IRELAND Women have got their hardest match at the World Cup qualifying tournament in Harare out of the way with a more than respectable performance, as they lost to West Indies by six wickets.

Laura Delany’s side kept the tournament favourites in the field for 40 overs, before they reached their target of 160 and they will go into Thursday's must-win game against Netherlands at the same venue, the Old Hararians Sports Club, in good heart.

Gaby Lewis and Leah Paul provided Ireland with the perfect start yesterday, putting on 79 for the first wicket in what should have been exactly 20 overs but the officials miscounted and allowed a seventh ball in the over and, as fate would have it, Lewis drove it back and the bowler held a superb low catch to her left.

It proved a fatal dismissal because, next ball, Paul turned her back on new batter Amy Hunter after setting off for a single and the Instonians teenager, forced to turn back, was run out without facing.

Paul was then bowled at the start of the next over and, suddenly Ireland were 81 for three. Five overs later, Delany and Orla Prendergast were dismissed within four balls of each other and the middle order, which had struggled in the two warm-up games, was again found wanting.

Eimear Richardson, batting at seven, was the exception although she was grateful for a ‘life’, dropped at extra cover, when she was on eight. The experienced all-rounder reached 32, with four fours and a six, before she was eighth out, stumped off a wide in the 42nd over. The last two wickets could add only three runs leaving seven overs unused as slow bowlers took seven of the wickets – Mary Waldron and Celeste Raack the only batters dismissed by pace.

With Prendergast still unable to bowl in every match, Waringstown’s Cara Murray lost her place in the team to seamer Georgina Dempsey but the only wicket Ireland managed in the first 19 overs was a run-out, the unlucky Rashada Williams backing up too far and beaten by Raack’s deflection from a drive by the free-scoring Deandra Dottin who had scored 42 of the first 51 runs when she was dropped by Raack.

Dottin brought up her 50 from 47 balls with seven fours and a six but it was credit to the Irish bowlers who restricted her to 23 from her next 38 deliveries, with only two more boundaries before Richardson held a comfortable return catch.

However, by that stage, halfway through the innings, West Indies needed only another 47 runs and a second wicket for Richardson was Ireland’s only other success.