BIRMINGHAM, England — A week after the Lionesses made England proud by winning the European Women’s Football Championship, their field hockey compatriots are hoping for their own historic moment in Birmingham.
England have won a medal in women’s hockey at the six previous Commonwealth Games, but gold has proved elusive. A thrilling victory over New Zealand in Friday’s semi-finals gives England another chance to end the drought.
They will face four-time champions Australia in Sunday’s final. The hosts had lost both their previous matches against Australia in the title match.
England’s success is a bonus for Commonwealth officials, who have put an emphasis on highlighting women’s sport, with three major team finals to be held on Sunday.
Dubbed Super Sunday by the organisers, the gold medals for the women’s cricket, field hockey and netball finals will be decided on the penultimate day of competition.
England beat defending champions New Zealand 2-0 on penalties to reach the finals. Both teams were held scoreless in regular play, but Hannah Martin scored England’s second goal on penalties from four tries.
In the other semi-final, Australia defeated India 3–0 on penalties after the teams finished regular play 1–1.
Rebecca Greiner scored in the 10th minute to give Australia the lead, but against the tide in the 49th minute, India equalized when Vandana Kataria deflected a shot into the net from close range – the first goal the Australians had conceded in the tournament.
The shootings got off to a controversial start, with Australia’s Rosie Malone firing the first shot and missing. But Malone got a second try because the scoreboard’s eight-second countdown clock wasn’t working.
Malone scored her second try and her teammates Caitlin Nobbs and Amy Lawton also scored to send Australia to the final.
“When they called the re-recording, I thanked the universe for the second chance,” Malone said. “I knew the whole of India would hate me if I included it. But all of our other girls were in our shootouts, so it’s not like this one shootout is going to be the be all and end all.”
England’s netballers will play Australia in the semi-finals on Saturday, while the national cricketers face India for a place in the decider. Australia play New Zealand in the other women’s cricket semi-final, also on Saturday.
In other highlights on Friday, India enjoyed success in wrestling as Deepak Punia, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik won gold medals.
Malik, who won the women’s 62-kilogram (137-pound) class, said the support provided by Birmingham’s strong Indian community helped her succeed.
In the final, she defeated Canadian Ana Godinez Gonzalez.
“It was amazing to have such a crowd presence,” she said. “There weren’t many Indians at the Tokyo Olympics… so for a wrestler to have that presence is amazing.
“And then to fall behind at one point and come back, the crowd played a huge part in getting me to where I wanted to be, which was right on top of the podium.”
George Miller became the oldest Commonwealth Games gold medalist when, at the age of 75, he took on the role of visually impaired Scottish bowling director Melanie Innes. His grandchildren watched from the stands as Miller assisted the para-mix combination to beat Wales 16-9 in the final.
“Bowls are pretty easy for older people, but any sport, [be it] walking, football, rugby, whatever, get out there [and] exercise. Play games,” he said. “To compete is brilliant, no matter what age you are.”
The overall gold medal race tightened as leaders Australia added a number of other medals on Day 8 but failed to win gold.
Australia have a total of 50 golds and 140 medals, while England are now just three golds behind Australia (47 golds, 131 overall) with three days of competition remaining.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.