Of course Maddie Hinch was the hero. When England’s tense semi-final with defending champions New Zealand went to a shootout, all eyes turned to the goalkeeper in the ‘banana suit’.
And just like in the Olympic final at Rio 2016, Hinch did not slip up.
Her four saves against the Netherlands in Brazil six years ago gave Great Britain their first Olympic gold medal. And here in Birmingham, she did not let a penalty past her again to keep England on course to be champions of the Commonwealth for the first time.
England won in the shootout after the game finished level at 0-0
The team’s win sets up a clash with Australia in the Commonwealth final
‘I’m towards the back end of my career now and this is something I’ve been so desperately wanting my whole career,’ said 33-year-old Hinch. ‘I’ll never get used to being called a hero. It’s very weird. I like to stay in the background. I think it’s these banana suits!’
England lost to the Kiwis at this stage four years ago but there was to be no repeat of that defeat last night. After a goalless draw, Izzy Petter and Hannah Martin scored for the hosts and Hinch did the rest in a 2-0 shootout win.
‘Maddie gives us such confidence,’ admitted Petter. ‘She stepped up again and she was unbelievable. We’ve got one more game and we could make history. It’s really exciting.’
Their win kept alive the dream of an England women’s team treble tomorrow. This morning, England’s cricketers face India in their semi-final at Edgbaston, before the netballers take on Australia at a sold-out NEC Arena in a last-four rematch of their 2018 final. Tomorrow, the hockey, cricket and netball finals are scheduled one after another.
England’s cricketers will earn a place in the Commonwealth final with a win over India
‘Something like this is brilliant for women’s sport,’ said England and Warwickshire wicketkeeper Amy Jones, who grew up in Sutton Coldfield, just 30 minutes north of Edgbaston. ‘Off the back of what the Lionesses achieved, there is a real hunger for women’s sport at the moment.
‘We are really keen to carry on that momentum and keep the spotlight on women’s sport. If it inspires girls to play sport or follow England’s women’s teams that would be a huge success.
‘Being the first team to win Commonwealth gold (in cricket) would be unbelievable. We have got all the motivation we need.’