Ben Stokes' development to become an "extraordinary leader" for England's Test side was not something David Gower could have foreseen previously.

Brendon McCullum and Stokes have formed a fearsome duo as England's captain and coach combination of their red-ball side, winning 13 of 18 Tests since joining together.

A stark upturn in fortunes for England's previously flailing side in the longest format of cricket has been led by Stokes and McCullum's insistence to play a free-flowing, attacking style against the red ball.

A 2-2 series draw in the most recent Ashes series further served to grow Stokes' stature as a captain, and former England skipper Gower acknowledged he could not have predicted this development before.

"I think Ben Stokes has proven himself to be an extraordinary leader of a cricket team and men," Gower told Stats Perform. 

"There is a lot about him that knowing him six or seven years ago, I just wouldn't have believed possible. But life has taught him all sorts of lessons.

"First of all, he has a great instinct for the game and a great instinct for pushing a game ahead to win. He loves winning and doesn't like losing, so will hurt for the ones they've lost, but hates drawing even more.

"That's an extraordinary attitude to have, because so many new captains, including his predecessor, Joe Root, would have taken a very different attitude to the possibility of a draw.

"He's created this culture along with McCullum, but he's got the instinct for the game."

Australia retained the Ashes after a 2-2 away series draw, having won the previous edition Down Under, after racing into a 2-0 lead in England with victories at Edgbaston and Lord's.

A first-innings declaration in the first Test at Edgbaston by Stokes, with Root on an unbeaten century and set to punish the toiling Australian bowlers, caused some questions.

Yet Gower refused to criticise Stokes for his decision to again try and push the red-ball outing towards a result.

He added: "The declaration at Edgbaston was derided by some and there's a fair case to argue there but was an interesting one, because [Stuart] Broad against [David] Warner was a tasty morsel at the start of an Ashes series.

"It could have laid down on marker but it didn't, but there you go, it's worth a go. But he has empathy for his players, he seems to understand his players.

"Good captains need to be on duty all the time. You've got decisions to make all the time. There will be mistakes, and there'll be ones you might revise with time to think about it, but you've got to go with your gut.

"Got to go with your instinct, and you've got to take people with you. And that is clearly evident with Stokes and McCullum, but Stokes as captain has taken that team with him all the way through."

While Stokes has largely been heralded for his influence as captain, Australian counterpart Pat Cummins came under scrutiny for a somewhat defensive plan to stem the flow of England's attacking output.

"You've got two very different teams, the makeup of the two teams is very, very different," Gower continued. "So Cummins' options were different.

"Cummins has one of the best attacks in the world at his disposal, and he is the leader of that attack. He also had a very good man, dare I say, in Steve Smith as his vice-captain.

"You need someone else besides you, who can advise and point things out and be in your ear to help you along.

"Both [captains] at various stages lead from the front. Stokes' 150 at Lord's was just awesome to watch. Cummins, at Birmingham with the bat, those crucial runs at the end. 

"He saw it through, lead from the front himself."

Gower also suggested the different options at the captain's disposal somewhat dictated their respective plans.

"The difference is England have six or seven batsmen who can force the pace," he said. "So they were always going to play that way, trust their instincts and accept the mistakes that come along with taking risks.

"Australia are always going to have to play at a different pace to England. That's why the 2-2 result at the end proves that there are various ways to skin a cat, and you can win games by being good at what you do. 

"Cummins and Stokes had different options. That's why in the end, I think it's so fascinating to see it all finish up with the series all square."

England head coach Jess Thirlby admitted it would take some time to get over defeat by Australia in the Netball World Cup final, but believes her squad can be proud of their performances throughout the tournament.

The Roses were making their maiden World Cup final appearance and knew they had to be at their best to win the trophy against a side they had edged out by just a point in their group-stage match.

But Australia dominated the turnover battle and, after the first-quarter honours were shared, steadily built an unassailable lead to run out comfortable 61-45 winners and secure a 12th World Cup crown.

“We are really grateful for that silver medal and over time I think that will sink in, with that bit of history we made (in reaching the final), but right now it is a measure of the belief we had in ourselves, the route we took to the final… (that we are disappointed),” Thirlby told BBC Sport.

“We are obviously going to be gutted with a losing margin like that in our first final, but such is the difference between a team that has been in 12 of them and a team that has just broken into their first one, it’s a tough lesson.

“Today was always going to be a tough ask, you just can’t throw ball like that against Australia in a final. If we do that, we need to find a way to win it back. Unfortunately both of those things eluded us for long periods during the match.

“We fought very hard in the first half to keep a foothold in it, but you could kind of feel we didn’t quite have the flow and the confidence.”

England – bronze medallists at the last three World Cups and six times overall – had built on their group win over the Diamonds to go on to beat New Zealand as they booked a first World Cup final appearance.

Despite the setback, Thirlby feels the squad can return stronger.

“For us now it’s OK to feel a little bit disappointed just because of the level of belief and the capability of this team,” she said.

“I am incredibly proud despite the final result, we absolutely deserved to be there.

“We had to battle to get there and it’s just proven to us that you’ve got to be able to go again in a big game against the number one, and we just fell short today.”

Australia mid-court Ashleigh Brazill brought the curtain down on her netball career with a World Cup winners’ medal.

The 33-year-old – set to retire after the tournament – felt the Diamonds set the record straight following their defeat to England in the group stage.

“To beat England like that, they beat us in the group and everyone loved what Helen (Housby) said, that they were fitter and more energetic than us, that just fired things up,” Brazill told BBC Sport.

“The fact we have done it the way we wanted to, playing some of the best netball we have played in a long time. I’m just so proud of the girls.

“It has taken all of us to get here, the entire 22, all of us, and the fact we are stood here world champions, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending.”

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.

The Reggae Girlz remarkable and historic run on their second-consecutive Fifa Women’s World Cup appearance, may come as a surprise to many, but those close to the happenings believe it was always on the cards given the players and the coaching staff’s unflinching desire to succeed.

With another campaign being marred by talks of age-old issues of little or no practice games and inadequate preparation, as well as limited funding, ahead of the showpiece currently ongoing in Australia and New Zealand, the collective chorus is one of great optimism that the Reggae Girlz will now be taken seriously and will receive the necessary support and respect they deserve.

Former Head coach Hue Menzies, who was at the helm when the Reggae Girlz first qualified for the France 2019 World Cup, is among those singing praises about the current achievements. But he was also quick to point out that much more work needs to be done, as the country’s women’s football programme is still some ways off from its full potential.

The 43rd-ranked Girlz, who on World Cup debut lost all three games to Brazil, Italy and Australia in 2019, have displayed marked improvements on this occasion in holding top-ranked France and Brazil to goalless stalemates and secure their first ever World Cup win in a 1-0 scoreline over Panama on their way to the knockout stages.

Menzies, believes these accomplishments was another show of the players' resilience and strength of character, as they were given very little chance against their more illustrious opponents.

"I believe this was another statement of the players' dedication and commitment and determination to make Jamaica proud. They have again commanded people's attention with this achievement but again, the programme requires more funding if they are to get much closer to these top teams.

"But I am so proud for what the programme continues to achieve, and all the credit must go to Cedella [Marley], who brought us all together with the vision to build this programme. I think we have earned some respect across the world after these performances, but the most important thing is that we earn the respect from our own people of Jamaica," Menzies told in a recent interview.

“Culturally we don’t support female football or female sports on a whole. Corporate Jamaica has to understand how significant it would be for them to collaborate with the Girlz, they can create an impactful platform to help young females to dream big.

“Not only that, but brand recognition through these young ladies, will benefit for a lifetime. So, we have won this World Cup battle but have to keep going to win the war where the holistic development of the programme is concerned,” he added.

Reggae Girlz manager Crystal Walters, who is one of the youngest present at the global showpiece, echoed similar sentiments, as she noted that the hard work and sacrifice made by the players and backroom staff, will never truly be understood by those standing on the outside looking in.

“From the very start of this journey the ladies have been my first priority, watching them rewrite history each time they step on the field, and just being a part of this journey is truly an amazing feeling. what amazes me the most is how well this team stick together with so many distractions, but these ladies thrive on having their backs against the wall and are our living legends,” Walters said from the team’s base in Australia.

For Walters, the onus is now on the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), the Government and also corporate partners to ensure they build on the Girlz achievements going forward.

“Our focus as a nation needs to be redirected to our grassroots programme, providing proper sporting facilities, as well as adequate sponsorship. It takes a lot to care, but this team has gone beyond greatness, and we need to build on the history that these amazing ladies and staff have once again created.

“It is indeed a fresh testament of what the country can achieve with more substantial backing, as the Girlz accomplishments will provide opportunities and open many doors for these and our other players. It is football for all and we need to use this opportunity to ensure we keep developing,” Walters opined.

Andrew Price, who along with current Head coach Lorne Donaldson, were assistants to Menzies during the 2019 success, said the Girlz — backed by a committed and resolute coaching staff — again forged ahead despite the enormous disparity in rankings, history, funding and support when compared to opponents like France and Brazil.

In fact, even Italy, who the Girlz lost to in 2019, failed to progress from their group on this occasion.

“The performance in Australia has been phenomenal. The Girlz continue to secure historic achievements, almost proving that merely qualifying for their second-consecutive FIFA Women's World Cup wasn't enough.

“These Girlz like to dream big. They went to Australia with a plan and driven by the technical staff, they bought into the plan.  They believed that they had the mental capacity to traverse the group and they did because they believed in each other,” Price noted.

“I told people who would listen, that this team is four years older, four years wiser and the experience they got from 2019 would serve them well. They played each team on their merit and took one game at time. The focus was to get out of the group, and they have accomplished that by showing great fight resilience. Keep the fire burning Reggae Girlz,” the veteran tactician shared.

The Reggae Girlz will next face 25th-ranked Colombia in Round of 16 action in Adelaide, on Tuesday and standout goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer declared that they are ready to once again prove their doubters wrong.

“We were hugely underestimated, obviously with the noise going on outside of us playing and the lack of matches that we had leading into the tournament, I don’t think anyone took us seriously,” the outspoken Spencer opined.

“But as a group, both players and staff, we know we are resilient we had a point to prove and for months we have been saying it, we are getting out of this group, and we have proven just that. I am just proud of everyone for sticking together and getting it done and now we want to keep going,” the Tottenham Hotspur shot-stopper stated.

England batting great David Gower described Stuart Broad's Ashes send-off as "the stuff of legend" after he delivered two crucial wickets to level the series on the final outing of his career.

Broad announced the fifth Test against Australia would be his last match as a professional cricketer on Saturday, before ending his glittering career on a high two days later.

With England requiring two late wickets on day five to level the series at 2-2, Broad dismissed Todd Murphy and Alex Carey to deny Australia a first series win on English soil since 2001.

The 37-year-old ends his career with 604 Test wickets, a tally only bettered by long-time team-mate James Anderson (690) among England players.

Asked about Broad's remarkable final outing, former England skipper Gower told Stats Perform: "Stuart's finished as anyone would like to, on a high, on an absolute high. 

"The Ashes has probably been his specialist subject, but he's taken wickets all around the world. His record, of course, is absolutely outstanding, bettered only by Jimmy Anderson. 

"His last shot being a six over deep midwicket, then to finish with the two wickets that wrapped up the game at The Oval… that is the stuff of legend. 

"Most of us go out without that script, most of us have to slink off having had a pretty bad day! 

"To go [out] on a highlight… that is a privilege accorded to very, very few. Alastair Cook did it at The Oval, others have done it at The Oval. The gods are looking after you when you have that sort of finish.

"I think for so many players, whatever else happens elsewhere in the world, if you are good at The Ashes – because of the history that comes with it – that stays in your memory forever. 

"I was very lucky to have a pretty good record in The Ashes as a batsman, and that's something I'm very proud of. Stuart can be equally proud about the way he succeeded and the way he played.

"We will always miss great players. When England next take to the field in a test match in India or next summer back here against different opposition, [we'll] be looking at the England eleven and thinking, 'I wish we still had Stuart' because people really enjoyed the way he played the game."

Broad's total of 153 wickets in Ashes series is the best of any England bowler, with only Australia pair Shane Warne (195) and Glenn McGrath (157) boasting more dismissals. 

Meanwhile, fellow bowling great Anderson has refuted suggestions he could follow Broad into retirement, saying his team-mate's exit has made his own desire to play on "even more firm".

Reflecting on the duo's incredible Test records, Gower added: "What will stay indelibly in black ink is that record. 

"The records of the game will show him [Broad] with 600-odd wickets in a lot of Test matches, 600 wickets for a seam bowler of his ilk is a lot of wickets. 

"Jimmy Anderson is ahead in that game, and he is even more incredible for his longevity. Jimmy is saying, 'I don't want to give up, I'm only 41!'

"It's an extraordinary thing for him to be quite so fit and strong and capable at that age as a quick bowler. 

"Both of them will look back as their lives develop, and there will always be those figures in the book."

England cannot claim a "moral victory" over Australia in this year's "outstanding" Ashes series, which ranks among the best ever played in the view of former skipper David Gower.

Rain during the fourth Test at Old Trafford ruined England's hopes of teeing up a decider at The Oval, though Stuart Broad's heroics did at least allow them to level the series at 2-2 with victory in the fifth Test.

While England's wait to recapture the urn continues, supporters and players took solace in denying Australia a first series win on English soil since 2001.

Captain Ben Stokes said he was "proud" of England's performances after the fifth Test, describing the draw as a "fair reflection" of the series as a whole.

While Gower agrees with that assessment, he does not believe England will be alone in wondering what might have been.

"Let's not talk about moral victories, that's just a red herring," he told Stats Perform. "It's 2-2, that's how it'll stand in history forever. 

"I think it's a fair reflection. If you talk to people in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Perth and all the rest of Australia, they will say Australia could have won it. 

"It's a certainty that if you talk to people in the United Kingdom, they will look at all the things that could have been slightly different.

"They'll look at the weather in Manchester and say we had the moral victory."

Gower added: "I guess what's fair to say is that England were destroying one of the best bowling attacks in world cricket at Old Trafford.

"That assault at Manchester was awesome. If you want to talk about moral victories, maybe that's the one place you're allowed the leniency to say that."

Gower believes the series' many twists and turns should ensure it is remembered as one of the most entertaining of the modern era.

"This is right up there with the great series, or at least the ones in living memory – I can't go back to beyond the 1930s," he added.

"I was part of the 1981 series, which was [Ian] Botham's Ashes, Botham and [Bob] Willis's Ashes in many ways. That was a brilliant, brilliant series to be part of.

"Then 2005 was outstanding, we had some fantastic performances there. Great drama, great theatre, and this year was certainly up there for drama and theatre. You can argue about the overall quality, but there were some stunning performances. 

"You look at the human error… at the end of it all, you can imagine that the results – English fans would say – could have been very different. If only. 

"But the Aussies will say the same. Rain at Manchester, who'd have thought it? Weather in England… you have to factor these things in at some stage. 

"At the end of it, I would say that the quality of the cricket between the two teams was outstanding."

Gower feels much of the series' intrigue came from a clash of styles, with England's aggressive approach under Brendon McCullum contrasting sharply with Australia's more conservative way of playing.

"Before the series started, there was an element of it being a clash of cultures," he said. "The so-called 'Bazball' against the more traditional way that Australia play. 

"Sides have to play the way their players play best. England have a lot of gifted batsmen who have the capacity to force the pace, as per 'Bazball'. 

"Australia have batsman, for instance like Usman Khawaja, who will just stay at the crease and make runs in quantities and buy time, use time. He was outstanding as well throughout the series."

If ever Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls required a performance to add impetus to their charge of securing an historic Vitality Netball World Cup gold medal, it came in their historic 59-48 win over reigning champions New Zealand in their top Pool G clash at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in South Africa, on Thursday.

Captain Jhaniele Fowler shot a perfect 49 goals from 49 attempts and the defence produced one of its most consistent showings where applying pressure is concerned, as the number four-ranked Sunshine Girls topped their number two-ranked opponents for the first time ever on this stage.

Goal attack Shanice Beckford chipped in with nine goals from 10 attempts and Romelda Aiken-George the other goal from three attempts.

Maia Wilson led New Zealand with 31 goals from 33 attempts.

The Jamaicans, who extended their rich vein of form with this, their sixth-straight win at the tournament, will now have a day to rest and recover for their semi-final date with world number one-ranked Australia on Saturday. The Australians had earlier suffered a nail-biting final minute 55-56 loss to number three-ranked England, in their top Pool F clash.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s title defence seems in jeopardy, as they will have to wait on the result of South Africa's match against Uganda, to see if they are through to face England in the other semi-final.

Fowler lauded her teammates for their execution of the game plan, for the most parts.

“Kudos to my team, we went out there and did what we had to do, and it all came together in the end. We knew it was going to be tough, but we played hard and more importantly, maintained our focus and it showed in the fact that we remained consistent and disciplined which is what we were aiming for, so I am very pleased,” Fowler said in a post-game interview.

Having never beaten New Zealand on the World Cup stage previously, the Sunshine Girls drew inspiration from last year’s Commonwealth Games meeting when they drubbed the Silver Ferns 67-51 on their way to an historic silver medal.

Though they have proven strong side when they get their full squad together, the Jamaicans had their shakiest start of the tournament on this occasion, but eventually found their flow and got going. 

Of the two sides, Jamaica looked far more comfortable on attack in the first quarter, as they found the imposing presence of Fowler with consummate ease in the shooting circle.

The Silver Ferns, on the other hand, were made to battle for every pass and struggled to find any sense of flow in possession. That pressure resulted in them conceding multiple offensive fouls and, ultimately, a four-goal deficit on the scoreboard at 15-11.

This was the first opening quarter New Zealand lost in the tournament, but they again found the going tough in the second quarter.

Jamaica immediately shut down the Silver Ferns attack, as they delayed the passes to get the ball into the shooting circle. Once there, Ameliaranne Ekenasio's shot first up, was blocked and rebounded superbly by Shamera Sterling.

In fact, both teams defence proved too good to get past and forced multiple turnovers and missed shots in what was a messy period that New Zealand emerged strong from to quickly wipe out the four-goal gap.

From there, they evenly matched strides goal-for-goal, as both sides found their shooters with more ease.

But, as the second quarter seemed poised to end in a deadlock, especially after Jamaica lost Sterling to injury and a possible warning, the Sunshine Girls produced a late charge with two quick steals and passes to Fowler, who made no mistakes.

While New Zealand won the quarter 12-11, the Jamaicans maintained the ascendancy at half time, with a three-goal lead at 26-23.

Both sides were able to score more freely in the third quarter and Jamaica did well to open a five-goal lead at one point. But, unforced errors at the backend, allowed New Zealand to again close within two at 41-39, as they again outscored the Jamaicans 16-15 in that quarter.

However, any hopes the Silver Ferns harboured of finishing tops were dashed, as it appears the Jamaicans saved their best for the last quarter.

They applied consistent pressure in defence and mid-court, and that, coupled with quick passes into the shooting circle, allowed Fowler to score at will and open a 10-point gap, which was the Jamaicans biggest lead of the game.

At the end, they romped the quarter 18-9 and with it came the 11-goal win that solidifies their status as a gold-medal favourite. The last of their three bronze medals at this tournament, came in 2007.

 Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Honourable Olivia Grange, has described the national women’s senior team’s historic qualification to the knockout stage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Wednesday as the “proudest moment in Jamaica’s football history.”

The Reggae Girlz advanced to the round of 16 for the first time after holding Brazil to a 0-0 draw that knocked the South American women out of the competition. 

“Their hard fought and determined draw against powerhouse Brazil is most commendable. I could not help shedding a few tears of joy,” the Jamaican sports minister said in a statement.

The undefeated Reggae Girlz have yet to concede goal at the 2023 tournament having held the fifth-ranked France to a 0-0 draw in their opening match and then defeating Panama 1-0l for their first-ever victory at the World Cup.

Jamaica finished their group in second place, behind France.

In her communications with the Girlz following the match, Minister Grange congratulated the team on their performance and reminded them that the entire nation was proud and cheering for them.

Minister Grange reiterated her message which she wrote to the team on the eve of their game against France, stating, “I can never tire of telling you how much your presence on the world stage means to Jamaica and the pride we all feel when we see you donned in the national colours. We see that dreams do come true.”

She said the Reggae Girlz are a source of inspiration for Jamaica and fully deserving of the nation’s full support. “I am happy that my government has been able to support the Jamaica Football Federation and the women’s programme on yet another successful World Cup campaign,” she said.

The Government, through the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and the Sports Development Foundation provides a monthly subvention of J$3M (J$36M per annum) to the JFF for its programmes.

This year, the government allocated an additional J$20M specifically for the Reggae Girlz World Cup campaign, J$10M of which is to be paid directly to members of the squad under the Ministry’s Athlete Assistance Programme.

 In addition, the government insures the Reggae Girlz under the Jamaica Athlete Insurance Plan which covers all health related services including injuries and overseas emergency services up to US$100,000 per athlete.

“Our girls, particularly the Reggae Girlz, the Sunshine Girls (the national netballers who are competing in the World Netball World Cup in South Africa), and the women’s volleyball team (which won the Cazova Championship on the weekend) have made us very proud and have given us such a special gift as we celebrate our nation’s 61st anniversary of Independence.  We are proud of them.”


 The Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) has showered praise of Jamaica’s Senior Women Football team that historically qualified for the round of 16 at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in South Africa on Wednesday.

After holding France, ranked in the top five in the world, to a 0-0 in their opening match and defeating Panama 1-0, Jamaica only needed a draw from the much-vaunted, top-10 ranked Brazil on Wednesday to secure a place in the knock-out round of the global tournament. Prior to Wednesday, no Caribbean team has ever managed to advance from the group stage of the competition.

However, after another steely, disciplined performance in which they held the South American giant to a 0-0 draw, the Reggae Girls achieved another historic milestone.

The JOA’s executive was impressed with the monumental achievement.

“Feats are there to be achieved and the Reggae Girlz continue to demonstrate a capacity and an ability to do so by claiming a space in the round of sixteen at FIFA’s Women’s World Cup,” the JOA said in a statement following the match that saw Jamaica finish as the runner-up to France in Group F.

JOA President Christopher Samuda was effusive in his praise stating, “History is indelibly at their feet, the present secured in the palm of their hands and the future in the vision of young girls who are dreaming the possible.

“The Reggae Girlz are authoring a script in football which is inspiring a nation to aspire where it was thought dreams only resided. The reality is that we can and they have done it. The Jamaica Olympic Association salutes them and looks forward to sharing the Olympic dream that will become a reality in Paris 2024.”

JOA Secretary General Ryan Foster was equally emphatic in his characterization of the performance that had an entire nation beaming with pride.

“The horizon is now clearly in sight and well within the reach of the Reggae Girlz and the Jamaica Olympic Association stands with watchful eyes in the hope that history again will be created and a nation’s pride will overflow for this is a moment that we hope will become a life-long story,” Foster declared.

Brazil, the pride of world football, was the casualty and sport historians will record that it was at the instance of Jamaica. This historic fact has not escaped President Samuda. “Brazil fell at the feet of the Reggae Girlz who now are the giants of history and visionaries of the future,” the JOA president beamed.

England erased an eight-point deficit to claim their first Netball World Cup win over Australia at the 14th attempt and secure top spot in Group A in Cape Town.

Jess Thirlby’s side stormed back towards the end of the third quarter and Fran Williams’ crucial interception in the dying seconds earned an historic 56-55 win.

Both teams had already secured progression from the group stage into the last four but their win means England will potentially avoid a more daunting path to the final.

Thirlby told BBC Sport: “It’s a massively important moment for this group because it adds to our confidence bank, but we know it means nothing if we can’t follow it up.

“I think it’s the fact we were eight down and then to be pushed in the last 15 minutes and still come out on top, I don’t think you can under-estimate mentally what that tells you about where this group is at.”

England were set to find out the identity of their semi-final opponents later on Thursday, with holders New Zealand facing potential elimination in their last group match against favourites Jamaica.

Stuart Broad has revealed the wicket of Todd Murphy on the final day of the Ashes series was going to be his last ball in international cricket.

The 37-year-old announced his retirement at the end of day three of his 167th Test.

England needed two wickets to win in the closing stages at the Oval and ultimately draw the series as Australia continued to knock off the 383 runs needed in order to claim their first series victory on these shores since 2001.

Broad says he had been told by captain Ben Stokes that he would be replaced by Mark Wood before his delivery to Murphy, but got the fairytale ending to his professional career by having Murphy caught behind before claiming his final victim, Alex Carey, a couple of overs later.

He told Sky Sports: “Actually Stokesy said to me before the Todd Murphy wicket that this will be my last over because we need to get Woody on with the extra pace.

“That (wicket) was the last ball of the over and I was running in knowing that was my last ball of professional cricket and my legs went a bit jelly like as I was running in.

“I just said to myself ‘just hit the pitch as hard as you can’ and he nicked it and that’s why I was like ‘oh my god he’s nicked it’.

“I managed to get another over so it felt really special to finish on a win and be in the changing room with all the guys I’ve played so much cricket with.”

Broad, England’s second-highest Test wicket-taker of all time, did not tell his team-mates until the morning of the day he went public with the news, admitting he was still “emotionally tired” on the decision.

He continued: “I was so focused on the Ashes series and the games were coming so thick and fast, I didn’t really have time to think of anything else and had to be fully dedicated to the task at hand.

“Probably towards the end of Old Trafford I started to think, the start of the last Test is next week, I’m thinking where should I go and just could not think clearly enough.

“I was emotionally tired on what was already a busy summer so far but I facetimed Mollie (Broad’s fiancee) on the Friday night and she said ‘you’ve just got to follow your heart and say what you think and I’ll support you either way’.

“I put the Facetime down and went to Stokesy’s room, shook his hand and just told him straight away ‘that’s me. It’s been an absolute pleasure to play with you as a team-mate and a friend, and you’ve been a dream captain so thank you’ and once I made that decision, I felt at peace with it straight away.”

The seamer developed a new tactic to switch the bails on top of the stumps in an attempt to disrupt the batter.

On both occasions a wicket fell – Marnus Labuschagne nicked Mark Wood straight into the hands of Joe Root in the first innings before Murphy edged behind to set England on their way to victory.

He said: “It was really special and really loud on Monday, the atmosphere was awesome out there and the little bail flick and getting a couple of wickets.

“I just made it up and I wish I made it about 10 years ago as I might have found a few more wickets!”

England have been docked a sizeable chunk of points in the World Test Championship from what they earned in the Ashes after consistently falling foul of the over-rate regulations.

While the standard of play in a series that ebbed and flowed was widely praised, there were repeated instances of both England and Australia failing to reach the statutory 90 overs in a day threshold.

Ben Stokes’ side were found to be two overs short in the first Test at Edgbaston, nine in the second at Lord’s, three in the fourth at Emirates Old Trafford and five in the final Test at the Kia Oval.

Having gained 28 points – 24 for two wins and four for a draw – in a series that finished 2-2, with Australia retaining the urn as holders, England have lost 19 for infringements in four of five Tests.

That leaves England with just nine points in the third edition of the WTC, dropping them below the West Indies, who have played just two matches and are yet to record a win.

The International Cricket Council last month implemented an overhaul of the sanctions for sluggish over-rates, which was retrospectively applied for the start of the WTC cycle.

Players are fined five per cent of their match fee, up to 50 per cent, and teams lose one point for every over short – although this is not applied if a team is bowled out before the 80th over.

England’s players were penalised 10 per cent of their match fees for the first Test, 45 for the second, 15 for the fourth and 25 for the fifth.

Australia, meanwhile, had 10 points deducted from their tally and players fined 50 per cent of their match fees for the fourth Test after being found to have been 10 overs short at Old Trafford.

Alessia Russo was thrilled to open her World Cup account as England’s attack came alive in their 6-1 victory over China to conclude the group stage.

The 24-year-old, who joined Arsenal on a free transfer from Manchester United last month, has been boss Sarina Wiegman’s first-choice centre-forward so far this tournament to fill the void left by retired striker Ellen White.

Russo netted the fourth-minute opener in Adelaide, one of five goal-scorers for an inspired England side, who sealed top spot in Group D and will now test their perfect record in the last 16 against Nigeria in Brisbane.

“(I’m) Buzzing. I’m a striker, I like to score as much as I can,” said Russo. “(It was) a positive night, six goals as well, lots of chances created and lots of goals scored.

“You’ve just got to go back to basics, work hard and that’s what I’ve been doing in training, hoping for a moment and when you get it you’ve got to take it with both hands.

“Really pleased to get on the scoresheet but more importantly we topped the group and now we’re ready for knockout football.”

Nigeria, 40th in FIFA’s global rankings, entered the competition as the top-ranked team from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and managed to outplay world number seven and Olympic champions Canada alongside number 22 Republic of Ireland to finish second in Group B and book a place in the last 16.

Russo vowed that while the Lionesses were fully focused on China until they wrapped up Group D, they will “get rested, recovered and fully get locked into Nigeria”, who will be raring to stage another upset.

“They’re a good side too, they’re a side that I’ve never faced – I have at youth level but not at senior level – so I’m excited for it, another good test,” she said.

Russo, who had not scored in seven games, has so far been preferred to Aston Villa striker Rachel Daly, the 2023 Women’s Super League Golden Boot winner.

Versatile Daly came on for Russo after 76 minutes of the Haiti match, started at left-back against Denmark and, in Wiegman’s 3-5-2 formation shake-up, took on the unfamiliar role of left wing-back and scored the last of England’s six against China.

The dominant result, combined with her opening strike, perhaps alleviates some of the pressure on Russo, who knows Daly is waiting in the wings, after Wiegman made it clear that she is prepared to make changes in this World Cup.

Pressure from the public, however, is another story.

Russo added: “I think the media worry about that more than we do as players. We just want to win every game whether it’s 1-0 or 10-0. I think it’s amazing to score that many goals, but we just want to win and progress through this tournament as players.”

Rachel Daly revealed her pre-match premonition about England team-mate Lauren James came true on Tuesday night after the Chelsea prodigy scored twice and picked up three assists in the 6-1 victory over China at the World Cup.

James, 21, became the first England player of either gender to be directly involved in five or more goals in a World Cup match as the Lionesses clinched top of group D to set up a last-16 meeting with Nigeria in Brisbane on Monday.

Daly was one of five Lionesses who got their names on the scoresheet at Adelaide’s Hindmarsh Stadium, where boss Sarina Wiegman switched to an inspired 3-5-2 system in the wake of an undisclosed knee injury to midfield maestro Keira Walsh.

Versatile Daly, who happily occupied an unfamiliar left wing-back role in the shake-up, said: “I will just say one thing, last night (Monday) we were walking round the pitch and we have come out of here and there’s the ‘player of the match’ sign as you walk out. I said: ‘Have a look at that kid, because that will be you tomorrow night’.

“That’s how much we back her! She is unbelievable. I have got no more words to say about her. She is growing and growing and the most important thing is we keep around her.

“She is a young player at the end of the day and she’s learning every day. She can pick up little bits from the older players, but she is LJ – and she’s brilliant.

“She has got great technical ability, but those (goals) come out in training all the time. It’s nothing new for us.

“Like I said the other day, it’s just nice for the rest of the world to see how good she is. ‘Cheat code’ as everyone is calling her. That’s what she is.”

England only scored once in each of their first two group-stage victories, first through Georgia Stanway’s penalty against Haiti before James netted six minutes into her first World Cup start, ultimately enough for three points against Denmark.

Tournament veteran Daly – who started every game of England’s European championship-winning campaign – had called for patience earlier in the week over concerns that the Lionesses were not living up to their world number four billing, particularly in attack against a Haiti side 49 places below them in FIFA’s world rankings.

Others joined her, often accompanying the call with a reminder that this was not the same squad that lifted the trophy at Wembley 367 days ago, following the retirements of Ellen White and Jill Scott and injuries to Beth Mead, Fran Kirby and Leah Williamson.

Walsh, who was also part of that triumph, remained at England base camp on Tuesday after it was determined she did not injure her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), though her status for the remainder of the tournament remains unclear.

Daly said: “I think obviously there has been a lot of criticism about us not being ruthless enough.

“I said we would grow into the games and it’s tournament football. It’s not about the first, second, third win, it’s how we grow into it.

“We knew it would come and that it would only be a matter of time before we scored goals – and there were some unbelievable goals on display (against China).

“I think (the formation change) is what tournament football is all about. We have got that in our locker now.

“We know that we can do that system and keep growing and working on that.

“We obviously can revert back to type with a 4-3-3. It’s another weapon in the armoury.”

Michael Hussey believes ‘Bazball’ is “awesome” for Test cricket and says Australia were always concerned by England’s Ashes plan.

England fought back to square a thrilling series 2-2 after finding themselves 2-0 down against the world Test champions.

It would surely have been better had rain not halted England in the fourth Test at Old Trafford – the outcome vindicating the bold ‘Bazball’ policy that has attracted new fans into the longer format of the game.

“I think it has been awesome for the game,” said former Australia batter Hussey, known throughout the sport as ‘Mr Cricket’ because of his obsession for it.

“It’s created so much interest in Test cricket. You’re going to get that with an Ashes series anyway, but it’s created even more hype around it.

“It’s exciting to watch and that can only be good for the game.

“I was intrigued to see if England would have the courage to play that way because it’s not easy to smack high-quality bowlers out of the park on pitches doing a bit. But they did.”

Hussey scored 6,235 runs in 79 Test matches between 2005 and 2013 and played in three Ashes series.

The 48-year-old watched the start of the 2023 Ashes edition at home in Australia before heading to the UK to coach the Welsh Fire men’s team at The Hundred.

Hussey said: “Observing the Australian team, I think they were concerned about ‘Bazball’. The effect it was going to have and the extra pressure it was going to put on the bowling unit.

“But the Australians stuck to their guns and the way they wanted to play. Pat Cummins copped a bit of stick for his captaincy, but I thought he did well.

“Australia backed their way of playing and said: ‘If England want to play that way it’s fine, we can plan for that. We’re not going to change the way we play our best cricket’.

“They did that and Australians are absolutely delighted that we’ve retained the Ashes.”

Hussey had a clear insight into the England set-up when he was appointed as a batting consultant for the successful T20 World Cup campaign last year.

He insisted England’s approach to Test cricket would continue to develop under coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes and that it could be a far different Australia side they face in the 2025-26 Ashes Down Under.

Hussey said: “Knowing Brendon and also spending time with Ben at CSK (Chennai Super Kings) in the IPL (Indian Premier League), they are very invested in this way of playing, not just to win games but to bring Test cricket as an enjoyable product for everyone to watch.

“The Australian team over the next few years is also going to be fascinating to watch.

“David Warner and Usman Khawaja are coming to the back end of their career and who knows how long Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood will keep playing for?

“Nathan Lyon’s also injured at the moment and we are going to start getting a glimpse of what the next era for us looks like.”

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