Player of the match in Ireland’s opening encounter against Japan, Clare Shillington receives her trophy from Cricket Ireland president Robin Walsh

Malahide cricket club’s Clare Shillington brought Ireland to the precipice of Twenty20 World Cup qualification with back-to-back player of the match performances for Ireland in their two opening qualifying games.

Indeed, Ireland’s most capped female cricketer added a couple of records to her tally into the bargain with stunning displays against Japan on Canada.

In the former tie, Shillington became the first Irish woman to score a Twenty20 century when her showing underpinned a massive 117-run win over the Asian side.

She hammered an unbeaten 114 from just 72 balls at Milverton, aided by Cecelia Joyce who chipped with 40 not out to help Ireland to a total of 170-1.

During that monster innings, Shillington hit 13 fours and two sixes, picking out all corners of the Fingal ground.

Japan, meanwhile, were dismissed in jig-time, with Elena Tice taking three wickets while fellow teenagers Lucy O’Reilly and Kim Garth also picked up a number of cheap wickets to leave Japan all out for just 53.
Shillington then provided the bedrock for victory over Canada in their second game, beating the north American side by 77 runs at Anglesea Road.

Following up her ton, her knock of 81 from 61 balls was the game’s defining innings. Indeed, another century was on the cards before she was run out in the 18th over having provided well over half the side’s runs.

Key to her performance were some lovely straight bat hitting, driving a series of boundaries in reaching her half century from 40 balls with nine fours.

She put on 71 for the opening partnership with Isobel Joyce and, while there were a few tremors in the middle of the line-up, Shillington’s runs saw the side run up a competitive 146 for seven for Canada to chase.

And when Eimear Richardson struck in the second over, the pressure started to build on the visitors. They struggled to get the ball away with any degree of consistency, limping to 33 from 10 overs as Ireland found the tightest of lines. With overs running out, they endeavoured to hit out but never truly threatened.

It qualified Ireland for the semi-finals of the competition despite a heavy loss to Sri Lanka, giving them effectively two shots of taking one of the three qualifying for the World Cup which will take place in Bangladesh in 2014.

The first opportunity was missed on Monday when Ireland lost to Pakistan at Claremont Road but, at the time of going to press, they are looking forward to taking on the Netherlands for the final qualification berth.