With just two places available remaining at the 2023 T20 World Cup, Ireland rose to the occasion and beat Zimbabwe by four runs to book their place at the 2023 ICC T20 World Cup in South Africa.
In what was a nail-biting match, Ireland's batters set the tone early as the top six all reached double figures before the bowlers formed a stronghold to keep the match tight and put pressure on the Zimbabwean side. Jane Maguire and Arlene Kelly took four wickets between them which proved them as the stand-out bowlers.
After batting first, Irealnd's Gaby Lewis got Ireland off to a flying start, flicking the second ball of the day down to the deep square leg boundary. When Amy Hunter joined Lewis as her opening partner, these two were the perfect pair. They looked to take the early initiative, punishing any short deliveries that came by. Lewis fell in the fourth over after she top-edged one to backward point, leaving Ireland with 25-1.
Orla Prendergast came in with a powerplay that led to her striking two fours and a six from her first nine balls. At this point Ireland is 44-1. Hunter got stumped in the 9th over when she advanced on Audrey Mazvishaya. Prendergast tried to take advantage of her second life, but she holed out at cover off the bowling of Kelis Ndlovu after she powered her way to 28.
Ireland did ride their luck at times as Zimbabwe dropped a few catches but the innings was in balance at 68-3. A 30-run partnership between Laura Delany and Eimear Richardson, followed by a 27-run partnership between Delany and Rebecca Stokell helped Ireland regain control. Stokell smashed 20 runs off the 18th over. Ireland finished on 137-6.
After the break, Ireland came out to bowl and Maguire claimed two early-wickets in the Zimbabwean run-chase. Zimbabwe did well to recover with Sharne Mayers and Mary-Anne Musonda posting a 50-run partnership. That was broken by Kelly in the 13th over where she clipped managed to clip the off step of Mayers and Zimbabwe then found themselves 71-3.
The run rate was upped as Zimbabwe went for broke but it was Cara Murray who struck to remove Musonda with a flighted delivery that spun away from the right-hander leaving her stranded, and Mary Waldon duly completed the stumping.
Delaney took the ball for the final over with 15 runs needed for the batting side. Ireland held onto the win, even though they found a boundary with the second ball.