Out of top 6

Malawi Queens will for the first time in 20 years fight for a seventh-place finish at the Commonwealth Games after finishing fourth in Pool B preliminary round yesterday.

The Queens, ranked sixth in the world, needed to beat 10th-ranked Wales by at least a 47-basket margin yesterday to outweigh seventh-ranked Uganda’s advantage for the overall fifth-place battle, but a 68-53 triumph was 32 baskets short of the desired necessity.

Queens’ Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda (L) tries to block Wales’ shooter Chelsea Lewis

The two sides are tied on six points from five matches along with third-ranked New Zealand’s Ferns but the She Cranes, who beat Scotland 57-37 yesterday, and the Ferns are third and second in their pool with 39 and 57 basket differences, respectively. The Queens are fourth on the ladder with a negative seven.

The development, which has forced the Queens to fight for the seventh-place finish against eighth-ranked Northern Ireland in placing matches this morning [5.50am], will affect the Malawi national netball team from maintaining their position on the world rankings table as the ever-improving She Cranes are likely to take their place.

On the current International Netball Federation (INF) netball rankings, based on matches played up to January 28 this year, Queens are only better than the She Cranes by a rating of eight and Malawi’s recent 52-54 loss to Uganda at the ongoing Commonwealth Games would work against them in the next rankings’ update.

The She Cranes, who will now battle for the overall fifth-place finish against pool A’s third-placed team South Africa’s Proteas at the games, have so far beaten the Queens four times in a row since 2017 as they also triumphed twice 52-39 and 67-34 in the run-up to the African Netball Championship and 66-43 on day three of the event. England’s Roses top Pool B with a clean slate of 10 points.

Before the continental showpiece, the She Cranes were ranked 13th but the results helped them narrow the gap with Queens; moving six places up the ladder to seventh and become the eventual African champions.

Uganda have also proved to be statistically better than the Queens taking into account their score margins against lower-ranked Wales and Scotland at the games. They won by 36 baskets against Wales (76-40) and 20 against Scotland (57-37) yet the Queens managed to triumph by 15 goals (68-53) and a single basket (51-50), in that order.

Against Wales yesterday, Queens led 15 -12 in the first quarter before increasing the tally to 36-28 and 50-42 in the subsequent segments.

Netball analyst Wesley Namasala yesterday said the Queens would continue to slip up on the rankings unless NAM and government put netball development structures in place soon after the Commonwealth Games.

“We need youth development structures and good netball infrastructures if we are serious to improve our rankings. Otherwise, as it stands now, it will be difficult to rise again,” he said.

Queens’ first line-up against Wales was as follows: GS Mwawi Kumwenda, GA Sindi Simtowe, WA Bridget Kumwenda-Chalera, C Thandie Galeta, WD Martha Dambo, GD Joana Kachilika and GK Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda.n

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