The Women’s Sports Column

What’s new in the world of women’s sport

Welcome to this, my inaugural Women’s Sports Column!  Its aim is to highlight just a few of the important, inspirational and interesting stories from the last week.  Let’s redress the balance, shall we, because if the national press and most other mainstream media outlets are to be believed, there is so little women’s sport out there it is not worth mentioning….

The Australian Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) starts on Saturday (December 5).   It is the first T20 women’s competition of its kind and will be trailblazing its way across Australia in parallel to the men’s BBL.  The ECB will be watching its progress with bated breath as it prepares to launch its equivalent in England in 2016.  Certainly the marketing and build-up have been impressive, with big sponsorship from Australian sports equipment and clothing brand, Rebel.

There will be 59 games in 50 days in a tournament of eight teams.  Some games will be played as double-headers before the men’s, while others will stand alone.  Both tournaments will culminate in a grand finals day in January.  Several England players have been signed up including Sarah Taylor, Charlotte Edwards, Kate Cross, Lauren Winfield, Heather Knight, Danni Wyatt, Nat Sciver, Katherine Brunt and Laura Marsh.  Other notable names include New Zealanders Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine and Sara McGlashan, West Indians Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin and South Africans Mignon du Preez and Marizanne Kapp. Former Aussie all-rounder, Lisa Sthalekar, has even come out of retirement to take part.  For more information check out Cricket Australia’s website.

While we’re on the subject of cricket, England’s 2016 fixtures against Pakistan have been released.  There will be three one-day internationals and three T20s.  Disappointing to see no test match, but it still promises to be an interesting and enjoyable series.

20.6.16 ODI Grace Road, Leicester
22.6.16 ODI New Road, Worcester
27.6.16 ODI The County Ground, Taunton
3.7.16 IT20 Bristol County Ground
5.7.16 IT20 Ageas Bowl, Southampton
7.7.16 IT20 The Essex County Ground, Chelmsford

Last, but not least when it comes to cricket, qualifying for the 2016 Women’s World T20 is well underway for associate nations.  The qualifying tournament, which is taking place in Thailand, has gone to form and the final will be between Bangladesh and Ireland on Saturday 5 December.  Both have now qualified for the World T20 proper, taking place in India in March 2016.

It’s also been a busy football week for the home nations in qualifying for the 2017 European Championships, with wins for England and Scotland and a hard-fought draw for Wales.  England beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 at Ashton Gate in Bristol on Sunday 29 November.  The headed goal, from Jill Scott, came well into the second half.  It was a difficult game, with the Bosnia-Herzegovina strategy seeming to be to keep 11 players behind the ball at all times.  England were patient and persistent, however, and deserved the win.  A crowd of over 13,000 braved a wet and windy Bristol Sunday evening to watch the game.

Things were much easier for Scotland as they put 10 past a weak Macedonia team at St Mirren Park.  Jane Ross scored four, Jo Love a hat-trick and Jennifer Beattie, Hayley Lauder and Lisa Evans got a goal each.  They are now three points clear at the top of Group 1.

Wales had to settle for a 2-2 draw away to Israel on 1 December. The home side went ahead early on, but two from Tash Harding looked to have sealed it for Wales, until a late equaliser from Israel ruined Wales’ night.  They are now five points behind leaders Austria in Group 8.

Women’s basketball has a way to go before it gets on the mainstream sporting radar.  Netball has been much in the news this year, with the World Cup in Sydney in August, but basketball has to fight for all the coverage it can get.  So although not strictly this week, this is the update for Great Britain’s attempt to qualify for EuroBasket 2017.  Unfortunately it has not been a good start, with two losses from two.   On 21 November GB lost 78-64 away to Montenegro and on 25 November at home to Italy 48-60.  GB currently sit third in Group C with two points.  The next round of qualifying will be in February 2016.

In the World Women’s 7s Series in Dubai, Australia took the title this afternoon against Russia by 31-12. The first half was tight, but Australia upped it in the second, with an inspirational Ellia Green performance taking it away from Russia.  England and France fought it out earlier for third place, with England coming out on top 10-5 in a pulsating game which went to extra time golden points.  It has been a while since neither New Zealand nor Canada featured in the final two games, and it is encouraging to see that European teams are making progress in this event.   England’s policy of playing its best side in Sevens events at the expense of the 15-a-side game has been controversial, but if this result is anything to go by, seems to be paying off.

And finally, it’s the awards season and this week the shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) was announced.  It includes three women – yes three!  Obviously the BBC has learnt its lesson from the dark days of 2011 when the lack of any female athlete on the shortlist caused outrage (in my world, anyway).  Those shortlisted are cyclist Lizzie Armistead, England footballer Lucy Bronze and athlete Jess Ennis-Hill.

Also this week was the third BT Action Woman of the Year ceremony.  The winner, or actually winners, were the England Women’s Football team (Lionesses) who finished an outstanding third place in the World Cup this summer.  Runners–up were the England Women’s Hockey team, for their European Championship triumph in August.  Third place went to World Downhill Biking Champion and winner of the World Cup Series, Rachel Atherton.  It was an impressive shortlist that also included Nicola Adams, Lizzie Armistead, Georgina Hermitage, Jess Ennis-Hill, Johanna Konta, Sarah Outen and the Oxford Women’s Boat Race crew.

There’s so much more I could (and probably should) mention, but so little time.  If this has whetted your appetite for women’s sport, why don’t you check out some of the links in this article and join me next Friday for more.