Jonny Bairstow hammered 73 as he carried England to 175 for eight in their T20 series decider against New Zealand.

Bairstow was in bruising form at Trent Bridge, giving the Black Caps an unwanted reminder of last summer’s memorable Test century in Nottingham, nailing six sixes and five fours as he made the most of a 41-ball stay.

With England leading 2-1 at the start of this fourth and final match, Bairstow threatened to drag the game away from the tourists but his departure in the 12th over heralded a shift in momentum.

With captain Jos Buttler resting himself New Zealand snapped up four for 35 to chip away at the middle order and finished well as England managed just 38 off the last five overs. Six wickets fell to spin, with Mitch Santner claiming three for 30.

Bairstow began in electric form as he came out swinging and rendered his opening partner Will Jacks a virtual bystander.

The Yorkshireman, favouring the leg side, jabbed Matt Henry for six over midwicket, milked Santner’s first visit, then greeted Kyle Jamieson by twice heaving him over the ropes. When Tim Southee attempted to exert some contol with a fuller length, he was pumped over long-on.

Jacks, who would later nick Ish Sodhi for 16 to complete a quiet series, was confined to rotating the strike as his partner accounted for 43 of the first 50 runs.

No English batter has ever reached a half-century inside the six-over powerplay before but Bairstow came within two runs of the feat, all at a flamboyant strike rate of exactly 200.

With Jacks gone, Bairstow continued to carry the show, bringing up the England hundred by stepping back and lifting a Santner drag-down for his sixth six. He was gone next ball, looking for another big blow down the ground, but he had left a formidable platform.

England threatened to waste it somewhat as Dawid Malan and Harry Brook – the former in possession of a preliminary World Cup spot that the the latter covets – both failed to convince.

The Brook bandwagon has put pressure on the selectors since he was omitted from the provisional squad for next month’s tournament, but he made four from eight balls and was caught off a modest Sodhi delivery.

Malan made his way to a sluggish 26 but picked out deep square when he tried to pick things up against Santner in the 16th. Moeen Ali went the same way moments later as England threatened to fall away and Sam Curran also came and went quickly.

Liam Livingstone hit a couple of sixes as he chipped in 26 before Henry dismissed him with the closing ball of the innings, while Rehan Ahmed also cleared the ropes on his home international debut. But New Zealand finished strongly, keeping the total well below the predicted peak during Bairstow’s assault.

Ireland scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park is determined to make the most of his maiden World Cup following his unconventional late rise to Test-level rugby.

New Zealand-born star Gibson-Park was barely on the international radar at the time of the 2019 tournament in Japan, having only just qualified for his adopted nation on residency grounds.

The 31-year-old Leinster player, who represented the Maori All Blacks eight times between 2012 and 2015, had to wait a further year to be handed his debut by head coach Andy Farrell.

He immediately set his sights on a World Cup spot and quickly surpassed Conor Murray as Ireland’s first-choice number nine.

“It will be pretty awesome to get out there and have a run,” said Gibson-Park.

“Obviously a bit of a late bloomer – 31 at my first World Cup. It’s the pinnacle of rugby and you like to test yourself in the toughest environments. I’m looking forward to it.

“As soon as I was in the squad (I was thinking about the World Cup). As a player it’s always something you’re going to target.”

 

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Gibson-Park gained traction on social media this week by landing an audacious basketball shot from the roof of the team hotel, which was recorded and posted by team-mate Mack Hansen.

Asked how many takes it took, he replied: “The first one, obviously!

“We were there for a while, to be fair. Just messing on Sunday, trying to come up with stuff to do in the hotel and stay out of the heat. A bit of craic.”

Ireland begin their Pool B campaign on Saturday afternoon against Romania in Bordeaux, where Gibson-Park is expected to partner returning captain Johnny Sexton.

Veteran fly-half Sexton is poised for his first competitive appearance in almost six months, having missed Ireland’s three warm-up games through suspension on the back of a groin injury.

“He’s buzzing as you can imagine,” Gibson-Park said of his provincial team-mate.

“He’s been great. Seamlessly back into training like he always does. It will be good to see him back out there.”

Leeds have released forward Zane Tetevano from his contract as he continues his recovery from heart surgery, the Super League club have announced.

The New Zealand international suffered a stroke during a training session in May.

It was then discovered the 32-year-old had a hole in his heart which required surgery.

The Rhinos had initially hoped the prop would be able play again before the end of the season, but that has not proved possible.

With his contract due to expire later this year, the club have allowed Tetevano to leave early and return home to New Zealand.

Tetevano said: “I would like to thank everyone at the Rhinos for the support they have given me over the last three years.

“Especially I would like to thank all the staff at the Leeds General Infirmary who have looked after me so much since my stroke and heart operation.

“I will always remember my time in Leeds fondly, and I wish (coach) Rohan (Smith) and the team all the best for the rest of this season and the years ahead.”

Tetevano made 47 appearances and scored three tries after joining the club from Penrith Panthers in 2021.

Jos Buttler credited New Zealand for outplaying England after they kept the four-match T20 series alive with an emphatic 74-run victory at Edgbaston.

England could have clinched the series with victory following fine wins in Durham and Manchester, but the Black Caps posted an imposing 202 for five after Finn Allen crunched 83 and Glenn Phillips blitzed 69 off 34 balls.

It left the T20 world champions requiring their third highest chase to secure a first series success since they pipped Pakistan to the world title last November, but they made a dismal start to their reply.

Openers Will Jacks and Jonny Bairstow were out cheaply while Dawid Malan produced a painful innings of two from 11 balls as England slumped to 30 for three before they were skittled for 128 despite Buttler’s 40 at a strike rate of 190.47.

“Credit to New Zealand, they really outplayed us,” Buttler reflected ahead of Tuesday’s finale in Nottingham.

“A good toss to win and we probably let them get a few too many. Credit to them, I thought that partnership with Finn Allen and Glenn Phillips, we just couldn’t break that and they took the game away from us a bit.

“Chasing that kind of score, we needed a fast start and a really good powerplay, but New Zealand bowled well and we didn’t get anything going, any partnerships so it looks a big defeat in the end.”

On a dry and turning wicket, England’s spinners struggled and Moeen Ali, who later hit 26, was surprisingly not given the ball, which Buttler later confirmed was a tactical decision.

Adil Rashid had bowled economically to concede 23 from his first three overs, but Allen sent him out of the attack with a bang after three successive sixes in the 15th over while Liam Livingstone faced similar punishment to register one for 55.

Gus Atkinson was a rare positive for the hosts after he claimed two for 31 in his second international appearance having been a shock selection in England’s preliminary World Cup squad last month.

Buttler told Sky Sports: “Delighted for Gus and great for him to get more exposure under his belt, more games of international cricket.

“He looks very comfortable at the minute, he has settled in really well with the group and his performances have been brilliant.”

England’s batters had less to shout about with Malan following up his four-ball duck at Old Trafford with an equally disappointing innings, while star of the summer Harry Brook contributed just eight and Livingstone’s lean spell with the bat continued with two.

Assistant coach Marcus Trescothick admitted a chase of 203 was too tall an order, especially after they were 30 for two at the end of the powerplay.

“They both played well, there is no doubt about that and they did something we didn’t, which was a partnership,” Trescothick said of Allen and Phillips, who put on 88 for the third wicket.

“It wasn’t an easy pitch but if you had people get in and used to the pace of it, then it was a little easier.

“Chasing 200 you have always got to get off to a decent start. You need to get 55 or 60 in the powerplay and we lost a couple of early wickets and didn’t get going, so it put us on the back foot.

“You are always trying to play catch up at that point.”

New Zealand opener Allen was pleased to make a significant contribution after a string of starts during the last month in England where he featured for Southern Brave in The Hundred.

“It has been a frustrating last six weeks because I feel like I’ve got a lot of starts and not kicked on, so to stick one out and bat deep was quite nice for a change,” Allen added.

“Pre-game we talked about how it was important we focused on our individual roles and we pretty much nailed that as a team. Our bowlers came out and hit their areas from the start, so it was a pretty well-rounded team performance.”

New Zealand hit back at Edgbaston to inflict a heavy 74-run defeat on England in the third T20 and keep alive the four-match series ahead of Tuesday’s finale at Trent Bridge.

Jos Buttler’s world champions could have clinched the series with victory in Birmingham following fine wins in Durham and Manchester, but the Black Caps were able to post an imposing 202 for five after deciding to bat first.

Finn Allen smashed three consecutive sixes off Adil Rashid on his way to 83 and Glenn Phillips contributed a rapid 69 before Ish Sodhi starred with the ball, finishing with three for 33.

Sodhi claimed the key scalps of Jonny Bairstow and Harry Brook cheaply and when Mitchell Santner ended Buttler’s blistering innings of 40 off 21 balls, the hosts’ race was run despite the best efforts of Moeen Ali, who was England’s second top scorer with 26 in a below-par batting display.

England were eventually dismissed for 128 to disappoint a typically boisterous sun-soaked Edgbaston crowd and Buttler’s men now head to Nottingham with a narrow 2-1 lead aiming to secure a first T20 series success since they were crowned world champions last November.

After New Zealand decided to bat first, Allen set out his stall with two classy drives for four from Luke Wood’s first over.

The breakthrough arrived soon after though, when Allen pushed for three and opening partner Devon Conway was run-out by Buttler for nine after Moeen’s strong throw from the deep.

Black Caps number three Tim Seifert struggled and was stumped by Buttler from a turning Liam Livingstone delivery for 19, but Allen remained unflustered.

Rashid and Livingstone were hit for maximums to help Allen bring up his fifty from 35 balls.

Rashid had managed to tie up an end and only went for 23 from his first three overs, but Allen sent him out of the attack with a bang after three successive sixes in the 15th over.

The first maximum was hit high over deep extra cover and Allen showed his range with another through cow corner before a stand and deliver shot down the ground moved him up to 77.

A second T20 century appeared in sight but Allen’s fine innings ended when he lost his off stump to Wood’s inswinging yorker to walk off for an excellent 83 off 53 balls.

Phillips had provided able support to Allen in a crucial 88-run partnership and upped the ante following the opener’s departure with Livingstone’s last over smashed for 22 to give the all-rounder expensive figures of one for 55.

Livingstone was pulled for back-to-back maximums by Phillips before the last ball of the 18th over was driven for another six, but Atkinson concluded the fun of the tourists’ number four.

The Surrey quick produced an excellent 77mph slower ball to bowl Phillips for 69 before he accounted for Daryl Mitchell caught behind to end with respectable figures of two for 31.

New Zealand still managed 202 for five, which left England needing their third highest T20 chase but they made a horrendous start.

Kyle Jamieson sent Will Jacks back for 11 and Dawid Malan produced a painful innings at three, scoring two runs before he hit Tim Southee to Conway at deep cover.

Malan’s dismissal after a scratchy 11-ball knock brought the in-form Brook to the crease but while his innings was eventful, it was also short-lived.

Brook, still reeling from being left out of England’s preliminary World Cup squad, got off the mark with a four but was dismissed in Sodhi’s second over.

He survived being given out lbw after a review showed he got glove on the delivery but Sodhi’s next ball was hit straight up in the air and Mitchell took the catch.

Sodhi had already dismissed Bairstow for 12 and England’s hopes of victory were pinned on captain Buttler.

Buttler, after he survived a tight lbw call, got off the mark with a six down the ground against Sodhi and hit another maximum off Santner after replays showed Allen grounded his foot over the boundary rope having initially caught the shot before attempting to throw it back to team-mate Mitchell.

Santner had the last laugh though when Buttler pulled him straight up in the air and the Black Caps spinner took the caught and bowled chance to end the England skipper’s counter-attack.

Moeen remained and hoicked Matt Henry over deep midwicket for six to bring up England’s hundred but he was one of two scalps in Jamieson’s third over as the hosts were convincingly beaten.

England will need to chase 203 to secure an unassailable 3-0 lead in their four-match T20 series with New Zealand after Finn Allen and Glenn Phillips scored half-centuries at Edgbaston.

Southern Brave batter Allen smashed Adil Rashid for three consecutive maximums on his way to an excellent 83 and Phillips backed up the opener with 69 off 34 balls in the third T20 of the four-match series in Birmingham.

The duo put on 88 for the third wicket and it propelled New Zealand to 202 for five with Gus Atkinson the pick of England’s bowlers with two for 31, while Liam Livingstone was smashed for 55 from his four overs.

Jos Buttler made two changes from Friday’s comprehensive win with Brydon Carse and Sam Curran the duo to miss out, while Chris Jordan was given his first international outing of the summer.

Luke Wood had played in Wednesday’s series opener at the Riverside and earned a recall, but Allen was able to inflict more punishment on the quick with two classy drives for four in his opening over.

The breakthrough did arrive in Atkinson’s second over through smart fielding by Moeen Ali and poor New Zealand running.

Allen spliced over the inner ring of fielders and wanted three runs, but Moeen raced in from deep and produced a flat throw which was perfect for Buttler, who whipped off the bails to send Devon Conway back for nine.

Black Caps opener Allen responded by driving Jordan for the first maximum of the match, but number three Tim Seifert struggled with his timing and received a life on nine when his slog sweep off Liam Livingstone was put down by Will Jacks.

It was a short-lived reprieve with Liam Livingstone’s turning delivery in his next over beating Seifert’s outside edge and unbalancing him enough to be stumped by Buttler for 19.

Allen continued on his merry way and after he hit Rashid for six, Livingstone was dealt with in a similar fashion and this latest maximum for the New Zealand batter brought up his half-century off 35 deliveries.

Rashid had managed to tie up an end and only went for 23 from his first three overs, but Allen sent him out of the attack with a bang after three successive sixes in the 15th over.

The first maximum was hit high over deep extra cover and Allen showed his range with another through cow corner before a stand and deliver shot down the ground moved him up to 77.

A second T20 century appeared in sight for Allen but his fine innings ended when he attempted one more big shot and lost his off stump to Wood’s inswinging yorker to walk off for an excellent 83.

Black Caps number four Phillips had provided able support to Allen in a crucial 88-run partnership and upped the ante following the opener’s departure with Livingstone’s final over smashed for 22.

Phillips pulled the all-rounder for back-to-back maximums before the last ball of the 18th over was driven for another six, but Atkinson concluded his fun.

The Surrey quick returned at the end and produced an excellent 77 miles per hour slower ball to dismiss Phillips for 69 before he accounted for Daryl Mitchell caught behind to end with respectable figures of two for 31 from his allotted overs.

Jordan wrapped up the innings by conceding nine with New Zealand setting England 203 for a series-clinching victory in Birmingham.

Jonny Bairstow admits there is no substitute for international cricket as he looks to get his game in shape for England’s World Cup defence.

Bairstow looked in fine touch as he hit an unbeaten 86 from 60 balls to lay the platform for an emphatic 95-run win over New Zealand in the second Vitality International T20 clash at Old Trafford on Friday.

The World Cup begins in India in just over a month’s time and, having played only four matches in the Hundred since the Ashes ended in July prior to this series, Bairstow is pleased to be back in action.

“I just wanted to play, to be quite honest with you,” said the 33-year-old. “I wanted to be back out playing white-ball cricket because I think that the natural rhythms of the games, whether it’s T20 or 50-over cricket, is something that, especially when you’re playing internationally, is something that’s very hard to replicate.

“You can play the Hundred, you can play for Yorkshire, but the different bowlers, the pressures, the crowds, the pitches – everything that comes with playing international cricket – is very difficult to replicate.

“So I was very keen to play these T20s leading into the ODIs and then, naturally, leading into the World Cup in a few weeks’ time.”

Bairstow combined in a thrilling 131-run partnership with Yorkshire team-mate Harry Brook from just 65 balls.

Brook, who was controversially omitted from England’s provisional World Cup squad, hit five sixes in a blistering 36-ball 67.

Debutant Gus Atkinson then took an impressive four for 20 as New Zealand slumped to 103 all out in reply.

They now head to Edgbaston for the third encounter of the four-match series on Sunday with a 2-0 lead after an equally-comfortable win in Durham on Wednesday.

The sides will also play four one-day internationals this month and Bairstow expects the Kiwis – coincidentally England’s first World Cup opponents in Ahmedabad on October 5 – to bite back.

“They’re a blooming good team, New Zealand,” Bairstow said. “They’ve been an exceptional team for a long period of time and we know how dangerous they can be.

“We can’t take for granted how good these two performances have been. We’ve also got to look at how good they actually are as well, but we’ve played some exceptional cricket these last two games.

“And if we can keep doing that – and keep doing that over a longer period of time – then that can only be a good thing.

“It builds confidence, it builds an environment within the dressing room that enhances people’s performances when they go out in the middle.

“They feel like they can hit the ball for six, they feel like they can take a wicket each ball. They feel confident enough to take a risk.”

New Zealand seamer Adam Milne accepts his team need to pick themselves up for the games to come.

He said: “I think we’ll have to just regroup, but we like to keep things pretty calm in our changing room – not get too high, not too low.

“I think we’ll have a bit of a review of the game and just try and find those little bits of improvements in our games and hopefully come out at Edgbaston and throw some shots from our end.”

Jonny Bairstow hopes to enjoy plenty more great partnerships with Harry Brook after the Yorkshire pair set England up for a convincing T20 victory over New Zealand on Friday.

Bairstow and Brook shared in a ferocious third-wicket stand of 131 from just 65 balls to lay the platform for an emphatic 95-run win in the second Vitality international at Old Trafford.

Bairstow batted throughout the innings for an unbeaten 86 from 60 balls while Brook, making a further point after his recent World Cup snub, smashed five sixes in a 36-ball 67.

“We tried to bide our time a little bit because it was quite tricky to start on,” said Bairstow.

“He hit a couple of magnificent shots over extra cover, and then that kind of kickstarts momentum.

“We had a bit of a chuckle the other day because we haven’t actually batted that much together, to be honest, and we were (saying), ‘come on’ we’re due a decent partnership at some point. I hope that’s the first of a few over the next few years.”

Their stand provided the backbone of England’s imposing 198 for four.

The Kiwis were never in the contest as they slumped to 103 all out in reply with impressive England debutant Gus Atkinson taking four for 20.

Bairstow said: “It was a great win. Any time that you bowl a team out in a T20, I think that’s some feat. Hats off to the bowlers for executing the skills as well as they did.

“But that wasn’t by any means the perfect game. We’ll go to Edgbaston looking to go better than that as well because naturally there’s some areas that we can improve on.”

England will head to Birmingham for the third encounter in the four-match series on Sunday leading 2-0.

Atkinson’s impressive display came after fellow seamer Brydon Carse shone on his debut in the series opener in Durham on Wednesday.

Bairstow is impressed with the attacking options available.

He said: “The guys that have come into series, Brydon and Gus, making the impact that they have, being so clear on how they want to go about it, I think is a testament to them.

“I think they’re going to play over a period of time for England, there’s no reason why not. Look at the skills that they’ve got.

“If you’ve got two guys that release the ball as high as they do and with as much pace as they have, I think it’s a good weapon.”

New Zealand seamer Adam Milne admitted the game ran away from the tourists during the Bairstow-Brook partnership.

He said: “I thought they were better really. Obviously they had a great partnership, very destructive for the small boundary there.

“They batted really well and it was tough to bowl to them when they’re in that sort of mode. Their line-up is full of quality players and explosive powerful players.”

Dawid Malan admitted his relief at making England’s provisional World Cup squad.

The Yorkshire batter struck a half-century in the seven-wicket victory over New Zealand in the first T20 on Wednesday.

Malan made 54 off 42 balls as England chased 140 with 36 deliveries to spare after pacemen Brydon Carse and Luke Wood took three wickets apiece to restrict the tourists to 139 for nine at Chester-le-Street.

With England having so much strength in depth these days, Malan was delighted to be in his country’s white-ball plans.

He said: “(It was) definitely relief, you look at the amount of depth we’ve got in English cricket, especially having sacrificed so many tournaments over the last couple of years to get in this World Cup squad, to get the call was extremely satisfying.

“I know there are people who’ve missed out and I have so much sympathy for them. From a personal point of view I was exceptionally pleased to get that call because I felt I’ve worked really hard to get in that squad.

“Every opportunity I’ve been given in 50 overs in my last four or five series I’ve gone and had to score the runs, doing it the tough way to get in there.

“Especially the top three, I know people compare me to Brooky (Harry Brook), but I bat top three and he bats four, five, six, so I don’t know where that comparison comes from.

“To be able to push for a place in that World Cup squad and get the call was extremely satisfying.”

England’s white-ball preparations for the World Cup continue after the New Zealand series with three ODIs against Ireland in September before flying out to India for the 50-over tournament which begins in October.

After his omission from the provisional World Cup squad, Harry Brook showed off his heavy hitting at the Riverside with 43 not out from 27 balls and Malan is determined to keep scoring in order to claim his spot for India.

“I think you always have to score runs when you play international cricket, especially when you have the depth we do here,” he added.

“It’s a provisional squad but from my understanding it’s up to us to score runs to stay in it.

“I think it would be tough, two weeks before we are flying, especially with people potentially resting for the Ireland series, to suddenly lose their place.

“But that is cricket and that’s the way life goes. Nothing is ever guaranteed until you stand on that plane.

“I try my best to score runs- that’s what I’m picked for, to score runs and win games. I am not there to please anyone, I’m there to score runs for Jos (Buttler) and (Matthew) Motty and contribute to wins.

“I feel like I have done that consistently over the last five or six years, whatever it is in white-ball cricket.”

England got their Vitality T20 International series off to a winning start after beating New Zealand by seven wickets in the first game at Chester-le-Street.

In their first 20-over contest since the whitewash defeat to Bangladesh in March, England got off to a flying start, taking three wickets in the powerplay.

Glenn Phillips top-scored for the visitors with 41 off 38 before falling to Luke Wood, who finished with three wickets alongside Durham quick Brydon Carse.

Although Jonny Bairstow was dismissed early on, Dawid Malan’s 54 off 42 balls put England in the driving seat along with Harry Brook’s unbeaten 43 off 27 balls, giving the hosts the advantage going into the second T20 at Old Trafford on Friday.

Despite being given an early scare when Finn Allen smashed three consecutive sixes off the first over, a change of ends in the fourth helped Wood kick off a dominant powerplay for England.

The Lancashire bowler took the first wicket of the evening as Devon Conway feathered behind to Jos Buttler and more wickets tumbled when Carse resumed from the Finchale End to earn his first T20 international scalp for England after clean-bowling Allen.

Wood struck again to send Tim Seifert’s bails flying as New Zealand were suddenly 38 for three after six overs.

Their woes continued when Moeen Ali clipped Mark Chapman’s off-stump in the eighth over but Phillips and Daryl Mitchell tried to regain control with some good running to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Liam Livingstone ended the partnership, however, tempting Mitchell into looping the ball to long-off aiming for a six, but Brook was on the boundary to comfortably catch.

Phillips was the dominant batter at the crease looking to keep his foot on the gas, but he was beginning to run out of partners when Mitchell Santner sliced the ball straight to Wood off Adil Rashid.

Wood’s return in the 17th over saw Phillips eventually fall for 41 after Sam Curran made an excellent dive to his left.

Carse was handed the ball for the final over and ended Ish Sodhi and Adam Milne’s quickfire 26-run partnership, taking both of their wickets to finish with figures of three for 23.

Set 140 to chase, Bairstow opened the batting, smashing four off Tim Southee, but was caught out by the Black Caps captain as he edged to Mitchell at slip.

Aiming to capitalise on their positive start, Milne and Southee restricted England to singles but the introduction of Lockie Ferguson saw Will Jacks suddenly tee off, smashing back-to-back fours before thumping one into the stands for six.

Not to be outdone, Malan put away three consecutive fours off Santner and some more tidy running brought England to 61 for one at the end of the powerplay.

Sodhi struck in the seventh over when Jacks appeared to accidentally clip the ball with his bat twice allowing Allen to comfortably catch, but Malan instantly responded by belting a huge six over an outstretched Chapman at deep midwicket.

Not letting his omission from the provisional 50-over World Cup squad phase him, Brook dispatched two successive Sodhi deliveries into the stands and just after England reached the 100-run mark, Malan fired another ball into the crowd to bring up his 50.

Ferguson soon ended Malan’s heavy hitting with Mitchell catching the batter at mid-on, but Brook continued to put runs on the board before Livingstone put the game to bed in style with a huge six with 36 balls to spare.

Alessia Russo praised England for “keeping the dream alive” as they reached the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Lauren Hemp cancelled out Leicy Santos’ strike for Colombia before Russo scored the winner in a 2-1 win.

The Lionesses now face co-hosts Australia on Wednesday in the last four and Arsenal forward Russo was full of praise for her side’s performance.

She told ITV: “I’m buzzing, the semi-final of a World Cup, we’re keeping the dream alive.

“I’m buzzing, obviously Colombia are a top team and I think they’ve shown more than that this World Cup. It was a really tough test, but so happy to get three points and be in the semis.

“We’ve had to dig deep from the first game and that’s what it’s like, they have so many talented players who can cause you trouble within a second.

“But I thought our back line were brilliant tonight, we kept it locked down, won and now we’re in the semis.”

Hemp echoed her sentiments, saying the team were “really special” against Colombia.

“What an amazing feeling. I’m absolutely knackered right now, most of the team are,” Hemp told ITV.

“We put in a great performance. I think you saw the resilience in the squad and I’m so proud of this team.

“I thought we controlled most of the game to be honest, they had a few counter-attacks and we knew what they were going to bring and I felt we dealt with it quite well.

“Whenever we got the ball it looked like we were going to create something, I think the team were really special toady and long may that continue.”

However, Russo insists there is still plenty to work on ahead of the semi-final.

She said: “What makes this team great is we’re always trying to find ways to improve even after we’ve reached the semis. We’ve got lots to work on. We’ve got to get recovered, rested and go again.”

The Arsenal forward is relishing the chance to face Australia.

“It’s exciting, what more do you want?” Russo said.

“You want to play against the best teams and obviously they’re the hosts. I think Colombia had a great fanbase out tonight, so we’ve had a little taste, but I’m so excited.”

Hemp added: “I’m buzzing, it’s where you want to be. I want to play on the world’s biggest stages and obviously we’re here right now in the semi-final, I’m over the moon and can’t wait.

“The atmosphere here was incredible, it’s going to be incredible again, but sometimes that’s when you thrive and we thrived again tonight, so hopefully we’ll do the same again.”

England are among eight nations still standing at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as preparations continue for their respective quarter-finals.

The last-eight fixtures begin on Friday when Spain play the Netherlands and Japan take on Sweden, while the Lionesses face Colombia after co-hosts Australia and France clash on Saturday.

Here, the PA news agency looks back at the first of two fixture-free days Down Under before the action resumes.

We’re not happy – Bronze

Lucy Bronze admitted England “are not happy” with their World Cup displays, but vowed the Lionesses will step up on Saturday against Colombia.

The European champions rode their luck to beat Nigeria in the last 16 on penalties and will be without Lauren James, who will serve at minimum a one-game ban after her dismissal on Monday.

Barcelona defender Bronze said: “We’ve built on every game, we’ve taken something from every game, whether that was the Haiti game that was physical, the Denmark game when we lost our key player in Keira (Walsh), the China game we changed the formation completely, (Monday) we had a red card.

“Everything that has been thrown at us, we’ve dealt with and moved forward. I don’t see many other teams who’ve had that adversity and if they had, I don’t think they’ve managed to overcome the way we have. At the same time, we are not happy with our performances.”

Matildas prodigy tipped for top

Australia’s Cortnee Vine says there is no limit to what team-mate Mary Fowler can achieve in the game and insisted she has not been surprised by the 20-year-old Manchester City forward’s stellar contribution.

Vine said: “She can just be amazing. I said to her before this tournament began that she’s going to have a fantastic tournament. She just has so much more to go and she’s still so young, I think we forget sometimes.

“She’s so mature and knows what she wants and is her own individual kind of person and when she gets on that field, you just see something special.

“I just think she’s going to keep growing from that. I can’t wait to see Mary keep going because she’s just killing it at the moment.”

Swedes wary of Japanese threat

Sweden pair Fridolina Rolfo and Zecira Musovic believe quarter-final opponents Japan have been one of the best sides in the tournament so far.

Japan edged closer to a second World Cup triumph on Saturday by beating Norway 3-1 in the last 16, having cruised through their group without dropping a point or conceding a goal.

Barcelona forward Rolfo said: “They have been great, I have to say that. They have been one of the best teams so far in the tournament. So we need to analyse them really well and need to have a good match plan.”

Chelsea goalkeeper Musovic added: “We know it will require a lot of hard work. I think Japan is maybe the most exciting and maybe the team who has impressed me the most so far.”

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Quarter-final: Spain v Netherlands, Wellington, Friday 2am.

Quarter-final: Japan v Sweden, Auckland, Friday 8.30am.

Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls gifted their country a bronze on Independence Day on Sunday when they defeated New Zealand 52-45 in the play-off for third place at the Netball World Cup in South Africa.

It was the first time that Jamaica was defeating New Zealand twice in the same global tournament relegating the Silver Ferns to their worst ever World Cup result.

Needing to rebound from the disappointment of losing 57-54 to Australia in the semi-finals, which denied them the chance to play for the gold medal, Jamaica took control of the match against the injury-riddled Ferns, who were among the favourites to win the tournament.

The defending champions had lost star shooter Grace Nweke to injury during the pool games and then were hit with an injury to Gina Crampton who was forced to leave the game with an ankle injury.

Jhaniele Fowler scored 43 goals at 98 per cent accuracy to help lead the Sunshine Girls while Shamera Sterling and Jodi-Ann Ward defended stoutly to ensure that the Sunshine Girls would have some consolation from the competition.

Ward said she is proud of the way her team rebounded from the loss to Australia on Saturday.

“We were very disappointed because obviously we wanted to be in the gold-medal match but we had to shake it off and came out here and we’re proud of the girls how they came out here and performed,” she said.

Ward added that the team simply wanted to play well to end the tournament on a high following Saturday’s let-down.

“We, as a unit, just wanted to execute because we didn’t do that very well yesterday (Saturday) so we just wanted to come out and execute as best as we could. Kudos to New Zealand they really put on a performance; they forced us to change a lot of things that we would normally do but I am extremely proud we came out with the win.”

Maia Wilson was the leading scorer for New Zealand with 19 goals.

While they remain on course to achieve their objective of breaking a 16-year Netball World Cup medal drought, Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls hopes of making it a gold or silver, were dashed, as they fell 54-57 to the Australian Diamonds in a semi-final contest that lived up to its billing from the very first centre pass.

With the number four-ranked Jamaicans having never contested a World Cup final before and number one-ranked Australia having never missed a final, both teams had all to play for inside a packed Cape Town International Conventional Centre in South Africa, especially after witnessing England’s historic rise in making their first ever final when they defeated now dethroned champions New Zealand 46-40 in the first semi-final.

Both the Sunshine Girls and the Diamonds were evenly poised for most of the way, much to the delight of the vociferous crowd that was seemingly rooting for a Jamaica triumph to spur another historic feat, but it was not to be at the end.

Captain Jhaniele Fowler, who would have wanted to celebrate her 100th cap in winning fashion, again led her team from the front with 45 goals from 46 attempts, while goal-attack Shanice Beckford shot nine goals from 10 attempts.

At the other end, Cara Koenen starred for Australia with 29 goals from 30 attempts, with her vice-captain Steph Wood contributing 28 goals from 31 attempts to put the 11-time champions on course for a 12th title.

Sunshine Girls vice-captain and outstanding defender Shamera Sterling expressed disappointment with the end result.

“We are gutted that we lost because we came here determined to go all the way to the final, but it was a good fight and I am very proud of my team and how we came out,” Sterling said in a post-game interview.

The Jamaicans were gradually slow into rhythm at the start, as they gave away an early turnover which allowed the Diamonds to race to a three-goal lead in the early exchanges. However, when the Sunshine Girls started flowing, the quickly erased the deficit and even forced a few turnovers of their own and also took a two-goal lead at one point. 

They could have widened that gap, but a few wayward passes allowed the Diamonds to rally and from there it was end-to-end action all the way to the whistle, as the quarter ended with both teams locked at 14-14.

After initially matching strides at the top of the second quarter, the Sunshine Girls let possession slip twice and that coupled with a rare miss from Fowler saw the Diamonds opening a three-goal lead. In fairness, the Jamaicans did take a few hits that should have been called but were instead ignored by the umpire.

The most blatant was when Beckford got bounced by Brazill while aerial, but nothing came of the play.

Still, the Jamaicans maintained their composure and consistent pressure in defence, particularly by the outstanding and gritty Shamera Sterling shifted momentum back in the Jamaicans favour, as they scored three unanswered goals to pull level and then go up by one.

But the deficit was short-lived as the Diamonds hit back in a heated goal-for-goal battle which saw both teams again evenly poised at 29-29 at the half-time break.

The momentum gained by the Jamaicans at the backend of the second quarter were dashed at the top of the third, as they struggled to complete passes and Australia duly capitalised and raced to a five-goal lead, the widest lead of the game at that point.

Australia could have and should have extended the lead even further while the Jamaicans laboured, but much like she did in the second stanza, Sterling came up with a big deflection that once again sparked a rally and soon they were back on level terms at 40-40, before the Diamonds stuck their noses in front at 40-42 at the whistle.

Jamaica, with what was their most efficient start to a quarter, easily erased the two-goal deficit and later opened up a three-goal lead of their own and seemed well on their way to join England as first-time finalists. But all their hard work was undone by a few poor decisions in mid-court and once Australia got their feet on the accelerator in the last five minutes, they never let up.

The win sent the Diamonds supporters into frenzy, while it was heartbreak for the Jamaicans and their loyal followers, who will now be hoping to make amends in the third-place contest against New Zealand on Sunday at 9:00am Jamaica time. The Australia England showpiece will follow at 11:00am.  

For all the talk about not only breaking a 16-year medal drought but also improving on the quality of their three bronze medals won in the Netball World Cup history, Jamaica's Sunshine Girls will face their moment of truth when they square off against Australia in what is expected to be a nail-biting semi-final contest in Cape Town, South Africa on Saturday.
 
The Connie Francis-coached Sunshine Girls will enter the encounter brimming with confidence, having won all six games contested at the tournament so far, the most recent one being a 59-48 triumph over reigning champions and number two-ranked New Zealand on Wednesday.
 
Though Australia suffered a last minute 55-56 defeat to England in their top of the table clash, Francis is well aware of the quality the 11-time World Cup champions possess and, as such, knows her team has to produce their best and most efficient performance of the tournament if they are to continue their gold medal hunt.
 
Game time is 8:00am Jamaica time, after Emgland and New Zealand contest the other semi-final. 
 
“We are expecting it to be another tough game, but we are intent on going into this match the same way we did all the others. The ladies know what is at stake, so I expect them to play hard and execute all the strategies while enjoying the game and work as a unit by supporting each other,” Francis said.
 
In their previous meetings at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, the Jamaicans defeated Australia 57-55 in group stage play, but lost the all-important final 51-55 to the Australians and had to settle for silver.
 
While it is not a gold medal contest on this occasion, Australia stands in the way of Francis and her team possibly giving the country much more than just Independence Day to celebrate on August 6.
 
“Victory here and making it into the finals on Sunday, would mean a lot for these ladies who are hungry and determine to win a World Cup medal and it would also to give our country something special to celebrate for Independence.
 
“So, it is just about maintaining our focus and limiting our attacking turnovers as best as possible. So far in this tournament it has been remarkably low, but we hope we can get it even lower by looking for easier options where the passes are concerned. I am extremely happy with how they have performed up to this point, but this is our make-or-break moment so again we are expecting their best," Francis noted.
 
Recollecting the win over New Zealand, Francis pointed out that the day off was well deserved, even though it was one that the number four-ranked Sunshine Girls used to lock into game plans and strategies, which is testament to their determination to go all the way.
 
“They performed to expectations against New Zealand, and they are hoping to take lessons from that game into this one. Having a day's break helped us to work on different combinations that work successfully against the different style of play, and we are hoping that will come to the fore here,” Francis stated.
 
“I can't stress enough that we have to execute our game plans well and must be clinical in the shooting circle while maintaining our composure in mid court and defence for the entire game.
 We are just going out there against Australia to play our brand of netball with confidence, strong in mind and body,” she ended.
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