Ireland, Scotland to have another go at making an impressive return from long hiatus

Laura Delany (l) and Kathryn Bryce will lead Ireland and Scotland respectively. © ICC/Cricket Ireland/ Women's CricZone

Scotland’s tour of Ireland got off to a wet start with the originally scheduled first T20I on Sunday (May 23) getting washed out without a single delivery being bowled. Cricket Ireland tweaked the schedule to have an additional match on the reserve day, Tuesday, and the match on Monday will be played as the series opener. The start of the match has been brought forward to 11 AM local time (3:30 PM IST). So, Ireland and Scotland players will have another go at restarting their international careers on Monday after a hiatus of more than 19 months.

When Ireland and Scotland last played international cricket in September 2019, the biggest event in the women’s game was still four months away. The world was running at its own pace and sanitizers and face masks were not part of our day-to-day life. No one even had heard about bio bubbles. But a lot has changed all over the world since then because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ireland’s tours to Thailand and Zimbabwe were canceled and the series against Scotland was postponed a couple of times. Now after a forced extended hiatus and with an eye on both T20 World Cup and the Women’s World Cup qualifiers in 2021, these two sides will face each other in four T20Is in Stormont, Belfast starting Sunday (May 23).

“Despite the disappointments of 2020, I know the squad is looking forward to the Scotland series with great anticipation and hopefully this is the first of a good block of fixtures in the lead up to the qualifiers,” Laura Delany, Ireland captain, said after the announcement of the series. She herself would be returning from an injury that prevented her from taking part in the Super Series after the first couple of rounds.

The hosts would hope to benefit from in-form 18-year-old Orla Prendergast who is eager for a long-awaited return to international cricket. She impressed with both bat and ball, playing for the Typhoons in the domestic competition.

“Orla was outstanding with the ball last Summer,” Delany told Women’s CricZone. “I think Orla’s confidence grew with each performance and she will lead our seam attack again this season.”

ALSO READ: Laura Delany, Gaby Lewis eager to take massive strides ahead of crucial year for Ireland

Apart from Delany, Shauna Kavanagh and Gaby Lewis will add experience to the Irish squad, that is missing the likes of Mary Waldron and Eimear Richardson. They have five news faces in Georgina Dempsey, Amy Hunter, Jenny Sparrow, Ava Canning, and Jane Maguire.

“In their absence, it’s going to have to be a team effort, and you’re asking young people to be your senior players,” Ed Joyce, the Head Coach of Ireland, was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo. “Delany, Lewis, Kavanaugh, and Prendergast are all young women but have played a lot of cricket and are clearly high-quality players.”

Ireland are yet to play an international under Joyce, and it is also a new beginning for Scotland, who have a new Head Coach in Mark Coles.

Without doubt, the Bryce sisters will hold key to the success of the Scotland side, which has the two uncapped players in Ikra Farooq and Ailsa Lister. While Kathryn and Sarah Bryce have been plying their trade in the English county circuit, the rest of the squad doesn’t have much of a game-time to lean on.

“It’s great to finally have international cricket to look forward to,” said Coles, speaking to this portal.

“We’ve got a good mix of youth and experience in the team. So this will be a good yardstick for me to see where we are currently and the work that lies ahead of us as we head into the World Cup and Commonwealth Games qualifiers.”

Abtaha Maqsood, who will also play The Hundred apart from the Bryce sisters, could make life difficult for the Ireland batters. Young Katherine Fraser, too, earned a word of praise from the new Head Coach.

ALSO READ: Cricket and COVID-19: Bracing for women’s cricket in a post-pandemic world

“Katherine is a real talent,” said the former Pakistan coach about the off-spinner. “She has only just turned 16 and she has played few games for Scotland now. She’s making her way but she’s got a lot of good things about her. She can bat a little as well so I am really excited about her.”

Apart from beginning their stints at the helm with a win, Joyce and Coles would be buoyed by the ICC Ranking points that are at stake. Will the hosts resume their domination over Scotland or will the tourists feel at home with a win in the first T20I on Monday?

Squads: 

Ireland: Laura Delany (c), Ava Canning, Rachel Delaney, Georgina Dempsey, Amy Hunter, Shauna Kavanagh, Gaby Lewis, Jane Maguire, Lara Maritz, Cara Murray, Leah Paul, Orla Prendergast, Celeste Raack, Jenny Sparrow, Rebecca Stokell

Scotland: Kathryn Bryce (c), Sarah Bryce, Becky Glen, Lorna Jack, Abbi Aitken-Drummond, Ikra Farooq, Abtaha Maqsood, Samantha Haggo, Katie Mcgill, Priyanaz Chatterji, Ailsa Lister, Katherine Fraser, Ellen Watson, Megan McColl