Billed favourites to book the final two spots for the forthcoming Women’s World T20 in the Caribbean, Bangladesh and Ireland lived up to the tag in the eight-team qualifying tournament with convincing semi-final wins over Scotland and Papua New Guinea. A victory in the final on Saturday will be as much a contest for bragging rights as it will to validate or reverse the result of the 2015 edition, where Bangladesh finished second behind Ireland.
Either Bangladesh or Ireland will face West Indies (in Group A) or Australia (in Group B) in the World T20 opener on November 9 and 11 respectively, pending the result in the final.
Ranked ninth and tenth on the ICC multi-format women’s team rankings, Bangladesh finished atop Group A with a 49-run victory at the VRA Ground in Amstelveen hours within Ireland topped Group B by defeating PNG by 27 runs at the venue.
Bangladesh’s entry into the World T20 comes on the back of a maiden Asia-Cup title-winning campaign in June, where they stunned heavyweights India twice. Ireland, meanwhile, recovered from big-margin, limited-overs series defeats against New Zealand and a 2-1 T20I series defeat against Bangladesh – both at home – less two weeks ago.
An unbeaten, three-match-winning streak heading into the semi-final meant the crucial tie against Scotland was only for Ireland’s to lose. Having being put in at the toss by PNG, a wicket off the second ball of the game inspired hopes of a potential upset, but only momentarily. A top-score of 36 from the in-form Gaby Lewis anchored a 47-run second-wicket stand for Ireland, before Lucy O’Reilly’s career-best 3 for 13 rolled over PNG for 86 in 19.2 overs.
For Bangladesh, their in-form opening pair of Shamima Sultana and Ayasha Rahman – who had laid the platform for the victors in the low-scoring Asia Cup final – added 51 in 6.5 overs, before middle-order batsman Nigar Sultana’s 31 lifted them to 125 for 6.
Scotland wobbled early in the chase, losing opener Rachael Scholes to Bangladesh captain Salma Khatun in the fourth over. But the Bryce sisters – Sarah and captain Kathryn – kept Scotland’s hopes alive, with Sarah collecting a dogged 31 that took Scotland past 50 – in the 13th over.
It was, however, a timely strike from legspinner Fahima Khatun, who, on Tuesday became the first Bangladesh bowler – male or female to take a T20I hat-trick, that sent back Sarah and triggered a collapse. Scotland lost 7 for 14 over the following three overs, and the four combined wickets from Nahida Akter and vice-captain Rumana Ahmed strangled them to 76 for 7 snuffed out their hopes of qualification. (ESPNcricinfo)