Abu Dhabi, Sep 24 (IANS): Friday was a day of pure elation for skippers Nigar Sultana Joty and Laura Delany, as their respective teams Bangladesh and Ireland qualified for the ICC Women's T20 World Cup, to be held from February 9-26 in South Africa next year by the virtue of winning their semifinal matches.
Ireland booked their place in the showpiece event with a dramatic four-run win over Zimbabwe. Put in to bat first, Ireland managed to post 137/6, with valuable contributions from the middle-order. The bowlers then managed to put the squeeze on the Zimbabwe batters to mark their fourth appearance in history of Women's T20 World Cup.
"It (qualification) is massively important for the growth of the game in Ireland. We feel fortunate that Cricket Ireland have introduced full-time contracts and I think we are starting to see the benefit of that. It is a lot of relief that we won," said Laura on sealing Ireland's ticket to the 2023 T20 World Cup.
Despite getting the T20 World Cup qualification narrowly, Laura credited Zimbabwe for giving them a tough fight and hoped for more matches to come for Ireland in future. "They ran us till the last ball, it was a very competitive game. We are thrilled to be there. We have tried to veer off from focusing on the World Cup. We weren't successful last time so wanted to do things differently."
"We are proud to have got over the line (on Friday). We had a very good season, some brilliant wins against some tough sides. Qualifying for the World Cup is the next step in the journey, we will get to play against some better sides, hopefully on a more regular basis."
Compared to Ireland, Bangladesh had a tougher task on hand of defending 114 against Thailand, who had won the hearts of cricket fans in their maiden T20 World Cup appearance in Australia in 2020. Veteran off-spinner Salma Khatun applied the brakes on Thailand with her spell of 3/18 to clinch their fifth appearance in their T20 World Cup history.
"We came here to qualify for the T20 World Cup, and we did it! We have been playing together for so many years, this is our time to show the world how good we are, how much we have improved as a side," stated Nigar, who had led Bangladesh in the ODI World Cup earlier this year.
Now, Bangladesh will square off against Ireland in the final of the qualifying tournament at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on Sunday. "There are a lot of experienced and talented players in our side, and we need to show the kind of potential we have. It was a little disappointing that we could not do well in batting (on Friday). But I was confident about my bowling side, and I am happy at the way we handled the pressure," concluded Nigar.