Women’s Sports Column 29 July – 4 August 2017

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

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

Women’s Euros

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netherlands 2-0 Sweden

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

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

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

Germany 1-2 Denmark

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

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

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

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

England 1-0 France

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

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

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

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

Semi-finals

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

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

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

Netherlands 3-0 England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rugby Union

England contracts

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

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

Tyrrells Premier 15s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Cup News

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

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

Louise Galvin has been called up as replacement for Briggs.

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

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

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

Ireland are in tough group C:

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

Ireland women’s World Cup squad in full:

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

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

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

Tennis

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

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

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

Cricket

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

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

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

Lacrosse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally,

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

Women’s Sports Column 9-15 July

standard-pitch-dimensionsIt’s column time again – gosh this week has gone quickly. I’d like to say it will be an island of sense in this sea of world chaos, but I think I might just be guilty of over-selling it….

Anyway, this week we have stories from athletics, tennis, football, golf, cricket, gymnastics, rugby union (missed from last week) and a happy story for “And finally”.

Obviously the selections are being made for Rio at the moment. Apologies if I don’t get everyone in here, but it’s pretty well publicised news that can be picked up in the mainstream press (is it possible?).

A couple of athletics stories should be mentioned, though. After I reported Jo Pavey had achieved the qualifying time for the 10,0000m last week, she has indeed been picked for Rio.

On the other side of the coin is high jumper Isobel Pooley. She will miss the Olympics due to an ankle injury. She could compete, but has been told that it would be unwise to do so as it would make the injury worse, so she has pulled out. Pooley may well have been a medal contender.

Britain also had a good final day of the European Championships with the women’s 4 x 400m winning gold with the fastest time in the world this year. France were second and Italy, third.

The four; Emily Diamond, Anyika Onuora, Eilidh Doyle and Seren Bundy-Davies took the title in a time of 3:25.05 seconds.

The full women’s athletics squad for Rio is as follows:

100m: Asha Philip, Desiree Henry, Daryll Neita. 200m: Dina Asher-Smith, Jodie Williams. 400m: Christine Ohuruogu, Emily Diamond, Seren Bundy-Davies. 800m:Lynsey Sharp, Shelayna Oskan-Clarke. 1,500m: Laura Muir, Laura Weightman.5,000m: Eilish McColgan, Stephanie Twell, Laura Whittle. 10,000m: Jo Pavey, Beth Potter, Jessica Andrews. 3,000m steeplechase: Lennie Waite. 100m hurdles: Tiffany Porter, Cindy Ofili. 400m hurdles: Eilidh Doyle. High jump: Morgan Lake. Pole vault:Holly Bradshaw. Long jump: Lorraine Ugen, Shara Proctor, Jazmin Sawyers.Hammer throw: Sophie Hitchon. Discus throw: Jade Lally. Heptathlon: Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Jessica Ennis-Hill. Marathon: Sonia Samuels, Alyson Dixon.

Relays: 4x100m: Asha Philip, Desiree Henry, Daryll Neita, Dina Asher-Smith, Bianca Williams, Ashleigh Nelson, Louise Bloor. 4x400m: Christine Ohuruogu, Emily Diamond, Seren Bundy-

It was a stunning end to Wimbledon last weekend. Serena Williams was an absolute vision of sporting prowess as she blasted Angelique Kerber off the court to win 7-5 6-3 in the singles final. It was her 22nd grand slam victory, bringing her level with Steffi Graf.

Later on in the day on Saturday she still had enough passion and puff to win the doubles with sister Venus. They beat fifth seeds Babos and Shvedova 6-3 6-4.

Heather Watson made up for her disappointment in the singles by taking the mixed doubles title with partner Henri Kontinen from Finland. They beat fifteenth seeds Farah and Groenefeld 7-6 6-4. They had never even played together before the championships began.

As I reported last week, it was the first time there had been wheelchair singles at Wimbledon. Top seed Jiske Griffioen of Netherlands took the title against compatriot Aniek Van Koot, who had beaten British favourite Jordanne Whiley in the semi-final, 4-6 6-0 6-4.

Whiley did take the wheelchair doubles title with her partner and best mate Yui Kamiji from Japan. The top seeds beat second seeds Griffioen and Van Koot 6-2 6-2.

The girls’ singles was won by Anastasia Potapova of Russia beating of Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine 6-4 6-3 and the girls’ doubles champions were Usue Arconada and Claire Liu of USA, who beat Caty McNally (USA) and Mariam Bolkvadze (Georgia) 6-2 6-3.

In other tennis news, it has been confirmed that Maria Sharapova will miss the Olympics as the verdict of her appeal will not be known until September.

 

Big news from English football this week.  It has been announced that from the season 2017-18, the FAWSL will become a winter league instead of a summer league. It will be played from September to May. This brings it in line with other European divisions.

It’s a big, bold decision – part of the thinking behind a summer league is that it will attract fans who are missing the men’s game during the summer. But it is good to know that the FA thinks the women’s game can stand on its own and that attendances will stay as they are or even improve.

A one-off competition, the FAWSL Spring Series will take place from February to June 2017, alongside the FA Cup, to transition from one schedule to the other. This will also benefit the England team as they prepare for the European Championships which take plce in Netherlands in July/August 2017.

There will also be a winter break in the 2017-18 season from mid-December to mid- January.

Whatever happens, the current situation could not have continued. The summer schedule was bitty at best, with four weeks sometimes between games. This is just not acceptable to England’s top clubs who want to be competitive in Europe.

 

Results from FAWSL1:

Saturday 9 July

Liverpool Ladies FC 2-0 Reading FC Women
Harding 17’
Coombs 24’

Sunderland AFC Ladies 4-0 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Mead 34’, 45+3’
Sharp 39’
Chaplen 78’

Sunday 10 July

Arsenal Ladies FC 2-0 Notts County Ladies FC
Van de Donk 10’
Dobbs 56’

Chelsea Ladies FC 1- 1 Birmingham City Ladies
Aluko 52’
Ayisi 48’

Also some news which is, on the face of it, comical, but actually is another one of those occasions when you think about it and say, “it would never have happened if it were a men’s game.”

Last week a game between Western New York Flash and Seattle Reign in the NWSL had to be moved due a scheduling clash. It was moved to the outfield f a nearby baseball stadium. Consequently a pitch was marked out that was barely big enough for children to play on.

Two problems with this: a) why was a music festival scheduled in the Sahlen’s Stadium – surely they knew there was a game on? And b) what on earth went on to mark out such a ridiculous pitch?

Needless to say the players and coaches were not happy. The Reign coach, Laura Harvey said,

“for any players/staff to be put in a position like we were tonight is not acceptable”.

Jeff Blush of the NWSL made this statement:

“the field dimensions were not up to our standards, but due to various factors, the league office made the decision to grant an exception for this evening’s match. In retrospect, we made the wrong decision.”

Do you think?

 

Talking of farce, another situation occurred at the US Women’s Open last week. Brittany Lang won the title, but only after Anna Nordqvist was given a two-stroke penalty during the play-off for grounding her club.

Sounds logical? Yes, but the penalty occurred in the second hole of a three hole play-off but the players were not informed until they were on the final hole. Lang made a par on the final hole, while Nordqvist only made bogey and lost by three strokes.

Nordqvist was quite laid-back about it considering she was only told about the penalty after she had played her third shot on the last. She said she didn’t know if it would have made any difference to the eventual outcome, but she certainly would have been more aggressive on the last if she had known she had two shots to make up.

Again, you have to say, would this have happened if it had been between Jordan Spieth and Rory McIroy?

 

Two pieces of cricket news this week. Firstly, Cricket Australia has announced that it is to invest $4 million in grassroots women’s cricket.

The money, “Growning Cricket for Girls”, will go to better coaching facilities and improving the cricketing pathway for 11-18 year olds. $1 million per year for four years will go into local associations, clubs and secondary schools. Of this, $50,000 will go towards employing full-time female participation specialists.

Secondly, Scottish Wildcats have qualified for the ICC Global Qualifier to get into the World Cup. They have take an unassailable 2-0 lead against Netherlands Women.

Both games were decided by the Duckworth/Lewis method due to rain.

In the first, Scotland posted 218/5 off their 50 overs. Netherlands were set a revised target of 161 in 26 overs, but fell short on 133/7, losing the game by 27 runs.

In the second, Scotland batted first again, posting 222/9 off their 50. Rain intervened again and Netherlands were set 178 in 37 overs. They fell short again, ending on 169/6 and losing by 8 runs.

Scotland now goes forward to the ICC Global WCWC Qualifier in 2017.

 

So it’s good news for Australian cricketers, but not so for its gymnasts. The Western Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS) has announced that it is shutting its Women’s Artistic Gymnastics National Centre of Excellence in Perth at the end of 2016.

Needless to say the closure is largely due to funding issues, but Gymnastics Australia has denounced the decision in a public statement:

“On the eve of the Olympics, women’s sport in Australia has been dealt a huge blow by today’s shock revelation that one of the nation’s premier training centres for elite gymnasts is to close,”

GA’s President, Jacqui Briggs-Weatherill went on to say,

“This is a very cruel and short-sighted decision by WAIS that if not reversed will end the Olympic ambitions of many young women in one of Australia’s fastest growing sports.”

 

For the last couple of weeks the Women’s Rugby Super Series has been taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Didn’t see it in the mainstream media even though England’s women are currently World Champions? No, neither did I and, to my eternal shame, I missed reporting on it last week. Anyway, to make amends, here are the details:

The tournament took place between USA, Canada, France and England.

England were dealt a shocking and bitter blow in the first game on 1 July as they were beaten 52-17 by Canada. They recovered to beat France 17-13 on 5 July and then beat USA comfortably 39-13. This match included an impressive hat-trick of tries from winger Lydia Thompson.

Canada were the eventual winners of the tournament, unbeaten in their three matches. England finished second with two wins, France third with one and USA fourth having lost all of their matches. England will take heart from their comeback, having fallen to such a disastrous defeat in the first game.

 

And finally, this great story pinged into my inbox this week – I don’t know how many of you will have seen it already, but it bears re-telling. Manar Sarhan, a dentist from Cairo, has become Egypt’s first female football pundit. She appears on the private CBC television channel and has recently been commenting on Euro 2016 matches.

She started volunteering in journalism in 2002, filming her favourite Egyptian club Zamalek. She then wrote for several newspapers before being discovered by the CBC channel.

Unsurprisingly the reaction was mixed. She says:

“I was mocked in the beginning. They would tell me ‘Girls belong in kitchens’,” (I think we’ve all heard that one)

But Sarhan is not one to give up. She is now acknowledged as an expert on the subject;- her analysis of tactics and team plans is regarded as impressive.

She has learnt Spanish so that she can follow La Liga and also intends to learn Italian and Portuguese to be able to follow more European football.

Her ultimate aim is to work in European football. Go get it, I say!

Women’s Sports Column – 2-8 July

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column. Plenty to get through this week including football, cricket, athletics, tennis, golf, rugby league, netball, transgender rights, sailing and, I’m afraid, another corking “And finally”.

It’s about time that people realised that when it comes to football it’s no use relying on England’s men to come up with the goods (brilliant stuff from Wales, by the way). Last year we cheered, yelled and cried along with the Lionesses as they brought home a bronze medal from the World Cup in USA. Well, this week, Team GB’s deaf women footballers did their thing and won a bronze at the Deaf World Cup in Italy.

It was a tough tournament as when China withdrew at the last minute the format was changed from two groups to just one round-robin first stage.

Each of the six teams played five times in nine days!

The top two played for the gold, while the third and fourth finishers played for bronze.

Team GB had a mixed first stage; they began with at 2-2 draw against Poland, then they beat hosts Italy 5-0, lost 4-0 to USA and beat Turkey 6-0. They needed to beat Russia in the last game to play in the gold medal match. However, Russia scored in the last minute to win the game 1-0 and send GB to the bronze medal match.

They faced Poland again for bronze and this time a draw was never on the cards. They went 1-0 up and held on until five minutes from the end when Ceara Toal from Leicestershire scored a second to secure the medal.

The eventual winners were USA who beat Russia in the final 3-0.

This achievement should not be underestimated. The women had to raise every penny to get to the championships. There was quite a lot of publicity when Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland contributed 5k to help get the women there, but there were hundreds of other people who gave what they could by chucking into collection buckets at the FAWSL (and other ) games.

 

England’s women cricketers completed a clean sweep over Pakistan on Thursday with a sixth win in a row. They won all of their ODIs comfortably and were equally good in the three T20s. Before the series started I expressed concern at the route new coach Mark Robinson was taking by dispensing with the services of Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway. England were also without Sarah Taylor for the whole series.

In my preview for Women’s Sports UK I suggested that if ever England were there for the taking by Pakistan, this would be the time. So from now on I’m going to cease with the punditry and just present the facts! I’ll be writing a suitably chastened review for WSUK which I would encourage you to read but just to point out the records broken in the series:

    • Highest ODI total: 378-5 (Lauren Winfield 123, Tammy Beaumont 104, Natalie Sciver 80), 2nd Royal London ODI, Wednesday 22nd June, New Road Worcester
    • Highest IT20 total: 187-5 (Tammy Beaumont 84, Lauren Winfield 72), 1st NatWest IT20, Sunday 3rd July, The Brightside Ground, Bristol
    • Highest ODI opening partnership: 235 (Lauren Winfield & Tammy Beaumont) 2nd Royal London ODI, Wednesday 22nd June, New Road Worcester
    • Highest IT20 opening partnership: 147 (Lauren Winfield & Tammy Beaumont) 1st NatWest IT20, Sunday 3rd July, The Brightside Ground, Bristol
    • Heather Knight became the first player in the world (male or female) to take 5 wickets (5-26) and score a half century (50*) in a ODI
    • Tammy Beaumont’s 342 run aggregate in the Royal London ODI series was the highest ever in a three-match ODI series (male or female)

In other exciting cricket news, the ICC has applied for women’s cricket to be included in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in South Africa.   If it happens, it will be yet another showcase for women’s cricket, so fingers crossed that the ICC will be successful in their application.

ICC Chairman, Shashank Manohar, said

“The Board has taken a strategic decision to support the inclusion of women’s cricket in the 2022 Commonwealth Games as it will enhance the profile of the sport and create additional exposure and experiences for female cricketers, as well as opportunities to engage with the Commonwealth Games on important social justice issues and initiatives.”

He went on to say that the Olympic Games will be another target for women’s cricket and the ICC will be meeting with the IOC later on this year.

 

The European Athletics Championships have been happening this week in Amsterdam. Dina Asher-Smith claimed a stunning gold on Thursday in the 200m with a season’s best 22.37 seconds.

Tiffany Porter could not defend her title, but took a creditable bronze in the 100m hurdles.

And we have to say all hail Jo Pavey (again). She has just run the Olympic qualifying time for the 10,000m at the age of 42. She finished in fifth in Amsterdam with a season’s best 31 minutes 34 seconds. She will now have to see if she is selected, but it will be a crying shame if she isn’t.

The only sad news to report is that after missing out on the 800m final and picking up an injury, Jenny Meadows has decided to retire.

 

Not much to cheer about for British women’s tennis at Wimbledon over the last fortnight (so far).

As I suggested in my last column, Angelique Kerber was far too strong for Laura Robson in the first round and she lost 2-6 2-6. It may be some consolation to Robson that Kerber has now reached the final and will play Serena Williams on Saturday 9 July.

More disappointingly, British number two Heather Watson also went out in the first round to Annika Beck 3-6 6-0 12-10, having squandered three match points.

Katie Swan lost in the first round to Timea Babos, 6-2 6-3. She was also playing in the Girls’ singles, but had to retire with a leg injury in the first round.

Naomi Broady was the fourth Briton to go out in the first round, losing 6-2 6-3 to 17th seed, Elina Svitolina.

British number one Johanna Konta went out in the second round, losing to Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, 6-3 1-6 6-1.

Tara Moore had an excellent win over Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium in the first round, 6-3 6-2, but succumbed to 13th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second, 1-6 6-2 3-6.

Most exciting this Wimbledon week is that the championships is, for the first time, including wheelchair singles.

Wheelchair ace (no pun intended) Jordanne Whiley drew fellow Briton and doubles partner Lucy Shuker in the quarter final. She won the match 6-1 6-1 and will now face Aniek van Koot in the semi-final.

 

The football transfer window closed this week with Notts County Ladies making the most signings. There are mutterings and mumblings about just what is going on at Birmingham City Ladies, which reached a peak a couple of weeks ago when England internationals Jade Moore and Jo Potter revealed they had bought themselves out of their contracts. In very similar statements they expressed a kind of nebulous dissatisfaction with the club – this is Jo Potter’s:

ClGKFzvWEAAd5Zu

Notts County also signed goalkeeper Lizzie Durack from Harvard University.

England international Natasha Dowie and midfielder Becky Easton have left Doncaster Belles. Easton has decided to retire to concentrate on her studies, while Dowie has not signed elsewhere yet as she is concentrating on recovering from injury.

 

In excellent news for women’s rugby league this week, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats have become the first Super League side to launch a women’s team.

Wakefield Trinity Ladies will be part of the Women’s Premier League from 2017. Championship sides Featherstone Rovers and Bradford Bulls already have teams, but Wakefield will be the first Super League side.  It is a sign of the growth of women’s rugby league, but it is a shame that the ladies will not be playing at Wakefield’s Belle Vue ground, but will be based at local amateur club Sharlston Rovers.

 

Royal Troon Golf club has left the stone-age and voted “overwhelmingly” to allow women to join as members. In a statement they said that a recent consultation of current membership showed that over three-quarters were in favour of the move. While it is obviously a sound result, it’s probably only at “Two cheers” as E.M. Forster would have it, as it shouldn’t even be an issue in the 21st century.

 

The new line-up for the 2017 Vitality Netball Superleague has been announced, not without controversy. There will be three new teams; Severn Stars, Scottish Sirens and Wasps Netball. There will, however, be no place for Yorkshire Jets. Apparently the new line-up was published in error on England Netball’s website.

Jets finished bottom of the league last season, without a win to their name, and it is unclear what their future will be. Their captain, Stacey Francis, spoke to Sky Sports:

“It’s really sad and it’s really hard to get your head around.

“I’m a very loyal person and the core of Superleague franchises have been around for a long time now. I envisaged playing for the franchise for as long as I possibly could and absolutely building on last season.

“The performances and the results were poor but at no point did anyone say we were a lost cause in terms of performance, and the debrief at the end of season was incredibly productive and lots of conversations were already happening about how we would move forward next season.”

Let’s hope that the Jets keep their team together and their fanbase expanding. If they do this I can’t see how the Superleague could block their return in 2018.

 

As I predicted some time ago (and it gives me no pleasure to say this), the next big story in athletics will surround transgender athletes. As we near the Rio Olympics there are going to be more scare stories and general hysteria (word deliberately used) about the issue. I’m not saying that it’s not a serious issue, but the amount of ignorance and misinformation printed or published in the next few weeks will far outweigh any scientifically-based, thoroughly researched and balanced pieces.

Most recently I have seen:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3671937/Transgender-British-athletes-born-men-set-make-Olympic-history-competing-games-women.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/11903290/Eight-of-Irans-womens-football-team-are-men.html

I suggest you all read up on it – the facts not the fiction and make your own decisions. This is such a grey area that needs some sensible discussion. One thing we don’t need is the demonising of transgender athletes, whose lives and decisions, you can guarantee, will be under the microscope to the nth degree before they are allowed to compete at any event.

 

Sailing update from Abby Ehler:

In sailing this week, Team Magenta 32 competing in the World Match Race Tour were eliminated early in the qualifying series, much to their disappointment.  The team has continually been making positive ground in the 2016 circuit, racing against some of the worlds best match racers, and as the Tour’s first all-female team they have have certainly made their mark on the course.  Results aside there are many positives to take away from their involvement in this particular circuit including the inspiration provided to others, one supporter wrote in “You have together opened up another door for more women sailors to compete in what is a male dominated arena and you continue to inspire in so many more ways that you can imagine to so many.”  The team hope to secure funding to be able to continue their course in the high performance sailing world.

The ‘La Solitaire Bombard Le Figaro’ Race concluded on Thursday 7th July in La Rochelle following 1525 miles of coastal single handed racing split into 4 stages.  What makes this race so unique is that is requires the sailors to be excellent short course racers, skilled navigators and weather routers and able to pace themselves to manage the sleep deprivation and hard living conditions, whilst maintaining the boat at sea and above all being competitive and determined to get through all the challenges that this Race entails! There were a total of 39 competitors, 5 of which were women: Justine Mettraux (SUI), Cecile Laguette (FRA), Sophie Faguet (FRA), Claire Pruvot (FRA) and Mary Rook (GBR).  Justine Mettraux has finished the event 3rd in the Rookie division, a great achievement in her first attempt at this hardcore race!

 

And finally, curse of the creepy middle-aged man strikes again! Most of you will now have heard of British men’s player and number 772 in the world, Marcus Willis. He did wondrous things to reach round two of Wimbledon. And behind every great man, so they say, is a great woman – enter girlfriend Jenny Bate. Bate, a dental surgeon by profession, was apparently largely responsible for Willis not giving up on his tennis career when it seemed it was not going anywhere.

Unsurprisingly the BBC and newspapers committed many column inches and footage to the attractive woman. Not too worried about that, although we could have done without a shot of her after every point.

But BBC commentator Andrew Castle just couldn’t help himself,

“It’s a pity my dentist doesn’t look like that,” he snickered like a lecherous schoolboy.

And it’s a pity you don’t realise you’re old enough to be her father, Andrew…..

Women’s Sports Column

netball223 – 29 January

This week’s stories come from tennis, football, rugby union, netball and cricket.  There’s a mix of some of the best action of the week plus a look forward to what’s coming up in the next couple of months.

Firstly, if you haven’t got involved in Sport Relief as yet, there’s still time.  The This Girl Can campaign has released new short films to show how girls and women can get involved.  “Slow fundraising beats no fundraising” is the message.  There’s so much you can do and so many organised events on the weekend Friday 18 to Sunday 20 March.  For more information see sportrelief.com and www.thisgirlcan.co.uk.

Biggest cheer of the week must go to Britain’s Johanna Konta.  She reached the semi-final of the Australian Open Tennis in Melbourne.

Since the last column was published, Konta beat Denisa Allertova from the Czech Republic 6-2 6-2 and then dispatched 21st seed Ekaterina Makarova 4-6 6-4 8-6.

In the quarter-final Konta was up against the unseeded conqueror of Simona Halep, Zhang Shuai.  She eased past her 6-4 6-1 to become the first British woman to reach a grand slam semi-final since Jo Durie in 1983.

Her semi-final opponent was sixth seed Angelique Kerber.  It was just a match too far and she was beaten 7-5 6-2.  Kerber was always going to be a step up, but it didn’t help that Konta’s game was beset by unforced errors.   Konta’s recent form will see her jump from her current ranking of 47 in the world to 28.

Konta’s Australian run has been described as a “fairytale” in some media outlets, but this does not do her justice.  There was no element of luck or unreality – it was all down to Konta’s incredible hard work and mental toughness.  Let’s give her the credit and leave the “fairytale” out of it.

In the final on Saturday 30 January, Kerber will face world number one, Serena Williams, who smashed fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0 6-4 in their semi-final.

Britain’s wheelchair tennis ace, Jordanne Whiley, did not fare so well this week.  She lost in the quarter-final of the singles 6-7 6-4 4-6, and in the semi-finals of the doubles with her British partner Lucy Shuker, 6-7 6-4 3-6.

The women’s doubles title was taken by top seeds and current Wimbledon and US Open champions, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza.  They beat the Czech pairing of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 7-6 6-3.

Along with the release of the 2016 FAWSL fixtures this week has come another raft of transfers.  Liverpool seem to be hottest in the market as they have made the surprise signing of winger Natasha Harding after she was released by Manchester City.  Harding only signed for City in March 2015.

City themselves have signed an immediate replacement in Swedish striker Kosovare Asllani.

Liverpool have, however, lost Asisat Oshoala to fellow title-hopefuls Arsenal.  The Nigerian player was named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year in May 2015.

The new FAWSL One and Two season will begin on Wednesday 23 March.  It is set to be the most exciting yet with an expanded division one nine-team league.

The first week of fixtures looks like this:

Wednesday 23 March

FA WSL 1

19:00 Manchester City Women v Notts County Ladies
FC Academy Stadium

19:30 Liverpool Ladies FC v Birmingham City Ladies
Select Security Stadium

19:45 Arsenal Ladies FC v Reading FC Women
Boreham Wood FC

FA WSL 2

19:00 Bristol City Women v Yeovil Town Ladies FC
Stoke Gifford Stadium

19:00 Sheffield FC Ladies v Durham Women FC
Sheffield FC

19:45 London Bees v Watford Ladies FC
The Hive

Sunday 27 March 2016

FA WSL 2

14:00 Aston Villa Ladies FC v Oxford United Women
Sutton Coldfield Central Ground

14:00 Millwall Lionesses v Everton Ladies FC
Millwall Football Club

14:00 Watford Ladies FC v Yeovil Town Ladies FC
Berkhamsted FC

Monday 28 March 2016

FA WSL 1

14:00 Chelsea Ladies FC v Liverpool Ladies FC
Staines Town FC

15:00 Manchester City Women v Arsenal Ladies FC
Academy Stadium

FA WSL 2

12:00 Durham Women FC v London Bees
New Ferens Park

There will be increased broadcast coverage via the BBC and BT.  Let’s hope the print media follows suit (I’m available if anyone needs me).  Otherwise you can keep up with it all at www.fawsl.com.

The RBS Six Nations begins on Friday 5 February.  Defending champions, Ireland, will be confident of taking the title again, while World Champions, England, realise they must improve on their poor fourth-place finish of last year.

The first weekend’s fixtures are:

Friday 5 February

18:00 Scotland Women v England Women
Broadwood Stadium

Saturday 6 February

13:00 Ireland Women v Wales Women
Donnybrook

21:00 France Women v Italy Women
Stade Marcel Verchere.

England’s Roses suffered a series whitewash 3-0 against World and Commonwealth champions Australia this week.  After a close-fought first game, as reported last week, with England just losing out 52-58, Australia really piled on the pressure and rarely looked threatened in either of the other two games.

The second match, played in front of a sell-out crowd at the Copper Box in London, was tight for a while, with England holding a four goal lead in the second quarter, only to see it vanish by half-time and to be trailing by 25-23.  The second half was much more one-sided and the Diamonds went on to close it out 60-44.

The third game, also at the Copper Box, was, in truth, also somewhat one-sided.  Australia ran out convincing winners 53-41.

This is not to say that England were out of their depth.  It is a young squad and showed good maturity and determination throughout.  Sasha Corbin was my player of the series, although the official Roses player of the series was Goalkeeper Ama Agbeze.  Sharni Layton (also Goalkeeper) was the Aussie player of the series.

Netball’s popularity and fanbase just keeps growing.  The domestic season starts this weekend with Super Saturday at the Genting Arena in Birmingham.  All eight Superleague teams will be taking part and it will all be shown live on Sky from 2pm as part of their Netball Month.

 Two momentous events in women’s cricket occurred this week.

In the all-Sydney inaugural WBBL final the Sydney Thunder beat the Sixers by three wickets.

It was always going to be difficult for the Sixers as they posted a small total of just 115 for the Thunder to chase.

The Sixers won the toss and elected to bat.  They were the in-form team coming into the final – winning nine games in a row to go from also-rans to semi-finalists in the process.  They won their semi-final against the Hobart Hurricanes with ease and looked prepared to upset the favourites in the final.

But it was not to be.  As they regularly lost wickets the Sixers were unable to put together any meaningful partnerships.  Eventual player of the match, spinner Erin Osborne, did the most damage taking 3-21.

The response from the Thunder was not confident though and the Sixers must have thought they were still in with a chance when Captain Ellyse Perry took the wicket of Rene Farrell in the last over with the Thunder needing four to win.   In the end the Sydney Thunder took the game with three balls to spare.

The other event, which has somewhat shaken the world of women’s cricket is that India have gone 2-0 up in a three-match T20 series against Australia, in Australia.

In the first game, in Adelaide on 26 January, they managed their highest ever chase in a T20.  Australia had posted a decent 140 after their poor start left them 17-2 after four overs.  Indeed it wasn’t until Alyssa Healey came in that Australia really put their foot down – Healey hitting 41 off 15 balls, supported by Alex Blackwell with 27 off 22.

India’s reply started uncertainly when Mithali Raj was caught for just four in the second over, but a second wicket partnership of 55 between Smrti Mandhana and Veda Krishnamurthy steadied things for the tourists.  Three quick wickets later India looked in trouble again at 91-4 off 14 overs.  Enter Harmanpreet Kaur.  She scored 46 including one six and six fours, ensuring her team’s victory with eight balls to spare.

The second game, at the MCG, was spoiled by rain.  Australia batted first again and managed 125 for 8 off 18 overs.  Meg Lanning made a creditable 49 but after she was run out at the non-striker’s end Australia went on to lose 5-10 in 14 balls.

India had reached 52-0 in their chase when the rain started again and when it stopped and the D/L total was revised again to just 66, India had no problem in knocking off the extra 14 runs.  Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana were unbeaten on 37 and 22 respectively.

India had won their first ever series against Australia.  The third game takes place at the SCG in Sydney on Sunday 31 January.  Both teams may take the chance to try out some new names in preparation for the World T20, which takes place in India in March and April this year.

Happy to say no “and finally” this week.  There will be no column next week as I will be away, but I’ll be back on the 12th with two weeks of news!