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Sana Mir named as ambassador of ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier

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Final Group A and B standings can be located here
I have really enjoyed the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier so far. The tournament has produced some real moments of cricketing brilliance with all 10 teams giving it their all. The 20 group games were keenly contested and we are now down to the business end of the tournament, where one moment of brilliance can get you and your team to the ultimate target – qualification for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup – and on the other hand, one mistake can break it all and lead to big disappointment.

Amongst the four semi-finalists, UAE’s progress has been the most heartening to see as the other three semi-finals were largely expected to seal a knockout spot before the tournament began.

The UAE have a very disciplined bowling attack led by Samaira Dharnidharka (seven wickets in the group stage at 7.57) who has been very impressive throughout, the spinner Vaishnave Mahesh has also been in prime form for them. Esha Oza as captain and batter has been inspirational for the team especially with her attacking style of play and leadership, her strike rate has put pressure on the opposition throughout. It was also good to see her partner Theertha Satish coming back into form against Vanuatu.

Sri Lanka are a team that is a class apart from the rest, Ireland have also proven their worth and pedigree, these two teams have so far been a cut above the rest, mainly due to the quality of their players and the experience of playing in major ICC events.

Sri Lanka have had a different player of the match in each of their first three games which signifies the depth of their squad. Their biggest star Chamari Athapaththu is yet to perform with the bat (103 runs in the tournament) other than one innings against Scotland and while she did get the player of the match award last night, a big innings from her is still due and I have a feeling that with her special ability and big match temperament, she is likely to provide the fireworks with the bat in their semi-final clash which will determine Sri Lanka’s participation in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Bangladesh.

While Athapaththu is yet to fire, her opening partner Vishmi Gunaratne (135 runs at 67.50) has remained consistent. Kavisha Dilhari (seven wickets at 6.85) has been absolutely brilliant with the ball and has found good support from Inoshi Priyadharshani (six wickets).

Ireland have remained the best team by far from Group B, their openers Amy Hunter and Gaby Lewis (highest run scorer in the group stage – 151 at 37.75) have set the tone for them in the batting department, while captain Laura Delany has also shown great skill, temperament and the ability to dominate a match with both bat and ball, her all-round performance last night against the Netherlands, once again exemplified her talent.

Kathryn Bryce (142 runs at 71, five wickets) has been another captain who has led her side from the front with her all-round ability. She has found good support from Ailsa Lister but the rest of the Scotland batting has been a bit inconsistent so far and I feel that the batting group will need to fire in their do-or-die semi-final clash against Ireland.

Hannay Rainy has been a good, late addition to their bowling unit and has delivered well in tandem with Rachel Slater, Kathryn Fraser and Abtaha Maqsood.

The Netherlands missed out because they were not able to maintain the intensity and focus for the entire 20 overs. They played well in patches but couldn’t find a complete game for themselves. I was, however, impressed by their seasoned batter Sterre Kalis, as well as Babette de Leede and Robine Rijke, who put some good performances in the group stage but unfortunately the rest of the batters didn’t live up to expectations.

Thailand also produced some solid cricket in patches but failed to make use of the chances that came their way in the two major matches against Sri Lanka and Scotland. The injury to batting mainstay Natthakan Chantham, was a big blow and her absence hurt them in the all-important Scotland clash. I was impressed by the bowling ability of medium-pacer Chanida Sutthiruang and the all-round skills of Nattaya Boochatham. The team certainly has the potential to grow further in the years ahead.

For me the biggest story of the group stage was Vanuatu women who put the country on the cricketing map, Nasimana Navaika (highest wicket-taker in the group stage – 10 wickets at 7.50) produced a stunning performance in that win over Zimbabwe, for a team that has a small cricket setup with limited funds, a win over a Full Member team was truly a great story. Credit must also be given to their captain, Selina Solomon, whose leadership seems to have made a big difference to the team’s growth.

Rachel Andrew and Vanessa Vira are the two other Vanuatu players who have impressed me with their skill and quality. The most dazzling moment of the group stage for me was the in-swinging yorker by Rachel Andrews to Zimbabwe captain Mary-Anne Musonda which knocked the stumps out!

Zimbabwe and Uganda excelled in the field amid the disappointment of not reaching the semi-final stage. For Zimbabwe, Kelis Ndhlovu did not perform as expected, she has been a pivotal player for the team and her lack of form impacted the team’s performance. I was impressed by the all-round ability of Josephine Nkomo and the bowling performance of Audrey Mazvishaya who gained great confidence throughout the tournament and became a reliable bowler for Zimbabwe towards the end of the group games. Lindokuhle Mabhero also bowled with good discipline.

For Uganda, as expected, Immaculate Nakisuuyi remained the most impressive player, her player of the match performance against USA showcased her potential as the backbone for the team. Overall though, the team failed to make the most of the opportunities that came their way and were duly knocked out from Group A, finishing fourth win a solitary win.

The USA team unfortunately struggled to compete with the rest of the teams in their group. I feel they have some way to go and will have noted their need to improve in all three departments especially their batting strike rates. The opening bowler Geetika Kodali has promise and potential, it must have been a real confidence booster for her to dismiss Athapaththu in the first over last night.

I am looking forward to the two semi-finals as they should be fiercely contested with so much at stake in the presence of some quality cricketers in all four sides. While I think both games would be closely fought, my picks for the final and of course qualification for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup are Sri Lanka and Ireland.

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