Women’s Sports Column 20-26 October 2018

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through yet again with stories from rugby union, football, cricket, tennis, athletics, hockey, volleyball, golf, netball, boxing and taekwondo, plus the result of the Young Sportsperson of the Year award winner.   Also, from the seriousness of last week’s “And Finally” we come to the ridiculous of this week’s….

Let’s crack on.

Tennis – on the Court

Kremlin Cup

Jo Konta couldn’t quite make it to the final of the Kremlin Cup, succumbing to eventual winner and sixth seed Daria Kasatkina, 6-4 6-3.  In the other semi-final Ons Jabeur beat fifth seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 3-6 6-3.

Daria Kasatkina won the final, 2-6 7-6 6-4.

Luxembourg Open

In the Luxembourg Open semi-finals, Belinda Bencic defeated ninth seed Dayana Yastremska 6-2 3-6 7-6 and top seed Julia Goerges beat Eugenie Bouchard 6-7  7-5 6-1.

Goerges went on to win the final 6-4 7-5.

WTA Finals

Of course all eyes are now on Singapore and the fierce competition at the end of season finals.

Red Group:
Angelique Kerber
Naomi Osaka
Sloane Stephens
Kiki Bertens

Matches so far:
Stephens beat Osaka 7-5 4-6 6-1
Bertens beat Kerber 1-6 6-3 6-4
Kerber beat Osaka 6-4 5-7 6-4
Stephens beat Bertens 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3

White Group
Caroline Wozniacki
Petra Kvitova
Elina Svitolina
Karolina Pliskova

Matches so far:
Svitolina beat Kvitova 6-3 6-3
Pliskova beat Wozniacki 6-2 6-4
Wozniacki beat Kvitova 7-5 3-6 6-2
Svitolina beat Pliskova 6-3 2-6 6-3
Pliskova beat Kvitova 6-3 6-4
Svitolina beat Wozniacki 5-7 7-5 6-3

More news of who eventually triumphed next week.

Tennis – off the Court

After her exit from the WTA Finals at the group stage, Caroline Wozniacki has revealed that she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in August.

She said,

“In the beginning, it was a shock.  It’s obviously not ideal for anybody, and I think when you’re a professional athlete, it’s also not even more ideal.

“I think I didn’t want to talk about it during the year because I don’t want to give anyone the edge or thinking that I’m not feeling well, but I have been feeling well.

“You learn how to just cope after matches. Some days you wake up and you can’t get out of bed and you just have to know that’s how it is, but other days you live and you’re fine. You don’t even feel like you have it.”

There is no cure, but the symptoms of pain and swelling in the joints can be relieved by medication and treatment.

We cannot know at this stage just how and how fast the condition will progress, but Wozniacki is determined to fight through as far as she is able.

Taekwondo

There were a series of excellent results for British women at the World Taekwondo Grand Prix in Manchester over the weekend.

First, Lauren Williams won gold in the -68kg division, beating Matea Jelic of Croatia in the final 15-10.

Then Bianca Walkden took silver in the +67kg category, losing 6-4 to Olympic champion Zheng Shuyin of China in the final.

And finally, two-time Olympic champion, Jade Jones, won the -57kg title, beating Zhou Lijun of China 11-4 in the final.

Volleyball

Two weeks of Women’s Super League results to catch up on:

13 October
Tendring VC Ladies 3-0 Sheffield Hallam (25-16, 25-19, 25-15)
Polonia SideOut London 0-3 London Orcas (17-25, 10-25, 10-25)
Durham Palatinates 3-0 Bristol VC 1 (25-12, 25-4, 25-8)
Malory Eagles UEL 3-0 Birmingham Volleyball Club 1 (25-22, 22-14, 25-9)

20 October
Sheffield Hallam 3-0 Bristol VC 1 (25-17, 25-14, 25-12)
Team BU Wessex 0-3 Durham Palatinates (25-15, 25-19, 25-11)
Malory Eagles UEL 3-0 Polonia SideOut London (25-13, 26-24, 25-12)

Most teams have now played two games.  Durham are top with two wins from two with Malory Eagles second, also with two wins from two but with an inferior points quotient.  Three teams have no points, Polonia from two games and Birmingham and Wessex from only one.

Football

Last weekend’s Super League results:

Yeovil Town 1-2 Bristol City
Gaylor 33’
Graham 32’, 73’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-6 Manchester City
Stanway 21’ 64’ 68’, Weir 43’, Parris 87’, Emslie 91’

Birmingham City 0-0 Chelsea

West Ham 0-1 Liverpool
Sweetman-Kirk 7’

Reading 0-6 Arsenal
Miedema 3’ 49’ 85’, Nobbs 7’, Mead 47’, Van de Donk 76’

It’s as you were at the top with another big win for Arsenal.  Five wins from five for the Gunners and a massive +24 goal difference.  Manchester City are second with 14 from six games and Birmingham third with 13, also from six.  At the bottom, Yeovil are still without a point and Brighton sit just above them with one point from six games.

Championship results:

London Bees 3-2 Lewes
Beckett 11’ 44’, Gould 63’
Quayle 17’, Kempson 26’

Charlton Athletic 2-0 Sheffield United
Stobbs 42’, Clifford 72’

Durham 2-0 Crystal Palace
Roberts 57’, Watling 89’ OG

Leicester City 1-1 Aston Villa
Axten 43’ (Pen)
Hutton 20’

Tottenham Hotspur 8-0 Millwall Lionesses
Addison 21’ 83’, Dean 29’ 50’ 71’, Wiltshire 30’, Neville 37’, Baptiste 62’

Tottenham are top of the Championship with their stunning 8-0 win over the Lionesses.  They have 15 points from five games.  Manchester United are second with 13 from five.  At the bottom, Millwall have a single point from five games and Aston Villa are just above them on two from five.

World Cup Build-up

More friendlies have been announced this week.

Scotland will play USA in Paisley on 13 November.  It will be the US’s first game in Scotland.  The question is, can the US do it on a wet Tuesday in Paisley?

England, meanwhile, will face Austria in Vienna on Thursday 8 November and then Sweden at Rotherham’s New York stadium on Sunday 11 November.

Hockey – on the Pitch

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

20 October
Surbiton 6-0 Bowdon

21 October
Holcombe 1-2 East Grinstead
Clifton Robinsons 1-1 Slough
Buckingham 1-2 Beeston
University of Birmingham 1-1 Canterbury

Surbiton march on.  Four wins from five and top of the table with 13 points.  Holcombe and East Grinstead lie second and third on 10 points.  Bowdon are bottom on two points.  Slough also have two points but are second from bottom on goal difference.

This weekend’s fixtures:

Saturday 27 October
Slough v Holcombe (12.30pm, Slough Hockey Club)
Bowdon v University of Birmingham (13.45pm, Bowdon Club)
East Grinstead v Clifton Robinsons (2pm, East Grinstead Hockey Club)
Beeston v Surbiton (4pm, Nottingham Hockey Club P1)
Canterbury v Buckingham (4pm, Polo Farm SC – P1)

Hockey – off the Pitch            

Women’s Hockey will finally have a new European league, launching in 2020.

The men’s league, which features the top 24 teams in Europe, has been in existence since 2007.

European Hockey is yet to finalise details, but it’s a great move and one that has been a long time coming.  We look to hockey to be a leader in sporting equality, so it is good to see that the women will, at last, get their chance.

Rugby Union – Off the Pitch

The long-running dispute between Coleraine Rugby club and Ulster Rugby seems to be at an end.  The authorities have now fined the club £5,000 for the incident in which a female referee was verbally abused at the club last season.

Colleagues of the referee, thought to be Grainne Crabtree, staged a protest and refused to officiate at Coleraine’s home matches until a satisfactory result had been reached.  They have now ended this protest, but it still is not clear whether the official has received an apology from the club.

The club has refused to comment as to what reparations have been made.

In a statement, the club somewhat disingenuously said,

“Coleraine Rugby Club is pleased that there has been a resolution to the long-running dispute involving rugby’s Ulster Branch Referees Society and the club,” a spokesperson said.

“The club has accepted the decision of the Ulster Branch review into this matter.

“We are now looking forward to giving a warm welcome to all referees and teams visiting our club for matches this week and in the future.”

It is unlikely that we will ever know just what the “resolution” has been.

Rugby Union – on the Pitch

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

20 October 2018
Wasps Ladies 31-15 Richmond Women
Loughborough Lightning 59-3 DMP Sharks
Gloucester-Hartpury 67-3 Worcester Valkyries
Harlequins 20-17 Saracens
Bristol Bears 75-13 Firwood Waterloo

It was a chastening weekend for both Worcester and Firwood Waterloo at the bottom, while at the top a shock defeat for Saracens sees a new leader.  Loughborough Lightning are now top with six wins from six and 29 points, including five bonus points.  Saracens are second with 25 and Harlequins third on 22.  At the bottom, there is no respite for Worcester who still have only two bonus points and Firwood Waterloo just above them on five.

This weekend’s fixtures:

27 October
Firwood Waterloo v Loughborough Lightning (12.30pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Worcester Valkyries v Bristol Bears (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
DMP Sharks v Wasps Ladies (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

28 October
Richmond Women v Harlequins (3.30pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Saracens v Gloucester-Hartpury (3.45pm, Allianz Park)

Rugby Sevens

New Zealand powered their way to yet another win in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Glendale, Colorado.

They defeated USA 33-7 in the final.  There was a hat-trick of tries for Portia Woodman, and one each for Sarah Goss and Niall Williams.  Tyla Nathan-Wong kicked four conversions.  The US scored one try, through Nicole Heavirland which was converted by Alev Kelter.

Canada beat France 28-0 in the bronze final.

Australia took fifth, beating Ireland in the fifth place play-off 21-19 and England finished eighth, beaten in the seventh place play-off by Russia 17-14.

The next round is in Dubai on 29-30 November.

Boxing

Katie Taylor retained her IBF and WBA titles at the weekend with a unanimous points victory over Cindy Serrano in Boston.

Taylor has now won all 11 fights since turning professional in2016.

BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year

Kare Adenegan has been named 2018 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year.

Adenegan has had a storming year, taking Hannah Cockcroft’s world record in the T34 100m.  She also took gold in the same event at the Para-athletics European games in Berlin, again beating Cockcroft in the process and also took silver in the T34 800m.

The original shortlist was whittled down to three, the other two being swimmer Freya Anderson and jockey James Bowen.

The shortlist and winner were chosen by a panel including BBC presenters, current and former sporting stars and two representatives from the Youth Sport Trust.

Athletics

Great South Run

Eilish McColgan won the Great South Run at her first attempt last weekend.

The race, run over 10 miles (16 km) was held in Portsmouth and Southsea.

McColgan won in a time of 54:43 with Steph Twell in second in 55:15 and last year’s champion Gemma Steel in third in a time of 56:56.

Netball

England Netball Investment

We all know that the seemingly best-supported women’s sport actually usually hangs precariously over a precipice, so news of any investment is welcome.

In January England Netball revealed it had a shortfall in funding which could have resulted in cuts to the England programme, but this week came the announcement that Vitality will extend its sponsorship of English netball for another three years.

Joanna Adams, Chief Executive of England Netball said,

“We want netball to be a career, and a career option for players and coaches. We want it to be a fully professional sport with a fully professional Superleague and we want to keep our young athletes in netball.

“As women’s football, cricket and rugby grow, we just can’t be left behind as a sport.”

“The Australian league is still the best in the world,” Adams added.

“But in the next three to four years we want to be as competitive as Australia, we want our top English stars playing in this league and we want to attract some of the top internationals too.

“We need more investment in Superleague so it is a similar environment to the national squad.”

So the immediate future for netball in England is bright.  I’m not sure about the England team being now known as the “Vitality Roses”, but needs must, I suppose.  Possibly marginally less bizarre than the Samsung Diamonds….

Fast 5 World Series

This weekend sees the third edition of the Fast 5 World Series.  It takes place at the Melbourne Arena in Melbourne, Australia on 27-28 October.

New Zealand won the first event in 2016 and England the second in 2017.  This will be the third and last time (for now) that the tournament will be held in Australia.

All teams will play six 24 minute games across the two-day series. Each team will feature on both days of competition, with finals held on Sunday.

The countries taking part are Australia, New Zealand, England, Malawi, Jamaica and South Africa.

The whole event is live on Sky Sports.

Cricket

Australia sealed a 3-0 win over Pakistan in their ODI series this week.  After skittling Pakistan for 95 in the first ODI, they pressed home their advantage to take the series easily.

Second ODI – Kuala Lumpur
20 October
Australia 273/7 (50 overs)
Pakistan 123 all out (40.1 overs)
Australia won by 150 runs

Captain Meg Lanning hit 124 and put on a stand of 181 runs with Rachael Haynes, who scored 79 as the Southern Stars made a fine 273/7 in their 50 overs.

In response Nahida Khan made 66, but no-one else could muster a score as Pakistan were all out for 123.  Sophie Molineux took 4/14 off nine overs.  Ash Gardner and Megan Schutt took two wickets each.

Third ODI – Kuala Lumpur
22 October
Australia 324/7 (50 overs)
Pakistan 235/7 (50 overs)
Australia won by 89 runs

Alyssa Healy fell three short of a century before she was bowled by Diana Baig.  Nicole Bolton was the only player to miss out, lbw for a duck to Sana Mir.  Everyone else got into double figures as the Australians put on an imposing 324/7.  Sana Mir took 3/53 from her 10 overs, and in doing so became number one ranked bowler in women’s ODIs.

Pakistan started well in response.  They had reached 49 before the first wicket fell, Muneeba Ali caught by Molineux off Gardner for 15.

Most of the Pakistanis got starts, but they soon fell behind the required rate.  Aliya Riaz top-scored with 51, but Pakistan fell short by 89 runs.  Gardner was again in the wickets, taking 3/44 off her 10 overs.

Golf – on the Course

Indian Open

Becky Morgan won her first professional tournament at the weekend, at the 119th time of asking.  She took the Indian Open title by two shots, finishing on -7.  Caroline Hedwall (Swe), Christine Wolf (Aut), Nicole Broch Larsen (Den) and Felicity Johnson (Eng) tied for second on -5.

In her 18-year professional career Morgan has had 22 top-10 finishes.

Golf – off the Course

The fourth oldest golf club in the world, the Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society in Edinburgh, has voted to accept women members.  It has only taken them 257 years.

The club announced that 83.7% of members who voted were in favour of admitting women. The turnout was 67%.

We’re getting there, folks.

And Finally

The judging panel for World Rugby’s Women’s 15s Player of the Year has been announced.  And you couldn’t make it up.  Maggie Alphonsi (so far, so good), then it’s Fabien Galthié, George Gregan, Richie McCaw, Brian O’Driscoll, Agustín Pichot, John Smit and Clive Woodward.  Hmmm.  Call me cynical (and I’m not the only one), but how many of these esteemed names will have watched enough women’s rugby to reach an informed decision on this issue?  Well, probably one.

This is the governing body that not so long ago, last year in fact, produced its strategy for women and girls’ rugby, Accelerating the Global Development of Women in Rugby 2017-25.  Obviously the strategy doesn’t extend to participation on judging panels.

Of course I’m not saying that men don’t watch women’s rugby, but these seven?  I don’t think so.  Could they not at least have a fifty-fifty male/female split?  Obviously not.  But good luck to the poor souls that have to provide the panel with its crib notes so that they can come to a Verdict.

Come on World Rugby, you can do better. Can’t you?

More news and views next week.

Women’s Sports Column 31 March – 6 April 2018

netball1Welcome to this week’s column – it’s good to be back!  This week will be a bit of a past, present, future round-up, going over a few of the things I missed over the last couple of weeks and a bit of what’s coming up.

Stories this week come from the Commonwealth Games, cricket, football, hockey, golf, ice hockey, tennis, and rugby union.

So let’s crack on.

Commonwealth Games

Many consider it an historical and political anachronism, but there is no doubt that the next two weeks of Commonwealth Games action will be filled with elite sportspeople doing their very best in competition – for some it will be the pinnacle of their sporting careers.  So why should we begrudge these athletes their moment?  For the time being, let’s just enjoy the sport.  I will, almost certainly, miss something or someone out so apologies for that, but let’s give it a go.

The home nations story so far:

Triathlon

First home nations medal went to Jess Learmonth who won silver in the triathlon.  Gold went to Flora Duffy, who won Bermuda’s first ever gold.  Joanna Brown of Canada took the bronze.

Netball

While the domestic Superleague takes a break, we can relish the opportunity to watch top class netball on terrestrial television.

In Pool B England have started well with two wins from two: 74-28 v Scotland and 74-49 v Malawi.

Scotland play Wales next.

In Pool A Northern Ireland, in a ridiculously tough group have played just one game, losing to Australia 94-26.

Squash

In the women’s singles the home nations players are going well with one win each from one match.  Tesni Evans of Wales beat Aifa Asman of Malaysia 3-1.  England’s Laura Massaro, Sarah-Jane Perry and Alison Waters all beat their opponents 3-0.  Still a way to go.

Table tennis

Wales got through to the quarter-finals of the team competition, but were beaten 3-1 by Australia in that round.  The Welsh team included 11-year old Anna Hursey, the youngest person to ever represent Wales at a Commonwealth Games.  She lost in her singles, but won the doubles rubber with partner Chloe Thomas.

England play Canada in their quarter-final.

Cycling medals

Katie Archibald (SCO) Gold in the 3000m Individual Pursuit

Sophie Thornhill (ENG) Gold in the Women’s B& VI Sprint

Lauren Bate & Katy Marchant (ENG) Bronze in the Women’s Team Sprint

Swimming medals

Aimee Willmott (ENG) Gold in 400m Individual Medley

Sarah Vasey (ENG) Gold in 50m Breaststroke

Eleanor Robinson (ENG) Gold in S7 50m Butterfly

Alice Tai (ENG) Gold in S9 100m Backstroke

Hannah Miley (SCO) Silver in 400m Individual Medley

ENG bronze in 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay

Gymnastics

England’s women won silver in the Team event with Canada taking gold

Hockey

Pool A

India 2-3 Wales

England 2-0 South Africa

India 4-1 Malaysia

England 5-1 Wales

Pool B

Scotland 1-6 New Zealand

Australia 1-0 Canada

New Zealand 12-0 Ghana

International Football -World Cup Qualifiers

The Lionesses play Wales at Southampton on Friday evening.  The squad has suffered a number of withdrawals through injury.  Alex Greenwood has been called up to cover for Hannah Blundell, who is unwell.

Wales have a full-strength squad to pick from.

The match starts at 7pm and is live on BBC Two.

England then go on to face Bosnia-Herzegovina in Zenica on Tuesday.

The Republic of Ireland will play two home games; on Friday against Slovakia and on Tuesday against the Netherlands.

Northern Ireland play on Tuesday at home to Norway.

Scotland played on Thursday 5 April, losing a tight game against Switzerland 1-0.  The only goal of the game came through Lara Dickenmann on the half-hour.

Scotland play again on Tuesday, at home to Poland.

FAWSL

The scores from the latest round of WSL matches were as follows:

Saturday 31 March

FAWSL2

Doncaster Rovers Belles 3-1 Watford

All the goals in this game came in the first-half.  The home side were three up just after the half-hour.  The Belles scored through Jess Sigsworth (9), Sam Tierney (12) and Maz Pachaco (32), before Anneka Nuttall scored the consolation for Watford a minute before the break.

Sunday 1 April

FAWSL1

Yeovil Town 0-4 Liverpool

Liverpool ended a poor streak with a good win at Yeovil on Easter Sunday.  They took the lead in the first minute through Laura Coombs.  Gemma Bonner added a second on 17 and two minutes later they were three up through an Ash Hodson tap-in.  A fourth was scored in the second-half through Beth England.

Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea

It was honours even at Meadow Park.  The away side took the lead just after the half-hour through an in-form Fran Kirby.  Arsenal equalised just before half-time through Beth Mead.  Neither team could break the stalemate in the second half and the points were shared.

Birmingham City 2-0 Sunderland

A fine streak of form saw Birmingham up to third after this win on Sunday.  Ellen White opened the scoring on 19 minutes, her 11th goal in 11 games.  Four minutes later Rachel Williams made it two and Sunderland had no reply.

Manchester City 0-2 Reading

There was a shock defeat for the WSL1 champions as an inspired Reading took all three points at the Academy Stadium.

Remi Allen opened the scoring with an impressive bicycle kick on 34.  Kirsty Pearce doubled the lead on 61 minutes.  Reading worked  hard to maintain the lead and even managed to work through Jo Potter’s red card ten minutes from time.

So Chelsea are still top of WSL1 with 29 points from 13 games.  Manchester City are second on 26 with Birmingham City breathing down their necks in third on 22.  At the bottom it’s still Yeovil, yet to get a point from 11 matches, with Bristol City above them on seven.

FAWSL2

Durham 1-1 Oxford United

Jordan Atkinson’s strike on 31 opened the scoring for the home side.  Imogen Lancaster, making her debut for Oxford, equalised in first-half injury time.

Brighton & Hove Albion 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur

Brighton are up to third with this win over Spurs.  Chloe Peploe scored the first from a free-kick just before half-time.  The crowd  had to wait then until the 92nd minute for a second when Amanda Nilden slotted home to ensure the points went to the home side.

Sheffield FC P-P Millwall Lionesses

WSL2 sees Doncaster Rovers Belles top with 32 points from 12 matches.  Millwall  Lionesses are second on 26 from 11 and Brighton & Hove Albion third on 25 from 11.  At the bottom Watford have only one point from 10 matches and Aston Villa seven from 11.

Tennis

Thirteenth seed Sloane Stephens triumphed at Miami last week, beating sixth seed Jeļena Ostapenko in the final 7-6 6-1.

This week Naomi Broady and Heather Watson were competing at Monterrey and Charleston respectively.

Broady had a good win over Carol Zhao of Canada in the first round 6-3 6-7 6-2, but lost in the second to fourth seed Timea Babos of Hungary 6-3 6-7 7-5.

Watson’s bad run continued as she lost to American Taylor Townsend in the Charleston first round, 6-3 6-4.

British number on Jo Konta lost in the second round to Hungarian qualifier Fanny Stollar 6-3 6-4.  Konta had a bye in the first round.  This continues a disappointing series of results for Konta at the start of the 2018 season.

The Monterrey quarter-final line-up is:

S Vickery (USA) (7) v M Rybáriková (SLO) (2)

M Puig (PUE) (5) v T Babos (HUN) (4)

D Collins (USA) v D Bogdan (ROM) (6)

G Muguruza (ESP) 1 v A. Tomljanović (AUS) (8)

The Charleston quarter-finals look like this:

B Pera (USA) v M Keys (USA) (7)

(J. Görges (GER) (5) v D Kasatkina (RUS) (3)

A. Sevastova (LAT) (8) v K. Plíšková (CZE)

A Cornet (FRA) (14) v K Bertens (NED) (12)

Ice Hockey

World Championship Division II Group A

Great Britain are currently competing in the World Championship Division II Group A tournament in Maribor, Slovenia.  At stake is promotion to Division I Group B.

Team GB have made an excellent start and need one more win to finish top.

Great Britain 5-1 Australia

Australia took the lead through Michelle Clark-Crumpton, but GB then scored five unanswered goals to win the game.  GB’s goals came through Beth Hill, Angela Taylor (2) and Leanne Ganney (2).

Great Britain 3-1 North Korea

Leanne Ganney was on the scoresheet again as GB took the lead, with Angela making it two on 25 minutes.  Kim Un-hyang scored for North Korea, but Georgina Farman restored GB’s two-goal lead to ensure the win.

Great Britain 5-0 Mexico

Five goals from five different scorers saw GB comfortable winners over Mexico.  GB’s goals came from Kimberley Lane, Clara Ashton, Saffron Allen, Katie Henry and Louise Adams.

Slovenia 1-4 Great Britain

Team GB took their fourth win in a row in beating tournament hosts, Slovenia.  They scored four unanswered through Beth Hill, Katie Henry, Angela Taylor and Sophie Herbert, before Slovenia pulled one back through Sara Confidenti.

The Netherlands are top of the table on goal difference, with GB in second.  The top two play on Friday 6 April in a winner-takes-all match.  It will be GB’s sternest test as Netherlands finished as runners-up last year, while GB finished third.  The match takes place at 3.30pm UK time and there is coverage on BBC radio.

Golf

Augusta National, not America’s most forward-thinking golf club, has announced that it will host a new women’s tournament before the Masters in 2019.

Augusta, which didn’t even admit women as members until 2012, will hold the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship over 54 holes.

The first two rounds will be played at Champions Retreat Golf Club in Augusta and the final round, the cut to the lowest 30 scores will be at Augusta National.

It’s a good development for the women’s game, although the first women’s major of the season, the ANA Inspiration, will potentially clash as it usually played the week before the Masters.

Rugby Union

Tyrell’s Premier 15s 

The regular season is now over and the Finals places are decided.

After the season’s 18 games, Saracens finished top with 79 points.  Joining them in the Finals are Harlequins, who finished second on 76, Wasps, third on 69 and Gloucester-Hartpury, who ended on 60 points and in fourth place.

The fixtures look like this:

7 April

Semi-final 1, first leg

Wasps v Harlequins (Twyford Avenue Sports Ground, 1pm)

Semi-final 2, first leg

Gloucester-Hartpury v Harlequins (4.15pm)

14 April

Semi-final 1, second leg

Harlequins v Wasps (The Stoop, 3pm)

15 April

Semi-final 2, second leg

Saracens v Gloucester-Hartpury (Allianz Park, 6pm)

Grand Final

29 April, Ealing Trailfinders RFC, 3pm

Cricket

Tri-Series Final

A quick review of the final between Australia and England, which took place on 31 March

Australia 209/4 (20 overs)

England 152/9 (20 overs)

Australia won by 57 runs

In the end England were well beaten by Australia.  Although England had beaten the Southern Stars at the round-robin stage, their last game against India was poor and they went into the final having lost some form.  Australia, on the other hand, had improved throughout the tournament.

Stand-in captain Dani Hazell won the toss and elected to field first.  She must have rued that decision as Australia piled on 209 runs, including 32 fours, the most in a T20 international innings (men or women).

Meg Lanning scored 88 not out from 45 balls – an innings that included 16 fours and one six.  She was ably supported by Elyse Villani who scored 51 from 30.

In response, England lost Bryony Smith and Tammy Beaumont early on for ducks, and while Dani Wyatt tried to hold it together, she couldn’t replicate her earlier form and was dismissed for 34.  Nat Sciver contributed 50 from 42 and Amy Jones 30 from 28, but the chase was too stiff and they fell well short, leaving Australia worthy winners.

The biggest disappointment was the lack of media coverage in the UK of the tournament.  England coach Mark Robinson said,

“I’m led to believe there are a lot of people back home that are disappointed,” Robinson told BBC Sport.

“It might be a wake-up call to broadcasters that there is a demand.

“That’s a healthy thing that we should make the most of.

“It is disappointing.   Danni Wyatt’s innings deserved to be seen by a global audience.

“But to be at a stage where people are demanding to know why it isn’t on TV is a good thing.

“I’d rather look at the positive side of it. How exciting is it that we’re at the stage where people are clamouring to watch the tour, complaining and making a stink that they can’t?”

The tournament was shown live in both India and Australia.  I can’t add much to that, can I, except to agree wholeheartedly.  Come on ECB, put your money where your mouth is.

England v India ODI series

First ODI 6 April

England 207 all out (49.3 overs)

India 208/9 (49.1 overs)

India won by 1 wicket with 5 balls remaining

England captain Heather Knight was still missing for England as she continues to recover from a hamstring strain.  Anya Shrubsole, herself returning from injury, captained the side, winning the toss and opting to bat first.

England made a fair start, making 71 before the first wicket was taken.  Wyatt was out for 27 and, as so often happens, the second wicket just three balls later as Jones went for a duck.  Beaumont was third to go for 37.  Although Fran Wilson scored 45, it was from78 balls and all was a bit slow.  As they tried to speed up they lost wickets and were eventually all out for a disappointing 207.  Star bowler for India was Poonam Yadav, who took 4/30 from her 10 overs.

England never really had enough runs to play with, although the chase was tighter than India would have wanted.  Although Raj went for a duck, Mandhana made 86, Kaur 21 and Sharma 24 to put them well in front.   There was a flurry of wickets towards the end of the innings, but Bisht (12) and Yadav (7) saw India home with five balls to spare.

Other fixture dates:

Second ODI 9 April

Third ODI 12 April

Both games to be played in Nagpur.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League

We are at the end of the regular season in the Women’s Hockey League with just the play-offs to come.

After 18 games, Surbiton finished top of the league with 34 points.  Holcombe were second with 31 and East Grinstead and Buckingham both finished on 29 with East Grinstead finishing third on goal difference.

Leicester finished bottom of the pile with 16 points and are relegated.  Slough finished second-from-bottom with 18.

It gets a bit complicated here, so here’s the official explanation of what happens next from the England Hockey website:

“A series of play-offs determines who is promoted, relegated, qualifies for Europe and crowned champions in the Investec Women’s Hockey League. 

Investec Women’s Hockey League Champions and European Qualification
At the end of the regular season the team who finishes top of the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division will receive an automatic place in the EuroHockey Club Championships as England’s second ranked team. They can improve on this ranking, and compete to be crowned English Champions, in the Investec Women’s Hockey League Finals tournament. 

The team who wins the Investec Women’s Hockey League Final will be crowned Investec Women’s Hockey League Champions and will be England’s first ranked team in the EuroHockey Club Championships for the subsequent season. In the event that the team finishing top of the league at the end of the regular season also wins the Final, the runners-up in the Final will be England’s second ranked team in the EuroHockey Club Championships.

What are the Investec Women’s Hockey League Play-Offs?
There are two types of play-off that determine which teams are promoted and relegated in the Investec Women’s Hockey League.

Investec Premier Division Play-Off
Here the winners of the three Conferences join the ninth-placed team from the Premier Division to battle it out in a round robin tournament for two spaces in the top tier, with the tenth-placed side having been automatically relegated.”

For all the details of who plays whom, where and when, check it out here.

And finally,

The Forbes list of the most powerful women in international sport 2018 has been published.  It comprises 25 names from nine sports.

Like all of these lists there are those we are going to say “who?” to and those we would add.  And sorry, but for me no-one ever gets in who deals in “gaming”.  I’m not quite sure how Caroline Wozniacki makes it at eight, while Serena Williams doesn’t get on at all.  Great to see Mithali Raj at 12 and Nadia Nadim at 20.  Here’s the list in full:

1) Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura (Secretary General, FIFA)

2) Lydia Nsekera (Council Member, FIFA & Member, IOC)

3) Florence Hardouin (Executive Committee, UEFA & Director General, French Football Federation)

4) Angela Dong (Vice President, Nike & General Manager, Nike Greater China)

5) Marina Granovskaia (Director, Chelsea FC)

6) Barbara Slater (Director, BBC Sport)

7) Moya Dodd (Executive Committee, Asian Football Federation & Member, FIFA Player Status)

8) Caroline Wozniacki (Tennis player)

9) Nita Ambani (Owner, Mumbai Indians)

10) Claire Williams (Deputy Team Principal & Commercial Director, Williams Formula 1)

11) Aoife Brodigan (Head of Games Marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Facebook)

12) Mithali Raj (Indian Women’s Cricket Captain)

13) Mary Davis (CEO, Special Olympics)

14) Rimla Akhtar (Council member, the FA & Chair, Muslim Women’s Sports Foundation)

15) Sophie Goldschmidt (CEO, World Surf League)

16) Japan’s Women’s Baseball League (!)

17) Beng Choo Low (Secretary General, World Baseball Softball Federation & Member, Olympic Council of Asia)

18) Blanca Uribe (Deputy Executive President, Toros de Tijuana

19) Po-chun (Sophiyah) Liu (Umpire)

20) Nadia Nadim (Footballer)

21) XinYi Hua (Sports Journalist, Xin Min Evening News)

22) Lieke Martens (Footballer)

23) Sung Hyun Park (Golfer)

24) Sasha Hostyn (Gamer)

25) Leticia Bufoni (Skateboarder)

Don’t think I’ve got much of a chance to get on this list, but it does give me something to aim for……

 

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.

Back from Canterbury – what next for England?

Lydia Greenway
Lydia Greenway

I will state outright, here and now, that I never even entertained the idea that England’s women would lose the Ashes Test match in Canterbury

If anything was a cast-iron certainty, an England win was it.

So, you can imagine my shock when I sat in the stands at the Spitfire Ground and watched England’s batting being blown away.

We travelled down on the Tuesday, listening to the excellent TMS commentary on the way.  I was buoyed by the bowling – the stalwart Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Brunt doing the job admirably.  In fact I was much heartened by Shrubsole, who I thought had had a couple of below par performances recently and appeared to have lost a yard of pace.

By the time we got to our accommodation  I was feeling confident.  We let the Aussies back in towards the end of the day and

Edwards bowled
Edwards bowled

admittedly we couldn’t quite winkle out those last two wickets, but I thought it would be a formality the next morning and 268/8 from the first day was acceptable.

The next day we arrived at the ground bright and cheerful, unlike the weather.  Lanning eventually put the English bowling out of its misery and declared on 274/9.  I think this is where it all started to go wrong.  England suffered the indignity of not being able to finish off the innings and the openers just didn’t know when they would be expected to bat.

After lunch it all went to pieces with Knight,Winfield and Taylor going cheaply with only Edwards putting up a fight.  Taylor did her usual playing across the line and went for a duck.  But she wasn’t the only one giving it away.  At several points the innings was becalmed to the point of coma.  Thank God for Katherine Brunt, who was clearly as mad as hell at the performance of the batters and was determined to single-handedly get England to a decent score.  Bravely Anya Shrubsole backed her up, albeit for absolutely no runs from 47 balls.  But when Brunt went, England subsided to a pitiful 168 all out.

I had witnessed it all and was not impressed.

What happened on the next two days has been well documented by greater writers than I, but suffice it to say, things did not get any better.  The Aussies took it to England in their second innings, and a number of steady contributions meant that they could declare on 156/6, a mere 262 ahead.

Let’s face it, there was never any chance England were going to chase that.  The best that could be hoped for was a battling draw.

But it would have been nice if England had shown any sign of wanting to chase it.  I think we would all have preferred a defiantly bold defeat.  But no.  It was one of the saddest collapses I have seen (I may have mentioned that I was at Trent Bridge to see the Aussies get bowled out for 60 – but no, “sad” was not the word I’d use for that). Taylor bagged a pair and Perry looked unplayable, taking 6/32.

The bowling and fielding were good, but the batting was woeful in both innings.  I’m surprised by this as I don’t think, beyond Perry, that the Australian attack is all that special.  And, as I have said before, we seemed to lack a plan B.

I’m not going to beat about the bush, I think the Ashes have gone.  There’s no way England will win all of the T20s to retain the trophy.

I may not want to, but I’m going to accept that and move on.  But I see that cricket writers everywhere are having their say on the Test, as is their wont.

Mike Selvey, in the Guardian, for whom I have great respect and with whose opinions I often agree has stated that he thinks women should give up test cricket to concentrate on the shorter forms.  I’m sorry, but this is not the way I think it should go.  I’m more in tune with Andy Zaltzman on Cricinfo as he argues that the women need to play more test cricket, not less, if they are ever to progress.

I know that in these days it is hard enough to get some men’s test-playing nations enthusiastic about test matches, and audiences seem to be dwindling, but I am firmly convinced that that trend can be reversed.

Natalie Sciver
Natalie Sciver

I don’t want to see the game become a matter of constantly bashing the ball out the ground.  I don’t want cheerleaders and razzle dazzle at the expense of skill and flair.  I want it to be a genuine contest between bat and ball.  The only arena in which this truly happens is in test cricket.  So why can’t women be a part of this?

The women enjoy playing test cricket, but they don’t play enough to hone their skills – should we deprive them of the chance to give it their best shot?

Mike Selvey says “you have to let it go”.  I say, test cricket is a beautiful game.  Let’s do more of it, let’s train for it, play it, promote it, show everyone its worth.

In other words, let’s not let it go, but hold onto it with everything we’ve got. 

Thanks to Michael Hopkins for all photos.

It’s the Ashes!

I hope you all enjoyed my debut for Women’s Sports UK (WSUK) last week.  I certainly enjoyed writing it.  Since then we’ve had the start of the Women’s Ashes.

Pretty much like the men’s, all went well to begin with.  I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, but it goes for both the men’s and women’s, that you’ve got to make the most of the Australians when they’ve only just arrived.  And we did.  The first one-day went completely to plan from England’s point of view as they won by 4 wickets at Taunton.  However, it doesn’t take long for the Aussies to acclimatise and in the second and third one-days England were outplayed and out-thought, losing the second by 63 runs and the third by 89.

I’m afraid there were some glaring issues in the latter two games that will have to be tackled before the 3 Twenty20 games at the end of August and beginning of September.  I don’t have concerns about the test match – it’s the short form we’re lacking in.

Let’s state now that I adore Charlotte Edwards to the point of hero-worship.  But I am not blind to her faults.  Very much like Alastair Cook, she is a creature of habit.  She has her plans – and they are good plans – but is reluctant to deviate if they don’t work.  Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole opening the bowling – 5 overs each.  No questions.  No messing.  No change.  It didn’t bring a wicket in the second game so, guess what, let’s do it all again in the third!  At the risk of sounding like Geoffrey Boycott (put me down now) if plan A doesn’t work you’ve got to have a plan B, then a plan C etc.  I’m afraid she didn’t look like she even had a B.  I don’t know what the answer is to that, she’s been captain for over 200 internationals now and I’m not the person to tell her she’s doing it wrong!  All I’m saying is that there’s got to be more flexibility as games very rarely go completely to plan.

Secondly, and I really do feel I’m attacking the twin pillars of English women’s cricket, someone needs to get hold of Sarah Taylor and tell her 30 is not enough.  So many times she gets a start but doesn’t carry through.  Dan Norcross made exactly the same point in the TMS commentary yesterday.  He’s someone else I rarely agree with, but on this occasion I found myself nodding along.  She’s one of the best batters in the world so it’s about time she acted like it.

In the meantime Meg Lanning, Elyse Perry, et al, go past England without pausing for breath.

Enough of this carping.  On the positive front, the coverage of the Ashes has been brilliant so far.  There’s so much discussion out there about the game and its future and it’s not just comparing it unfavourably to the men’s game.  In fact you know you’ve made it when they’re starting to talk about it in the Daily Telegraph.  Excellent piece today by Jonathan Liew on Meg Lanning and her place in women’s cricketing history.

I’m going to be in Canterbury for the test match so expect plenty of comment!