Record Book – Ireland at the Women’s World Cup

  Ireland missed out on qualifying for the Women’s World Cup for the third time in a row, after failing to progress from the Super Six stage of the Qualifiers held in Sri Lanka earlier this year. However, the Irish eves have had their fair share of experience in the showpiece event of the women’s game. Here is a look back at how Ireland have fared in the tournament over the years.

1988

  The fourth edition of the Women’s World Cup, held in Australia as part of its Bicentenary celebrations, marked Ireland’s debut in a multi-team cricket tournament. One of the only five teams to feature in the double round-robin tournament, Ireland finished fourth with two wins in eight matches. Their first encounter with New Zealand at Perth was forgettable, as they went down by 154 runs.

  The very next day, Ireland, captained by Mary-Pat Moore, achieved their maiden ODI win, defeating the Netherlands by 86 runs at the Willeton Sports Club in Perth. After being put in to bat, Ireland rode on Stella Owens’ 66 to get to 196/5 in the allotted 60 overs. The Dutchwomen then crashed to 37/5 and could only manage 110/7, thanks to a disciplined Irish effort with the ball.

  A pair of one-sided defeats at Sydney, by ten wickets and seven wickets against heavyweights Australia and England respectively, put paid to any faint hopes Ireland might have had of an unlikely spot in the final. The action then moved to Melbourne’s Carey Grammar School Oval, where Ireland notched their second win, chasing down the Netherlands’ 143 with five wickets and 20 balls remaining.

1993

  A record eight teams contested the 1993 edition in England, with the 60-over format retained. Each team played every other once in the league stage, where Ireland, led by Moore again, finished a creditable fifth. Ireland bounced back from a seven-wicket loss to New Zealand in their first game with a 70-run win over Denmark at the Christ Church Ground in Oxford.

   Irish captain Miriam Grealey hits out during her side’s win over the Netherlands in the 2000 Women’s World Cup. She has scored 505 runs across four editions (source – espncricinfo.com) 

  A fifth-wicket stand worth 96 between the dependable Stella Owens (61) and Miriam Grealey (63*) helped Ireland recover from 84/4 towards a defendable 234/6. The Danes were restricted to 164/9 despite being placed at 105/2 at one point. Susan Bray was the pick of the bowlers with 3/22, while three run-outs pointed to a quality effort in the field.

  Three defeats then followed, but Ireland impressed in two, limiting the margin of defeat against Australia to 49 runs and taking six Indian wickets while defending 151. Ireland’s second victory came against the Netherlands at Marlow, where, chasing 135, they slumped to 104/8 before winning by two wickets. The Irish campaign ended with a narrow 19-run defeat to the West Indies.

1997

  The record for the most number of teams was broken again, with as many as 11 sides taking part in the 1997 edition in India. Ireland were clubbed in Group A, alongside defending champions England, Australia, South Africa, Pakistan and Denmark. The maximum number of overs per innings was now the standardised 50. Ireland were led by the seasoned Miriam Grealey this time.

  After their opening game against Australia was washed out, Ireland saw off Denmark by nine wickets in a rain-reduced, 23-over affair at Chennai. Pacer Barbara McDonald took 3/12 to restrict Denmark to 56/7. Ireland’s next two outings, against South Africa and England, ended in big losses, by nine wickets and 208 runs respectively.

  In what was a must-win, final group clash against Pakistan at the Nehru Stadium in Gurgaon, Ireland rose to the occasion with a resounding display. Grealey top-scored with a quickfire 62 in Ireland’s total of 242/7 before the off-spin duo of Catherine O’Neill (4/10) and Adele Spence (3/4) helped shoot Pakistan out for just 60 – extras being the highest contributor with 27.

  This win enabled Ireland to enter the quarterfinals, by virtue of finishing fourth in their group with 15 points. In the knockout, they met New Zealand at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Faced with a challenging total of 244/3, Ireland limped to 105/9 to lose by 139 runs. Grealey ended as the highest run-getter for her team, with 137 runs from five innings at 34.25.

     The Ireland Women’s team celebrate a Sri Lankan wicket at the 2000 World Cup. They went on to narrowly lose the game by ten runs (source – espncricinfo.com)

2000

  The tournament was back to the eight-team league format in 2000, with New Zealand being the hosts. Grealey continued being the Irish skipper, and her team was rolled over for 99 en route to an eight-wicket defeat to the hosts at Lincoln in their first match. Next up was Australia, against whom it was even worse as Ireland lost by ten wickets after being bowled out for 90.

  In the third game against Sri Lanka, Ireland fell heartbreakingly short of victory. After skittling their opponents for 129, Ireland steadily seemed on track at 65/2 in the 32nd over. But the pressure of the mounting required run rate led to a regular fall of wickets and they folded for 119 in 49.5 overs. This was followed by a tame eight-wicket defeat to a England.

  Ireland produced an improved display against India, but was not enough to prevent a 30-run defeat. Their solitary triumph came against the Netherlands at Christchurch where a total of 232/6, enough for a 41-run win, was reached thanks to Caitriona Beggs (66*) and Anne Linehan (54). In their last game, Ireland went down to South Africa by nine wickets.

2005

  South Africa hosted the event for the first time, with the format of the competition unchanged. Clare Shillington was now in charge of Ireland, who qualified after winning the inaugural World Cup Qualifier held in the Netherlands in 2003 undefeated. But the tournament proper would prove to be a different kettle of fish, as for the first time, Ireland ended without a single win.

  In their first completed match, Ireland suffered a nine-wicket drubbing at the hands of India after being bowled out for 65. Two days later, another sizeable defeat followed, this time to England by 128 runs. It was hardly any better against New Zealand – bowled out for 91 before losing by nine wickets – or against the West Indies, to whom they lost by eight wickets.

  A tough campaign ended with a ten-wicket loss to Australia, with Ireland’s struggle to 66/8 in 50 overs highlighting the gulf between the two sides. Ireland have played 34 matches across five editions of the World Cup, winning seven and losing 26. Miriam Grealey is their highest run-scorer with a tally of 505, while Catherine O’Neill, with 17 victims, is the highest wicket-taker.

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Who Would Have Thought It – Ireland’s first and only Test match

  Ireland may have set a target to become a Test team by 2020, but the fact is that the country has already been represented in official Test cricket quite a few years ago. Moreover, not only have Ireland played Test cricket, but they also boast of a 100% winning record.

  The match in question was a solitary Test between Ireland Women and Pakistan Women played at College Park in Dublin and which lasted just two days – 30th and 31st July, 2000. Ireland then were a clearly stronger outfit than Pakistan on the women’s circuit, and the gulf between the sides showed in the result.

  The ODI series preceding this four-day Test featured a string of heavy Irish successes. The hosts began by skittling Pakistan for 95 en route to a nine-wicket win in the first ODI, which was followed by wins with margins of 117 and 150 runs in the next two games. In tough conditions and facing a buoyant home side, the visitors were up against it from the word go.

  While Ireland were on Test debut, the Pakistani women had played one Test match before – against Sri Lanka in 1997-98, in which they were thumped by 309 runs. Led by the seasoned Miriam Grealey, the Irish side for this landmark match bore a mix of youth and experience, the average age being 27.

  The youngest member of the eleven was Isobel Joyce, who stepped down as Irish captain in March 2016. Joyce had just turned 17 and went on to deliver a wonderful bowling performance in this match. She was not even 16 when she made her ODI debut, against India in 1999, and till date remains one of the mainstays of the Ireland team.

  Amid moist conditions following overnight rain, Pakistan captain Shaiza Khan elected to bat on winning the toss, a decision she was probably left to rue. Medium pace bowler Barbara McDonald dominated the early proceedings, as she destroyed Pakistan’s top order with a testing spell of 3/9.

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     A 17-year-old Isobel Joyce starred in Ireland’s inaugural Test with a brilliant bowling display (source – broadsheet.ie)

  McDonald’s burst ensured that Pakistan lost four wickets – including that of the captain – for as many runs to crash to 10/4, the remaining wicket going to leg-spinner Ciara Metcalfe. At the other end, off-spinner Catherine O’Neill gobbled the fifth wicket and Pakistan were staring down the barrel at 21/5.

  Opener Zehmerad Afzal – who presently plays for Cheshire – tried to dig in and shared in a partnership of 29 for the sixth wicket with Deebah Sherazi. However, the latter’s dismissal by O’Neill (3/15) triggered another collapse, as Pakistan succumbed to spin. O’Neill and Metcalfe, who finished with 4/26, made short work of the tail.

  Pakistan lost their last five wickets for just three runs to be bundled out for 53, consuming a painstaking 47.4 overs. Only two women reached double figures, Afzal top-scoring with an obdurate 25. Ireland’s bowling was both stifling and penetrative, as evidenced by 25 maiden overs. Though Saibh Young went wicketless, she conceded only a run in her ten overs.

  Ireland lost Clare O’Leary to Sharmeen Khan for a duck with only five runs on the board, but Pakistan failed to build on this start. Karen Young (58) and Caitriona Beggs (68*) put the game beyond Pakistan’s reach as they added 112 for the second wicket. Nazia Nazir took two wickets, but it hardly unsettled the Irishwomen.

  Wicketkeeper Anne Linehan (27*) belted a few quick runs as Ireland set their sights upon a declaration. With the score reading 193/3 in 47 overs, Brealey decided it was enough, especially since there was always a possibility of rain hampering her team’s onward charge. With a lead of 140 on the first day itself, Ireland were well on top.

  Pakistan reshuffled their batting order for the second innings, but it hardly helped. Sheerazi, promoted to open, was cleaned up by McDonald as the eventful first day drew to a close. A circumspect Pakistan ended the day at 8/1, facing an uphill task to stay alive in the contest.

  The second day belonged to the teeanged Joyce, whose left-arm medium pace proved to be too hot to handle for the visitors. There was no play before lunch due to rain and when the match resumed, Joyce took full advantage of the seam-friendly conditions.

  Joyce began by bowling Sajjida Shah and trapping Nazir LBW, both for ducks, to reduce Pakistan to 8/3. She followed it up by having the talented Kiran Baluch caught behind. Khursheed Jabeen and Afzal attempted a revival by adding 34 for the fifth wicket, but the writing was already on the wall. 

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     Caitriona Beggs top-scored for Ireland in their inaugural Test with an unbeaten 68 (source – womenscricket.net) 

  Afzal top-scored for Pakistan again with 20, before she became the first of three wickets to fall to O’Neill (3/12) while the score regressed from 56/4 to 62/7. Jabeen stoically faced 156 balls, but could manage no more than 13 runs as Joyce returned to complete the last rites.

  The last three wickets all fell bowled to Joyce as Pakistan’s agony came to an end after 54.1 overs, in which they crawled to a total of 86. Joyce, who did not bowl in the first innings and came in only as the fifth bowler in the second, finished with remarkable figures of 6/21 in 11.1 overs.

  Ireland had won their first ever Test match by an innings and 54 runs in less than two days. While Ireland had galloped at 4.11 runs an over, Pakistan managed a rate of just 1.36 across both innings. Joyce was named as the player of the match for her bowling effort. It could not have been a better start.

  Due to the Test getting over in double-quick time, two additional ODI matches were played at the same ground as an extension of the original series. Ireland won the first of these while the second was washed out, giving the home team a 4-0 win in the five-match series. 

  Unfortunately, Ireland’s inaugural Test also turned out to be their last. Women’s Test cricket across the world has gradually declined ever since, and today, except for Australia and England and to a certain extent India, it is virtually a dead concept. The rise of Twenty20 has instead given women’s cricket a highly feasible format.

  Ireland’s women are not alone to have enjoyed a successful start in Test cricket without going on to play their next. Sri Lanka too have never played a Test after beating Pakistan in the aforementioned match. Pakistan themselves have played only three Tests in all and none since 2004. 

  As the Ireland men’s team gears up for the prospect of Test cricket within the next three years, let us not forget their female counterparts’ commendable achievement of winning their first official Test match in resounding fashion sixteen years ago.

Match Scorecard