Ireland Tri-series: A unique opportunity for three teams with different goals

Australia, Ireland, Pakistan will featurein T20I Tri-series © Getty Images/ Cricket Ireland

A T20I tri-series is a highly unlikely occurrence among full members and the last tournament of similar ilk happened just before the seminal T20 World Cup 2020 in Australia, featuring the hosts, England and India. Although a full member, Ireland have had their struggles for fixtures against top teams, and qualifying for the ICC Women’s Championship seems like the boost they needed to get fixtures against those sides.

Ireland will host Australia and Pakistan in a tri-series that will act as a curtain raiser for both the visitors before they head to England for the Commonwealth Games 2022, while the Irish will get some much-needed game time. A win-win for all the parties involved then.

What’s at stake?

All the eight sides have been trying to prepare themselves for the coveted event in Birmingham in their own way. Except for Australia, Barbados, and New Zealand, the other five countries have been involved in international cricket in recent times.  There is no final in this tri-series and all three teams will get two shots at each of their opponents before the leader on the table walks away with the trophy.

This will serve as the return to international cricket for Australia post their World Cup triumph in New Zealand. For Pakistan, it is a chance to test themselves against the best side in the world, having last played them in the T20I format during the T20 World Cup in 2020. And it will also help them to see where they are at in terms of fending off challenges from a lower-ranked but competitive side like Ireland.

For the hosts, regardless of what happens in the series, this will be a good experience and they will be hoping to pose some threat to both the visitors. Going by their progress in recent times, Ireland have the opportunity to show the world that their one-off win against South Africa wasn’t a flash in the pan. They will also be buoyed by the availability of a full-strength squad after missing many players in the South Africa series for various reasons.

ALSO READ: Skipper Laura Delany returns as Ireland announce team for Australia and Pakistan Tri-Series

Players to watch out for:

Alyssa Healy: The Aussie wicket-keeper is one of the most exciting batters in the world and she needs no further invitation to go bonkers in a format that’s tailor-made for her. She will be returning to international cricket after that mammoth tournament-winning performance in the final of the World Cup 2022.

The 32-year-old always has a sense of occasion and will be one of the biggest trump cards for Australia when it comes to the Commonwealth Games. But Healy wouldn’t be looking that far ahead and will know to focus on the task at hand. If she comes off early in the power play, not many teams can come back into a T20 contest against her side.

Tuba Hassan: Tuba Hassan is only 21 years old and practices the rare art of leg spin. She flights the ball generously and can turn the ball a fair distance. But her only international appearances so far have come against a fledgling Sri Lankan side, where she gave a good account of herself with a Player of the Series performance. It remains to be seen what the leggie can do when the batters attack her from the outset, as Australia often do.

Pakistan will be hoping that Hassan will provide their bowling attack the potency they lacked otherwise in the shorter format and if she can combine with the young and impressive Fatima Sana, they might be able to ask a few questions against Australia, and especially Ireland.

Gaby Lewis: At 21, Gaby Lewis is already one of the greatest batters ever to have played for Ireland. In the South Africa series, she surpassed Clare Shillington to become the highest run-getter for the country in T20Is. The tall batter is wise beyond her years and led the side admirably against South Africa in the absence of regular skipper Laura Delany.

Ireland

Gaby Lewis will be the key for Ireland © Cricket Ireland

The return of her captain and leading allrounder Orla Prendergast will help Lewis to concentrate more on her batting and she will be in charge of getting Ireland off to flying starts in the company of teen prodigy Amy Hunter.

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

What they said?

“[It’s] just about finding our groove a little bit in the format. We haven’t played a lot of it over the last twelve months. With an importance sort of period coming up, this series here is a good start for us to really find that. We don’t know a lot about Ireland, we haven’t played them in a little while, but it’s exciting to come over here and play them.

Pakistan, we played them little bit more often, and they are a dangerous side and they have got some skillful players and I think it’s a really good way to start off the tour.”

Meg Lanning on Australia’s return to T20I cricket and their opponents

“We have individual goals and then we have team goals as far as each game. We know it’s going to be a tough contest and if we can take care of the areas we are focusing on, hopefully the outcome will look after itself.”

“We are under no illusion, this is going to be a tough series; both teams are here as preparation for the Commonwealth Games. They are going to field their strongest XIs. In saying that, there are certain areas of the game we want to target, and in doing so, we will put ourselves in a good position come the Qualifiers (T20 World Cup 2023 Qualifier) at the end of the summer.”

Laura Delany on the task at hand in the series and Ireland’s goals

Numbers

Australia have never lost a T20I to either of their opponents in the series. They have a 10-0 record against Pakistan and a 6-0 lead against the hosts. Ireland have managed to beat Pakistan twice, with the subcontinent team winning 12 of their 14 contests.

Meg Lanning is the only one to score a hundred in T20Is between these three sides and it came against Ireland during the T20 World Cup 2014. Her 126 off 65 balls was back then the highest individual score in the format, but it has been surpassed multiple times since then.

Squads:

Australia won’t have the services of Jess Jonassen for the first two matches as the left-arm spinner suffered a bout of COVID-19. She is expected to join to fly to Ireland only on July 18. Allrounder Heather Graham has been called up as cover for Jonassen and will be available for selection. Lanning also clarified that Ellyse Perry will only play as a batter during the tri-series.

As far as Pakistan are concerned, they have no injury worries and have a full-strength squad to pick from. Along with skipper Bismah Maroof, allrounders Nida Dar and Aliya Riaz will be the key players once again if they are to put on a good show in the tournament.

ALSO READ: I want to be the player who finishes matches for Pakistan: Aliya Riaz

Ireland will see the return of Delany, Hunter, as well as the exciting Prendergast to join the performers from the South Africa series. With a near full-strength squad available for selection, the hosts will look to pose some threat to opponents on their home turf. They have been easing Prendergast into competitive cricket and it remains to be seen if the talented allrounder will bowl in the series. As far as batting is concerned, she had a good outing recently with a century for Ireland Select XI against MCC XI in a T20 match at Merrion Cricket Club.

Australia: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes, Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Amanda-Jade Wellington, Heather Graham (for first two T2oIs)

Pakistan: Bismah Maroof (c), Aimen Anwar, Aliya Riaz, Anam Amin, Ayesha Naseem, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Gull Feroza (wk), Iram Javed, Kainat Imtiaz, Muneeba Ali Siddiqui (wk), Nida Dar, Omaima Sohail, Sadia Iqbal, Tuba Hassan

Ireland: Laura Delany (c), Ava Canning, Rachel Delaney, Georgina Dempsey, Amy Hunter, Arlene Kelly, Gaby Lewis, Sophie MacMahon, Jane Maguire, Cara Murray, Leah Paul, Orla Prendergast, Rebecca Stokell, Mary Waldron