With the ODI World Cup set to be played in a few months time in New Zealand, the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier is starting from Sunday (November 21) in Zimbabwe. Pakistan will take on Bangladesh in the opening game, while Zimbabwe will play Thailand. Nine teams are participating in the tournament with the top three teams from the competition qualifying for the marquee event in March.
Initially, ten teams were divided into two groups of five, but Papua New Guinea withdrew at the last moment as some of the players tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, Group A will have only four sides while Group B will remain the same. Group A consists of Ireland, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Netherlands, while Group B includes Zimbabwe, Thailand, Pakistan, USA and Bangladesh. The top three countries from each group will qualify for the Super Six round, and the top three from there will be flying to New Zealand come next year.
The tournament was originally meant to be held in 2020, but was postponed due to the unprecedented outbreak of the pandemic as ICC moved it from Sri Lanka to Zimbabwe. Women’s CricZone takes a closer look at the teams from Group A ahead of the tournament.
Ireland are probably third in the pecking order in Group A behind West Indies and Sri Lanka, but they could be the dark horses in the tournament if you have to pick one. Based on recent form, they should be able to beat Netherlands and go through to the Super Six round. They won two series at home against Scotland and the Dutch side in the shortest format before going down against the former in the first match of the T20 World Cup Europe Qualifier to finish second on the table.
In October, Ireland played their first ODI series since 2018 and went on to beat Zimbabwe in a four-match series 3-1 in Harare. They once again showed their ability to bounce back after going down in the first match against the hosts but would want to arrest the trend of not starting a series well when they take on West Indies in their first match on November 23. They have a solid batting lineup and a varied bowling unit to boot with Orla Prendergast, Eimear Richardson, Cara Murray, Celeste Raack and Leah Paul in the mix. They will be hoping the experience of playing in the host country recently will hold them in good stead during the tournament.
Opener Gaby Lewis has been in red hot form in both limited over formats and smashed three consecutive fifties against Zimbabwe during the ODI series. She finished the series with 263 runs from four innings at an average of 87.66 including a career-best score of 96. The 20-year-old is already one of the experienced players in the side with 69 matches across formats to her name and she will be at the forefront of the batting side of things along with skipper Laura Delany. Ireland will be looking to her to once again provide solid starts if they were to challenge Sri Lanka and West Indies.
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One to watch
Ireland have an exciting array of young players starting with Lewis, and allrounder Orla Prendergast. But they have someone like Amy Hunter, the latest prodigy to hit the cricketing shores, at their disposal. The 16-year-old made news when she became the youngest centurion in ODI cricket breaking long-standing Mithali Raj’s record. She scored an unbeaten 121 in the fourth game on her 16th birthday on her way to smashing records. The young batter will be looking to take the confidence from the series to the global event and help Ireland become real contenders for a place in the World Cup 2022.
Squad: Laura Delany (c), Georgina Dempsey, Amy Hunter, Shauna Kavanagh, Gaby Lewis, Louise Little, Sophie MacMahon, Jane Maguire, Cara Murray, Leah Paul, Orla Prendergast, Celeste Raack, Eimear Richardson, Rebecca Stokell, Mary Waldron. Travelling reserve: Sarah Forbes. Non-travelling reserves: Alana Dalzell and Kate McEvoy
Netherlands are slotted in the group of death alongside some of the most experienced sides of the tournament who have recently played ODI cricket. The Dutch will play their first ODI since 2011 after the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier tournament in Bangladesh. Even though they have less experience of the longer format, their recent form and inclusion of experienced players make them an exciting unit, which can cause an upset or two.
The European regional qualifier in August was a mixed bag for the evolving side as they managed to beat Germany and France but were blown away by Ireland and the eventual champions, Scotland. On their tour of Ireland in July 2021, Netherlands beat the hosts for the very first time in the T20Is as young Babette de Leede scored an unbeaten half-century. They will certainly miss Miranda Veringmeier, the experienced batter, and wicket-keeper, who announced her retirement earlier this year.
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First up, Netherlands will face Sri Lanka, the side that haven’t played any international cricket for more than one and half year. That match will be followed by clashes against experienced Ireland and favourites West Indies. There are no easy ways out for the Dutch but they have a batting line-up, which now includes the likes of Sterre Kalis to put pressure on the opposition bowling units. There are limitations on how far this team will go in this tournament, but they can certainly challenge every single opposition.
Sterre Kalis has earned back her spot in the Netherlands squad on the back of some strong performances in domestic tournaments over in England where she has been plying her trade as a professional. The 22-year-old was the highest run-scorer for the Northern Diamonds’ (290 in eight innings at an average of 41.42 including two half-centuries) as they reached their second consecutive Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy Final. As one of the most experienced players in the squad, Kalis holds the key against the better-ranked teams. Although she hasn’t played for her national side over a couple of years, the Dutch management would like her to utilize the experienced she has gained in England.
One to watch
The 20-year-old Frederique Overdijk became a worldwide sensation when she became the first player to take seven wickets in the T20I match against France in the European qualifiers. She was the highest wicket-taker in the European qualifiers with 8 wickets. Even though her team could not go past Ireland and Scotland, Overdijk was economical throughout the tournament as she bowled with an impressive economy of 3.81 across four matches. Netherlands will look at the right-arm pacer to give them some early breakthroughs and build up the dot ball pressure whenever she is handed the ball.
Squad: Heather Siegers (c), Babette de Leede, Caroline de Lange, Eva Lynch, Frédérique Overdijk, Gwen Bloemen, Hannah Landheer, Iris Zwilling, Isabel van der Woning, Jolien van Vliet, Juliet Post, Marloes Braat, Robine Rijke, Silver Siegers, Sterre Kalis.
It's not often a team that is ranked in the top ten of ICC rankings in the ODI and T20I format go without playing international cricket for 20 months. Sri Lanka are the only full-member not to have played any international cricket since the T20 World Cup 2020. When it comes to the 50-over format, the island nation last played in October 2019 against Australia. There were a couple of international assignments that could have happened in the last 12 months, but unfortunately for Sri Lanka, they did not go through.
Going into the Qualifiers, Sri Lanka's preparation solely lies on the training camps and a few intra-squad and domestic matches under their belt. Despite no game time, it would be a mistake to rule Sri Lanka out. If anything, along with West Indies, Sri Lanka are at the top two contenders from Group A progress to the next round. While there is not much surprise when it comes to the selection of senior players in the squad, including Chamari Atapattu, Harshitha Madavi, Prasadani Weerakkody and Prasadani Weerakkody, Sri Lanka have a few youngsters in Vishmi Gunaratne, Imesha Dulani, and Sachini Nisansala, some of whom could be a trump card for them in the tournament. They would be confident that the mix of experience and youth would take them forward to the World Cup in New Zealand without much trouble.
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Skipper Chamari Atapattu is undoubtedly the most crucial player for Sri Lanka in their Qualifiers campaign. The southpaw is the only Sri Lankan cricketer to have some competitive match practice since the T20 World Cup last year. She played in the Women's T20 Challenge 2020 and also turned up for Perth Scorchers in the ongoing Women's Big Bash League. The allrounder played ten matches for Scorchers, scoring 182 runs at 30.33, including an unbeaten 70 in her final game before joining the national squad ahead of the Qualifiers. The team management would be hoping that their captain would continue the good form in the global event, leading Sri Lanka from the front with her performances.
One to watch
Vishmi Gunaratne is the youngest to have earned her maiden call-up for Sri Lanka in the squad. The 16-year-old allrounder is a fast bowler and opening batter from Ratnavali Balika Vidyalaya, Gampaha and Seenigama Ladies CC. In August 2021, Gunaratne rose to fame with a record-breaking century against Atapattu’s Chilaw Marians team. Gunaratne smashed 112 runs from 117 balls - a knock comprising 13 fours and two sixes - becoming the youngest woman to score a century in Sri Lankan multi-day cricket. If the 16-year-old gets a chance, she is someone the teams should keep an eye on, for Gunaratne could take the game away from the opposition with ease.
Squad: Chamari Atapattu (c), Harshitha Madavi , Inoka Ranaweera, Nilakshi de Silva, Hasini Perera, Sugandika Kumari, Oshadi Ranasinghe, Ama Kanchana, Udeshika Prabodhani, Achini Kulasuriya, Anushka Sanjeewani, Kavisha Dilhari, Tharika Sewwandi, Prasadani Weerakkody, Imesha Dulani, Vishmi Gunaratne, Sachini Nisansala. Reserves: Umesha Thimashini, Kawya Kavindi, Madushika Meththananda, Sathya Sandeepani, Lihini Apsara
Fresh off a 3-0 ODI series victory over Pakistan in Pakistan, West Indies will be high on confidence going into the Qualifiers in Zimbabwe. The top-ranked team in their group will enter the tournament as one of the favourites, not just to qualify, but win the whole thing. With their superstars in Stafanie Taylor, Deandra Dottin and Hayley Matthews returning to form, the 2016 Women’s World T20 champions will be hoping to revive their glory days.
After finishing seventh in the second cycle of the ICC Women’s ODI Championship - winning only six of their 21 matches - Taylor and co. have finally found some consistency this year. Under newly appointed head coach Courtney Walsh, West Indies have played three ODI series, beating Pakistan twice - once at home, and once away - and going down to South Africa at home.
Plagued by injuries in previous years, West Indies have announced a full-strength squad for the qualifiers. Their superstar all-round trio aside, the likes of Shemaine Campbelle and young Rashada Williams have added some much-needed depth to their batting unit. With the ball, they have the experience of Shamilia Connell, Shakera Selman and Anisa Mohammed who are well supported by the impressive Aaliyah Alleyne, Chinelle Henry, Qiana Joseph and Sheneta Grimmond.
With 5060 runs and 146 wickets under her belt, West Indies skipper Stafanie Taylor is one of the most accomplished allrounders in the world. On her team’s recent tour to Pakistan, Taylor recorded her seventh ODI hundred - an unbeaten 102 not out that helped West Indies chase down a total of 226 in the final match of the series. In typical style, she showed great calm under pressure after her side had been reduced to 15 for 3, playing out a difficult opening spell before taking toll on the spinners. Having missed the previous home series against South Africa, Taylor played herself into some form ahead of the qualifiers - something the team will be hoping she can carry through the tournament in Zimbabwe.
One to Watch
In a year of disappointments, the emergence of Rashada Williams has been a highlight for the West Indies. In only her second international series, the right-hand opening batter made a strong statement, finishing as her team’s highest run-getter. Williams amassed 157 runs in just three ODIs against a formidable South African bowling attack consisting of Marizanne Kapp, Shabnim Ismail, Ayabonga Khaka and Dane van Niekerk.
In the absence of regular skipper Stafanie Taylor, Williams showed the potential to become West Indies’ batting backbone in the years to come. Against South Africa, she posted scores of 37, 42 and 78 not out – the last knock of which led her team to their only win of the series.
Although Williams only scored a further 35 runs in the following series against Pakistan, her ability to occupy the crease for long periods has allowed the more established senior batter to play more expansively around her.
Squad: Stafanie Taylor (c), Anisa Mohammed, Aaliyah Alleyne, Shemaine Campbelle, Shamilia Connell, Deandra Dottin, Sheneta Grimmond, Chinelle Henry, Qiana Joseph, Kycia Knight, Kyshona Knight, Hayley Matthews, Chedean Nation, Shakera Selman, Rashada Williams