Despite a valiant effort, New Zealand’s 172, powered by some fierce hitting, was too much for the Associate nation
New Zealand exposed the gulf between Associate level and top-flight cricket as Ireland was handed a reality check on its ICC Women's World Twenty20 debut at the Sylhet Divisional Stadium on Tuesday (March 25).
Ireland fought valiantly but the batters couldn't make up for the missed opportunities on the field as a target of 173 was too distant. Clare Shillington and Cecelia Joyce showed promise but couldn’t match the stirring display put together by Suzie Bates and Frances Mackay earlier, as Ireland went down by 42 runs.
In the end, it had to settle for 129 for 5 off its 20 overs – the margin of victory a lot less than what one could've imagined at the halfway mark after New Zealand put up the tournament's highest total so far.
Bates and Mackay revelled in a 116-run opening stand that was based on a mixture of pure timing and fierce hitting. Along the way, they were helped by plenty of freebies from the Irish Women, who looked a touch nervous. The inconsistency in bowling, at times, was also courtesy some unsettling tactics by Bates.
Right from the start, it appeared as if Ireland was chasing the game. Bates took a particular liking to Louis McCarthy, who conceded 39 off her four overs. As if to prove New Zealand's batting wasn't just about bit hitting, Mackay played second fiddle to perfection. But as the boundaries started to flow, Ireland's fielding lax started to surface.
A number of regulation stops at the boundaries were let off, fielders were guilty of not backing up and for a moment, the team was running out of ideas. It took Isobel Joyce, the captain, to bring her troops together for a small chat to set things in order.
Bates brought up her half-century in the 11th over off just 37 balls and looked set to near in on a century till she got the toe end of the bat to a flighted delivery by Eimear Richardson, the off-spinner, to Elena Tice at long on.
Out walked Sara McGlashan at No. 3 and ensured the momentum switch was seamless. Her first four scoring shots consisted of two fours and a six – a pull that rocketed past square leg, a chip over mid-on and a powerful hit over the bowler's head.
Although New Zealand lost the wickets of Rachael Priest and MacKay, who made 51, in the quest for quick runs at the end, McGlashan's unbeaten 34, which consisted of two fours and three sixes, seemed to have knocked the stuffing out of Ireland.
But to its credit, Ireland soldiered on bravely through its chase, despite being under the cloud of an escalating asking rate. Isobel played a couple of rasping drives, while Clare Shillington, who was put down twice, displayed brute power during her 25-ball 28.
The attractive innings came to an end when Chillington chipped the easiest of return catches to Mackay in the eighth over, as the innings lost some momentum. When Elina Tice and Isobel fell in the space of two overs, Ireland's chase fizzled out as it found itself trying to cover some lost ground.
Cecelia Joyce, Isobel's twin, then displayed some panache in her unbeaten 24-ball 43, a knock that was bordering on unorthodoxy at all times. Three of her four boundaries came courtesy a reverse sweep, reverse pull and a paddle, perhaps the pressure of not having to play with an eye on the asking rate helping her cause.
The result helped New Zealand maintain its all-win record and also help it steer clear with a superior net-run-rate. Although it won't matter if the side keeps winning, the math magic could come in handy if teams are tied on points. On the night, New Zealand scored on all fronts.