Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S resolve to reach their first ever major event in women’s cricket will come under test when they face familiar opponents Ireland in the decisive semi-final match of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, this afternoon.
The Lady Chevrons, who made it into the last four after topping Group B, are just one game away from the World Cup milestone.
Only two tickets are available for the World Cup, with the two finalists at the end of this eight-team tournament set to proceed to next year’s cricket jamboree set for South Africa.
This also means the winner between tournament favourites Bangladesh and Thailand in the other semi-final is guaranteed passage to the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup.
A lot is expected in the sink or swim semi-final clashes.
The Lady Chevrons have been in top form of late but they go into the tournament on the back of a shock four-wicket defeat to hosts United Arab Emirates in the last game of the round-robin phase on Wednesday.
As skipper Mary-Anne Musonda correctly put it in the post-match interview, the side didn’t apply themselves well in almost all the aspects of the game.
Ireland are much tougher opponents and the Zimbabweans are aware they would need to bring their best form if they hope to walk away victorious.
“Most of it is just resetting our mindset and making sure we go through our processes again. Cricket is like that, so we just need to pick ourselves up and go through the same morale we had in the past two games,” said Musonda.
In fact, this is going to be the most difficult match for Zimbabwe after playing sides ranked just below them on the ICC Women’s T20 rankings table in the round-robin games.
Team rankings are also at stake, apart from the quest to qualify for the World Cup. Zimbabwe’s Group B opponents Thailand, Papua New Guinea and UAE are ranked 12th, 14th and 15 respectively, according to the official statistics released this week.
The Lady Chevrons come in at number 11 while Ireland occupy 10th place, with nothing much to separate the teams in terms of points and team ratings. A win for Zimbabwe could see them storming the top 10 for the first time.
Zimbabwe have always believed in their capabilities and have demonstrated their seriousness by embarking on a comprehensive preparation programme under new coach Gary Brent.
As part of their final preparations, the Lady Chevrons held a two-week training camp in India where they played several practice games.
They then toured South Africa and won a T20 series 4-1 before boarding the plane to Dubai. While in Dubai, the team featured in a quadrangular series and won all their games against the United States, Thailand and hosts UAE. They then accounted for Scotland on the eve of the Qualifier.
They managed to carry on with the winning form into the first two games of the round-robin phase with comfortable victories over Papua New Guinea and Thailand. But the last game against UAE on Wednesday was a reality check.
The Lady Chevrons suffered a shock four-wicket defeat but they still finished top of Group B, and avoided clashing with Bangladesh, who are the top-ranked team in the tournament.
They are set to renew their rivalry with Ireland in the semi-finals, after the Europeans finished second in Group A, which was won by tournament favourites Bangladesh.
Ireland and Zimbabwe have never met in a T20I event. However, the Irish were in Zimbabwe last year and they won the four-match ODI series 3-1.
They have also proved themselves during this Qualifier by posting fine performances against the USA and Scotland while losing only once to Bangladesh in Group A.