Lewis hoping for big Irish showing in upcoming World Cup

It was the afternoon of the 12th of July this summer that Ireland booked their World Cup tickets to the West Indies.

It wasn’t a simple task either, especially having been restricted to 113 by Papua New Guinea in the Qualifiers semi-final.

Yet, Ireland found an extra level, a grit and determination to bowl out their opposition for 86. The tickets were booked. The celebrations could commence. Those celebrations were a relief to Gaby Lewis in particular, who confesses that she was “on edge” and was “very nervous throughout the whole game.”

The YMCA all-rounder had contributed a vital 36 with the bat and her club teammate, Lucy O’Reilly, produced a terrific spell of 3-13 to secure their World Cup spot.

The final of the Qualifying tournament didn't quite go to plan for the Irish. Lewis said that the team “was very confident” after restricting Bangladesh to 122 at half-time.

The chase could never get going and they eventually ended up falling 25 runs short. A disappointment but not a tragedy. The qualification topped off what had been a terrific personal summer for Lewis, who had recorded her maiden International T20 half-century against New Zealand in a home series.

She added another the following month against Bangladesh for good measure. The summer series’ before the qualifiers had also provided Lewis with an opportunity to take on more responsibility within the team.

Since the qualifiers, the World Cup has been the goal to work towards. Two weeks ago, the squad travelled to their La Manga base in Spain.

Lewis said “there was a lot of emphasis on squad building”, and “acclimatising to the new conditions.” The weather out in La Manga was a welcome relief for the squad who won’t ever be able to replicate Caribbean conditions in Ireland. This at least was a decent compromise.

However, the new state of the art facilities out in Abbotstown have allowed for better sessions in Ireland as well. The squad have gotten the best opportunity to prepare for this tournament and Gaby Lewis realises this.

“It’s fantastic to be out training in a place where all the key athletes in Ireland are.”

The preparation has allowed new Irish recruit, Celeste Raack, to fit in to the squad. The Australian born leg-spinner holds an Irish passport and after playing some cricket for Merrion and in the Super 3 competition, she has been given the chance.

Lewis was thrilled with this news and said that the squad “welcomed her with open arms, we know the talent she has as a leg-spinner. Raack can add valuable support to the already strong spin attack of Ciara Metcalfe and Eimear Richardson. In an age where spin is becoming so prevalent in T20 cricket, this strong attack could prove crucial.

As well as a lot of the other squad members, Lewis represented Ireland out in India in the previous T20 World Cup. They failed to gain a success in that tournament and Lewis has stressed how “we want to show everyone how far we have come in the last two years.”

“We’re very hopeful we can cause a few upsets in the tournament and get a win or two on the board,”said Lewis.

When watching the Irish Women’s Cricket team, it is hard not to notice the cohesion within the team. It really is a team effort and credit must go to captain and coach combination of Laura Delany and Aaron Hamilton for this.

Delany is now just over two years in the role after Isobel Joyce stepped down. She seems to have great backing from a well balanced side, who combine great experience with a youthful energy brought by the likes of Lewis, O’Reilly, Garth and Maritz.

The team gels well and therefore their successes are that bit sweeter. Before facing Australia in their first group stage game of the tournament, Ireland have two vital warm-up games. Lewis highlighted the importance of these games, as an opportunity to “acclimatise as best as we can” and to “make sure we stick to our processes.”

There is not much fear within the side, who face a daunting group of Australia, New Zealand, India and Pakistan.

“We will go into every game as positive as we can. We will focus on our basics and not worry too much about the opposition,” said Lewis.

The last few years has seen a great growth of Women’s cricket both globally but in particular, in Ireland.

Home series’ against Australia, South Africa and New Zealand have yielded bigger crowds and bigger opportunities. Gaby Lewis can’t see any reason why they can’t “progress that even further in the next few years.”

The aim for Lewis and the other squad members is to play professional cricket, Lewis said: “to do this as a job would be my biggest aim.”

The Irish Women’s Cricket Team face an uphill task in the upcoming T20 World Cup but that won’t dent their mindset going into the tournament.

Buoyed by the success of the Irish Women’s hockey team and in particular, Elena Tice, who had played cricket at the highest level, the Irish team will be eager to show up well.

And who knows, cricket is a funny game. Stranger things have happened. Let’s all hope for a few big Irish upsets.