All to play for at ICC European Women’s T20 Qualifier
The ICC European Women's T20 Qualifier gets under way in Bready this week with hosts Ireland, Scotland and The Netherlands battling it out to claim the title.
There's an extra incentive at stake as well, as two of the three countries will go forward into the World Cup qualifiers as European representatives.
Ireland captain Isobel Joyce is full of confidence going into the competition and told ICC Europe: "We go into the tournament at full strength after Eimear Richardson returned to Ireland just this week from New Zealand where she has been living and playing since the World Cup Qualifiers last November. We are a very close unit after a busy summer playing in the English County Championships, as well as playing against England and India."
Ireland currently sit top of the ECB County Championships and won the T20 Division 3 Cup just last weekend. Joyce was reluctant to single out any individual, emphasising the all-round strength and depth of the squad: "There are any number of players with the ability to stand out next week as we have lots of options up top in the batting and bowling line-ups. Kim Garth has had a good all round season and Richardson was player of the tournament the last time we hosted it. And of course Clare Shillington, who has the ability to dismantle any bowling attack, will be looking to continue her good form this season as will her usual opening partner Cecelia Joyce."
"We are very hopeful of gaining one of the two World Twenty20 Qualifier spots that are up for grabs and go into our series the following week with Bangladesh and Pakistan confident that we can claim a few scalps."
Defending champions The Netherlands are another side who have enjoyed an excellent season thus far. Like Ireland they too claimed their T20 County Championship title, and will be confident of success. They have a new captain at the helm, with Denise Hannema replacing Helmien Rambaldo.
The Netherlands have once again selected the nucleus of the squad which deservedly won the title in 2011, with no fewer than eight of the team being named. There is a fresh look to the squad though with teenagers Heather Siegers, a highly rated wicketkeeper/batsman who is among the leading run scorers in domestic cricket, and Cher van Slobbe, a promising seam bowler.
Other new faces include Sjoukje Minnema, and Tessa van der Gun who are both talented batters. There's also a welcome return for new ball bowler Mariska Kornet, who missed last season through injury. There's been a new resolve and steely determination surrounding the Netherlands in recent seasons, and they won't relinquish their crown without a fight.
Scotland captain Abbi Aitken is also confident that her Scotland side will give a good account of themselves in the forthcoming tournament. "We've got a great balance in the squad at the moment with plenty of experience but we've taken the chance to introduce a few youngsters, so this will be a great opportunity for them. Overall the squad has a youthful look to it, but many of our players have played plenty of matches. I'm only 21 myself but have been in the Scotland set-up for 7 years."
Which players was Aitken looking for big performances from in the coming week? "Kari Anderson has been exceptional for us and you can always rely on her with both the bat and ball, and we'll be all looking up to her. Leigh Kasperek is an exciting talent and she's been on loan from Scotland to Essex who play in Division One, and also wintered in Australia. We'll be looking for big performances from her with the experience she's gained. We haven't seen much of her in a Wildcats shirt because of the loan, but she seems to have been in pretty good form. We've also a 14 year old called Kirstie Gordon who's coming away with us for the first time so she's a bit nervous. She's a very talented spinner so she could be pivotal in the T20 format."
The build up to the tournament has been a stop start affair for Scotland, hampered by the wretched weather which has affected most of the country. Aitken said: "We've really suffered with a lot of the domestic cricket being washed out. We play all our games away in the County Championships, but it too has seen about 50 percent of our fixtures cancelled. We're currently sixth in the table and we have our final game against Ireland following the tournament.
"With two from the three countries qualifying, everyone has to fancy their chances. It's important to take each game as it comes, and if things don't go to plan in one match to put it quickly out of our minds and concentrate on the next. The games come thick and fast so there's no point dwelling on a poor performance. All I ask from my players is that we go out there, enjoy it and play to the best of our ability, and hopefully that will see us qualify."
The tournament at Bready runs from August 14-16, with two games each day at 9:30am and 3pm.
The squads in full are as follows:
Ireland; Isobel Joyce, Emma Beamish, Laura Cullen, Laura Delany, Emma Flanagan, Kimberley Garth, Cecelia Joyce, Louise McCarthy, Eimear Richardson, Melissa Scott Hayward, Clare Shillington, Elena Tice, Mary Waldron
Scotland; Abbi Aitken (captain), Kari Anderson, Charlotte Bascombe, Priyanaz Chatterji, Lynne Dickson, Kirstie Gordon, Samantha Haggo, Lorna Jack, Leigh Kasperek, Elizabeth Priddle, Fiona Urquhart, Nadia Wheeler, Kathryn White
The Netherlands; Denise Hannema (captain), Leonie Bennett, Laura Brouwers, Caroline De Groot, Esther De Lange, Maxime Entrop, Mariska Kornet, Sjoukje Minnem, Helmien Rambaldo, Heather Siegers, Cher van Slobbe, Miranda Veringmeier, Tessa van der Gun
The fixture schedule: