Cricket: Women’s Twenty20

Darty’s Delany hoping for big things in Africa

by Aaron Dunne
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On the eve of the Ireland women’s cricket team’s departure to South Africa for the 2023 ICC T20 World Cup, captain Laura Delany – who hails from the small south Dublin suburb of Dartry – opened up about what is driving her ambitions for this tournament and what the squad are expecting at their first involvement at a global tournament since 2018. 

Ireland, who qualified for the tournament after coming through a tough qualifying tournament in Dubai last September, has been drawn in Group B where they will face England, India, Pakistan, and West Indies.

This will be the second T20 World Cup that Delany will captain the Irish side, having previously done so in 2018, and will be playing in her fourth T20 World Cup.

Speaking after training at North County Cricket Club, Delany said:

“We’re all eagerly awaiting that flight and looking forward to getting over there. By the time we face England in our first Group game we will have played four warm-up games in local conditions. This opportunity to acclimatise will be crucial as we are coming from the middle of our winter back at home. We have been preparing well in our indoor facilities and at the Sports Institute in Dublin and Belfast, but it will be a welcome opportunity to get out on grass in South African conditions.”

According  to Delany, narrowly missing out on the last T20 World Cup was a motivating factor:

“It hurt us the last time, not qualifying for the T20 World Cup in Australia. It was hard for us as a squad to watch those games, but the way that we’ve come back has shown what this team is all about – our character and we’re now relishing the opportunity of going over and playing against some of the best sides in the world.

“The World Cup is where every team wants to be in any sport, so we’re really looking forward to it. There should be a strong Irish support there all right, as I know there are some families going out to South Africa to support us, which is brilliant. It’s nice to have support when you’re away from home, particularly at a World Cup.”

How has the team progressed in the lead-up to the tournament:

“We have quite a young squad.”

 [average age 24], but a squad that has certainly grown in confidence and character over the last few years. Nothing exemplifies this more than our tour to Pakistan late last year when we lost the ODI series, but bounced back to claim the T20I series at the end of a tough tour.

“I thought we had a really good summer. We had series wins against Holland and Scotland and then we had a really good performance against South Africa, winning one of the T20s at the start of June. So from a team point of view, everything’s heading in the right direction. From an individual point of view, some of the girls have put in really good performances over the last 12 months and I’m excited for them to go and show the world what they can do at the next level.

“We have a number of players with a great deal of experience and a cohort of younger players who have come into the senior set-up in the last 18 months.

“In terms of our strengths, we have quite an adaptable squad that has the ability to change based on the opponent, the conditions, or the state of the match. In years gone by, we perhaps lacked depth but that’s changing – we have a good pool of players now to call upon. Compared to the bigger nations we may have a small pool overall, but entering tournament conditions, we believe we have a good squad, and we’re keen to perform on the world stage.”

27 January 2023; Ireland women’s cricket head coach Ed Joyce with team captain Laura Delany, centre, and Laura Kilcoyne of Butlers Chocolates, official partner of Cricket Ireland, at Dublin Airport ahead of their departure for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2023 in South Africa. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

What is expected from conditions in South Africa:

“We haven’t played in South Africa for a few years but spent some time in Zimbabwe last year. While not exactly the same conditions, the southern African pitches are very different to what we are used to back home. Bowling coach Nathan (Hauritz) and Ed (Joyce) have spoken to us a good bit about what we’re likely to expect, a quick outfield and good wickets.

“We expect more bounce and pitches that reward variation with the ball. That is why I welcome the preparation camp we are going to prior to the start of the tournament. To have two games to acclimatise against good opponents in Bangladesh will be very welcome.”

Delany may be more than six years into her captaincy, but the role still makes her proud:

“I’m very honoured to be in the position that I’m in. To be able to impact and contribute to Irish cricket is something that I think every player in the team is very privileged to be in the spot to do. There’s a lot of players who missed out that would love to be heading off to South Africa with us – from a captaining point of view, it’s a challenge, but I love captaining this group. There’s so much potential, they’re super enthusiastic and keep me on my toes – and they keep pushing our senior players as well, which is brilliant. It’s a really competitive side at the moment.”

How does Delany compare the 2018 T20 World Cup squad with the 2023 squad?

“The makeup of this squad is very different. We had quite an experienced side back in 2018, who had played together for a number of years. Looking at the squad now, there’s definitely a mix of experienced players, but also a lot of players who have never played in a World Cup before. They’re incredibly enthusiastic, they’re eager to learn. It will be slightly different captaining in this World Cup, but I suppose every time you step out into the pitch it’s a new challenge. We’re just relishing the opportunity of going over there and playing in some very good stadiums, against some of the best sides in the world.”

First up is the world’s second-ranked side, England. How will the squad approach that challenge:

“It’s challenging playing against teams that you haven’t played against in years gone by. For a lot of the girls this will be the first time that they have ever play against England or India. In comparison, Pakistan and West Indies are two teams that we’ve played against recently enough, we know a lot about them. The way that we prepare for the likes of England and India is just watching as much video footage as possible, and then trying to put good plans in place and ultimately trying to execute them on the pitch.”

What’s has been Ed Joyce’s message to the squad ahead of the trip?

“Ed’s message has been quite consistent since he’s taken over. It’s to go out and play with freedom, to back yourself and to just enjoy being in the Irish jersey.”

What has been Delany’s favourite memory of playing in a World Cup?

“Probably leading Ireland out in our first game in the last T20 World Cup. Captaining that side was obviously a huge honour. A lot of experienced players that I’ve learned from and looked up to. So for me that was something that I was really proud of.

“My most memorable moment playing cricket for Ireland wasn’t actually at a World Cup, but at a qualifier. The final of the T20 World Cup Qualifier in 2015 against Bangladesh when it went down to the last ball, and we won by two wickets. I was fortunate to be out there with the bat when Lucy O’Reilly hit the winning runs. It was an incredible moment for the team!”

THE ICC WOMEN’S T20 WORLD CUP

The tournament website is: https://www.t20worldcup.com/

Ireland Women’s fixtures

The competition begins on Friday 10 February.

13 February: Ireland Women v England Women – (Boland Park, Paarl; start 1pm Irish time)

15 February: Ireland Women v Pakistan Women – (Newlands, Cape Town; start 5pm Irish time)

17 February: Ireland Women v West Indies Women – (Newlands, Cape Town; start 5pm Irish time)

20 February: Ireland Women v India Women – (St George’s Park, Gqeberha; start 1pm Irish time)

Should Ireland qualify for the semi-finals, they will play on either Thursday 23 or Friday 24 February, with the winner of those games facing each other in the final at the Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town on Sunday 26 February.

Head-to-head:

Ireland v England: the sides have played only one T20I in 2012 (England 1 win)

Ireland v Pakistan: the sides have played 18 T20Is (Pakistan 14 wins, Ireland 4 wins)

Ireland v West Indies: the sides have played 4 T20Is (West Indies 4 wins)

Ireland v India: the sides have played only one T20I in 2018 (India 1 win)

The Squad

Laura Delany (captain), Georgina Dempsey, Amy Hunter, Shauna Kavanagh, Arlene Kelly, Gaby Lewis, Louise Little, Sophie MacMahon, Jane Maguire, Cara Murray, Leah Paul, Orla Prendergast, Eimear Richardson, Rebecca Stokell, Mary Waldron.

For all other team squads see: https://www.t20worldcup.com/news/3011913

Ireland Women’s recent T20I form

Ireland were 2-1 winners in their thrilling T20I series against Pakistan in Lahore in November 2022. Gaby Lewis top-scored with the bat with 140 runs for the series, while Arlene Kelly took 5 wickets. Orla Prendergast has also contributed handsomely with both bat and ball.

Eimear Richardson has been competing for Northern Districts in the Women’s Super-Smash in New Zealand over the winter, scoring 70 runs and taking two wickets so far in the competition.

Where to watch

Fans can watch the Ireland Women’s matches in Ireland / UK on Sky Sports.

How to follow the games

All Ireland Women’s games at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup will be livescored on www.t20worldcup.com , with regular updates available via Cricket Ireland’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.

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