What were you doing on your sixteenth birthday? Was it a remarkable day? Did you achieve anything significant up to that point? These are questions that can put someone in the throes of an existential crisis. But not Amy Hunter, for she is sixteen and has her whole world ahead of her.
October 11, 2021: Hunter turned 16.
Ireland were playing the fourth and final ODI of their series against Zimbabwe at the Harare Cricket Club.
Despite the number of talents involved, an Ireland-Zimbabwe clash is a low-key affair even at the best of times. The series was historic for the hosts, for they were playing their first official series in the format after being awarded international status. The visitors were returning to the format for the first time since 2018 and they were already 2-1 up in the series.
Zimbabwe skipper Mary-Anne Musonda opted to field in the hope of levelling the series. Ireland’s in-form openers Leah Paul and Gaby Lewis – who shared two consecutive century partnerships in Ireland’s two wins – took strike. They added 40 runs before Paul fell to Esther Mbofana in the ninth over.
In walked Hunter, with a grand tally of seven runs in the format. She made her ODI debut in the first match of the series, batting at No.7, and was out for two. In the next two matches, she was promoted to No.3, but managed only two more single-digit scores.
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Hunter played out six dot balls while Lewis was looking in pristine touch at the other end.
Amy Hunter with her Instonians CC Under-11Cs team-mates © InstoniansCC/Twitter
Rewind to a few years ago; Hunter is now eight/ nine years old. It was a Friday night. She was starting her cricketing journey with the Instonians Cricket Club Under-11 C team. In the year after she went on to play NCU boys Under-11 side.
Two years later, Hunter made her debut in Super 3s – Ireland women’s domestic competition –for the Dragons. She was also selected to play for Ireland’s Under-15 side. The prodigy continued her rapid strides from thereon. Under-19 selection followed the next year and then the Ireland Academy.
In November 2020, at the age of 15, Hunter received her maiden call up to represent Ireland against Scotland. Unfortunately for her, a postponement meant she had to wait a little longer. She eventually made her international debut in May this year in a T20I home series against Scotland. She batted at seven and scored two as Ireland lost the match by 11 runs. It was a completely unremarkable debut.
Ed Joyce took over as the head coach of the Ireland side in 2019 and they had to wait till May this year to play under him. Glenn Querl was appointed as the women’s performance and pathway coach ahead of the series in April. The duo and management didn’t put any pressure on Hunter despite three consecutive failures. She had worked extensively on her batting, mindset, and game plans with them. The main focus was on getting her to bat for a long time.
“The management team particularly Ed and Glenn just told me to be really positive at the crease and back my skills. No one put pressure on me despite previous low scores,” Hunter tells Women’s CricZone. “I have worked pretty closely with Ed this season, primarily on game plans and mindset. I have always struggled with batting for long periods of time but Ed has been invaluable to work with.”
Now, back to October 11, 2021.
Hunter was still on zero off six balls, and at the other end, Lewis –another child prodigy – was in the form of her life. What were the thoughts going through the 16-year-old’s mind?
Amy Hunter and Gaby Lewis in the middle © Cricket Ireland
“I just wanted to give myself a chance to get in and experience what international cricket was really like,” Hunter, a student of Methodist College Belfast, says. “The only real plan I had was to be really positive in my batting and to play my own game, taking bowlers on from the beginning.”
11 runs came from the next four balls, doubling her career tally.
“I was just focusing on giving myself a chance and hopefully getting into double figures.”
20 overs done, Lewis was batting on 51 off 55 and Ireland were one short of 100. Lewis looked on course for her maiden ton, but the focus was on posting a score that they could defend for an outright series win.
“It was great to be able to bat with Gaby. In the middle, Gaby and I mainly just chatted about batting long but still showing intent to score runs and to enjoy it. She was so supportive of me and kept reassuring me about my plans, it was an amazing experience,” Hunter recalls.
Unfortunately, Lewis got out for 78 off 86 balls off the bowling of Loryn Phiri. Yet another opportunity to register a century missed by an Ireland player in the series along with Paul’s 95 in the second match and Lewis’ 96 not out in the third. Skipper Laura Delany joined Hunter in the middle.
Over number 31, Hunter was on 48 off 62 with Delany at the other end.
At the start of the day, all she had wanted was to reach double figures; now she was in sight of a milestone.
Off the second ball of the over, Hunter took a couple off Mbofana to reach her fifty. Considering her struggles through the series, registering a maiden international fifty was a significant achievement. She was thankful to have her skipper to guide her through it.
“It was great to bat with Laura. She’s incredibly clear about her plans and I think this really helped me when I was out there as she helped me establish what I was trying to do and supported me in doing it,” Hunter, who is supported by the Mary Peters Trust, says.
“I have played a lot of cricket with Laura at the Typhoons. She’s an amazing person to play under as regardless of how you are doing, she will always support you and back you. This season when I was struggling for Typhoons, she kept backing and reassuring me. Laura has definitely made me a better cricketer. I have
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