Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
Ireland's women are relying on a back door entry to the T20 World Cup qualifiers after crashing to a five-wicket defeat by Scotland yesterday in a low-scoring match in La Manga.
Only the winners of the five-team round-robin European qualifying tournament go through to next year’s global qualifiers and the Scots, who defeated Netherlands on Thursday, have only to complete the formality of beating Germany and France in their remaining two games to finish top.
But the highest-ranked team at the end of November who doesn’t qualify for the eight-team global qualifier gets an automatic entry and Ireland are in pole position to get the invite.
But this wasn’t the scenario that head coach Ed Joyce or his players wanted or even envisaged after beating Scotland, ranked three places below them, 3-1 in the series in Belfast back in May.
The one defeat was put down to rustiness — their first game for 20 months — but any team is vulnerable in a one-off match and Ireland yesterday lost the game they had to win.
Skipper Laura Delany decided to bat first, knowing it was going to be a much different task to the one 24 hours earlier when they thrashed 79 off the six powerplay overs and finished on 196 for two.
At the end of yesterday’s powerplay they were 23 for one with Thursday’s centurion Gaby Lewis out for eight. Delany followed in the eighth over for a single and only Eimear Richardson and Mary Waldron could follow opener Rebecca Stokell into double figures as Ireland totalled 89 for nine.
Yet, remarkably, Ireland were favourites when they restricted Scotland to 20 for four after nine overs and took the fifth wicket at the start of the 14th with the Scots still needing 48 to win.
An unbroken partnership between skipper Kathryn Bryce and Becky Glen, however, saw them home and Delany, who had conceded just eight runs and was saving her last over, did not get the chance to bowl the 20th over.
Despite a superb new ball spell by Ava Canning, the foot injury to opening partner Orla Prendergast, which meant she could bowl only two overs (for six runs)came back to haunt Ireland.
Scores: Ireland 89-9 (R Stokell 21; K Fraser 3-14, K McGill 2-18) Scotland 92-5 (19 overs, K Bryce 46 not out, R Glen 22 not out; A Canning 2-5, E Richardson 2-24). Scotland won by five wickets.