Women’s Sports Column End-of-Year Review

loveWelcome to this, the last column of 2017.  And what a year it’s been!  Instead of the usual news this week, I thought I’d review the year – in terms of heroes and villains!  Everyone loves a listicle, particularly at Christmas, so here’s mine.  I’m sure the majority of my choices will come as no surprise to regular readers of the column.

So, for the final time this year, let’s crack on.

Heroes

1) Women’s Cricket World Cup Final

No prizes for guessing my number one in the heroes department this year.  The Cricket World Cup was a fabulous event from start to finish and I’m privileged to say I was at the final at Lord’s in July.  The media coverage was pretty good, the organisation at the group games was excellent and, of course, the standard of cricket was generally superb.  But the actual day was something else.  Twenty-eight thousand cricket lovers (MCC members not included) packed into Lord’s to experience the game, the occasion and the atmosphere.  And the game had everything; great batting, bowling, fielding (and that drop from Jenny Gunn), the threat of rain, competition down to nearly the last ball…..

It was a brilliant game between two well-matched teams, which leads me on to number two:

2) Indian Women’s Cricket Team

They’ve made fans and friends wherever they go.  They’re on a massive upward trajectory and are set to get even better. Captain Mithali Raj is rightfully considered one of India’s outstanding sports personalities.  One of the moments of the World Cup was when it was reported that a little girl in a Nike store asked for her Indian cricket shirt to have the name “Mandhana” (as in opener Sriti Mandhana) on the back.  And if that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.

India will be out for revenge in the New Year when they face England again in the Women’s Tri Series.

3) Rugby union – heroes and villains

Rugby union is on the up.  And while it is, I’m reluctant to stick it in both the heroes and villains categories so, on balance, it’s in the heroes.  The Rugby World Cup was a fantastic tournament rounded off by a spectacular final.  Laurel wreaths all round to New Zealand and England for such an outstanding display, with the Black Ferns worthy winners.

But it’s not all plaudits for the administrators and organisers.  Before the tournament started we had the announcement that the RFU was not going to re-issue contracts for the 15s, but instead would concentrate on the Sevens squad ahead of next year’s World Cup.  Then the tournament itself threw up some strange scheduling that meant people missed out on seeing matches they wanted to see.  And this was followed by the announcement from the Irish Rugby Football Union that its new women’s head coach would be employed only on a part-time contract – it hosts a World Cup, then cuts its commitment to women’s rugby?  How does that work?

World Rugby has since redeemed rugby’s hero status with its new World Rugby Women’s Plan 2017-25.

So, as I say, some hits, some misses in the rugby department, but, on the whole, it’s heading the right way.

 4) Mica McNeill and Mica Moore

When British bobsleighers Mica McNeill and Mica Moore had their funding withdrawn, their Winter Olympic dream could have been over.  But they were not going to give up that easily.  McNeill launched a Crowdfunding page to raise the £30k needed to field a team.  They did it with time to spare and will now be in Pyeongchang in February.

5) Advocates, volunteers and campaigners for women’s sport

Last, but by no means least, I’d like to celebrate the legions of people out there working tirelessly (and sometimes it’s the original thankless task) to promote women’s sport.  I’m going to name a few, but I know I will have missed a lot so apologies as there’s not enough room to mention you all.  If we could only become “mainstream”, how amazing that would be.  So here we go, in no particular order, three cheers for: Women in Sport, Women in Football, Suzy Wrack, WiSP, Scrumqueens, Women’s Elite Rugby website, England Netball, FAWSL website, CricketHer, Martin Whiteley, Martin Woodward, Tracey Neville, Shelley Alexander, Kieran Theivam, 4TLOS, Jen O’Neill and She Kicks, Girls on the Ball, Eleanor Oldroyd, The Magenta Project, Darren Gilham, Sarah Williams (Tough Girl), Female Coaching Network, Coach Annie Zaidi, The Offside Rule, Natalie Germanos, Jane Martinson and so it goes on…

Apologies to those I missed out.

I’ve not included the links to the individuals and organisations above, but if anyone would like any more information, just message me.

villainsVillains

1) The FA

As we all know, some sports governing bodies are better than others.  But the nadir of the governing body world has to the Football Association (FA).  It easily makes it to the top of my villainous tree this year.  First we had the scandal surrounding Mark Sampson and his behaviour towards Eni Aluko and Drew Spence in particular.  Its attempts to sweep the “problem” under the carpet backfired spectacularly and when asked to account for its actions by a House of Commons Select Committee, was unable to come up with the faintest useful answer.  So much for the organisation’s duty of care, vetting process and grievance procedures.

If that wasn’t enough it then decides to restructure the women’s elite game once again.  Just when we were getting used to the current structure the FA, in its wisdom, decides that WSL1 has to be organised to a “stronger commercial model” to “improve the performance of the women’s game on and off the pitch.”  In doing so it immediately put immense pressure on some of the less well-equipped teams, who are currently in their position on merit, to come up with £350k, amongst other things, in order to be able to apply for a licence.  Unfortunately, this has meant that Sunderland and Watford (with probably more to come) have taken the chance not to press forward with their investment in the women’s game, but to scale it back.  Yes, the teams may have been looking for an “out”, or as they euphemistically put it “becoming more community-focussed”, but the FA needn’t have handed it to them on a plate need they?

2) Neanderthal Man

As ever, ‘Neanderthal man’ is pretty much at the top of my list too.  These are the knuckle-draggers who think their views on absolutely everything are required reading – particularly their views on women’s sport.  The “Women’s sport will never be as popular”, “women aren’t as fast/strong/good/add your own adjective, as men”, the “the only way women would get equality would be to compete against men”, the “she looks like a man, anyway”, the “get back to the kitchen” comments, even “they’re all lesbians” is still doing the rounds after all these years.  I have reported a few in my “and finally” section this year and, I’m afraid it doesn’t look as if I’m going to run out of examples any time soon.

Get over it chaps!  Katie Taylor doesn’t have to fight Amir Khan to be a good boxer, Sarah Taylor doesn’t have to keep wicket to the bowling of Jimmy Anderson to be a good cricketer and Nikita Parris doesn’t have score for Manchester City’s men’s side to be a good footballer.

3) The ECB

The ECB was due to be in my “heroes” section, but I’m afraid the news of the last couple of days means that it also makes it into my “Villains” list too.

It appears that the Kia Super League will be no more after 2019.  It looks like it will be rebranded in line with the new city-based men’s competition.  So no more Western Storm, Loughborough Lightning et al…  Each of the current franchises (yes, I have deigned to utter the word) has tried so hard to develop its USP, expand its fan-base and facilities.  The tournament is still in its infancy, but the teams are already recognisable and have their own following.  It did have a good sponsor and commitment to TV and radio coverage.  But we have to start again.

So, yet again, a governing body has seen fit to “fix it” when it hasn’t been “broke”.  We’re yet to see the details of what’s to come, but I haven’t yet got past “why?”

4) BBC Sports Personality of the Year

Now, don’t get me wrong – I think the event is a good thing.  I find the whole evening a bit cringe-worthy, but the idea is a sound one.  But it was beyond disappointing this year that the four women nominated came in the last four places after the public vote.  Obviously there has been a lot of mansplaining on this issue – the women weren’t “good” enough, it’s a public vote so people vote for who they want to, some of the women are from minority sports, etc.

But they’re missing the point.

Women’s sport still consistently flies under the radar.

The popularity and media profile of Women’s cricket is at an all-time high, and yet this was not enough for Anya Shrubsole to finish higher than eighth from twelve nominees in the individual category.  How do we know these women are so good if we rarely see their achievements celebrated in the media?  And if their achievements are denigrated by the “usual” sport-watching public so much, how are we to know that taking six wickets in a Women’s World Cup final is worth rewarding?

How do these women ever raise their profile sufficiently to make a dent in the minds of the general public?   I’m afraid to say that at the moment they still don’t.  They are coming from such a low level of coverage, investment, support and recognition that it’s still a mountain to climb, all of which leads me on to my fifth villain:

5) Anyone who says it’s been a “watershed year” for women’s sport

Sorry to throw such a dampener on things, but while there’s been so much to celebrate this year (see heroes!), there is still so much work to do that I really don’t think it has been a “watershed” year.  There have been countless fantastic achievements, tournaments, records, performances, but in the eyes of the general public it counts for nothing until the “mindset” (ugh horrid word) of the sport-loving public is changed beyond recognition.  So while there has been undoubted progress and I personally have loved every minute of it this year, it’s not a “watershed year”.

But let’s not end on a negative note.  No, I’m not going to “look for the positives” (ugh again), but there has been so much to celebrate this year and we should ensure that 2018 builds on this.  As well as the usual annual tournaments, we have the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, Rugby World Cup Sevens, the Hockey World Cup at Surrey Sports Park, two teams still in the Champions League, and so it goes on.  And we sports-lovers will be there to see it all.  So let’s make every week of 2018 Women’s Sports Week and let’s cheer every extra televised fixture, every column inch and every interview.

Thank you for reading the column this year.  I’ve loved writing it, which I hope comes out in every word.  I’m having a couple of weeks off now, but will back in the New Year with more news, features, reports and interviews and I hope you’ll join me. 

I’d also like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a lovely sport-filled New Year. 

 

England win a thrilling World Cup Final – and I was there!

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What a day!  I know thousands of words have already been published on the Women’s Cricket World Cup Final which, in itself, is a miracle, but it won’t stop me adding my few hundred.  But if you’re looking for a straight up-and-down account of the match you will be out of luck.  My little Joe Friday voice keeps saying “just the facts ma’am, just the facts”, but if I stuck the facts it would only be half the story.  So, read on for my account of one of the best days of my sporting life.

The day dawned bright and clear.  Actually it was largely mucky and grey and the threat of prolonged rain was a real one.  I did wonder whether I was about to make it four from four washouts (see previous blog entries), but someone somewhere was obviously not going to let that happen and we got through relatively unscathed.

Top marks for the organisation skills of Lord’s – I suppose they have been doing it for a while (!), but although there were queues the staff and cricketeers were helpful, polite and largely smiling.  The queues moved at a pace and everything seemed to go like clockwork.  Not like Edgbaston, I might add, which seemed understaffed and underprepared in comparison.

Anyway, we were in and seated before the toss.  And that’s when it got a little bit much for me.  Either I had multiple pieces of grit in my eye or I found myself crying.  The crowds of people, the atmosphere, the very occasion just got to me.  I should have realised what sort of crowd it was going to be with the size of the cheer greeting Heather Knight winning the toss!

My occasional tear developed into full-blown sobbing when Eileen Ash (Whelan) was revealed as the ringer of the five-minute bell.  This small, wiry 105-year-old woman stood there with composure and grace as her list of achievements was read out and the sense of history being made was palpable throughout the ground.

And then to business.

I thought it was vital that Heather won the toss and that England batted.  England are, generally, not good at chasing.  I thought the batters would settle the side down, calm heads and all that.  But it was not to be.  In truth the batting performance was not good.  After Winfield and Beaumont were out there were a series of poor shot selections as England proceeded to lose wickets regularly.  Jhulan Goswami was pounding in with purpose and venom, scaring the life out of me and I was not 22 yards away.

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Nat Sciver was the pick of the batters, with a good 51.  Sarah Taylor probably deserved more – my but she looks fabulous when she strokes that ball!  But it was only a late flourish from former opener Laura Marsh and Jenny Gunn that saw them reach a half-decent total.  Even then I thought they were 30 or so light.

The wonderful Goswami took 3/23 off her 10 overs and didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.

At the break I ventured out to answer a call of nature (as you do).  The queue for the ladies’ was beyond imagining.  I tweeted that I would have taken a photo of the queue but would have needed a panoramic lens!  The facilities at Lord’s are good, but I don’t suppose they’d ever seen this many women at one game before.  Still, the atmosphere was good-natured – I feel sometimes I may be overstating it – but it really seemed that everyone was aware they were part of something special.

Then it was time for tears again as Rachael Heyhoe-Flint’s son, Ben, rang the bell for the second innings.  There were nerves aplenty, at least in our stand, as the Indian innings began.

These lessened somewhat as England made the perfect start when Smriti Mandhana was lbw to Anya Shrubsole for a duck.  But Raut and Raj rallied beautifully until the captain was run out unnecessarily for 17.  In came Harmanpreet Kaur.  Could she repeat her performance of the semi-final?  For a while it seemed she could as she hit three fours and two sixes (there wasn’t a six in the whole of the England innings), but all at once she tried one big shot too many as she swept Alex Hartley and was caught by Tammy Beaumont on the boundary.  A big wicket.   Shall I say it again – a big wicket.

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But we all knew there was more to come with Raut still playing beautifully, now joined by Krishnamurthy.  India were always just behind the rate, but never out of the game.

When Raut went there were murmurs around the ground as England fans dared to hope.  Then three more wickets went in quick succession.  The last of these was Goswami and with Deepti Sharma the only recognised bat left England sniffed victory.  Pandey was then run out.  England needed two wickets but India only needed 11 off 12 balls to win.

Enter Anya Shrubsole bowling the penultimate over.  Ball one and Sharma has gone, caught beautifully by Sciver.  Five wickets to Shrubsole.

But it’s not over.  Ball three, Poonam Yadav spoons it straight to Jenny Gunn at mid-off.  The crowd is on its feet roaring with delight (and relief) and Gunn – drops it!

But it’s not over.  Ball four and Shrubsole steams in.  Gayakwad is bowled.  Full and straight and the tail-ender plays down the wrong line.

Now it’s over.

And, to coin a phrase, the crowd goes wild.

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All the way through it had been India’s to lose – what a game they played.  And at the last minute Anya Shrubsole had taken it from them.  A great match and a fitting finale to a fine tournament.  As I said at the beginning, many words have already been written – some going into ridiculous hyperbole.  Will this tournament change the face, the perception, of women’s cricket?  I don’t know.  But if that crowd, the TV and radio audience are anything to go by, it will.   Already we now know that there will be new honours boards for women at Lord’s.  What else is to come?

0 out of 10 for the MCC Members, by the way, who couldn’t be bothered to turn out – so startlingly obvious in a full ground.  Where were you “chaps”?

We stayed for quite a while afterwards to watch the celebrations and to see the team greet friends and family in the stands.  The joy is something I will never forget.

And finally, many congratulations to England’s Lacrosse team who won a brilliant bronze medal at the Lacrosse World Cup at the weekend, beating Australia in overtime through a golden goal from Megan Whittle.

Women’s Sports Column 14-20 July 2017

laura 1Welcome 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!

18 July

England v South Africa
Bristol

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?

20 July

Australia v India
Derby

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

Pakistan

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.

Football

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.

Women’s Euros

Everyone has now played one game with Group A having played two.

16 July
Group A

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.

17 July
Group B

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.

18 July
Group C

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.

19 July
Group D

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.

20 July
Group A

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.

Netball 

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.

Cycling

La Course

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:

  1. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) 2hrs 7mins 18secs
  2. Lizzie Deignan (Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam) +43secs
  3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Highs) +1min 23secs
  4. Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam) +1min 28secs
  5. Shara Gillow (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) +1min 33secs
  6. Amanda Spratt (Orica-Scott) +1min 41secs
  7. Lauren Stephens (Team Tibco – Silicon Valley Bank) +1min 51secs
  8. Ana Christina Sanabria Sanchez (Servetto Giusta) 2mins 24secs
  9. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Procycling) 2mins 52secs
  10. Hanna Nilson (BTC City Ljubljana) 3mins 04secs

Hockey

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.

Lacrosse

Rathbone’s Lacrosse World Cup
Quarter-finals:

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.

Semi-finals

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.

Athletics

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).

And finally,

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.

Women’s Sports Column 8-13 July 2017

Lacrosse05Welcome to this week’s Women’s Sports Column. I’m back from hols and raring to go.  There’s a lot to catch up on and this is going to be a bumper edition with stories from cricket, lacrosse, football, rugby, sports politics, netball, hockey and tennis.  You can probably guess this week’s “And finally” – courtesy of Andy Murray, but it bears repeating.

So let’s crack on.

Lacrosse

For a couple of months now I’ve been trailing the Women’s Lacrosse World Cup – well someone had to.  To be honest, I’m not frightfully well up on it myself, but over the next couple of weeks I’m determined to get to grips with the ins and outs of this exciting, fast-moving sport.

The tournament is running from 12-22 July at Surrey Sport Park and if you check out the website, you can still pick up tickets for some matches.

England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are all taking part.

A brief history:

Originally a Native American sport, it continues to draw big crowds in the United States.  This World Cup is the tenth, with America winning seven so far and being runners-up in the other two, won by Australia.  Over here it’s very much a minority sport, but growing.

There are 25 (!) nations taking part, with Wales being the second smallest after Latvia.  Wales also boasts the game’s most capped player – Ros Lloyd Rout – who currently has 106 appearances for her country.

All of the home teams are ranked highly; England are ranked fourth in the world and Wales fifth, with Scotland just behind in sixth.

The format of the tournament is somewhat complicated.  The top six ranked teams; USA, Canada, Australia, England, Wales and Scotland qualify by right to the knockout stages, although they all still play each other in Pool A.  There are four other pools and just two teams from these pools will qualify along with Pool A.

Pool B
Italy
Hong Kong
Haudenosaunee
Korea
Switzerland

Pool C
Israel
Netherlands
Czech Republic
China
Belgium

Pool D
Japan
Germany
Latvia
Spain
Mexico

Pool E
New Zealand
Ireland
Sweden
Colombia

Wow – that’s some worldwide spread!

It all kicked off on Wednesday with an exciting home nations derby.

England 12-6 Wales

England took the lead in the third minute and between then and 26th it was neck and neck as first one team scored, then the other.  But in a telling period between the 28th and 47th England scored four without reply.  Wales came back with one goal but England scored another three without Wales being able to score again.  England’s number 11, Jennifer Simpson must have thought her only role was to provide the pass for the goalscorers as she achieved three assists, but then she got a goal of her own in the 57th minute, England’s 11th and penultimate score.

There, I’ve done my best!

Coverage will undoubtedly be sparse, but it’s good to see that the BBC will be covering the tournament on the BBC website from the quarter-finals onwards.  And, of course, I’ll do what I can to keep you updated via this blog!

Tennis

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s Wimbledon fortnight.  And what a tournament it’s been!  There have been some truly stunning women’s (and men’s) matches, not least of which was the quarter-final between Jo Konta and Simona Halep.

Anyway, the women’s singles final is on Saturday.  It was a shame that with so many good matches up to that point, the semi-finals were a bit of a disappointment and over all too quickly.

Women’s Singles

Garbine Muguruza (14) beat Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1 6-1
Venus Williams (10) defeated Johanna Konta (6) 6-4 6-2

Women’s Doubles

The semi-final line-up is:

A Grönefeld/K Peschke (12) v E Makarova/E Vesnina (2)
M Niculescu/H Chan (9) v R Voracova/M Ninomiya

Mixed Doubles

The semi-final line-up is:

H Kontinen/H Watson v B Soares/E Vesnina (2)
M Hingis/J Murray (1) v M Demoliner/M Martinez Sanchez

Wheelchair Singles

Both British players Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker lost in the quarter-finals.  Whiley succumbed to Diede De Groot of the Netherlands 6-2 7-6.  Shuker lost to second seed Yui Kamiji of Japan 6-3 6-1.

De Groot plays compatriot Aniek Van Koot in the first semi-final, while Kamiji faces Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany.

Football

On the Pitch

Scotland 1-0 Republic of Ireland

Scotland won their final Euros warm-up game against the Republic of Ireland 1-0.  Substitute Christie Murray headed home in the 85th minute to see Anna Signeul’s side head off to the Netherlands with a much needed win.

Scotland’s first game at the Euros, in case you didn’t already know, is against England in Utrecht on 19 July.

In fact, of course, it will all be underway by the time I get to write my column next week, so I’d just like to say good luck to the Lionesses and to Scotland.

Off the Pitch

Lewes FC

Good news this week as semi-professional club Lewes FC announced that they will be paying their men’s and women’s first teams the same salaries.

Lewes women play in the third tier, the Premier League Southern Division, and the men in the Isthmian League Division One South, their eighth tier.

Both teams will have the same budget, level of coaching staff and facilities.

It is all part of the club’s “Equality FC” campaign.

Director Jacquie Agnew said: “We hope to spark a change that will help put an end to the excuses for why such a deep pay disparity has persisted.”

Toni Duggan

News also came this week that England striker Toni Duggan has signed for the new Barcelona women’s team.  She joins them from Manchester City on a two-year contract.

The BBC chose to announce that Duggan is the first English player to sign for Barcelona since Gary Lineker.  And didn’t that get the Neanderthal footie-lovers Y-fronts in a tangle? Outraged by the audacity of mentioning Lineker and Duggan in the same breath they all went completely off their heads to point out that Lineker signed for the men’s team, not the women’s and that the two were completely different.  Tee hee.  I can’t help thinking the BBC was having a bit of a laugh at their expense – and boy did they rise to it!

Yeovil Town Ladies FC

Yeovil announced yesterday that their Head Coach Michelle Yeowell has left the club.  She had been a player and coach for the club for more than ten years.

Her successor has not yet been named.

Rugby Union

Some shock news this week came from the RFU when it announced that England’s full-time contracts will end after the World Cup in August.

After the much-vaunted announcement of contracts in July 2016, this volte-face is not only disappointing but embarrassing.

The RFU, in its wisdom, has decided to concentrate on developing the sevens.

Evidently professional contracts will only go to sevens players next year.  England have already qualified for the Rugby World Cup Sevens and next year there is the Commonwealth Games and the World Series.

The RFU is still committed to investing in the women’s fifteen-a-side game with the introduction of next season’s new league competition, but there are going to be some pretty unhappy women who return from the World Cup, regardless of the result, to find themselves without a contract.

Kazan Sevens

England produced their best performance for a while last weekend to finish second at the last Grand Prix Series tournament in Kazan, thus securing qualification to next year’s Sevens Rugby World Cup in San Francisco.  England were beaten by Russia 21-0 in the final, having topped their pool with wins over Ireland, Poland and Sweden.

Wales finished second in their pool to eventual winners Russia and finished fifth altogether.  Their high finish ensured their qualification for next year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.  In the pool stage they beat Italy and the Netherlands but lost to Russia.  They then lost to England 21-7 in the play-offs but won the repechage by beating Belgium and Poland to take fifth.

Russia were a class above over the weekend, and in fact, over the two legs.  They scored 34 tries in each leg.

The European representatives at the 7s RWC in San Francisco will be Russia, Spain, France, England and Ireland.

Cricket

Apart from reading a tweet today by a real gent which said it’s an “absolute disgrace” that England’s women scored 373/5 against South Africa and that “cricket is just not a women’s game.  Stick to hockey or netball”, the Women’s World Cup has generally engendered a positive reaction.

One brilliant story comes out of India where apparently a young girl went into a sports shop and asked for an Indian cricket shirt.   When asked if she wanted a name printed on it, she said yes.  Was it Kohli?  Dhoni?  Nope, it was Smriti Mandhana.  The shop said it was the first time they had ever been asked to put the name of one of the women’s team on a shirt!  Progress.

We’re nearly at the knockout stage of the World Cup.  It’s a fight between New Zealand and India for the last place in the quarter-finals.

Here’s what’s happened in the last week:

Match 17

All too easy for New Zealand

New Zealand v Pakistan
Taunton
Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat

Pakistan 144 all out (46.5 overs)
New Zealand 147/2 (15 overs)
New Zealand won by 8 wickets (210 balls remaining)

Pakistan’s openers needed to make a considerable opening stand to post any kind of total against New Zealand.  They had only made 35 before Zafar was out and although captain Sana Mir chipped in with a bright half-century, the other wickets fell cheaply and 144 was really never going to be enough.

Hannah Rowe took 3/22 off nine overs with the rest of the bowlers all contributing.

In response Rachel Priest was dismissed for just 8, but 93 from Sophie Devine and 38 not out from Amy Satterthwaite saw them comfortably home.

Match 18

Another Van Niekerk masterclass does for India’s top batters

India v South Africa
Leicester
India won the toss and put South Africa in

South Africa 273/9 (50 overs
India 158 all out (46 overs)
South Africa won by 115 runs

Wolvaardt may have been dismissed for just one, but some power batting from Lizelle Lee soon put this tie in South Africa’s favour.  Van Niekerk also scored 57 and was backed up well by the rest of the top order.

By contrast India struggled to get the ball off the square.  Deepti Sharma scored 60 and Jhulan Goswami 43, but there were few other contributors as Dane Van Niekerk took 4/22 off her 10 overs and India ended way short.

Match 19

England edge the big one – but it’s mighty close

England v Australia
Bristol
England won the toss and elected to bat

England 259/8 (50 overs)
Australia 256/8 (50 overs)
England won by 3 runs

Lauren Winfield is yet to make a score, but fellow opener Tammy Beaumont is looking to have got her mojo back with a vengeance.  She scored top-scored with 49, Katherine Brunt chipped in with 45 not out and there were good starts for everyone else except the skipper, Heather Knight, who was out for just one.  Elyse Villani took 3/42 off 5 overs as England chased the runs towards the end.

It was on the cusp of “just enough” and when Australia had got to 56 without losing a wicket all seemed ominous.  In fact everyone made runs but the rate was too slow.  Ellyse Perry starred with 70 with Lanning scoring 40.  It was down to Jenny Gunn to bowl the last over, with 16 needed.  Five were scored off the first three, then Gardner was out, caught by Brunt.  The fifth ball of the over brought another four and then Australia needed six off the last ball, but Jonassen could only grab two and England had won by three runs.

An excellent, nail-biting game and a great advert for women’s cricket with a crowd of over 4,000 at Bristol cheering both sides on.

Match 20

West Indies chalk up their first win

Sri Lanka v West Indies
Derby
Sri Lanka won the toss and put the West Indies in.

West Indies 229/9 (50 overs)
Sri Lanka 182 all out (48 overs)
West Indies won by 47 runs

When were the West Indies going to turn up?  This game was a bit more encouraging for the World T20 champions.  They made a healthy 229 with Merissa Aguilleira top-scoring on 49.

In reply Sri Lanka needed their star, Atapattu to fire, but when she was out on 26 the writing was on the wall.  Anisa Mohammed was best bowler for the Windies taking 3/39 off her 10 overs and was Player of the Match.

Match 21

West Indies win again as rain hits Leicester

Pakistan v West Indies
Leicester
Pakistan won the toss and put the West Indies in

West Indies 285/4 (50 overs)
Pakistan 117/3 (24 overs)
West Indies won by 19 runs via D/L method

West Indies batted well for probably the first time in the tournament.  Their two biggest stars, Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin both fired with 90 and 104 respectively.  And when they fire the whole team looks a different prospect.

We were lucky to get as much cricket as we did with the sides playing through some quite heavy rain.  With a delay to the Pakistan reply the total was revised to 245 in 38 overs.  Pakistan had reached 117 before the heavens opened again and the match was abandoned.

Match 22

South Africa ease past Sri Lanka

South Africa v Sri Lanka
Taunton
Sri Lanka won the toss and batted

Sri Lanka 101 all out (40.3 0vers)
South Africa 104/2 (23.1 overs)
South Africa won by 8 wickets

It was an early finish at Taunton as South Africa put Sri Lanka to the sword.  Van Niekerk struck again with 4/24 off 8 overs while Ismail took 3/14 off 7.3.

South Africa polished off their target with ease.  The usually reliable Lee fell for a duck but Wolvaardt was 48 not out and du Preez 38 not out as they knocked off 104 in the 24th over.

Match 23

Indian total never a problem for Australia at Bristol

Australia v India
Bristol
Australia won the toss and put India in

India 226/7 (50 overs)
Australia 227/2 (45.1 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets

A fine century by opener Punam Raut was the highlight for India and without her 106 India would have faltered badly.  She was ably supported by captain Mithali Raj with 69.  Raj became the highest scorer in women’s ODIs in this match.  She overtook Charlotte Edwards’ 5992, reaching 6028 in 16 fewer innings than Edwards and with an average of 51.52.  So two good knocks, but unlikely to be enough to put Australia in any trouble.

And indeed it wasn’t. The great pairing of Lanning and Perry took it home with 76 not out and 60 not out respectively.

Match 24

Sciver does it again as England too strong for New Zealand

England v New Zealand
Derby
England won the toss and batted

England 284/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand 209 all out (46.4)
England won by 75 runs

Nat Sciver’s second century of the tournament was the highlight for England.  Winfield went cheaply again with just 11 but Beaumont continued her good form with a fine 93.  Without Sciver’s 129 England would have been in trouble with Fran Wilson (10) the only other player to get into double figures.

Young leg spinner Amelia Kerr took 4/51 off her 10 overs.

New Zealand started steadily but an injury incurred by Sophie Devine in the field clearly hampered her in batting.  Suzie Bates top-scored for New Zealand with 44, but a regular clattering of wickets meant they quickly fell behind the required rate.  Alex Hartley took 3/44 off 9.4 overs.

It was a good team performance by England.

Sports Politics

The Saudi Education Ministry has announced that girls attending public schools will be given access to physical education.  The changes will be made “gradually” and “in accordance with (Islamic) Shariah regulations.”

Four years ago changes were made to allow girls in private schools to take part in sport.

It’s a big move, but we’ll have to see how things progress.

Netball

I’m ashamed to say I had missed the start of the Netball World Youth Cup, but here’s a recap of what is happening and what has occurred so far.

It’s happening in Gaborone, Botswana, the first time it has taken place in Africa.  Twenty teams have qualified and the format is quite complicated.  We begin with four pools of five and after the pool games we go into the knockout stages.  The final is on 16 July.

England

In their first game, on Saturday 8 July, they beat Wales 69-23.  On Sunday they played Grenada, winning 98-25.  Their third pool game was against Trinidad & Tobago on Monday.  The score was 75-27 to England and finally they played Fiji on Wednesday with England coming out on top 63-29.

Wales

Wales lost to England in their first match, and then to Fiji on Sunday 35-48.  On Monday they defeated Grenada 72-30 and their fourth match was a tight loss to Trinidad and Tobago 32-36.

Scotland

The Scots defeated Sri Lanka in their first match on Saturday 69-48.  On Monday they lost to New Zealand 78-26.  On Tuesday they defeated Northern Ireland 55-36 and their last pool game on Wednesday was a two-point victory over Samoa 46-44.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is the British Isles’ lowest ranked team and found it difficult.  They lost all of their pool matches: 22-89 to New Zealand, 44-56 to Sri Lanka, 26-65 to Samoa and 36-55 to Scotland.

England and Scotland qualified for the 1st-8th place quarter-final, which took place on Thursday 13 July.  England defeated Jamaica 55-38, while Scotland drew the short straw, playing Australia.  Australia won the game 95-22.

Find out who came where and who won what next week!

Hockey

Hockey World League semi-final – Johannesburg

After a comfortable 3-0 win over Poland on Monday 10 July, England suffered a shock defeat against Japan on Wednesday.  Mami Karino’s goal in the third minute was enough to defeat the Olympic champions.  They play Germany on 14 July and Ireland two days later.  They currently lie fourth in the pool.

Ireland have already qualified for the last eight with two draws against Japan and Germany and a win over Poland.

And finally

Andy Murray’s feminist credentials struck again this week.  Lots of people (men) didn’t like it, especially when the BBC kept tweeting it, but hey ho.  In the press conference after his loss to American Sam Querrey in the Wimbledon quarter-final on Wednesday, a journalist said Querrey was “the first US player to reach a major semi-final since 2009”.  “Male player”, replied Andy immediately.

Several people were quick to point out that it was “obvious” that they were talking about men’s tennis.  But I hate to tell you folks, that’s how casual sexism works.  Murray was calling out the assumption that men’s tennis is the default and we only qualify it when we talk about women’s tennis (or any other sport for that matter).  Good stuff from Murray.

Women’s Sports Column 24 – 30 June 2017

water-815271_960_720Welcome to this week’s column.  Having seen my third cricket match in a row abandoned on Tuesday, I’m now officially considering myself a curse, so if I were you I wouldn’t be inviting me to a wedding or garden party-type event any time soon.

This week’s stories come from tennis, horse racing, cricket, golf, football, basketball, rugby union and taekwondo.

Football

Injuries

Two major injury blows for Scotland this week ahead of the Euros, which begin next month.  Defender Jen Beattie and striker Kim Little have both been ruled out.

Beattie, who plays for Manchester City in the WPL has an ankle injury, whilst Arsenal star Little ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament during training and faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Horse Racing

Melbourne Cup-winning Australian jockey, Michelle Payne has been stood down from riding after testing positive for a banned substance.

After being tested on 11 June her urine sample showed traces of Phentermine, an appetite suppressant.

An enquiry into the findings will be held this week.

Rugby Union

England head coach, Simon Middleton, has announced his squad for the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, taking place in Ireland in August.

He has clearly placed his faith in experience as between them the squad has 1,207 caps.

The squad in full:

Forwards: Zoe Aldcroft (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 4 caps), Sarah Bern (Bristol, 10 caps), Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries, 124 caps), Amy Cokayne (Lichfield, 28 caps), Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins, 25 caps), Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens, 61 caps), Sarah Hunter (C) (Bristol, 93 caps), Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 8 caps), Justine Lucas (Lichfield, 22 caps), Alex Matthews (Richmond, 31 caps), Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield, 46 caps), Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol, 31 caps), Marlie Packer (Bristol, 47 caps), Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 17 caps), Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 105 caps).

Backs: Rachael Burford (Harlequins, 67 caps), Natasha Hunt (Lichfield, 37 caps), Megan Jones (Bristol, 4 caps), La Toya Mason (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 66 caps), Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 85 caps), Amber Reed (Bristol, 39 caps), Leanne Riley (Harlequins, 10 caps), Emily Scarratt (VC) (Lichfield, 69 caps), Emily Scott (Saracens, 23 caps), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries, 34 caps), Danielle Waterman (Bristol, 70 caps), Kay Wilson (Richmond, 44 caps), Amy Wilson Hardy (Bristol, 7 caps).

As a reminder here are England’s pool games:

Pool B

England v Spain
Wednesday 9 August – UCD Bowl, Dublin (KO 2pm)
Live coverage ITV4 from 1.30pm

England v Italy
Sunday 13 August – Billings Park UCD, Dublin (KO 2.30pm)
Live coverage ITV1 from 2pm

England v USA
Thursday 17 August – Billings Park UCD, Dublin (KO 2.30pm)
Live coverage ITV4 from 2pm

Taekwondo

On Wednesday Bianca Walkden became the first British fighter to defend a World Championship title when she took gold in Muju, South Korea.

Walkden beat home favourite Saebom An 9-3 in the semi-final, before going on to defeat Jackie Galloway of the USA 14-4 in the final of the +73kg category.

Jade Jones had to settle for bronze on Friday after losing in the semi-final 14-8 to Lee Ah-reum of South Korea.

Golf

The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is currently underway in Chicago.  The first round was cut short due to thunderstorms, but the leaderboard stands as follows:

-5 C Choi (Kor), A Yang (Kor)*, -4 B Altomare (US), J Klatten (Fra)*, -3 M Wie (US), B Henderson (Can), A Lee (IS), S Oh (Aus), K Kaufman (US)*, E Pederson (Den)*

Of the British players Jodie Ewart Shadoff (Eng) is -2 but is yet to complete round one.  Catriona Matthew of Scotland is +2 and also has to finish off her first round.  Mel Reid of England lies +3 and Charley Hull +4.

*Denotes unfinished round.

Tennis

Eastbourne

The top players are preparing for Wimbledon this week.  Eastbourne has its usual impressive line-up.

British players

Johanna Konta is seeded five.  She had a great start to the week, and on Thursday completed an impressive double as the tournament struggled to get back on track after severe rain delays.  However, during her defeat of Angelique Kerber in the quarter-final she fell heavily and suffered a back injury, causing her to withdraw from her scheduled semi-final with Karolina Pliskova.

What a good week it had been until then, though.  In the second round she easily defeated Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-2 6-2. On Thursday she had to play two matches; In the third round she faced French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko. Konta took the first set 7-5, Ostapenko hit back to take the second 6-3 and the decider went to Konta 6-4.  Later on she played world number one Angelique Kerber, defeating her in fine style 6-3 6-4.

Obviously there will now be concern over Konta’s participation at Wimbledon, which begins on Monday.  Let’s hope her withdrawal from Eastbourne is just precautionary.

Heather Watson has also had an excellent week.  In the first she defeated Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-4 4-6 6-4.  In the second she had a fine win against fourth seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, 7-5 6-4.  In the third she faced Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia and beat her 6-4 6-3.  In the quarter-final she faced Barbora Strycova and again won, this time in three sets, 6-1 1-6 6-4.  She plays Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated second seed Simona Halep 5-7 6-4 6-1.

Stop press:  Watson has just been defeated by Wozniacki in a tight match -6-2 3-6 7-5.  Wozniacki plays Karolina Pliskova in the final on Saturday 1 July.

Naomi Broady lost in the first round 6-2 6-7 6-1 to Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic.

Off the Court

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced this week that starting in 2018 the Davis Cup and Fed cup will combine to become a World Cup of Tennis.

The finals of the men’s and women’s tournaments will be brought together.  For the first three years the competition will be held in Geneva.   Geneva fought off bids from Copenhagen, Miami, Istanbul, Turin and Wuhan to win the right to host the event.

It may also be that the Fed cup semi-finals will also be included which would allow the ITF to expand the top group to 16 teams, the same number as are in the Davis Cup’s top group.

Wheelchair tennis

This year there will, for the first time, be a warm-up event before Wimbledon for the top wheelchair players.

It will be at Surbiton and will be over three days from 6 July.  The top 13 men and women players will take part and there will be both singles and doubles events.

Hockey

Women’s Hockey World League semi-finals
Quarter-final results:

New Zealand 2-0 Italy
Australia 0-2 China
Netherlands 2-0 Spain
South Korea 3-2 Belgium (After extra time.  1-1 after 60 minutes)

The semi-final line-up will now be:

South Korea v China
Netherlands v New Zealand

Both ties will be played on Saturday 1 July.

Wheelchair Basketball

Great Britain’s women lost in the semi-final of the European Championships this week.  They were defeated 59-42 by the Netherlands.  They will now play for bronze against France on Friday 30 June.

The final also takes place on 30 June.  The Netherlands will play Germany who defeated France 46-33 in the other semi-final.

Cricket

Women’s World Cup

Right, we’re eight games in and what do we know?  I don’t think my predictions have been too bad so far.  Australia have been excellent from the start, England have started slowly (as usual) and are improving, and India are looking ominous indeed.  West Indies look as if they’ve never met each other before and Pakistan show promise, but not enough.  South Africa and New Zealand are bobbling along, possibly under the radar, and Sri Lanka have a new star in Chamari Atapattu.  So far, so good.  So what have been the facts and figures:

Match 1:

Straightforward for New Zealand

New Zealand v Sri Lanka
Bristol – 24 June
New Zealand won the toss and put Sri Lanka in to bat.

Sri Lanka 188/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand 189/1 (37.4 overs)
New Zealand won by 9 wickets with 74 balls remaining

Atapattu top scored with 53 for Sri Lanka, but 188 was never likely to be a challenging total for the powerful New Zealanders.  Holly Huddleston with 5/35 was the pick of the bowling.

As expected, New Zealand reached the target with plenty to spare, losing only one wicket, that of Rachel Priest for 2, in the process.  Captain Suzie Bates scored the first century of the World Cup, finishing on 106 not out.  She was ably backed up by Amy Satterthwaite who was 78 not out at the end.

Match 2:

Good Start for England (not)

England v India
Derby – 24 June
England won the toss and put India in to bat

India 281/3 (50 overs)
England 246 all out (47.3)
India won by 35 runs

Poor bowling and even poorer batting for England is only half the story.  India batted, bowled and fielded with talent and passion on Saturday, and England were lagging sadly behind.  In fact England got further than they should have done as India were clearly the better side.

The first wicket stand was 144 and when Smriti Mandhana was out for 90 it was captain Mithali Raj who took it on.  Punam Raut was second to go, but not until she had scored a fine 86.  Raj hit 71 and Harmanpreet Kaur 24 not out.  The bowling was not good with Katherine Brunt particularly being hit to all parts, conceding 50 from just seven overs.

England are not particularly known for their chasing either, so it was always going to be a battle to reach this target.

Captain Heather Knight scored 46 and there was a fine knock of 81 from Fran Wilson, but they were both run out.  In fact there were four run outs in the innings as England strove to score at the high rate required.  In the end they fell short.

Match 3:

Pakistan close to upset

Pakistan v South Africa
Leicester – 25 June
South Africa won the toss and put Pakistan in to bat

Pakistan 206/8 (50 overs)
South Africa 207/7 (49 overs)
South Africa won by 3 wickets with 6 balls remaining

When Pakistan posted a total of only 206, South Africa must have been confident they would chase it down easily.  But they were made to fight every step of the way.

Nahida Khan top scored for Pakistan with 79, with pretty much everyone else making a contribution.

When South Africa started with an opening stand of 113 they seemed to be cruising.  Laura Wolvaardt scored 52 and Lizelle Lee 60, but after that the scoring rate was relatively slow.  Three quick middle order wickets saw Pakistan in with a chance, but Sune Luus and Shabnim Ismail saw them home.

Match 4:

Controversy at the toss ends with West Indies batting when they should have bowled

Australia v West Indies
Taunton – 26 June
West Indies won the toss and batted

West Indies 204 all out (47.4 overs)
Australia 205/2 (38.1 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets

There was confusion and controversy at the toss in Taunton when Stafanie Taylor, on calling correctly said “bat” and then changed her mind and said “bowl”.  It seemed that they were going with bowl, when Australian captain Meg Lanning decided to challenge the decision saying that they should go with what Taylor said first.  Taylor didn’t press it and said they would bat.

Turns out they perhaps should have bowled.  Opener Hayley Matthews made a fine 46 and Taylor 45, but the going was slow and the target a small one for a crack Australian side.   Ellyse Perry took 3/47 in nine overs.  But Australia also bowled eight wides, a total they would look to improve upon.

In response Nicole Bolton made 107 and Beth Mooney 70 as they reached their target with 12 overs to spare.

Match 5:

Sciver and Knight take it away from Pakistan

England v Pakistan
Leicester – 27 June
Pakistan won the toss and put England in to bat

England 377/7 (50 overs)
Pakistan 107/3 (29.2)
Match abandoned – England won by 107 via D/L method

As I have already said, I was there to see the rain come down, but I was also there to see a heartening performance by England after their poor display against India.  England began badly. Both Taylor and Beaumont scratched around, timing very little and were both out cheaply.  But Knight and Sciver then took it on.  Knight began slowly, but it seemed as soon as Sciver came in it gave the captain confidence to play her shots.

It was a very enjoyable to see the battle to get to the century mark.  Both players scored their maiden centuries, Knight out first for 106 then Sciver for137.  Katherine Brunt came in and scored 9 off 5 balls, but was then out and was clearly so angry I was surprised she didn’t explode as she stomped off the pitch.  Jenny Gunn was out first ball – in fact she had a poor match but a nice cameo from Dani Wyatt (42 not out) in her fiftieth ODI and Fran Wilson (33) led England to an enormous score.  Pakistan were not helped by some friendly bowling and some less than sharp fielding.

In response Ayesha Zafar looked classy again.  In fact Pakistan batted well, but they were well behind the rate when the rains came.  Zafar was 56 not out and I would have liked to have seen more of her.

Great stuff from England though – a much needed shot in the arm after the first match and a large, appreciative crowd at Grace Road enjoyed the spectacle.

Match 6:

Nothing doing at a soggy Derby

New Zealand v South Africa
Derby -28 June
Match abandoned without a ball being bowled (no, I wasn’t there…)

Match 7:

West Indies snail’s pace no match for India

India v West Indies
Taunton – 29 June
India won the toss and put West Indies in to bat

West Indies 183/8 (50 overs)
India 186/3 (42.3 overs)
India won by 7 wickets with 45 balls remaining

This match just made us all who were watching or listening, say “what on earth were you doing, West Indies?”  Put in to bat they never got going at all.  Hayley Matthews did her best scoring 43 off 57 balls, but there was no back up.  With Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin on strike it should have been a run-fest, but when Dottin ran Taylor out it all went to pot.  Dottin went completely into her shell, scoring a terrible 7 from 48 balls and this timidity seemed to communicate itself through the team as the ball was repeatedly patted back to the bowler or just a few feet away.  The Indian spinners bowled ridiculously tightly with the pick Poonam Yadav, taking 2/19 off her 10 overs.

India were never going to have a problem in chasing it down.  Raut went for a duck but the classy Smriti Mandhana was great again, scoring 106 not out.  Mithali Raj chipped in with 46 and the result was never in doubt.

Match 8:

Lanning century eclipsed by new Sri Lankan superstar, but Australia still win

Australia v Sri Lanka
Bristol – 29 June
Australia won the toss and put Sri Lanka in to bat

Sri Lanka 257/9 (50 overs)
Australia 262/2 (43.5 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets with 37 balls remaining

Remember the name – Chamari Atapattu – potentially Sri Lanka’s first superstar.  Atapattu scored a marvellous 178 not out, over 68% of her team’s runs, the third highest score in women’s ODIs and second highest at a World Cup.  She hit 22 fours and 6 sixes off 143 balls.

But it was not enough.  Australia kept their heads and wickets intact.  Opener Mooney went for a duck, but Bolton scored fifty and the captain Lanning 152 not out as they won with over six overs to spare.

We can only wait with bated breath to see what happens in the second week!  Coverage continues on Sky (seems to be only occasionally on screen but mostly online) and BBC Test Match Special on 5Live Sports Xtra.

And finally,

No “and finally” as such except to say there will be no column next week as I am away, but it will be back the week after, packed with more World Cup news, Wimbledon news and anything else I can pick up along the way.

Women’s Sports Column 17-23 June 2017

laura 1Welcome to this week’s column.  I hope you’ve all had a happy Women’s Sport Week.  There have been plenty of articles in praise of women’s sport with encouraging facts and figures around participation, the prize money gap, new initiatives and so on.  Needless to say there has also been the usual raft of sloppy, nasty or calculated misogyny, but I think we were all expecting that.  Let’s face it, you don’t have to be one of the world’s greatest minds to type “should be in the kitchen” as a response to a piece on women’s sport.

Anyway, let’s crack on.  News this week comes from rugby, cricket, boxing, Formula 1, athletics, tennis and football.  We also look at those women given honours in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List and the new Daily Telegraph list of the 20 most influential women in sport.

My “And Finally” this week is a quick guide to the Women’s Cricket World Cup, starting on Saturday 24 June.  If I put it in the “And finally” section I know I can’t witter on – I could write for hours on this subject, but I’m saving you all – just the pertinent points make the cut.

Football

Signings – WSL

Manchester City announced this week that their number one Goalkeeper, Karen Bardsley has signed a new contract with the club.

She will be staying for another two years.   Bardsley has been a City player since 2013 and has so far made 66 appearances for the club.

Indian Football

The WIFA (Western India Football Association) Women’s Football Championship begins in Mumbai on 23 June.

It is part of a FIFA – AIFF (All India Football Federation) State Development Project.

Eight teams will take part, two from Mumbai; Bodyline SC and Aadhar Pratishtan, two from Pune; Pune City FC and United Pooja SA, two from Kolhapur; KSA Women’s FC and Poddar International and two from Nagpur; Tulip FC and Pirpude FC.

The teams play in two groups with the top two going to semi-finals.  The tournament will be played at the Cooperage ground in Mumbai and the final will be on 8 July.

WIFA are also hosting a FIFA “Live Your Goals” grassroots leaders’ course for women from 6-8 July.

As I have reported recently, there now seems to be a real will to encourage women in sport in India.  The cricket in India is the strongest it has ever been and there seems to be no end to the initiatives appearing.  I’m not saying this is the be all and end all when it comes to women’s rights, as it clearly isn’t, but it’s got to be a step in the right direction.

Italian Football

Top Italian club Juventus have announced that they are going to launch a women’s team.

They already have youth teams and a developing structure and will enter a team into next season’s Serie A Femminile.

(Am I allowed to say, over to you then Man Utd?)

England Football

The FA has announced that England Women’s assistant coach Marieanne Spacey will be leaving her role to lead a new international player development programme.

The scheme begins in September 2017.  Players from the FA WSL will be selected to go on the programme and given individual support, focusing on technical aspects of the game and education.

The programme will also aim to develop and support female coaches and coaches working in the women’s game, alongside the FA’s head of women’s coach development, Audrey Cooper.

Spacey said:

“This programme is a real opportunity to enhance the development of some of the best young players in the women’s game.

“There are many talented players in our pathway but we know that with the extra support in key areas on and off the pitch, their talent could truly be realised and make such a difference to them both as individuals and as part of the teams they are playing for.

“It’s personally exciting to be leading such an innovative programme that will really drive forward the development of the elite women’s game and hopefully help us meet our goal of a winning England team in 2023.”

It does also mean, however, that there are no longer any women involved in Mark Sampson’s backroom team.

Gender Prize Money Gap

A new study from BBC Sport has found that 83% of sports now pay equally.

The biggest disparities, understandable in most cases still come in cricket, golf and football, although great strides have been made in all of these sports.

It’s a comprehensive study and an interesting piece that I really can’t do justice to here, so I would encourage you all to read it in full.  Here’s the link.

Rugby Union

New Zealand 21-29 England

 The Red Roses pulled off a fabulous win in Rotorua to finish the series unbeaten.

It was England’s first victory away in New Zealand since 2001.

The Red Roses took the lead with a try from Emily Scarratt in the left corner.  She converted her own try to make it 7-0 to the visitors.

The Black Ferns responded quickly and well, scoring a try of their own from Kendra Cocksedge who also kicked the extras to level the score.

On the 20th minute Portia Woodman intercepted a Scarratt offload to run the length of the pitch and score under the posts.  Cocksedge converted and it was 14-7.

Difficult conditions were soon made worse as the rain turned into a downpour.  It was time for the England forwards to take the stage.

Lock forward Abbie Scott went over after a period of pressure and Scarratt put over the extra two.  The teams went in 14-14 at half-time.

England continued the pressure after the break and Lydia Thompson went over to score.  Then the sublime Marlie Packer forced her way over for England’s fourth after dominant work from the England pack, taking the score to 14-24.

On 60 minutes England were awarded a penalty but Scarratt pushed it wide.

But nothing could stop the England forwards.  Vicky Fleetwood smuggled her way over for their fifth try of the match.

New Zealand scored a late consolation try through Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, which was converted, but the game was won for England.

Sevens

England finished fourth at the Malemort Sevens at the weekend. They lost the play-off for third to Ireland.

Third place final
England 7 – 26 Ireland
Try: Fisher
Conversion: A Richardson-Watmore

Cup semi final
England 15 – 24 Russia
Tries: Smith, Clapp, J Richardson-Watmore

Cup quarter finals
England 12 – 10 Wales
Tries: Fisher, Jones
Conversions: A Richardson-Watmore

The winners were Russia, who beat France in the final 22-21.

The final leg of the series is in Kazan during the weekend of 7-8 July, with qualification for the Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 at stake, it is sure to be a thrilling, if nervy, weekend.

Loughborough Lightning (Rugby!)

Nothing recently has happened to convince me that Loughborough University is not trying to take over the world.  It will, controversially field a team in the competition that will replace the Women’s Premiership later this year.

The University announced that is week that it has appointed Rhys Edwards as Head Coach to lead the women’s rugby programme.

Edwards used to be the Attack and Skills Coach at Championship club Rotherham Titans.

In a press release from the University Edwards said,

“I’m very excited and honoured to be joining such an illustrious sporting institution here at Loughborough University. The opportunity to work here and be part of the new RFU Women’s Rugby Competition was too good to ignore. It’s a hugely exciting time to be involved in women’s rugby, with 7s at the Rio Olympics last summer, and the 15s World Cup coming up in August. I feel there is a clear opportunity to create a World Class development/performance programme here with the facilities available and the historical sporting heritage that inspires players to achieve.”

Boxing

Natasha Jonas makes her professional debut at the Walker Activity Dome in Newcastle on Friday.

She fights Monika Antonik of Poland.

If Jonas progresses as expected she could line up in a future bout against Ireland’s boxing star Katie Taylor.

Queen’s Birthday Honours List

Several women have been awarded honours this June:

Jennie Price (Head of Sport England) CBE
Judy Murray OBE (for services to tennis, women in sport and charity)
Heather Stanning OBE (services to rowing)
Laura Smith (for services to disability sport)
Michelle Adams MBE (for services to girls’ and women’s football in Wales)
Natalie Gilmour MBE (for services to women’s rugby league)
Diane Lampard MBE (for services to equestrianism)
Angela Malone MBE (for services to wheelchair curling

Athletics

Two more female athletes have been banned by Russia for four years after their 2008 Olympic sample was retested.  Anastasiya Kapachinskaya won silver in the 4x400m relay at Beijing, whilst Inga Abitova came sixth in the 10,000m.

With Kapachinskaya’s disqualification, the Team GB quartet of Christine Ohuruogu, Kelly Sotherton, Marilyn Okoro and Nicola Sanders should receive bronze.

The athletes admitted their guilt to the governing body of athletics, the IAAF.

Formula 1

Monisha Kaltenborn has left her position as Team Principal at Swiss Formula 1 team, Sauber.  She was the leading light for women in senior positions in the sport as the first (and still only) female team principal.

She had disagreed with owners Longbow Finance as to the future running of Sauber and leaves “by mutual consent”.

Claire Williams is currently vice-principal at Williams, but, in reality, looks after most of the day to day running of the team as her father, Frank, unable to fulfil his principal role due to ill health.

This is a great loss, not only for formula 1, a sport where women are woefully under-represented, but for all those girls growing up with no role model to emulate.

Tennis

Johanna Konta

It’s been a strange old week for British number one, Johanna Konta.  She stormed into the final at Nottingham, defeating Magdalena Rybarikova in straight sets in the semi-final 6-2 7-5.  She seemed to be on track to win her first grass court tournament, but it was not to be.  After taking the first set 6-2, she then lost the next two 7-6 7-5 to the unseeded Donna Vekić of Croatia.

This week was even worse for the 26-year old as she crashed out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham in the second round.  She beat Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine in the first round 6-3 7-6, but then was totally outplayed by Coco Vandeweghe of the USA 6-1 6-3.

Other British scores:

Naomi Broady had a fine win over Alizé Cornet of France in the first round 7-6 6-0, but then succumbed to seventh seed Petra Kvitova in the second, 6-2 6-2.

Heather Watson lost in the first round to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-2 5-7 6-3.

Birmingham quarter-finals

The quarter-finals, to be played on 23 June are as follows:

L Safarova v D Gavrilova
G Muguruza v Coco Vandeweghe
K Mladenovic v P Kvitova
A Barty v C Giorgi

Victoria Azarenka

Former world number on Victoria Azarenka made her return from maternity leave this week at the Mallorca Open.

She beat Risa Ozaki of Japan in the first round 6-3 4-6 7-6.

She went out in the second round to Ana Konjuh of Croatia 6-1 6-3.

She is using her protected ranking to be able to play at Wimbledon later on this month.

Injuries

World number five Elina Svitolina has announced she may miss Wimbledon due to a foot injury sustained at the Birmingham tournament.

“I was really looking forward to this year at Wimbledon but today the court was slippery and it’s so bad for my foot,” she said.

“I will do my best. But for the moment it’s very uncomfortable.”

Daily Telegraph 20 most influential women in sport

The list, published to coincide with Women’s Sport Week was chosen by a panel of 14 influential women in British sport.

1.  Clare Balding
2.  Baroness Campbell
3.  Dame Katherine Grainger
4.  Tracey Crouch MP
5.  Baroness Grey-Thompson
6.  Barbara Slater
7.  Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill
8.  Liz Nicholl
9.  Judy Murray
10. Annamarie Phelps
11. Jennie Price
12. Nicola Adams
13. Dame Kelly Holmes
14. Tammy Parlour/Jo Bostock (Women’s Sports Trust)
15. Clare Connor
16. Victoria Aggar
17. Kate Richardson-Walsh
18. Jessica Varnish
19. Dame Heather Rabbatts
20. Dr Eva Carneiro

It’s a pretty good list and not too much controversy there.  I’m quite surprised though that Clare Balding is still at the top – I’m not sure that she’s the most influential woman out there.  There are also plenty of names that could have been included; Ruth Holdaway, CEO at Women in Sport, for example, Anna Kessel or Vicky Orvice, the sportswriters, or Sally Hancock – how’s that for starters?

Cricket

As we career headlong into the wonderful event that is the Women’s Cricket World Cup, each team has been playing warm-ups to get in the swing.  Here are some selected results:

19 June
Chesterfield
Sri Lanka 155 all out
England 156/2 30.2 overs
England won by 8 wickets (118 balls remaining)

Derby
India 130 all out
New Zealand 133/3 (26.3 overs)
New Zealand won by 7 wickets (141 balls remaining)

20 June
Oakham
Australia 324/5 (50 overs)
South Africa 221 all out (49.3 overs)
Australia won by 103 runs

Leicester
West Indies 246/7 (50 overs)
Pakistan 249/5 (47.4 overs)
Pakistan won by 5 wickets (14 balls remaining)

21 June
Derby
New Zealand 130 all out (38.3 overs)
England 132/3 (27.2 overs)
England won by 7 wickets (136 balls remaining)

Chesterfield
India 275/8 (50 overs)
Sri Lanka 166 all out (48.4 overs)
India won by 109 runs

22 June
Leicester
Pakistan 156 all out (46.4 overs)
Australia 159/2 (23.2 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets (160 balls remaining)

Oakham
West Indies 63 all out (23.5 overs)
South Africa 65/4 (19 overs)
South Africa won by six wickets (186 balls remaining)

Two other World Cup snippets:

Opener Lauren Winfield is out of England’s first game against India with a wrist injury.  It may be touch and go to get her ready for the second game against Pakistan on Tuesday.

In other news, Indian captain Mithali Raj has summed up the feelings of most of us frustrated women in sport.  When asked in an interview who her favourite male cricketers are, she shot back,

“Do you ask a male cricketer who their favourite female cricketer is?”  Class.

Tickets are still available for most of the matches, although Saturday’s England v India clash at Derby has sold out.  I would urge you, if you’re in the vicinity of Leicester, Derby or Bristol, to check at least one match out.  If you can’t, there will be pretty comprehensive coverage on TV via Sky and radio via Test Match Special.   Check out listings for details.

And Finally

Cricket again!  So what have we learnt from the warm-up matches?  England are looking good, as are Australia.  No big deal there.  West Indies are having a nightmare so far and will be particularly concerned about losing to Pakistan.  This, however, probably means they will win it!

It’s going to be the most open World Cup yet, I reckon.  Australia are favourites, with England just behind.  A few months ago I would have put a plea in for New Zealand, but now I think they’ve gone off the boil at just the wrong time, although they did have a good win over India in the warm-ups.

I would like to think India will put in a good performance here and Pakistan are, of course, dark horses.  We’ve just seen what their men could do in the Champions Trophy, so watch out for them.

West Indies?  Who knows?  South Africa?  Too uneven.  And Sri Lanka propping everyone up, I’m afraid.

I’m going to be really boring and say Australia v England in the final, but with India and Pakistan the surprise packages.  From an England point of view, if someone could kindly knock Australia out before the final I’d be more than happy (sorry Aus fans).

Women’s Sports Column 29 April – 5 May 2017

Squash-racquet-and-ballIt’s that time again!  Not quite sure where the week has gone, but gone it has and so here comes the column.  Plenty of news again this week with stories from cycling, football, badminton, boxing, squash, hockey, tennis, cricket, rugby and netball.  This week’s “and finally” comes from basketball.

Cycling

Tour de Yorkshire

Lizzie Deignan won the Tour de Yorkshire at the weekend.  She finished the 122.5km course in three hours, nine minutes, 36 seconds.

Deignan was part of an eight-strong group that broke away with 60km to go.  Then three riders, including Deignan pulled ahead.  Deignan then made her move with 14km left and was never headed.

Top five finishers

  • Lizzie Deignan (GB/Boels Dolman) 3hrs 09mins 36secs
  • Coryn Rivera (US/Team Sunweb) +55secs
  • Giorgia Bronzini (ITA/Wiggle High 5) Same time
  • Amy Pieters (NED/Boels Dolman)
  • Hannah Barnes (GB/Canyon SRAM Racing)

Squash

England’s women won the European Team Championships last weekend.  They beat France in the final 2-0.  Wales beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the third place play-off.

Final:
England beat France 2-0
Sarah-Jane Perry beat Camille Serme 11/8, 8/11, 9/11, 14/12, 11/7
Fiona Moverley beat Laura Pomportes 14/12, 11/5, 4/11, 7/11, 11/8
Victoria Lust v Coline Aumard (match withdrawn)

Third place play-off:
Wales beat Netherlands 2-1
Tesni Evans beat Milou van der Heijden 11/6, 11/4, 11/7
Lowri Roberts lost to Tessa ter Sluis 5/11, 13/11, 6/11, 8/11
Deon Saffery beat Natalie Grinham 9/11, 11/7, 13/15, 11/6, 11/8

Boxing

Katie Taylor’s winning run now stretches to five.  She stopped Nina Meinke of Germany in the seventh round of her latest bout at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

She is now able to challenge for the WBA world lightweight belt currently held by Cecilia Comunales of Uruguay.

Rugby Union

The news Lichfield fans dreaded came this week when the RFU announced that they have been unsuccessful in their appeal against being excluded from the new Women’s Super League.

An independent panel heard the appeals from both Lichfield, who finished second in this year’s Premiership and Thurrock, who finished top of the second flight and should have been promoted.  The panel found that the RFU had followed correct procedure in selecting the teams for the new Super League, but it should also be noted that the panel was not constituted to decide whether the decisions made were the correct ones, just that correct procedure had been followed.

Lichfield will now play in the second tier of English rugby and may, in all probability, lose the services of their current internationals, such as Emily Scarratt and Amy Cokayne.

Badminton

Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour won silver at the European Championships this week.  She was defeated in the singles final by Spain’s Carolina Marin, 21-14 21-12.

It was Gilmour’s second final defeat in a row and three successive wins for Marin.

Cricket

Good and bad news on the cricket front this week.

Bad news first.  England captain Heather Knight has fractured a metatarsal whilst training for the World Cup in the UAE.

She will be out for five to six weeks, hoping to be back in time for the beginning of the tournament, which starts on 24 June.  Fingers crossed her rehabilitation goes to plan.

The good news also concerns the World Cup with the news announced this week by the ICC that every match will be broadcast live for the first time.  The prize money will also be doubled.

It’s all a bit last minute, as with so much surrounding women’s sport, but not perhaps one shouldn’t be churlish.

The prize fund goes up from $1m to $2m.

The ICC is also to publish plans later in the year for growing the women’s game with the aim

“To move towards equality across the game within 15 years”

Bold words – can they live up to it?  Call me cynical, but let’s see the full document before we leap in the air with joy.

Ten games will be broadcast live on TV, with the other 21 streamed live on the ICC website.  There will also be radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Xtra and highlights on the BBC Sport website.

Tennis

There was heartening news this week as Petra Kvitova took her first steps on the practice court after the attack which left her with a career-threatening hand injury last December.  She posted a photo of herself on the court in Monaco.

It is still unclear whether she will be fit to play in the French Open at the end of May.

Football

Off the Pitch

BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year

The shortlist for the 2017 has been announced:

Melanie Behringer (Bayern Munich and former Germany midfielder)

Ada Hegerberg (Olympique Lyonnais and Norway striker)

Hedvig Lindahl (Chelsea and Sweden goalkeeper)

Marta (Orlando Pride and Brazil forward)

Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns and Canada forward)

You can vote via the BBC website.  The closing date is Monday 15 May.

Notts County Ladies

It’s good to see that clubs are busy snapping up former Notts County Ladies players.

Reading Women have been the biggest beneficiaries signing England internationals Jade Moore and Jo Potter and Kirsty Linnett.  Both Moore and Potter are in the England squad for this year’s Euros.

Carly Telford and Laura Bassett are the two remaining England internationals from Notts County’s squad yet to find a new club.

Carly Telford has rejoined Chelsea Ladies until the end of the Spring Series.

Yeovil Town Ladies have signed County’s second ‘keeper, Megan Walsh for the rest of the Spring Series.

Yeovil Town

It is likely that Walsh will go straight into the side as first choice goalkeeper Charlotte Haynes will be out for up to eight weeks after breaking her hand against Chelsea on Sunday.

On the Pitch

Women’s Champions League

Manchester City were beaten 3-2 on aggregate by cup-holders Lyon this week.  They trailed 3-1 after the first leg – the damage was done.  They put up a creditable performance in Lyon to win the leg 1-0 with a goal from Carli Lloyd, but it was not enough to take them through.  A crowd of 19,214 saw the home favourites progress to the final.

In the other tie, Paris Saint-German beat Barcelona 5-1 on aggregate.  They won the second leg in Paris 2-0 with an own goal and a penalty.

The final is on Thursday 1 June at the Cardiff City Stadium at 7.45pm.

FA Women’s Spring Series

Friday 28 April

Liverpool Ladies 4-2 Reading Women

Liverpool took the lead through Tash Harding after just two minutes.  But Reading hit straight back just a minute later when Liverpool ‘keeper Siobhan Chamberlain spilled a Brooke Chaplen shot, which went into the net.

The away side took the lead four minutes later when Melissa Fletcher fired in from ten yards.  Liverpool pulled level on 24 with Harding’s second and went ahead again ten minutes later when Caroline Weir tapped in from an Alex Greenwood cross.  The teams went in with the home side leading 3-2.

Laura Coombs dealt the telling blow scoring five minutes after the restart and giving Liverpool all three points.

Sunday 30 April

Chelsea Ladies 6-0 Yeovil Town Ladies

Chelsea demolished newly promoted Yeovil in their first game of the Spring Series, but it took them until nearly half-time to take the lead.

In the 45th minute and in first-half injury time Ji So-Yun scored twice to demoralise Yeovil who had held out in the face of repeated Chelsea chances up to this point.

In the second-half the home side cashed in on their superiority with goals from Drew Spence, Erin Cuthbert, Crystal Dunn and Ramona Bachmann.

Sunderland AFC 0-0 Arsenal Ladies

There were chances for both sides but neither could break the deadlock at the Hetton Centre on Sunday.

Wednesday 3 May

Manchester City Women 1-1 Birmingham City Ladies

City underperformed in this match and deserved nothing more than a draw.  In contrast, Birmingham played to the best of their potential to take the point.

Carli Lloyd missed several chances for the champions, but Birmingham’s resolute defence held out.

The away side took the lead in the 14th minute with a header from Emily Westwood.

It took until the second half for Man City to get going and when they did they had periods of sustained pressure.  The pressure told in the 58th minute when Lucy Bronze ran at the defence, beating two defenders to score the equaliser.

Yeovil Town Ladies 2-3 Bristol City Women

It looked set be Yeovil’s first point of the Spring Series until an unfortunate own goal from Nicola Cousins deprived the home side of the draw.

Bristol took the lead after just five minutes from the penalty spot.  Lucy Quinn brought down Claire Emslie, who got up to convert the resulting spot kick herself.

The home side drew level in the 27th minute with a header from Annie Heatherson and it was all square at the break.

In the second –half the home side took the lead as Sarah Wiltshire scored from 25 yards.

But Bristol weren’t finished.  Three minutes later they equalised through Chloe Arthur.

It was level until two minutes from time when Cousins’ deflection of an Arthur shot took the ball past goalkeeper Walsh.

Reading Women 0-4 Chelsea Ladies

Another day, another impressive win for Chelsea as they scored four without reply at Reading.

Karen Carney got the first on the half-hour, the only score in the first-half.

After the break Drew Spence scored from a few yards out, Ji So-Yun struck the away side’s third and a fourth came from Hannah Blundell with nine minutes to go.

Thursday 4 May

Arsenal Ladies 4-4 Liverpool Ladies

In a pulsating match at The Hive, Arsenal came back from 3-1 down and looked to have snatched all three points when a late equaliser for Liverpool gave the away side a deserved draw.

Liverpool took the lead on the 13th minute when Alex Greenwood scored straight from a corner.  It was, perhaps, an indication of how the match was going to go.

The Gunners equalised on the half-hour through Chloe Kelly.

Then Liverpool moved up a gear with goals from Tash Harding and Caroline Weir before the break to take the away side 3-1 up at half-time.

After the break Danielle Carter got one back and the game was on again.

On the hour Carter was in for a second and the score was 3-3.

Arsenal looked to have completed a famous victory when a Jordan Nobbs stunner took them 4-3 ahead.  But Liverpool were determined to have the last word as on the 84th minute Gemma Bonner made it 4-4 with a header from a Greenwood corner.

Netball

Rounds 12 and 13 of the Vitality Netball Super League were played over the bank holiday weekend.  True to the commentator’s curse that I knew must come, I put the complete mockers on the league leaders, Loughborough Lightning as they lost their showcase game, held in front of a packed house in Leicester, to title rivals Wasps.  They were back on form on Monday, beating Sirens comfortably and now lead the table by three points from Wasps with five rounds to go before the semi-finals.

Round 12 results:

Friday 28 April

Team Bath 59-33 Severn Stars

Saturday 29 April

Sirens 69-47 Team Northumbria
Celtic Dragons 53-55 Manchester Thunder
Hertfordshire Mavericks 56-63 Surrey Storm
Loughborough Lightning 54-57 Wasps Netball

Round 13 results:

Monday 1 May

Surrey Storm 49-56 Team Bath
Celtic Dragons 41-45 Hertfordshire Mavericks
Wasps Netball 62-46 Severn Stars
Manchester Thunder 56-47 Team Northumbria
Sirens 46-57 Loughborough Lightning

Round 14 is this weekend and the televised match is on Monday 8 May, Team Bath v Wasps Netball, 7.45pm live on Sky Sports.

Hockey

Surbiton completed the league championship and cup double at the weekend with a 5-0 win over Clifton Robinsons in the Investec Women’s Cup final at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre last weekend.

Surbiton have lost only one game this season, 3-2 to Leicester in February, and have now won four successive league titles and three of the last four cup finals.

Surbiton took the lead through Giselle Ansley and they were two up when Emily Atkinson bagged their second with Hollie Webb a third before half-time.

They didn’t let up in the second-half with Ansley scoring a second, and Hannah Martin the team’s fifth two minutes from time.

Surbiton now go into the Euro Hockey Club Cup in Den Bosch, Netherlands, facing Spanish side Complutense on 2 June.  If they win this they will play the winners of the Den Bosch v Hermes-Monktown tie.

Canterbury are also involved and will play Hamburg on the same date.

And finally 

And finally, some good news!  I was despairing that I would ever be able to report this, but happily I was wrong.

After four long years of campaigning, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has approved the wearing of headcoverings under certain conditions.

The decision was supposed to have been made in August 2016, but was postponed until January 2017.  It was postponed again in January.  But, finally the ruling has been released.  The conditions are:

  • it is black or white, or of the same dominant colour as that of the uniform
  • it is one same colour for all players on the team
  • it does not cover any part of the face entirely or partially
  • it is not dangerous to the player wearing it and/or to other players
  • it has no opening/closing elements around the face and/or neck
  • it has no parts extruding from its surface.

We must also remember this has a bearing not only for the wearing of the hijab for women, but also turbans for men.  More than 130,000 people signed a petition to end the headgear ban.

Women’s Sports Column 4-10 March 2017

cricket-ballI can’t believe it’s that time again, but apparently it is, so welcome to this week’s Women’s Sports Column.

As usual, there has been plenty going on this week, including what I thought was a quite spectacular International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8th.  So here we go with stories from athletics, tennis, football, sports governance, netball and rugby and cricket.  Let’s crack on.

Football

SheBelieves Cup

The Lionesses finished a creditable third in their second appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in the USA.  France were the eventual winners after they convincingly beat the hosts 3-0.

England 0-1 Germany

England finished their campaign with one win from three as they lost narrowly to Germany on Wednesday.  Again England got off to a storming start and they had several chances in the first 20 minutes.  But Germany came back into it, having the better of the play and scoring what turned out to be the only goal of the game, through Anja MIttag, just before half-time.

Jordan Nobbs and Demi Stokes had chances in the second-half and Jill Scott had a clear opportunity in stoppage time, but shot over.

England coach Mark Sampson should be pleased with the three performances and it was certainly all good build-up to the Euros in the summer.

Team P GD Pts
1 France Women 2 1 4
2 Germany Women 3 0 4
3 USA Women 2 0 3
4 England Women 3 -1 3

 Cyprus Cup

 Scotland 0-0 Wales
Scotland won 6-5 on penalties

Scotland beat Wales in a penalty shoot-out to take fifth place in the Cyprus Cup.

After 90 minutes there was no score and the game went to penalties with Frankie Brown scoring the winner for the Scots.

The eventual winners of the tournament were South Korea who beat Switzerland 1-0.  Third place went to North Korea who beat the Republic of Ireland 2-0.

Signings

Notts County have signed full-back Shelly Provan on a contract which takes her up to the end of the Spring Series.

Broadcasting news

The BBC has won the rights to broadcast the 2019 Women’s World Cup due to be held in France in 2019.

Every game will be covered across television, radio or online.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

It’s round four this weekend and the fixtures are as follows:

Saturday 11 March, 11.30am
Wales v Ireland (Cardiff Arms Park)
SC4/BBC Wales/RTE

Saturday 11 March, 1pm
England v Scotland (The Stoop)
Sky Sports

Sunday 12 March, 2pm GMT
Italy v France (Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi)
France 4/Eurosport IT

Athletics

Apologies that the European Indoor Athletics passed under my radar last week.

Scotland’s Laura Muir won gold in both the 1500m and 3,000m.  In the latter she broke the championship record in a time of eight minutes 35.68 seconds with Eilish McColgan taking bronze.

Asha Philip won gold in the 60m in a time of 7.06 seconds, a new British record.

Shelayna Oskan-Clarke took silver in the 800m in a photo-finish with Swiss athlete Selina Buchel.

Lorraine Ugen won silver in the women’s long jump and the 4x400m relay team of Eilidh Doyle, Philippa Lowe, Mary Iheke and Laviai Nielsen also took silver behind Poland.

Great Britain finished second in the medal table behind Poland.

Sports Politics

Russia

Yelena Isinbayeva has been reappointed as Chair of RUSADA, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency.  She was originally appointed in December but WADA took issue with the appointment and so the election was re-run.  Isinbayeva was re-elected.

She was critical of Russia’s competition-wide ban declaring it “a blatant political order”, but today, Friday 10 March she said,

“We will watch and control everybody and everything.

“We have just one attempt to clear our sport of this dirt.”

WADA has already been critical of the speed of reform in Russian athletics and will now be sure to be watching carefully to see what happens next.

Diversity Developments

In a landmark ruling, Muslim women have won the right to wear full body suits in amateur swimming competitionsThis will include all Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) meets and national competition.

Full body suits are already allowed in Olympic Games.

In a separate development, Nike has become the first major sports brand to produce a range of hijabs for sporting Muslim women.  They are not the first in the field, but they are by far the biggest.  It can only be a matter of time before others follow suit.

Women in Sport report

A new survey from Women in Sport has found that the number of women in the top posts of sports governing bodies is down 6% since 2014.  Read the full report here: https://www.womeninsport.org/news/women-sport-launches-beyond-30-campaign/

Needless to say, and more than a little irritating were the comments at the bottom of the BBC report were all about netball’s governing body, which has 90% women on its board and isn’t this really sexist?

Cricket

World Cup Schedule

Here’s the link to the full schedule, but this is when and where England will be playing:

Saturday 24 June v India (Derby CCC)
Tuesday 27 June v Pakistan (Leicester CCC)
Sunday 2 July v Sri Lanka (Taunton)
Wednesday 5 July v South Africa (Bristol)
Sunday 9 July v Australia (Bristol)
Wednesday 12 July v New Zealand (Derby CCC)
Saturday 15 July v West Indies (Bristol)

The semi-finals will be at Bristol (18 July) and Derby (20 July), with the final at Lord’s on Sunday 23 July.

Ashes Schedule

The 2017 Ashes schedule has also been released and includes the first ever day-night Ashes Test.  The series well again be multi-format.

22 October – 1st ODI, AB Field, Brisbane
26 October – 2nd ODI, Coffs Harbour International Stadium
29 October – 3rd ODI, Coffs Harbour International Stadium

9-12 November – Test match, North Sydney Oval

17 November – 1st T20, North Sydney Oval
19 November – 2nd T20, Manuka Oval, Canberra
21 November – 3rd T20, Manuka Oval, Canberra

Women’s Ashes points system

Test: Win – 4 points
ODI: Win – 2 points
T20: Win – 2 points

On the field

3rd ODI, Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui

New Zealand 270/9 (50 overs)
Australia 273/5 (49.2 overs)

Australia sealed a 2-1 series win over their greatest rivals in a thrilling contest at the Bay Oval.  Meg Lanning won the toss and put New Zealand in to bat.  She must have been ruing that decision when the White Ferns got off to a flyer.  Susie Bates was out in the 11th over for 27, but Rachel Priest made 77 and Katie Perkins 34 as they posted an excellent total of 270.  Pick of the bowlers for the Southern Stars were Jess Jonassen and Ashleigh Gardner who took three wickets each.

The Australian reply began inauspiciously when opener Nicole Bolton was bowled for a duck by Holly Huddleston in the second over.  But in came captain Lanning and the tide turned.  She and Beth Mooney put on a 93-run partnership before Mooney was run out for 69 in the 20th over.  Ellyse Perry only managed a single, but good contributions from Elyse Villani, Alex Blackwell and Alyssa Healy plus 104 not out for Lanning sealed the game and the series.

Tennis

BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells

Heather Watson plays Johanna Konta in the second round after beating American Nicole Gibbs 4-6 6-2 6-2 in round one.

Meanwhile, world number one Serena Williams has had to withdraw from the tournament with a knee injury.

Netball

Round three of the Vitality Superleague took place at the weekend.  Round four is this weekend.  You can see Surrey Storm v Hertfordshire Mavericks live on Sky Sports on Saturday 11 March at 6pm.

There are still three unbeaten teams at the top of the table; Surrey, Wasps and Loughborough.  Northumbria and Dragons are at the bottom, yet to take a point.

The third round results were as follows:

Friday 3 March

Severn Stars 53-46 Celtic Dragons

Saturday 4 March

Manchester Thunder 53-49 Sirens
Team Northumbria 46-63 Surrey Storm

Sunday 5 March

Wasps 51-47 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Monday 6 March

Team Bath 41-47 Loughborough Lightning

And finally, in a moment of shameless self-promotion, I offer you the piece I wrote for International Women’s Day on 8 March 2017: https://pennyjhopkins.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/international-womens-day-and-the-world-of-womens-sport/

Women’s Sports Column 18-24 February 2017

cricket-ballWelcome to this week’s somewhat shortened column.  Apologies for the brevity of the reports, but hopefully you will still find something to interest you.  Stories from netball, football, cricket, and rugby union.  On form again with an “And finally” that takes us back to the Stone Age.

Netball

The new Superleague season began last weekend.  The scores were:

Friday 17 February

Hertfordshire Mavericks 53-48 Team Northumbria

Saturday 18 February

Celtic Dragons 41-51 Team Bath

Loughborough Lightning 59-45 Manchester Thunder

Surrey Storm 58-50 Severn Stars

Tuesday 21 February

Sirens 43-57 Wasps Netball

This weekend sees a “Super Ten” event with all teams playing at the Genting Arena in Birmingham.  From 4pm on Saturday you can watch three games live on Sky Sports.

Cricket

World Cup Qualifying Tournament

The qualifying tournament has now concluded with India coming out on top and the four teams to qualify for this summer’s World Cup being India, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

At the point of reporting last week there were still three Super Six matches to be concluded before the final.  These went as follows:

Sunday 19 February
India 70/3 (22.3 overs)
Pakistan 67 all out (43.4 overs)

Pakistan collapsed to 67 all out with only two players making it into double figures; Ayesha Zafar made 19 and Bismah Maroof 13.  The Indian star bowler, not for the first time was Ekta Bisht who took 5 for a miserly 8 runs off her 10 overs.

India made light work of the chase.  DB Sharma top scored with 29 and Harmanpreet Kaur 24 as they sailed home easily in under half the allotted overs.

Sri Lanka 197/9 (50 overs)
 Bangladesh 68/5 (21 out of 21 overs)
Sri Lanka won by 42 runs via the D/L method

Jayangani top scored with 84 for Sri Lanka as they posted an impressive score batting first.  But the game was affected badly by rain and reduced to just 21 overs.  The revised total of 111 was too tough an ask for Bangladesh who made only 68.  Nigar Sultana made 24 and Shaila Sharmin 21 not out, but they never kept up with the required run rate.

Ireland 166 all out (49.5 overs)
South Africa 82/1 (21 out of 21 overs)
South Africa won by 36 runs via the D/L method

The third game of the day was also curtailed due to rain.  Ireland batted first and made a decent total with good contributions from Cecelia Joyce, Isobel Joyce, Gaby Lewis and Mary Waldron.

But the revised total of 47 from 21 overs was easily knocked off by South Africa for the loss of only Lee for 14.

The final, which took place on Tuesday 21 February, went to the wire.

India 245/9 (50 overs)
South Africa 244 all out (49.4 overs)
India won by 1 wicket

South Africa must have thought they had done enough to win it.  The top eight all made excellent contributions with Mignon du Preez 40,Lizelle Lee and Dane van Niekerk 37 apiece and Sune Luus 35.

But India were not to be beaten.  After fine knocks from Mona Meshram (59) and Deepti Sharma (71), Harmanpreet Kaur made a standout 41.  India needed nine to win off the last over, to be bowled by Marcia Letsoalo.  They ran one on the first ball but Yadav was run out going for a suicidal second.   There were then three dot balls and India needed eight off the last two balls.  On the fifth ball of the over Kaur launched Letsoalo for six.  Kaur then took two off the last ball to win the match by one wicket.

Australia v New Zealand

Meanwhile in Australia, two World Cup favourites have been warming up in a keenly fought three match T20 series.

1st T20, 17 February
Australia 151/4 (20 overs)
New Zealand 111/8 (20 overs)
Australia won by 40 runs

Elyse Villani scored 73 not out and captain Meg Lanning 60 as Australia posted a decent total of 151.

New Zealand made a good start to their response, but lost wickets at regular intervals and fell short in their chase.  Amy Satterthwaite was 40 not out for the White Ferns.   Amanda-Jade Wellington took three wickets for 15 from her four overs.

2nd T20, 19 February
New Zealand 101/9 (20 overs)
Australia 61/9 (13 overs – target revised to 70 from 13)
New Zealand won by 8 runs via D/L method

Australia would have been confident of chasing down 102 in 20, but in the end a rain-affected game meant they had to chase 70 from 13.

New Zealand got off to a good start with the top three into double figures.  But they subsided after Suzie Bates was out for 30 in the fifteenth over, with the score on 76.  In the end they posted a low 101.

Australia got off to a bad start and were three down for just 28 in the sixth over.  Anna Peterson then took three wickets in one over to rip the heart out of the Australian innings and New Zealand had drawn level in the series.

3rd T20, 22 February
New Zealand 113/8 (20 overs)
Australia 66 all out (16 overs)
New Zealand won by 47 runs

An unusual and catastrophic collapse by the Southern Stars saw New Zealand take the series 2-1 in Adelaide.

The away side batted first and made 113.  Top scorer was Suzie Bates with 31 and there were good contributions from Rachel Priest (17) and Amy Satterthwaite (18).  Wellington was again pick of the Aussie bowlers with figures of four for 16 from her four overs.

But Australia were in trouble for the off – slumping to nine for five in the fifth over.  There was some resistance from Healy and Blackwell, but with little support they had no chance and New Zealand had secured an historic series win.

Rugby Union

The Six Nations returns this week:

24 February 6.20pm
Broadwood Stadium

Scotland v Wales
Broadcast on S4C and BBC Wales

25 February 1pm
The Stoop

England v Italy
Broadcast on Sky and Eurosport IT

26 February 12.45pm
Donnybrook, Dublin

Ireland v France
Broadcast on RTE/France 4

Football

England

Mark Sampson has announced his squad for the She Believes Cup, which will begins on March 1 with England v France.  There is a surprise recall for former captain Casey Stoney.

The squad in full:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Mary Earps (Reading)

Defenders: Laura Bassett (Notts County), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Jo Potter (Notts County), Alex Scott (Arsenal), Casey Stoney (Liverpool), Demi Stokes (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Jade Moore (Notts County), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Arsenal)

Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Toni Duggan (Manchester City), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Arsenal), Rachel Williams (Notts County), Ellen White (Birmingham City).

FA Cup

Meanwhile it was an exciting weekend in the SSE Women’s FA Cup fourth round

Coventry Ladies 0-1 Aston Villa Ladies
Durham Women 2-2 Everton Ladies
Everton win 4-3 on penalties
Millwall Lionesses 3-1 Nottingham Forest
Sheffield Ladies 0-1 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Tottenham Ladies 1-0 Brighton Ladies
West Bromwich Albion Women 2-1 Leicester City Ladies

The fifth round sees the entrance of the big guns and the draw has thrown up some mouthwatering ties, including three derbies; on Merseyside, in the West Midland and North London.

The draw in full:

Notts County Ladies v Yeovil Town Ladies
Liverpool Ladies v Everton Ladies
Arsenal Ladies v Tottenham Hotspur Ladies
Sunderland Ladies v Aston Villa Ladies
Birmingham City Ladies v West Bromwich Albion Women
Bristol City Women v Millwall Lionesses
Manchester City Women v Reading Women
Chelsea Ladies v Doncaster Rovers Belles

FIFA

In a surprise move, Director of Women’s Football, Tatjana Haenni has been sacked from her post.  Haenni had held the position for 18 years.

In a statement FIFA said that the decision was based on organisational restructure.

Haenni has also released a statement:

“At the end of January, FIFA dismissed me, ended the employment contract and released me as soon as possible.

“I look back on 18 interesting, motivating, fascinating years in international women’s football. I have done my work and my activities with full commitment, conviction for the cause and with a lot of passion.

“For the future, I would like all sports organizations to make efforts to promote women’s sports and the representation of women in the decision-making committees and to make available adequate resources.”

Colombian Football

Another good news story in the world of women’s football this week as a new professional women’s league gets underway.

There will be 18 teams with three round-robin groups of six and each team will play home and away.

At the end of the round-robin stage the top two from each group and the two best third-placed teams will compete in quarter-finals.

The overall winner will represent Colombia in the Copa Libertadores.

Group A: Real Cartagena, Petrolera, R. Santander, Union Magdalena, Bucaramanga, Envigado.
Group B: Equidad, Santa Fe, Patriotas, Atletico Huila, Cucuta, Fortaleza.
Group C: Pasto, Cortulua, Pereira, Quindio, Orsomarso, America.

And Finally

And finally, just when you thought Australia had women’s sport in the bag (cricketing pregnancy clauses not withstanding), we revert to the Stone Age.

A boxing promoter on the Gold Coast is planning to hold two bouts of “lingerie boxing” in a boxing card at Surfers Paradise next week.  Surprisingly this will not be a professional bout, but seemingly between two women unused to the sport and are being trained especially for the fight.

As usual I’ll leave you all to draw your own conclusions and let you fume in the privacy of your own homes.  But it’s just another case of two steps forward, one back for women’s sport.

Mind you the same promoter is the man who also brought Australia the delights of “midget” boxing in 2008. Say no more.

Women’s Sports Column 11-17 February

netball 1140Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get our teeth into again this week as we see stories from golf, football, cricket, speed skating, Laureus Sports Awards, netball, cycling and rugby union.  Also, back to form in the “And finally” department.

Golf

Oates Vic Open

After her storming start last week, Laura Davies was unable to maintain momentum over the weekend, eventually finishing back in the pack at three under.  However another Briton, Melissa Reid, won the tournament on 16 under, finally triumphing on the fourth play-off hole, claiming her sixth Ladies European Tour title.

She and Germany’s Sandra Gal were tied on 16 under after 72 holes.  They played the 18th three times, both parring each time, but on the fourth attempt Reid parred again while Gal bogeyed.

-16 M Reid (Eng), S Gal (Ger); -14 S-H Oh (Aus), A Yin (US); -12 HJ Choi (Kor)

Other Britons’ scores:

-7 F Parker (Eng); -5 H Burke (Eng), K Henry (Sco); -4C Booth (Sco); -3 L Davies (Eng)

Australian Open

The Australian Open is now underway in Adelaide.

Top of the leaderboard after round one is Katherine Kirk of Australia who carded an eight under 65.  Four players are currently tied second on six under; Chella Choi of Korea, Jane Park and Marissa Steen of USA and Min Lee of Taiwan.

Top placed Briton after one round is Michele Thomson who is tied for sixth on five under.  England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff is tied for 17th on three under.

Speed Skating

There was further success for short track skater Charlotte Gilmartin this week as she took her second consecutive World Cup bronze medal in Minsk.

She was third in the 1,000m.  China’s Han Yutong won gold in 1 minute 31.008 seconds, Rianne de Vries took silver, with Gilmartin 0.233 seconds behind the winner in third.

This is certainly looking like ideal preparation for Gilmartin for the World Championships next month in Rotterdam.

Cycling

Timely news this week after the “And finally” of last week which outlined why, according to Mr. Opinionated, women are no good at sport because they get pregnant.

Laura Kenny has announced that she is pregnant.  Not strictly a cycling story, but, if Mr Opinionated would like to suggest that Kenny has never been “any good” at sport I fear he might lose that one.  And, if he were to suggest, that she will never come back to be as good again, I daresay there may be a fair few who take on that bet……

Netball

Needless to say, after the sport took a pummelling last week, netball has come out fighting.  The best response I have seen is from former England netballer Tamsin Greenway.  Netball is cool after all, who knew?

Read the whole article (and cheer) here: Tamsin Greenway  (perhaps steer clear of the comments if you want to stay cheery though).

Football

Signings, signings everywhere this week as we draw nearer to the Spring Series.

Manchester City

Top of these (even making it on to mainstream news) is the signing of FIFA World Player of the Year, Carli Lloyd, by Manchester City on a short-term deal.

Lloyd has scored 96 goals in 232 appearances for the USA.

She will play in the Spring Series and also the Champions League and FA Cup.

The significance of this news certainly cannot be underestimated. Lloyd is only the third American player to move to England, following Crystal Dunn to Chelsea and Heather O’Reilly to Arsenal.

However, the move may also be a sign of the WSL’s “haves and have-nots” problem, mirroring the problems in the men’s league.  There does seem to be a very definite split developing between Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and the rest.  There are set to be many words written on this subject before the Spring Series starts so watch this space as the analysis continues.

Notts County

The Lady Pies have ventured into the transfer market again this week.  They have signed Republic of Ireland centre-back, Louise Quinn, from Swedish club Eskilstuna United.

Arsenal

The growth in Chinese football shows no sign of slowing.  They are now making bids for some of the world’s top female players.  This week Nigerian winger Asisat Oshoala left Arsenal to join Dalian Quanjian.

Sunderland

Despite going part-time, Sunderland have made two signings this week.   Goalkeeper Anke Preuss joins them from FFC Frankfurt and midfielder Dominique Bruinenberg from ASGM Verona.

Preuss is in line to replace England international goalkeeper Rachel Laws who left Sunderland this week to join WSL2 side Durham.

Chelsea

Chelsea have also dipped into the market again this week signing defender Deanna Cooper from London Bees.

Yeovil Town

Yeovil Town Ladies have decided to travel round Somerset to play their home games in the Spring Series.  The Lady Glovers were promoted as WSL2 champions and will play their debut games at three grounds; Huish Park, their usual home, Taunton Town FC and Bridgwater Town FC.

Not sure it will catch on as a concept, but anything that showcases the women’s game to a more widespread audience can’t be bad.

FA Cup

The FA Cup fourth round takes place on Sunday 19 February.  The fixtures are as follows:

Coventry Ladies v Aston Villa Ladies
Durham Women v Everton Ladies
Millwall Lionesses v Nottingham Forest Ladies
Sheffield Ladies v Doncaster Rovers Belles
Tottenham Ladies v Brighton Ladies
West Bromwich Albion WFC v Leicester City Ladies

Results next week.

Indian Women’s League

We have a winner in the inaugural Indian Women’s League!

The semi-finals took place on 11 February and produced the following results:

Eastern Sporting Union FC 4-1 Alakhpura FC

Rising Student FC 2-0 FC Pune City

The final was on 14 February:

Rising Student FC 0-3 Eastern Sporting Union FC

Ambedkar Stadium, New Delhi

I’m glad to tell you that All India Football Federation published a good report of the final.

ESU pressed from the off but were unable to score until the 32nd minute when Kamala Devi tapped in from close range from a Prameshowri Devi cross.  This was the score at half-time.

When Prameshwori Devi added a second on 57 minutes the game was effectively killed off.  Kamala Devi added ESU’s third and her second on 66 minutes to seal it.

Jabamani Tudu won the “Emerging Player Award”

Umapati Devi was “Most Valuable Player”

Kamal Devi was the tournament’s top scorer with 11 goals.

It all seems to have been a success, so let’s hope it continues and expands.

For a more in-depth report read here

 Cricket      

We are now at the Super 6s stage in the Women’s World Cup Qualifying tournament in Sri Lanka.  As you will all know by now it is not in the ICC’s remit to make it easy, so we now have six teams fighting for four places in the World Cup in England later this year.

Three games took place on 15 February:

India 205/8
South Africa 156 all out
India won by 49 runs

South Africa put India in to bat.  Raj scored 64 and opener Meshram 55 as India posted a middling total of 205.  But in reply South Africa were on the back foot from the off as openers Lee and Wolvaardt were dismissed for 1 and 0 respectively.  Chetty top scored with 52, but Pandey took four wickets for 34 and Bisht three for 22 as South Africa were all out for 156 and India had won by 49 runs.

Pakistan 212/7
Sri Lanka 216/5 (47.4 overs)
Sri Lanka won by 5 wickets

Sri Lanka won the toss and put Pakistan in to bat.  They made a poor start when opener Ayesha Zafar was dismissed in the second over for just one.  But a partnership of 119 between Nahida Khan and Javeria Khan steadied the ship.   Good contributions lower down the order led to Pakistan posting a decent score of 212.

The Sri Lankan response was good all the way down the order as all batters contributed.  Kaushalya top scored with 65 off 75 balls and in the end the win was comfortable.

Bangladesh 145/3 (39.1 overs)
Ireland 144 all out (47.1 overs)
Bangladesh won by 7 wickets

Bangladesh won the toss and chose to field.  Shillington top scored in the Ireland innings with 37, but a regular clatter of wickets meant that they were only able to post 144, committing the cardinal sin of not using all their overs.

Bangladesh made light work of the chase, losing only three wickets in the process and knocking off the runs with more than 10 overs left to spare.  Sharmin Akhtar top scored for Bangladesh with 52.

Three games took place on 17 February:

Bangladesh 155/8 (50 overs)
India 158/1 (33.3 overs)
India won by 9 wickets

India ran out easy winners against Bangladesh as they won the toss and chose to field.  Hoque top scored with 50 for Bangladesh and Akhter made 35, but although they managed to bat out their innings they were not scoring in a hurry and 155 never looked like enough.  Joshi was the stand out bowler for India with 3/25 from her 10 overs.

India knocked off the runs in just under 34 overs.  Meshram and Raj again combined after Sharma was out for one to score 78 and 73 not out respectively.

Sri Lanka 142/9 (50 overs)
South Africa 145/1 (36.1 overs)
South Africa won by 9 wickets

Sri Lanka won the toss and surprisingly chose to bat.  Opener Hansika scored 48, but the total of 142 was never likely to be enough.  Sune Luus took 3/40 in her 10 overs with van Niekerk taking 2 for a miserly 14 from her 10.

Lizelle Lee scored 35 off 29 balls before she was out, but then Wolvaardt and Luus each scored half centuries to get to the target with ease.

Pakistan 271/5 (50 overs)
Ireland 185 all out (48.5 overs)
Pakistan won by 86 runs

Pakistan will be very satisfied with this performance after they won the toss and chose to bat.

Javeria Khan top scored with 90.  Nahida Khan scored 72 and Nain Abidi 44.  Opener Ayesha Zafar will be disappointed that she was out for 11!

It was always going to be a monumental task for Ireland to put together any kind of meaningful response.  Cecilia Joyce top scored with 41 with Garth and Isobel Joyce making 33 each, but in the end the chase was too tough and they subsided to 185 all out off 48.5 overs.  Ireland can no longer qualify for the World Cup.

There is one more round of games which takes place on 19 February with the final on Tuesday 21, but don’t forget four countries actually qualify.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

It was round two of the Six Nations last weekend and there were some pretty big scores.

11 February

Wales 0-63 England

England ran in 11 tries on Saturday as they destroyed Wales with a thrilling performance.

Amy Wilson-Hardy, Amy Cockayne, Natasha Hunt and Lydia Thompson had all over by the 23rd minute and the bonus point was already in the bag.

By half-time the lead was 38-0.  In addition to the first four tries further scores came from Katy McLean and Sarah Hunter, with Emily Scarratt putting over four conversions.

The second-half went pretty much the way of the first.  Thompson scored two more tries while Wilson-Hardy bagged a second and Danielle Waterman two to complete the scoring.

France 55-0 Scotland

Although France were only up 17-0 at half-time, they eventually ran in nine tries to beat Scotland on Saturday.

The home side took the lead after 18 minutes with a try from Safi N’Diaye.  Shannon Izar made it two on the half-hour.  Lenaig Corson scored a third before half-time with Christelle Le Duff adding the extras to make it 17-0 at the break.

Just into the second-half France secured the bonus point with a try from Elodie Poublan.

Elodie Guiglion, Jade Le Pesg with two, Caroline Ladagnous and Lisa Martin were the other try scorers.  Le Duff hit two conversions and Cabalou, three.

12 February

Italy 3-27 Ireland

Ireland left it late to secure their bonus point in L’Aquila.

The away side pressed consistently until they were given a penalty which was slotted over by Nora Stapleton.

Italy were then awarded a penalty and Michela Sillari kicked it to make it 3-3 at half-time.

Hooker Leah Lyons went over for the first try for Ireland just after the resumption, with Stapleton converting.  Sophie Spence scored Ireland’s second and Paula Fitzpatrick the third, but it was not until the dying moments that Hannah Tyrell popped over for Ireland’s fourth and the bonus point to take them above England in the table.

Laureus Sports Awards

Rachel Atherton’s mantelpiece must be starting to buckle under the weight of the awards she has won recently.  And this week she received another, the Laureus Action Sportsperson of the Year.

Simone Biles won the Sportswoman of the Year award.

Sportsperson of the Year with a disability went to Beatrice Vio, Italian wheelchair fencer who won gold at the Rio Paralympics.

And a special mention for me goes to the Refugee Olympic Team who won the Sport for Good Award for Sporting Inspiration.

And finally, we all know that women are responsible for just about everything bad in the world; famine, poverty, climate change, corruption etc ., but the nadir has now been reached.  This week a Hearts fan has blamed the poor atmosphere at Tynecastle as being down to “too many women” attending games.   In his considered opinion:

“As a follow on from the atmos thread I think a contributing factor is the make up of our support – too many women.

“I’ve no idea what the % of female fans is here compared to other SPL clubs, but what I do know is that we do have a lot of women and this has noticeably increased over the past years.

“It is also no coincidence that as their presence has increased our fan base has become more muted and feminised.

“This then bleeds into other aspects of the club, we have a completely girly away kit that makes PHM cringe any time we see the players run out in it.”

He went on (yes I’m afraid he did),

“If women want to go to games then fine. If I flipped it around and thought about following a ladies netball team it would feel a bit odd to me.

“Even going around watching women’s football every week would feel odd to me.

“I genuinely and honestly have no idea why women would even want to be involved in a culture and sport that is absolutely a man’s thing.

“I would take zero enjoyment from following something that was always historically a female thing.”

So there you have it.  Needless to say this comment has received somewhat of a backlash (male and female).  As several people have pointed out, if it weren’t for the (female) Chair of Hearts, Ann Budge, there would be no club, as she saved them from liquidation when she took over…..