Ireland (137-6, 20 overs) (Orla Prendergast 28, Rebecca Stokell 26; Nomvelo Sibanda 2-24) beat Zimbabwe (133-6, 20 overs) (Sharne Mayers 39, Mary-Anne Musonda 31) by four runs. Full scorecard here.
A late appearance from Rebecca Stokell ensured Ireland had enough runs on the board to edge out Zimbabwe in the semi-finals of their qualifying tournament in the United Arab Emirates and secure their spot at next year’s T20 World Cup in South Africa. It is the first time since 2018 that Ireland is taking part in the global flagship project.
After being used to bat on a toss, Ireland’s top order struggled to restore the fluidity of the previous game, Orla Prendergast being the only one in the top four to hit faster than running a ball as her usual strength was bolstered by extra Coverage on was ad. Gaby Lewis – like Prendergast – cleared the ropes down the leg side, but when she, Amy Hunter, Prendergast and Eimear Richardson all left with 96 runs on the board and just four overs left, a shot in the arm from the bottom order was required.
That’s exactly what they got from Stokell, the off-camera Merrion batter driving Zimbabwe’s spinner on the ground and over the middle wicket, their unbeaten performance of 26 of 12 balls at a 217 batting average brought Ireland to one competitive overall result.
In response, Zimbabwe got off to a cautious start as Jane Maguire scored twice on the power play, Kedlis Ndlovu bowled and Chipo Mugeri-Tiripano got a spoonful in the hands of Cara Murray for offside.
Zimbabwe fought back through Sharne Mayers (39), captain Mary-Anne Musonda (31) and later a cameo from Modester Mupachikwa (17 of 12). Overs 14 and 15 seemed to have swung the game towards Zimbabwe, Musonda and Mupachikwa winning 21 runs from bowling by Delany and Murray, boundaries from extra cover doing the most damage.
However, Arlene Kelly bowled Mayers, Musonda was stunned by Murray’s bowling, and Kelly later returned to clean Mupachikwa. In the closing stages, a required run rate of 10 and an over proved too much as Kelly continued her fine form and continued her fine form alongside Eimear Richardson who successfully got around the wicket and chipped the ball off the right. handlers.
Much like Wednesday’s win over Scotland, Ireland conceded afterwards that it wasn’t their best performance. Lost chances in the field were again a feature, but significantly, Stokell’s innings provided a solution to this batting side’s greatest weakness. Since Orla Prendergast’s rise in the rankings, power-hitting on death has been patchy at best, but Stokell raised her hand for the role of finisher with her match-winning efforts.
“Rebecca looked like she was batting a different wicket than everyone else,” said skipper Delany after the win. “She made it look so easy.”
“As a group we should be really proud. We’ve slipped in terms of our standards, but these are the games you want to play, we’re just thrilled to push the line. We will enjoy each other’s company tonight.”
With World Cup qualification secured, Ireland will face either Thailand or Bangladesh in the qualifying tournament final on Sunday.