In the first of a series of three matches against the African team, Jade Clarke (WD / C) played the full game, with 19 year old shooting sensation, Jo Harten coming on in the final quarter to net six out of eight attempts.
The first game, which took place in Sheffield on 14 April, was the first in the Co-operative International Test Series, which saw England, currently ranked third in the world, go head to head with Malawi, ranked fifth.
A capacity crowd filled the Hallam fm Arena to watch England run the Malawians out of town with a 66-36 victory. England played with impressive pace and clinical finishing, but the Malawian side was far from disgraced and veteran GA Mary Waya, now in her 25th year of international netball at the age of 39, drew plaudits for her performance which kept the visitors in the game when England threatened to overwhelm her side.
The second match in the Co-operative International Test series was on Wednesday night (16 April) in front of a capacity crowd at the Coventry Skydome. The Malawi Queens fought all the way, before losing the Co-operative Netball International 56-40 to a superb England performance. Sasha Corbin was particularly impressive for England at WA, combining well with Lightning’s Jade Clarke to keep the impetus in England's favour, despite some fine defensive work by the Malawian back line.
The introduction of Loughborough’s Jo Harten at GS allowed Pamela Cookey more space at GA for England in the third quarter, and she took full advantage, netting 13/13, but Malawi still refused to be overawed, and where they had been shut out completely on Monday, continued to contest the ball right through the midcourt.
England's netballers were made to battle all the way to a 61-36 victory over Malawi in the third Co-operative International test match at Wembley Arena on 18 April, after their African visitors came out firing from the first whistle.
Having won the first test by 30 goals and the second by 16, many in the capacity crowd felt that the match could be a runaway win for England, but Malawi had other ideas. Inspired once more by the irrepressible Mary Waya.
The success of The Co-operative International series has been recognised back home in Malawi, where the government has today announced a $2 million US grant to the national netball association, and committed to build the country's first indoor netball court so that its teams can continue to train and improve.
Four of Loughborugh Lightning’s players, Jo Harten, Natasha Hampshire, Sarah Jane O’Sullivan and Katie Rose, have just been named as part of the 25 strong squad England U21 long squad, which is currently preparing for next year’s World Youth Netball Championships in the Cook Islands.
photos Janos Schmidt