By Shashank Kishore in Sylhet
Both teams have tried their best but faltered at crucial times during their matches so far
It can’t be easy for teams to get themselves up every time they are overwhelmed in the manner that Pakistan Women and Ireland Women have been at the ICC Women's World Twenty20 2014. But, to their credit, the reversals haven't reduced their intensity at training, and their intent in overcoming their shortcomings has been a heartening sight. But, perhaps, that intensity seems to run out come match day as the same mistakes are repeated.
Both sides came into the tournament on the back of plenty of matches against each other across formats in Qatar in January. Sana Mir, the Pakistan captain, emphatically stated that her team’s strength lies in the bowling, while Ireland expressed hope that its batters would give the young bowling attack defendable totals.
Sadly for Ireland, chasing targets of 172, 192 and 166 in its three matches hasn't allowed the batters even a semblance of an opportunity. Ireland is also yet to enjoy the luxury of winning the toss and has been shut out of the contest very early each time. Come Monday (March 31), it will be hoping for a change in fortune, starting with the toss, in its final Group A fixture at the Sylhet Divisional Stadium.
That both teams have had a torrid time isn't an understatement. Pakistan has dropped as many as seven catches in three matches, while Ireland has dropped nine, many at vital times. Meg Lanning, the Australia captain, was dropped thrice by Ireland during her 65-ball 126, but Isobel Joyce, the captain, suggested that athleticism wasn't an issue, particularly given that many players in the squad also train with rugby and football teams back home. The problem was pressure.
"You can let quality batters like Lanning get away once or twice, but definitely not a third time," said Joyce. "We spoke about doing the small things right, but unfortunately when the pressure is on we haven't been able to deliver. The best part is, in training we’re holding on to all of them. In training, we're giving it our all and the fitness levels have been right up there. It’s a matter of delivering at crucial times now."
Ireland's batting is top heavy. Clare Shillington, Isobel and Mary Waldron, the vice-captain, form a troika around which the batting revolves, while Cecelia Joyce adds muscle lower down. But Cecelia's unavailability due to a split webbing on her left hand further thins the middle order.
Pakistan is also grappling with the poor form of their bowlers, but the lack of a talent pool to pick from is clearly hurting them. Bismah Maroof, the vice-captain, said that more often than not, the team has had to rely on camps before a tournament to get together and play as one.
"I think more opportunities to play together will help us gel more and play as a team," she said. "I’ve looked up to our captain Sana Mir for inspiration. She has done her best to make it easier for us. We have to just keep going back and working hard. It’s not every day that we get to play on the world stage. Hopefully this experience will help us going forward."
In its previous match against Australia, Pakistan’s chase fizzled out early, but the team made a conscious decision to play out the overs. But once the first wicket fell, the batting collapsed in a heap, losing eight wickets for just 30 runs.
But, if it is looking for inspiration, it has to look only as far as three weeks ago when it beat Bangladesh Women 2-0 in the T20Is. A win can, therefore, bring a sigh of relief, while a loss will leave Pakistan with the ignominy of playing for the ninth- and tenth-place playoffs, which is what Ireland will also be trying to avoid.
Ireland Women: Laura Delany, Emma Flanagan, Isobel Joyce (capt), Mary Waldron (wk), Amy Kenealy, Jennifer Gray, Cecelia Joyce, Louise McCarthy, Kate McKenna, Lucy O’Reilly, Eimear Richardson, Rebecca Rolfe, Melissa Scott-Hayward, Clare Shillington, Elena Tice.
Pakistan Women: Nain Abidi, Nida Dar, Javeria Khan, Sana Mir (capt), Bismah Maroof, Batool Fatima (wk), Asmavia Iqbal, Qanita Jalil, Sumaiya Siddiqi, Sadia Yousuf, Nahida Khan, Sania Khan, Sidra Ameen, Marina Iqbal.