Welcome to this week’s column. So much to get through – where to start, that’s the question! Stories this week come from cricket, basketball, tennis, football, rugby union, motorsport, cycling and netball.
Better crack on…
Motorsport – W Series
As previously reported, opinion is divided on the new W Series, but whatever you think of it, more than 100 women applied to be a part of it. The list has been whittled down to 28:
Sarah Bovy (Bel), Jamie Chadwick (UK), Sabré Cook (US), Natalie Decker (US), Marta García (Esp), Megan Gilkes (Can), Grace Gui (Chi), Esmee Hawkey (UK), Jessica Hawkins (UK), Shea Holbrook (US), Vivien Keszthelyi (Hun), Emma Kimiläinen (Fin), Natalia Kowalska (Pol), Stéphane Kox (Ned), Miki Koyama (Jap), Francesca Linossi (Ita), Milou Mets (Ned), Sarah Moore (UK), Tasmin Pepper (SA), Vittoria Piria (Ita), Alice Powell (UK), Gosia Rdest (Pol), Naomi Schiff (Bel), Shirley van der Lof (Ned), Beitske Visser (Ned), Alexandra Whitley (Aus), Fabienne Wohlwend (Lie), Caitlin Wood Aus).
The 28 will be reduced to a final 18 and two reserves after a four-day test in Formula Three cars in Almeria, Spain in March.
When the W Series finally starts, there will be six rounds:
- Hockenheimring, Germany (4-5 May)
- Circuit Zolder, Belgium (18-19 May)
- Misano World Circuit, Italy (8-9 June)
- Norisring, Germany (6-7 July)
- TT Circuit Assen, Netherlands (20-21 July)
- Brands Hatch, GB (10-11 August)
The eventual winner will pick up $500,000 although there will be prize money right down to eighteenth place.
Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were:
Worcester Valkyries 0-24 Loughborough Lightning
Wasps 13-17 Harlequins
Saracens 17-14 Bristol Bears
DMP Sharks 14-8 Firwood Waterloo
Richmond 26-26 Gloucester-Hartpury
So Saracens go ploughing on and are top with 74 points from 16 games. Harlequins are second on 67 and Lightning third on 65. At the bottom, Worcester still have no wins and are on four points. Firwood Waterloo are above them with 15.
We now break until towards the end of March for the Six Nations.
Happily, the Six Nations is upon us! Round one is this weekend and the fixtures are as follows:
Friday 1 February
Ireland v England (5pm, Energia Park), Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Scotland v Italy (7.35pm, Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow)
Saturday 2 February
France v Wales (8pm, GGL (Altrad) Stadium, Televised on S4C and France Televisions)
England’s new era of professionalism will bring with it the burden of being favourites to win the championship – they will be expected to perform. It also means that the other five teams will be all the more determined to beat them.
France will be the biggest threat, without a doubt. They had a great autumn, beating world champions New Zealand in the process. But Jessy Tremouliere and Caroline Drouin will be unavailable for selection against Wales, having played in Sevens in New Zealand last weekend.
Scotland will be without Jade Konkel and Wales without Sioned Harries – two big losses.
Italy also had a good autumn with wins over Scotland and South Africa.
New Ireland coach, Adam Griggs, has rung the changes with former captain Niamh Briggs left out of the squad.
Whatever happens, it will be fiercely contested. This is a tournament that deserves more; more media coverage, bigger audiences, more recognition. If you can find a commentary or broadcast please tune in. Reports next week.
Women’s Super League Top 5
The first fixtures of the Top 5 took place last weekend:
Malory Eagles UEL 1-3 Durham Palatinates (19-25, 25-16, 22-25, 20-25)
Team BU Wessex 0-3 London Orcas (12-25, 16-25, 24-26)
Palatinates are top with nine wins from nine games and have 26 points. London Orcas are second with 20 points from nine games.
Sheffield Hatters won the WBBL Cup for the first time at the weekend, beating Sevenoaks Suns in the final 62-60.
Although the Hatters had led for most of the game, including being 12-points ahead in the third quarter, it took a three-pointer in the last throes to win the game.
With just 0.9 seconds to go, Helen Naylor hit the three-pointer to take it from 59-60 to 62-60 to the Hatters.
It was the third round of the Netball Super League last weekend:
Friday 25 January
Saracens Mavericks 64-51 Loughborough Lightning
Severn Stars 57-40 Celtic Dragons
Saturday 26 January
Manchester Thunder 70-45 Strathclyde Sirens
London Pulse 50-61 Wasps Netball
Monday 28 January
Team Bath 50-56 Surrey Storm
At this early stage, there are four teams with six points at the top; Wasps and Thunder from two games and Mavericks and Bath from three games. Wasps have the best goal average. All of the other teams have three points, having won one game each.
It’s round four this weekend and the fixtures are:
Friday 1 February
Team Bath v Severn Stars (7.30pm)
Saturday 2 February
Surrey Storm v Wasps Netball (6pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Strathclyde Sirens (6pm)
Monday 4 February
Celtic Dragons v Saracens Mavericks (7pm)
Manchester Thunder v London Pulse (7pm – Live on Sky Sports)
At the National Track Championships in Manchester last weekend:
Katie Archibald won the women’s pursuit title, her third in a row, beating Neah Evans in the final. Ellie Dickinson took bronze, beating Manon Lloyd.
Sophie Capewell took the sprint with Jess Crampton taking silver and Katie Archibald the bronze, ahead of Blaine Ridge-Davies.
On the second day of competition, Laura Kenny took the scratch race. Elinor Barker took silver and Katie Archibald, bronze.
Jess Crampton retained her keirin title, taking gold ahead of Ellie Coster (silver) and Joanna Smith (bronze).
Team Breeze also defended their team pursuit title. The team, comprising Jess Roberts, Jenny Holl, Becky Raybould and Anna Docherty, beat Team Velotec (Molly Patch, Anna Morris, Sophie Lankford and Jennifer Holden) in the final. The bronze went to Liv CC – Halo Cycles (Ella Barnwell, Eluned King, Elena Smith and Amelia Sharpe). They defeated RST/Cycle Division RT by just over a second.
On the final day of the championships, Neah Evans took gold in the points race. Emily Nelson came second and Katie Archibald claimed another bronze.
Possibly the biggest news of the day came in the team pursuit. Shanaze Reade, former BMX stalwart who initially retired from the sport in 2017 and has only been back in training for four months, took her first National Track Championships title with partner Blaine Ridge-Davies. They beat Sophie Capewell and Milly Tanner to take the gold. Vicky Williamson and Lusia Steele took bronze.
Finally, Ellie Coster (35.311) won the 500m time trial, ahead of Jess Crampton (35.509) and Lucy Grant (35.749).
It was a spectacular, emotional final between Naomi Osaka of Japan and Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic. It was always going to be so; Osaka going for back-to-back Grand Slams after the mixed emotions of her US Open triumph, and Kvitova in a Grand Slam final for the first time since the knife attack in 2016 which saw her tennis career hanging the balance. There was also the little matter of the world number one ranking to play for.
And what a match it was. The first set was a tight affair, going to a tie-break. Osaka took the initiative in the tie-break and took it 7-2.
Kvitova hit back in the second, going into a 2-0 lead, but Osaka broke back and missed three championship points before Kvitova broke to take it 5-5. The Czech then won 12 points in a row to take the set.
Osaka cried tears of frustration as she missed her chance for a straight sets win and went off for a bathroom break.
She returned with determination and focus and eventually took the match on her fifth championship point, with the final score 7-6 5-7 6-4.
It was an exhibition of power hitting and a fitting final to an entertaining and impressive women’s Australian Open.
Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai beat defending champions and second seeds, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, to win the women’s doubles title. The unseeded pair won in straight sets, 6-3 6-4.
The mixed doubles title went to third seeds Barbora Krejčíková and Rajeev Ram, who defeated the unseeded Australians, Astra Sharma and John-Patrick Smith 7-6 6-1.
We now know three of the four semi-finalists in the Thailand Open.
Tamara Zidanšek defeated Viktorija Golubic 4-6 6-1 6-2
Magda Linette beat Yang Wafan 6-2 6-3
Ajla Tomljanović (6) defeated Zheng Saisai (4) 6-1 6-3
Garbine Muguruza (1) plays Dayana Yastremska (8) later today.
St Petersburg Open
We are also at the quarter-final stage in St Petersburg.
Aryna Sabalenka (4) beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3 6-4
Donna Vekic (8) beat Petra Kvitova (1) 6-4 6-1
Still to come:
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova v Kiki Bertens (2)
Daria Kasatkina (3) v Vera Zvonareva
Women’s Big Bash League Final
Brisbane Heat took the fourth WBBL title on Saturday 26 January, beating defending champions, Sydney Sixers by three wickets.
Sydney Sixers 131/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 132/7 (19.2 overs)
Heat won by three wickets with four balls to spare
A sell-out crowd of 5,386 at the Drummoyne Oval saw the Heat overcome the favourites with just four balls to spare.
But the damage was done in the first innings, when the Heat managed to restrict the dangerous Sixers top order of Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry, Ash Gardner and Erin Burns, with only Healy scoring at better than a run a ball.
Perry top-scored with 33 but it took her 37 balls to score it and Dane van Niekerk 32. Grace Harris took 3/23 from her four overs and Delissa Kimmince 2/25.
In response, Harris was run out in the second over for just one from four balls, but Beth Mooney took it on in what was to be a match-winning knock of 65 from 46 balls. The only other Heat player to get into double figures was captain Kirby Short who hit 29. Mooney was out in the fifteenth over, but somehow the lower order kept it together with Laura Harris hitting the winning runs with a boundary.
The Sixers used eight bowlers with van Niekerk and Burns picking up two wickets each.
The tournament has really benefitted from being longer this year, with the teams playing each other home and away. There has also been quite a lot of comment that this year’s WBBL has been more exciting than the BBL. I couldn’t possibly comment, oh go on then – I’d have to agree. There have been very few tight games in the BBL this year with the bowlers largely coming out on top. I have no time for never-ending slog-fests, but for some reason, the balance has definitely tipped toward the bowlers this year and the batting has been poor.
T20 World Cup 2020 Draw
The group draw for the T20 World Cup was made this week.
England will face holders West Indies, Pakistan, South Africa and a qualifier.
England’s group fixtures:
v South Africa (23 February, Perth)
v Qualifier (26 February, Canberra)
v Pakistan (28 February, Canberra)
v West Indies (1 March, Sydney)
The other group comprises hosts Australia, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka and a qualifier.
The competition begins on 21 February and the final is at the MCG on 8 March.
Football – on the Pitch
Last weekend’s WSL results were as follows:
Sunday 27 January
Reading 0-3 Arsenal
Miedema 2’, Little 80’ (Pen), McCabe 94’
Chelsea 2-3 Birmingham City
Cuthbert 13’ 83’
Follis 36’, Quinn 61’, White 93’.
Manchester City 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Parris 3’ (Pen) 40’, Bonner 31’
Bristol City 2-1 Yeovil Town
Graham 56’ (pen), Ayane 72’
Monday 28 February
Liverpool 1-0 West Ham United
Manchester City are top with 34 points from 14 games. Arsenal are second, a point behind having played one game fewer. Chelsea are third on 28 from 14. At the bottom, luckless Yeovil have three points and Everton are above them on six.
Last weekend’s WC results were:
Sunday 27 February
Sheffield United 2-3 Charlton Athletic
Rayner 64’, Salmon 90’ (Pen)
Graham 26’, Agg 57’, Clifford 78’
Lewes 0-2 London Bees
Nunn 64’, Littlejohn 67’
Aston Villa 0-0 Leicester City
Millwall Lionesses 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Clarke 44’, Lumsden 91’
Wiltshire 36’, Beckett 84’, Dean 95’
Crystal Palace 0-2 Durham
Roberts 4’, Gears 49’
Tottenham top the Championship with 33 points from 13 games. Charlton are second on 29 from 13 and Durham are third on the same points, having played one game more and with the same goal difference. At the bottom, Millwall have just two points from 13 games. Crystal Palace lie above them with seven.
Football – Off the Pitch
Charlton v Manchester United
Charlton have been fined £500 for failing to provide oxygen during their Championship match against Manchester United on 13 January.
As I understood it, the club ran out of oxygen while they were waiting for the ambulance arrived to take Charlotte Kerr to hospital. But now it is being reported that Charlton did not have any oxygen and they had to use Manchester United’s supply.
The FA has charged Charlton with breaching competition rule 14.5: “Clubs shall ensure emergency sports first aid equipment is present and in full working order at each competition match.
“Such equipment to include as a minimum a spinal board, cervical collar, fracture splints, crutches, stretchers, oxygen and a defibrillator.”
There still seems to be some confusion as to whether this was actually the case and Charlton are considering an appeal.
More FA obfuscation? Possibly. This story obviously has some way to run yet.
More news and views next week.