Welcome to this week’s column. After last week’s marathon, hopefully it’s a bit more of a sprint this week, although with so much going on it’s hard to keep it brief. But here goes. Stories this week come from cycling, netball, cricket, lacrosse, football, athletics, hockey and diving. England teams managed to appear in three semi-finals in two days this week!
Cricket World Cup
I don’t have the room to go through the last group of round-robin matches, so instead I’d like to concentrate on the semi-finals. And what games they were!
England v South Africa
Shrubsole says “What’s all the fuss about?”
South Africa 218/6 (50 overs)
England 221/8 (49.4 overs)
England won by 2 wickets
Well that was too close for comfort for England (understatement).
When South Africa only posted 218, England must have been rubbing their hands. But, as we know, chasing is not England’s strong point and they seemed to do everything they could to lose it.
Opener Laura Wolvaardt scored a fine 66 from 100 balls, which was needed when the dangerous Lizelle Lee was bowled by Anya Shrubsole for just seven. Trisha Chetty was done by a remarkable world-class stumping from Sarah Taylor off the bowling of Nat Sciver. Mignon du Preez then came in and scored 76. But other wickets fell cheaply with both Kapp and van Niekerk run out. The hard-hitting Chloe Tryon was caught and bowled by Jenny Gunn and South Africa were faltering. It was a patchy and slow innings and 218 should have been well within reach for England.
They got off to a steady start in reply. The first wicket partnership was 42 before Lauren Winfield was caught by du Preez off Khaka for 20. Beaumont followed soon afterwards for 15 and it was up to Sarah Taylor and captain Knight to steady the ship. At this point it was serene progress. Then chaos ensued. Taylor was run out needlessly for an excellent 54 – she had looked good to go on a make a big score. It was Knight’s fault and this obviously disturbed her as she was dismissed next over, smacking a Luus full toss straight to Wolvaardt. Four balls later Sciver was bowled by Luus for 3 and England were in disarray.
Katherine Brunt was the sixth wicket to go, bowled by Daniels and the crowd didn’t quite believe what they were seeing.
Fran Wilson was seventh to go, committing (in my eyes) the ultimate sin by trying one of those hideous scoop shots and it going straight to the keeper. Unnecessary and reckless at this point in the game. England were then 213 for seven with two overs to go.
Jenny Gunn was playing a storming innings at this point, but running out of partners. When Laura Marsh came in England needed five runs from ten balls. Sounds easy.
Last over with the intimidating and fast Shabnim Ismail to bowl it. Three runs needed. Third ball Marsh is bowled and England still need two to win off three balls.
Enter Anya Shrubsole. First ball hit for four and England win. You can practically see her saying “Why are you all messing about? Let’s get this done.” And she did.
The South Africans were rightly devastated, but England go on to the final. Would they face their old foe Australia, or the only team to defeat them in the World Cup so far, India?
Australia v India
Australia have no answer to Harmanpreet Kaur
India 281/4 (42 overs)
Australia 245 all out (40.1/42 overs)
India won by 37 runs
When the Derby day dawned dark and rainy it looked as if the reserve day might come into play. But no-one foresaw what was to come as both the weather and the play brightened until we were blinded by the brilliance of one player in particular – Harmanpreet Kaur.
In a game reduced to 42 overs India made a steady, if unspectacular start. Smriti Mandhana fell cheaply to Schutt and Raut soon after, but captain Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur began to build a partnership slowly and steadily. Raj fell with the score on 101 in the 25th over and from then Kaur took over.
Kristen Beams bowled possibly the widest, biggest no-ball ever seen and Kaur hit the resultant free-hit for six. She seemed to take this as a sign to cut loose. And so she did. From then on it was carnage. There were sixes and fours a-plenty as she ended up with a magnificent 171 off 115 balls. Towards the end of the innings she began to limp with what looked like either cramp or a thigh injury, but it didn’t seem to hold her back. She was ably backed up by Deepti Sharma with 25. The Australian bowlers were battered and bruised and Lanning appeared bereft of ideas as India racked up an incredible 281 for 4 off just 42 overs.
So what would Australia’s response be? In truth they got further than they should as Alex Blackwell refused to capitulate, but there was no way India were giving it up. The scorecard makes strange reading. The openers were dismissed cheaply and when Lanning was bowled by Goswami for an eight-ball duck they were in trouble. Perry and Villani did their best, scoring 38 and 75 respectively, but when Perry was out in the 27th the score was 140/5 and Australia were way behind the rate.
Blackwell tried her best, but wickets fell all around her and they were all out in the penultimate over.
India were worthy winners and they will be tough opponents in the final. I don’t suppose I’m giving anything away when I say England have got to win the toss on Sunday and bat? I didn’t think so.
Off the pitch
There have been reports that Pakistan’s women team have been cold-shouldered by the Pakistan Cricket Board since their return from the World Cup.
Pakistan lost all seven of their matches, but showed definite spirit, promise and improvement in all aspects of the game.
However, this obviously wasn’t good enough for the PCB as not a single representative turned up to meet the team on their return and no onward travel was organised. One member of the team was picked up and taken away on a motorbike by her father.
According to an article on “The Nation” website, the governing body was “very angry” at the team’s performances and that wholesale changes would be made.
An unnamed source is also quoted,
“Most of the non-performing teams as well as old players, who are now have well passed their peak will be replaced with the young and talented girls, who are performing exceptionally at national level and are knocking at the national team’s door.”
Since the situation was made public the PCB has issued a statement:
“The PCB wishes to clarify that as per the usual practice all logistical arrangements were made for the national women’s team on their arrival from England, Monday June 17. There was a bus ready to take the players to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and from there to their homes if needed.
“Officials from the Women’s Wing were present to facilitate the players and management, some of the players though opted to return home through their own transport with their families after seeking due permission from the team manager. The PCB regrets news items in certain sections of print and electronic media that erroneously claimed that there were no arrangements made for players’ return from the airport.”
I’ll leave it with you, but you can expect the fallout to continue for some time to come.
As one stunning tournament draws to a close, another begins. And so it will be for the rest of the summer! The Women’s Euros are finally underway, after what seems to have been a long, long build-up.
Everyone has now played one game with Group A having played two.
Netherlands 1-0 Norway
The hosts kicked it all off in front of a sell-out (and distinctly orange) crowd of 21,732 in Utrecht with a 1-0 win over Norway. Utrecht-born Shanice van de Sanden, who plays in the WSL for Liverpool, scored the only goal, heading in from a great cross by Lieke Martens.
Denmark 1-0 Belgium
It was a one goal game in Doetinchem too as Sanne Troelsgaard headed in after Pernille Harder’s free-kick had been tipped onto the crossbar.
Two surprise results on day 2.
Italy 1-2 Russia
Russia scored twice in the first 30 minutes to shock Italy. Elena Danilova scored the first and Elena Morozova the second to put Italy on the back foot.
In the second half Italy huffed and puffed and had chances. They pulled one back through Ilaria Mauro and then thought they had equalised in the last minute but Elisa Bartoli was adjudged (correctly) offside.
This was Russia’s first victory in a Euros tournament.
Germany 0-0 Sweden
Shock number two of the day came in Breda, when Sweden after 11 attempts, finally managed to end on level terms with Germany.
In truth Germany didn’t play well and Sweden’s defence was organised.
Austria 1-0 Switzerland
Another first as Austria won their first game in major tournament.
Austrian captain Nina Burger’s goal in the first half was enough to take the points. Switzerland’s misery was compounded after the break when Rahel Kiwic was sent-off for a professional foul – the first red card given in a Women’s Euros since 2009.
France 1-0 Iceland
It looked as if Iceland had earned a priceless points against one of the tournament favourites in Tilburg but five minutes from time France were awarded a penalty. Eugenie le Sommer calmly slotted it home to seal the win.
Spain 2-0 Portugal
Portugal were all-but defeated by half-time as first Vicky Losada and then Amanda Sampedro scored for an impressive Spain side.
Portugal were completely overrun, failing to get a shot on target in the match.
England 6-0 Scotland
The Lionesses began in the best possible style with a thumping win over Scotland.
Jodie Taylor scored a hat-trick, while Ellen White, Jordan Nobbs and Toni Duggan each got one to complete an excellent win against a Scotland side that were clearly suffering from first-night nerves but also missing important players due to injury.
Taylor’s first came in the tenth minute when she got on to Fran Kirby’s flick to score. Her second came after a melee in the goalmouth. Ellen White then put away her seventh in nine games to make the score 3-0 at half-time.
Taylor grabbed her third in the 53rd minute as she lobbed the keeper. She was then substituted on the hour mark to a standing ovation.
England’s fifth came through a Jordan Nobbs volley and Toni Duggan banged in another in injury time to complete the rout.
To make matters worse for Scotland, striker Jane Ross injured her shoulder during the match and may well miss their next game against Portugal on Sunday 23 July.
England are notoriously slow-starters and this result should send out a warning to the tournament’s other favourites, particularly as no-one else has had such an impressive start. Of course England should not slip into complacency and their biggest group test will come against Spain on Sunday.
Norway 0-2 Belgium
It was another disappointing performance from Norway as they lost 2-0 to Belgium in Breda.
Belgium took the lead just on the hour when Elke van Gorp scored from close range. Their second was headed in by Janice Cayman, who was allowed to get there first after some slack Norwegian defending.
Norway will be hard-pressed to qualify now and their last group game is against the in-form Netherlands on Monday 24 July.
Netherlands 1-0 Denmark
It’s two from two for the hosts as they held on to a goal lead to take the points against Denmark. Although they dominated for large parts of the game, the Danes applied pressure of their own after going behind and, it could be argued, deserved an equaliser for all their hard work.
The only goal of the game was a penalty, scored by Sherida Spitse after Danielle van de Donk was fouled in the box.
Off the Pitch
WSL2 club Brighton and Hove Albion have announced their new manager will be former England Head Coach Hope Powell.
It is Powell’s first management job since she was sacked from the England post after the team’s poor performance at the 2013 Euros.
World Youth Cup
England took a sensational bronze medal after defeating Fiji in the third-place play-off 70-35. The winners were New Zealand who beat neighbours Australia in an exciting and tight final 60-57.
England’s placing is even more impressive when you know that the entire coaching team were out of action for several days due a sickness bug going through the camp. At one point three players and four coaching staff were in quarantine.
Off the Court
Loughborough Lightning announced this week that head coach Karen Atkinson is to leave her role to move to Italy.
Atkinson had been in the role since 2014.
The first stage of the two-part La Course event has been won by Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten. She probably wouldn’t thank me for mentioning this, but you will remember van Vleuten from Rio 2016 when she suffered that terrible crash while leading the road race – yes, that crash.
Britain’s Lizzie Deignan finished second, 43 seconds behind.
The second stage is a 22.5km “chase” in Marseille and takes place on Saturday.
The top riders will go according to time gaps with van Vleuten off first.
Stage one result:
- Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) 2hrs 7mins 18secs
- Lizzie Deignan (Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam) +43secs
- Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Highs) +1min 23secs
- Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam) +1min 28secs
- Shara Gillow (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) +1min 33secs
- Amanda Spratt (Orica-Scott) +1min 41secs
- Lauren Stephens (Team Tibco – Silicon Valley Bank) +1min 51secs
- Ana Christina Sanabria Sanchez (Servetto Giusta) 2mins 24secs
- Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Procycling) 2mins 52secs
- Hanna Nilson (BTC City Ljubljana) 3mins 04secs
World Hockey League Semi-Finals
It was heartbreak for England on Thursday as they went out in the last four to the USA in a penalty shoot-out.
England took the lead early on through Hannah Martin. They kept the lead until three minutes from time when, down to 10 players, after Lily Owsley was yellow carded, Jill Witmer equalised.
The penalty shoot-out was a mass of blanks! Melissa Gonzalez scored the only penalty for the USA and Sarah Haycroft England’s only penalty to take it into sudden death.
Alex Danson missed her attempt, but Gonzalez scored again to win the game.
Sunday’s final will be between USA and Germany, who beat Argentina 2-1 to get there.
England will play Argentina in the third-place play-off.
Rathbone’s Lacrosse World Cup
England 9-5 Wales
England ‘s fast start saw them take a 6-1 lead by half-time and although Wales fought back they couldn’t quite pull it back enough.
Sophie Brett scored a hat-trick and the other goals came through Olivia Hompe, Laura Merrifield, Torz Anderson and Jenny Simpson with a brace.
By the time Wales put the pressure on it was too late.
USA 20-3 Israel
World number ones USA worked their magic again as they convincingly defeated eighth seeds Israel.
Israel started strongly, but once the USA were back in the game they took over and at the half-way stage it was 13-3 to the USA.
After the break it was a one-sided affair as the reigning champions added another seven goals.
Australia 21-6 Scotland
Another one-sided affair in the third quarter-final as Australia beat Scotland for the second time in two days.
Scotland started well, but by half-time they were 11-3 down and struggling. Australia continued to dominate in the second period and won comfortably.
Canada 16-1 New Zealand
Canada are ranked second in the world for a reason. They took New Zealand apart to take up the fourth spot in the semi-finals.
Canada took the lead after just 57 seconds and were 11-0 up at half-time.
New Zealand never stopped fighting but it was in the final third that they couldn’t convert.
USA 19-8 England
Semi-final heartbreak part two for England came within hours of England hockey’s defeat.
It was always going to be an uphill task for England against the world’s number one ranked team.
It was a tight game in the first-half, even though England were 2-0 down after just two minutes.
They drew level after five minutes through Laura Merrifield and Lucy Lynch and were only 5-9 down at half-time.
In the second-half England kept up until a devastating 15 minute spell with eight unanswered goals for the USA took the game away from the hosts.
England will now play Australia in the Bronze Medal match on Saturday 22 July.
Canada 8-6 Australia
By half-time Canada were 5-3 ahead with all to play for.
Thirty seconds after the break Australia pulled the deficit back to one. With two minutes 45 to go and Australia ahead for the first time it took a Dobbie score to take it into overtime.
Kinna and Jimerson scored for Canada in overtime to seal the victory.
The final, between USA and Canada will be on Saturday 22 July.
World Para-athletics Championships
I have been most remiss in recording the excellent performances by British women athletes at the World Para-athletics Championships over the last couple of weeks, so here’s a round-up of what has happened so far:
Gold medals have gone to Georgina Hermitage (400m T37), Hannah Cockroft (100m T34, 400m T34, 800m T34), Sophie Kamlish (100m T44), Olivia Breen (Long jump T38), Samantha Kinghorn (200m T53), Sophie Hahn (200m T38), Hollie Arnold (Javelin Throw F46) and Stef Reid (Long jump T44).
Hannah Cockroft has yet again shown she is amongst the very best in the world this week. She has won three golds and has now won 10 world titles and five Paralympic gold medals.
Georgie Hermitage won the T37 400m in a world record time of 1:00.29.
Kare Adenegan claimed a silver and two bronzes in the 100m T34, 400m T34 and 800m T34 respectively.
Bronze medals have also been won by Sammi Kinghorn (400m T53), Maria Lyle (100m T35), Kadeena Cox (200m T38) and Gemma Prescott (F32 club).
To keep the wolf from the door I have had to get a non-writing, but paid, job. I will endeavour to keep up with the column, but there may be times when it is brief, or indeed, non-existent. I realised when I went freelance that it was going to be an uphill struggle to get paid work. Let’s face it, I’ve painted myself into the smallest corner possible: I’m a woman, of an “advanced” age, writing about sport, focussed on women’s sport, and not living in London! I’ll keep at it, that’s for sure – there are so few of us still that I have to do it (and I’m still available for commissions). So thank you all for your support and bear with me.
There will be no column next week as I will be working elsewhere, but I will be at the World Cup final at Lord’s on Sunday so look out for a report and photos midweek.