdrew during her second-round match after suffering a bout of cramp.  It’s pretty worrying that some of the big players (both men and women) have already pulled out of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.

Shenzhen Open

No British interest here, but the quarter-final line-up was as follows:

Irina-Camelia Begu (Romania) beat Timea Babos (Hungary) 7-5 7-5
Simona Halep (Romania) beat Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) 6-2 6-2
Maria Sharapova (Russia) beat Zarina Diyas (Kazakhstan) 6-3 6-3
Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic) beat Kristyna Pliskova (Czech Republic) 6-2 6-2

The semi-finals finished:

Siniakova beat Sharapova 6-2 3-6 6-3
Halep beat Begu 6-1 6-4

The final is on Saturday 6 January

Serena Williams

Meanwhile there was a disappointing announcement today as Serena Williams withdrew from the Australian Open, as she doesn’t feel quite ready yet:

“Although I am super close, I’m not where I want to be,” she said.

It will be the first Australian Open she has missed since 2011.

Football – Off the pitch

No live football to report on at the moment, but plenty of transfer news.

Natasha Harding

The biggest news so far is that Natasha Harding has turned down a new contract with Liverpool, in favour of a move to Reading.

Harding is currently vice-captain of the Wales national side and has won 50 caps for her country.

Birmingham City

Chloe Peplow, currently on loan at Doncaster Rovers Belles was out of contract at the end of December and not going to renew, while German international striker Isabelle Linden, also out of contract at the end of 2017 is to leave as well.

On the other hand Marisa Ewers and Andrine Hegerberg have both extended their contracts with the club.

Doncaster Rovers Belles

Belles have pulled off somewhat of a coup with the news that former Rotherham and Leeds United manager, Neil Redfearn is to be the club’s new manager.

On the Pitch

Meanwhile the on the pitch action starts again this weekend with the following fixtures:

Saturday 6 January

FAWSL 1
Bristol City v Everton (17.30, Stoke Gifford Stadium)
Liverpool v Yeovil Town (17.30, Select Security Stadium)
Sunderland v Birmingham City (18.00, Mariners Park)

Sunday 7 January

FAWSL1
Chelsea v Arsenal (13.30, Kingsmeadow Stadium)
Reading v Man City (16.00, Wycombe Wanderers FC)

FAWSL2
Oxford United v Durham (12.00, Oxford City FC)
Aston Villa v London Bees (14.00, Tamworth FC)
Millwall v Sheffield FC (14.00. St Paul’s Sports Ground)
Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton & Hove Albion (14.00, Cheshunt FC)
Watford v Doncaster Rovers Belles (15.00, Kings Langley FC)

Cycling

Caroline Buchanan, Australian cyclist and two-time Olympian, is in hospital after suffering serious injuries in a car crash in New South Wales.

She suffered a broken nose, broken sternum and collapsed lung in the accident.

The 27-year old has three BMX world titles to her name, as well as five mountain bike world titles.

Needless to say, she will be out of action for some time.

 Cricket – WBBL

We’re about half-way in this year’s tournament.  Top of the pile lie Sydney Thunder with five wins from six with the Sixers in second with five wins from eight.  Hobart Hurricanes are yet to get off the mark with no points from six games.  Second from bottom with one win from six.

Most recent matches:

30 December 2017

Sydney Sixers 138 all out (19.5 overs)
Perth Scorchers 139/4 (18.5 overs)

Alyssa Healey was out for a first ball duck, but Ellyse Perry scored 45 and Dane van Niekerk 29 as the Sixers posted 138.  But it was not enough.  Elyse Villani scored 63 off 43 and Nicole Bolton 42 off 49 as the Scorchers eased home.

Hobart Hurricanes 112/8 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 116/3 (17 overs)

Stafanie Taylor took 4/15 off her four overs as the Hurricanes slumped to 112 off their 20.  Rachael Haynes then took on the Hurricanes’ bowlers, scoring 64 off 49 balls as the thunder won with three overs to spare.

31 December

Hobart Hurricanes 97 all out (19.4 overs)
Sydney Thunder 99/2

The Hurricanes were comprehensively beaten by the Thunder on Sunday.  Samantha Bates took 3/12 four and Stafanie Taylor 2/13 off 2.4 as the Hurricanes could only manage 97 off 19.4 overs.  The Thunder took no time in knocking off the runs, scoring 99 in 15 overs.  Alex Blackwell top-scored on 43 not out.

Adelaide Strikers 119/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 122/2 (16.2 overs)

The Strikers could only post 119 and it never looked enough.  Most of their top names got a start but no-one could kick on as Bridget Patterson top-scored with 37.  It seemed as if Beth Mooney wanted to do it all on her own in reply as the scored 81 not out off 48 balls.  She was supported well by Kirby Short, who scored 27.

2 January

Sydney Sixers 128/7 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 92 all out (19 overs)

Ellyse Perry top scored with 64 of 56 balls as the Sixers posted an average total against the Renegades.  But their opponents never got started in response with van Niekerk taking 4/13 off her four overs with Kapp and Aley taking two each as the Renegades subsided to 92 all out.

3 January

Bizarre and miraculous goings-on at Geelong as the Renegades v Sixers game went to a super over, but it would not have even got there if it hadn’t been for some smart work on the part of the Sixers.

Melbourne Renegades 120/7 (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 120/7 (20 overs)

It had looked as if the Sixers had it in the bag until Perry was out and Chamari Attapatu had taken 2/6 in two overs.  It went down to the last ball – the Sixers needing three to win.

Sarah Aley went for the single and the game looked to be over, but Renegades keeper Emma inglis was too intent on celebrating and didn’t break the wickets to end the game.  Aley spotted the error and ran the second to tie the scores and send the game into a super over.

Sydney Sixers 8/2 (1 over)
Melbourne Renegades 9/0 (1 over)

Alyssa Healey perished for a first ball duck and Perry four, but the Sixers still posted a decent eight runs off their super over.

But the Renegades kept their cool with Jess Duffin hitting a single off Marizanne Kapp’s last ball to take the match.

5 January

Adelaide Strikers 144/5 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 122//9 (20 overs)

Tammy Beaumont top-scored for the Strikers with 46 from 48 balls as they posted a competitive total.  The Stars fell well short despite Lizelle Lee’s 44 of 42 balls.  Three ducks in a row down the order (King, Kearney, Faltum) put paid to any chance the Stars had of reaching the Strikers’ score.

Winter Sports

The Winter Olympics and Paralympics are fast approaching, so between then and now I’m going to try to get as many winter sports snippets into the column as I can.

 Alpine Skiing

Russian bans

Eleven Russian winter sports athletes have been banned for life from the Olympics after they were found to have committed doping offences at Sochi in 2014.  Out of the eleven, four are women:

Tatyana Ivanova (luge) – won silver in Sochi
Natalia Matveeva (cross-country skiing)
Liudmila Udobkina (bobsleigh)
Tatiana Burina and Anna Shchukina (ice hockey)

Mikaela Shiffrin

She’s odd-on to retain her Olympic slalom title, and Mikaela Shiffrin is already in fine form as she warms up for the big one.  Although she was upset in the giant slalom in Lienz, Austria , last week, she already has a 371 point lead in the World Cup standings with 881.  Viktoria Rebensberg lies second.

Skeleton

Meanwhile, in skeleton, the latest World Cup event, in Altenberg, Germany, the home nation made it a clean sweep with Jacquelline Loelling taking the title in 1:57.54 for the two runs.  Tina Hermann came second 0.13 seconds behind with Anna Fernstaedt in third 0.43 behind the winner.

For Great Britain, Laura Deas finished eighth, 1.35 seconds behind Loelling and Lizzie Yarnold nineteenth, a massive 3.22 seconds back.

Paralympics

There is no place in the GB Paralympic squad for Sochi skiing gold medallist Kelly Gallagher.

GB has two places available for visually impaired skiiers – these have gone to world champion Millie Knight and newcomer Menna Fitzpatrick.

There may still be a place for Gallagher, though, as other teams may not take up their full allocation and will be re-allocated elsewhere.

The Winter Paralympics begin on 9 March. Top of Form

Queen’s New Year Honours

Several sportswomen were honoured by the Queen:

Cricket
Heather Knight (OBE)
Tammy Beaumont, Anya Shrubsole (MBE)
Mark Robinson (women’s coach) (OBE)
Clare Connor (CBE) – tweet about Geoff Boycott notwithstanding, for services to cricket.

Paralympic Athletics
Stef Reid (MBE)

Other
Sarah Lewis (OBE) International Ski Federation secretary, for services to sport.
Joyce Cook (OBE) for services to sport and accessibility.
Sue Anstiss (MBE) for services to grassroots and women’s sport.
Christine Bower (MBE) British Olympic Association athletes services co-ordinator, for services to British Olympic sport.
Helen Phillips (MBE) for services to Welsh gymnastics and the Commonwealth Games Council for Wales.
Patricia Reid (MBE) Dunfermline Tennis Club secretary, for services to tennis and lacrosse in Scotland.

And Finally,

And finally, the Women’s Sport Trust has just issued its calendar of women’s sport for 2018.  So, if you missed it here’s the link: www.themixedzone.co.uk.  And if you don’t already subscribe to The Mixed Zone, a fantastic resource of articles by both professional athletes and writers, I suggest you do!

And and finally,

I don’t usually do endorsements, but in this case I’ll make an exception.  My friend Joanne is not just an ace yoga teacher, but also nutritionist par excellence.  She’s just started a new venture called “The Ravenous Athlete” with advice and help on what to eat and when if you’re serious about your sport.  If you need any help with your nutrition – given in a non-patronising, non-jargon way, please check her out: www.healthandhart.com.

 

Women’s Sports Column 2-8 December 2017

DSCN2151Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week in a short, but perfectly formed story of the week.  It’s the time of year when we see one awards ceremony after another, but the two biggies have to be BT Action Woman of the Year (women are winning that one!) and, of course, BBC Sports Personality of the Year (somewhat less of a chance of a woman winning that one).  The BT awards have been and gone – news below, but the opportunity to vote for your BBC SPOTY is still to come. I cover the runners and riders, so to speak, in this week’s “and finally”.  Other news comes from cycling, tennis, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, horse racing, taekwondo, curling and football.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s results in the Premier 15s were:

2 December

Loughborough Lightning 43-33 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

DMP Sharks 3-26 Bristol Ladies

Firwood Waterloo Ladies 12-12 Worcester Valkyries

3 December

Richmond Women 0-44 Wasps Ladies

Harlequins Ladies 19-28 Saracens Women

After nine games, Saracens are top with 44 points, winning all of their games and missing out on just one bonus point.  Harlequins are second with 40, with Wasps seven points further back on 33.  At the bottom, Worcester Valkyries are marooned on two points.  Second from bottom are Firwood Waterloo on seven, with DMP Sharks one place above them on 13.

This weekend’s fixtures sees second placed Quins take on Wasps at Surrey Sports Park, while Saracens are at home to struggling Firwood Waterloo.  Here are the fixtures in full:

9 December

Harlequins Ladies v Wasps: Surrey Sports Park 1pm

Saracens Women v Firwood Waterloo Ladies: Allianz Park 2pm

Worcester Valkyries v Loughborough Lightning: Sixways Stadium 2pm

Gloucester-Hartpury Women v DMP Sharks: TBC 4pm

10 December

Richmond Women v Bristol Ladies: Richmond Athletic Ground 2.30pm

Rugby union coverage

Meanwhile, there have been a couple of good news stories regarding the TV coverage of women’s rugby this week.  Firstly, Sky showed their first Tyrell’s 15 Premiership match last weekend.  Secondly came the news that England Roses’ Six Nations games will also be shown on Sky.  At last, some recognition for the progress the women’s game has made, particularly with the excellent staging and standard of the World Cup this summer.

Women’s Six Nations

Saturday 4 February

19:35: England v France – Twickenham (Sky Sports Mix)

Saturday 11 February

11:30: Wales v England– Cardiff Arms Park (Sky Sports 3)

Saturday 25 February

13:00: England v Italy – The Twickenham Stoop (Sky Sports 2)

Saturday 11 March

20:00: England v Scotland – The Twickenham Stoop (Sky Sports 2, delayed coverage, KO 13:00)

Friday 17 March

20:00: Ireland v England – Donnybrook, Dublin (Sky Sports Mix)

Taekwondo

There was double success for Britain’s women at the Taekwondo Grand Prix Final in Ivory Coast this week.

Bianca Walkden won her fifth major title of the year when she took the +67kg category, beating Da- Bin Lee of South Korea in the final 16-9.  She won all four Grand Prix events in this calendar year as well as taking gold in the World Championships in June – the first fighter to do so.

Then Britain’s Jade Jones also took gold in the -57kg category.   She beat Marta Calvo-Gomez of Spain 26-7 in the final and ends the year as world number one in the -57kg category.

They now go on to compete for Britain the inaugural Taekwondo Grand Slam in China.

BT Action Woman

England footballer Jodie Taylor was named BT Action Woman of 2017 this week.  She beat off competition from Tammy Beaumont, Elise Christie, Hannah Cockcroft, Mallory Franklin, Johanna Konta, Katy McLean and Anya Shrubsole to take the award in a public vote.

Franklin was second, with Konta third.

Unsurprisingly the England Cricket Team took the team of the year award, while Judy Murray was given a Lifetime Achievement award for her contribution to tennis.

Rugby League World Cup

Semi-finals

England 4-52 New Zealand

England were well beaten by New Zealand at the Southern Cross Group Stadium in Sydney.

In truth, they were never really in it as the Kiwi Ferns took the lead in the second minute with a try from Maitua Feterika.  Shontelle Woodman and Krystal Murray added further scores before England could reply with a try of their own from Tara-Jane Stanley in the 21st minute.

England were only 14-4 down at half-time and would have been hoping for better in the second period, but it was not to be as New Zealand put on the afterburners and England had no response.

They scored seven tries in the second-half, Honey Hireme ending with a hat-trick and Krystal Murray with two.

Australia 58-6 Canada

Australia were dominant over Canada from the off.  They scored 42 unanswered points in the first-half.

The second period was more even as Australia eased through.  Natasha Smith scored Canada’s only try, while Ali Brigginshaw, Steph Hancock, Isabelle Kelly and Karina Brown all scored two tries, while Talesha Quinn, Ruan Sims and Nakia Davis-Welsh bagged one each.

Final – 2 December

Australia 23-17 New Zealand

It was an altogether tighter, and exciting, affair.  Australia took the lead on eight minutes with a try from Isabelle Kelly, with the extra points kicked by Caitlin Moran.  Four minutes later, New Zealand were level through Honey Hireme, extra points kicked by Kimiora Nati.

Hireme got her second on 20 minutes to send the Ferns into the lead.  But the Jillaroos were not to be outdone and on 36 minutes Moran scored a brilliant solo effort under the posts, converting it to give them a half-time lead of 12-10.

The second-half belonged to Australia.  Kelly scored her second try on 53, while just four minutes later Elianna Walton went over to take the game away from the Kiwi Ferns; 22-10 with just 20 minutes left.

New Zealand made a fight of it with Raecene McGregor going over in the 69th minute to take them back within a converted score of the lead.

But the Jillaroos were to have the last word.  Moran kicked a field goal in the final minute and Australia had won their second successive World Cup.

Cricket

The WBBL starts this weekend with many of the cricketing world’s biggest stars on show. Representing England are Tammy Beaumont (Adelaide Strikers) with Charlotte Edwards coaching, Georgia Elwiss (Melbourne Stars), Lauren Winfield (Hobart Hurricanes).

Coverage is on BT Sport at unholy times.  Check your TV listings for details.

Cycling

There was plenty of success for Britain’s women at the Track Cycling Cup in Milton, Canada, last week.

Katie Archibald won gold in the points race, winning the first four sprints and gaining a lap to take the title.  Jasmin Duehring of Canada finished second, nine points behind, with Jarmila Machacova of the Czech Republic, third.

Archibald and Eleanor Dickinson also then took gold in the madison with 29 points.  France came second on 24 and New Zealand third on 15.

Katy Marchant took silver in the keirin.  Kristina Vogel of Germany took gold, with Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands finishing in bronze position.

Curling

Scotland’s women’s Team, led by Eve Muirhead won the European Curling Championship in St Gallen, Switzerland, this week.  They beat Sweden, unbeaten up to this point, 6-3, on Saturday.

The team, Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Lauren Gray went behind early on, and were 2-1 down after the third end.  They took a double in the sixth end and one in each of the last three to take the match and the title.

Tennis

Serena Williams has entered the Australian Open in January.  She has returned to training after giving birth to a daughter in September and, if she takes part, this will be her first tournament back. There is no doubt that she’s still looking to equal (and break) Margaret Court’s Grand Slam singles titles record of 24.  At the moment she has 23.  Who can bet against it?  Whatever happens, it will be great to see her in action again.

Horse Racing

Jockey Hayley Turner is to face a British Horseracing Authority inquiry after she was charged with a breach of betting rules.

The hearing will be on 14 December.

Football

Continental Cup

The final round of group matches took place this week:

Saturday 2 December

Bristol City Women 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion

Chelsea Ladies 8-0 Yeovil Town Ladies

Sunday 3 December

Manchester City Women 2-0 Birmingham City Ladies

Aston Villa Ladies 3-2 Durham Women

London Bees 1-1 Watford Ladies

Millwall Lionesses 0-5 Reading FC Women

Oxford United Women 1-5 Doncaster Rovers Belles

Tuesday 5 December

Sunderland AFC Ladies 1-0 Liverpool Ladies

Wednesday 6 December

Chelsea Ladies 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur Ladies

Doncaster Rovers Belles 2-3 Manchester City Women

The quarter-final draw was made on 7 December:

Bristol City v Manchester City

Chelsea v Liverpool

Arsenal v Sunderland

Everton v Reading

Ties will be played over the weekend of 16/17 December.

And finally,

It’s that time again – the time when we look at the SPOTY shortlist and go, “seriously?  How many women?”  And this year is no exception.  In this year’s field of 12 twelve shortlisted, we have four women.  In the year of the Cricket World Cup, the Women’s Euros, the Rugby World Cup etc, etc, the BBC, in its wisdom, has managed to come up with four names.  Hey ho.  ‘Twas ever thus.  So the women to vote for (I’m not going to curse you if you vote for one of the men) are Elise Christie, Jo Konta, Anya Shrubsole and Bianca Walkden.

Voting has already closed in the Overseas SPOTY category.  The women shortlisted are Katie Ledecky (swimming), Tatyana McFadden (Para-athletics) and Sally Pearson (athletics).

No prizes for guessing who I’ll be voting for in the main event.  I’ve already said as much on social media – Anya Shrubsole gets my vote.  She made my summer and my year with her performance in the World Cup final.  I’m hoping the England team is nailed on for the Team of the Year award, but it would really be something special if Anya was at least close to winning it.

The programme is on Sunday 17 December and you will be able to vote by telephone on the night.

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 10-16 December

fieldhockeysticksWelcome to the last column of the year.  It’s been a big year for women’s sport (but isn’t every year?).  I’ve tried to reflect that in the best way I know how, and looking back over the last twelve months, I’m pleased with the breadth of stories I’ve been able to include.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it too.

So without further ado, let’s crack on with stories from speed skating, rugby, netball, cricket, Aussie Rules and Australasian sports administration, football, golf, boxing, cycling, bowls, taekwondo, the BT Action Woman Awards and SPOTY.  This week’s “And finally” is probably predictable, but bears repeating one more time….

Rugby Union

Bristol won again this weekend to leave them top of the table over the Christmas break.

The scores were:

10 December

Aylesford Bulls Ladies 17-24 Lichfield Ladies

Wasps Ladies 33-12 Richmond Women

11 December

Worcester Valkyries 15-22 Saracens Women

Bristol ladies 48-0 DMP Sharks

As ever, a longer round-up of these matches, written by me appears on the Women’s Sports UK website.

Bowls

Wales’ women won a silver medal in the triples at the World Bowls Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand this week.

Anwen Butten, Kathy Pearce and Emma Woodcock were beaten in the final by Carla Krizanic, Natasha Scott and Rebecca Van Asch of Australia.

They had beaten England (16-12) and Malaysia (18-16) on the way to the final.

Australian Rules Football                                                                                   

Good news for Aussie rules fans this week as it was announced that every game in the inaugural AFL women’s competition will be shown live on television.

Fox Footy is to show all 28 league games and the Seven Network will broadcast eight prime-time matches, including the first game of the season and the Grand Final on 25 March.

The action begins 3 February 2017.  Not sure if they will be streamed in Britain, but nevertheless it’s great news for AFL fans.

Australasian Sports Administration

1) Kate Palmer has been appointed the Australian Sports Commission’s first female chief executive.  She joins after an historic spell as the head of Netball Australia, in which she brokered a landmark pay deal for players and also oversaw a huge increase in revenue for the sport.

2) Dr Farah Palmer, three-time World Cup winning captain has been elected to the Board of New Zealand Rugby.  She is currently a member of the New Zealand Maori Rugby Board and will replace the former Maori representative, Wayne Peters, who has retired.

“Women on sports boards” seems to be the in-vogue cause at the moment.  Not surprising really, as the current percentage of women on sports boards in the United Kingdom is 30%, having risen from 21% in 2009.  There is progress, undoubtedly, and more needs to be done.  Personally, I’m still more concerned with lack of media coverage which stubbornly stands at 7%.  But progress cannot not be concentrated on a single issue and we should celebrate any victories we achieve, however small.

Cricket

New England central contracts

The ECB has announced new and improved central contracts for England’s women.  Two-year contracts have been issued to:

Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Georgia Elwiss, Natasha Farrant, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Amy Jones, Heather Knight, Beth Langston (rookie contract), Laura Marsh, Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.

Becky Grundy has lost her contract and Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway are no longer a part of the set-up having retired from international cricket last season.

Australian contracts

Just when you’re feting all things Australian, Cricket Australia drops an enormous clanger.

The executive general manager of strategy at Cricket Australia has confirmed that female cricketers’ new one-year contracts will have a clause that will require them to “warrant” that they are not pregnant when they sign.

They insist that the clause is there “for the player’s safety and that of their unborn child” and that that any disclosure would be confidential and made to the medical officer.

Female players are also excluded from the parental leave policy, although women in non-playing roles can have four to 12 weeks’ paid leave.

And, as ever, although things are improving, there is a great discrepancy in pay; the national minimum for men is $270,000 excluding superannuation, but for women it is $40,000 including superannuation.

Cricket Australia says that it is all being negotiated, but the union says contract conditions are ‘contrary to acceptable employer behaviour’,

Watch this space for further fallout.

WBBL

After the first weekend of WBBL matches it’s all square all the way down as each team won one and lost one!  Sydney Sixers are top on net run rate, but it’s early days.  The results so far are as follows:

10 December

Perth Scorchers 119/6 off 20 overs

Hobart Hurricanes 120/5 19 overs

Hurricanes won by 5 wickets

 

Adelaide Strikers 116 all out (19.3 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 102 all out (19.1 overs)

Strikers won by 14 runs

 

Melbourne Stars147/8 (20 overs)

Sydney Thunder 141/4 (20 overs)

Stars won by 6 runs

 

11 December

 Adelaide Strikers 128/6 (20 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 131/3 (19.3 overs)

Renegades won by 7 wickets

 

Perth Scorchers 142/4 (20 overs)

Hobart Hurricanes 125/9 (20 overs)

Scorchers won by 17 runs

 

Sydney Sixers 138/6 (20 overs)

Brisbane Heat 142/5 (19.2 overs)

Heat won by 5 wickets

 

12 December

Brisbane Heat 83/9 (20 overs)

Sydney Sixers 86/2 (16 overs)

Sixers won by 8 wickets

 

13 December

Melbourne Stars 116/9 (20 overs)

Sydney Thunder 121/2 (18.5 overs)

Thunder won by 8 wickets

Live matches and highlights are on BT Sport and the WBBL also has a very detailed website:  www.bigbash.com.au/wbbl

BT Action Woman Awards

The ceremony for the BT Action Woman of the year took place this week.  Winners of Team of the Year were the GB Hockey team for their brilliant gold medal in Rio.  Katherine Grainger won a Lifetime Achievement award, which she knew nothing about and looked a bit grumpy about to start off with!

Winner of Action Woman of the Year 2016 was mountain biker Rachel Atherton.  She won all seven rounds of the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup this year and took the world title for the fourth time.

Boxing

Katie Taylor won her second professional bout against Viviane Obenauf of Brazil last week.  She won on points 60-53.

Obenauf was knocked down in the second round and also suffered a cut near her left eye, but she managed to take it distance before being outpointed.

Netball

It was announced this week that New Zealand will play Wales in two test matches in February 2017.

The two games will take place at the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff on 7 and 8 February.

Sports Personality of the Year 2016

Although the main event is not broadcast until 18 December, the winner of the Young Sports Personality of the Year award has already been announced.

Swimmer Ellie Robinson is this year’s winner.

She won a gold medal and a bronze at the Rio Paralympics aged just 15.

She won the S6 50m butterfly in a Games record time and broke the British record in the 100m freestyle to take bronze.

Earlier in the year Robinson had bagged one silver (50m butterfly) and three bronzes (50m, 100m and 400m freestyle) at the IPC European Championships.

Taekwondo

There was plenty of success for Britain’s women at the World Grand Prix Final in Baku last weekend.

Charlie Maddock set the ball rolling as she beat Olympic champion Sohui Kim in the -49kg to take gold.

Jade Jones and Bianca Walkden followed suit on Saturday as Jones beat Hedaya Malak of Egypt in the -57kg final and Walkden defeated Zheng Shuyin of China to take gold in the +67kg category.

Rachelle Booth lost to South Korea’s Lee Ah-reum in -62kg bronze-medal match.

Speed Skating

Great Britain’s Elise Christie won double gold at the World Cup event in Shanghai last weekend.

She won the first of two 500m races in 43.590 seconds and took the second in 42.590.

Christie leads the 500m overall ranking from Fan Kexin from China and Marianne St-Gelais of Canada.

Shanghai is the third in the series of World Cup events.  The fourth is in Gangneung, South Korea, from 16-18 December.

Golf

Shanshan Feng won a record fourth Dubai Ladies Masters at the weekend.  She took the title on -10, two ahead of England’s Charley Hull.

Going into the final round, Felicity Johnson was leading, but she faded in the last carding a three over 75 to finish six shots off the lead.

Cycling

The dispute between British Cycling and cyclist Jess Varnish continues.

After last week’s revelation that only one of nine of her complaints against Shane Sutton was upheld, Varnish has now requested that British Cycling release her personal data under the Data Protection Act so that she can see Sutton’s text messages and the organisation’s report into his conduct.

I feel there’s still probably plenty to come out of this story yet.

Football

Birmingham City Ladies

David Parker resigned as Birmingham City ladies’ manager on Monday.  He had been in charge for five years.

There was no delay in announcing his successor as the WSL1 club announced they have appointed Marc Skinner to the post.

Skinner had been director of the Blues Ladies’ centre of excellence.

Casey Stoney

After a period of silence it has been announced that former England captain, Casey Stoney, has signed for Liverpool Ladies.

She left Arsenal at the end of the season causing much speculation as to her future plans.

Liverpool manager Scott Rogers said,

“Her reading of the game and ability on the ball is fantastic so I have no doubt that she will prove to be a great signing for us.”

New rules for WSL2

It was announced this week that WSL2 will introduce relegation for the first time in the 2017-18 season, when the league swaps to a winter season.

This means that the bottom team will drop into the Women’s Premier League.

In other WSL news, the league has also revealed that applications for WSL licences for the 2018-19 season will only be open to the existing clubs.  If, however, a club fails to meet the specified criteria, other clubs will be allowed to apply.

FA funding will increase as follows:

WSL1 up to £92,500 (up from £70,000)

WSL2 up to 62,500 (up from £35,000)

Whilst any increase is welcome, make no mistake, this money is still just a drop in the ocean when it comes to running a WSL club. 

Nigeria’s continued protest

As I reported last week, the Nigerian women’s football team is currently fighting for outstanding payments due to them after they won the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations on 3 December.

On Tuesday, one of the players, quoted anonymously by the BBC, said that they are prepared to continue their sit-in at the Agura hotel until they receive all bonuses, believed to total £23,650 USD per player.

“We are tired of the lies and false promises from the NFF,”

The NFF is directly funded by the Nigerian government and is currently strapped for cash after Nigeria slipped into recession in August.

But the Super Falcons coach, Florence Omagbemi and her assistants have only received one month’s pay since March.

The NFF general secretary, Mohammed Sanusi, met with players and officials at the hotel on Tuesday. In a statement he said,

“The NFF is not happy owing players and coaches, but present severe economic challenges inform that it can only continue to seek the understanding of these persons, as well as hoteliers, travel agents, management and staff until the situation improves,”

“We know we have financial commitment to you (players and officials of Super Falcons) and we have not at any time stated otherwise. But the money is not readily available.

“I have come to appeal to you, to understand the situation of the federation, to understand the situation of the country at the present and exercise patience.

“We will pay you all monies you are being owed as soon as we receive same from the government.”

The stalemate continues.

And finally, I’m sure you’ve all seen it already but it’s three boos for the Football Association this week (God bless ‘em).

In their wisdom, the FA have revealed their ideas for attracting more girls into football.  The plan, posted on the Sussex FA website includes:

Pink whistles

Nice smelling bibs (we all want those, don’t we?)

Allowing girls breaks so they can check their phones.

Advertise “where girls go” such as “coffee shops or the backs of toilet doors”

Slogans to attract girls could include:

“You won’t even notice you’re getting fit!” and “Who needs Facebook friends?”

Not saying anything else.  Don’t need to, do I?

 

As I said at the beginning, that’s all for this year.  I’m currently writing a history of women’s field hockey for WiSP Sports, so please check in to read that if you’re so inclined.

Also next week, although there will be no column, I am publishing something which means a lot to me.  Earlier this year I interviewed someone and got some great copy.  I tried to sell the resultant article but to no avail.  Although he has now moved on from his post, the subject of the article has just read it and he loved it, so I would like to reproduce it on my site.  Look out for it – I’m really happy with it and I hope you like it too.

Hoping you all have a lovely, peaceful and sporting Christmas and let’s all wish for more sporting success in 2017