The Malawi Queens opened their preparations for the Commonwealth Games with a shock 53-51 defeat to England A in front of a packed crowd at GL1 in Gloucester.
Ranked fifth in the world, Africa’s best netball team came close to an inspired comeback on Saturday but fell desperately short against a makeshift England outfit full of potential.
The host team included a mix of future starlets as well as several players who missed out on selection for the senior squad going to Glasgow later this month.
England head coach Olivia Murphy said the resolve shown in her girls proves there is a great future for netball in the country.
Cheltenham-born and former Hucclecote goal defender Sam Cook made an impressive comeback to action after suffering an injury to her ACL ligament on England under-21’s tour of Jamaica last August.
She said: “It is a great feeling to be back playing and anything at this level is amazing.
“If I am honest, we didn’t expect to beat the fifth best in the world especially as our players had never played together before.
“Malawi are a very athletic team and they change direction very well and are very fast.
“It has been a great experience for us and it is good to see so many girls like myself coming through the ranks.”
Malawi began the stronger team showing prowess in the air as goal shooter Mwai Kumwenda steadied herself on multiple occasions to find the net.
But, following changes after the first 15 minutes, England also altered their dynamic as Mia Ritchie, whose movement caused problems for the Africans at wing attack, was given free rein at centre.
England came from a seven-point deficit at 11-18 after the first quarter to level the scores 28-28 at half time before relinquishing control from the Malawians and taking a 43-36 lead by the end of the third.
England’s captain and goal shooter Rosie Allison began to find the net with more frequency as the match progressed, scoring 36 points in total.
The decision to insert Kathryn Turner at goal attack in the second and third also proved pivotal, the substitute taking eight from nine attempts during a period when England finally got to grips with the Malawian way.
Malawi pushed England close in the final moments however netting three goals in rapid concession in the final minute bringing the scores to within two.–Gloucester CitizenFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :