Thursday, February 2, 2023

First-ever ICC U19 Women’s T20 World Cup wide open

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The inaugural ICC Under19 Women’s T20 World Cup starts on Saturday, 14 January in Benoni in South Africa, and a number of candidates are keen to put their hand up for the maiden title.

The senior World Cup pedigree of Australia means they will always be in the conversation for global titles, and they have enjoyed a strong build-up to the tournament. South-African born Rhys McKenna helped herself to three for 7 against hosts, South Africa in their final warm-up game, while Ella Hayward (34) and Claire Moore (21) spent valuable time at the crease.

Bangladesh’s young side is highly motivated to follow in the footsteps of their male counterparts and make it back-to-back junior World Cup wins in South Africa. They have hit the ground running, impressing with two victories in their preparations for a title challenge. Having defeated South Africa in their first warm-up game, they then edged India by three runs at St Stithian’s College, thanks to Shorna Akter’s impressive 78 not out from just 48 balls.

Another side that went unbeaten in the warm-up phase was Sri Lanka, ably led by Vishmi Gunaratne. Soft-spoken but tenacious, the Lankans have a disciplined bowling attack and Gunaratne has already found form with the bat, as shown by her 39 not out against Scotland.

India may have lost to Bangladesh, but they did get the better of Australia on Monday. They have brought a varied attack to South Africa, along with some genuine firepower in the batting ranks. Richa Ghosh has already broken into the senior Indian women’s side, and she is expected to light up this tournament with her big hitting.

There is always an element of surprise in these tournaments, and all 16 teams will fancy producing an upset on any given day. One of the newcomers to this level are Rwanda, but they showed that they will not be overawed as they held on to defeat Amy Hunter’s Ireland by a solitary run in their warm-up fixture on Wednesday.

New Zealand and Pakistan are well organized and have kept a low profile thus far, but they are primed to mount a big challenge when the tournament gets going.

England are well led by Grace Scrivens, who also expressed just what a massive opportunity this tournament represents for all the teams.

“We are so excited to get going. We’re the first group who will get to take part in ICC Under 19 Women’s T20 World Cup, and the first group who’ll get a chance to represent our country,” Scrivens said.

“It’s a really big step for women’s cricket, and it continues the game’s journey. A big part of growing women’s cricket is giving the game the profile that allows young girls to watch and be inspired to pick up a bat or ball and start playing the game, and it’s great to think that we’re a part of this in this tournament as well as the other teams,” she added.

Hosts South Africa struggled in their warm-up games, but they will be hoping to be inspired by home fans, as they kick off their tournament against India on Saturday.

Captain, Oluhle Siyo said: “We’ve really enjoyed our build-up to the tournament. I know that results may not look the way that a lot of people would have liked, but we’ve learned a lot from them and have a good plan for the tournament.

“It’s so exciting to be a part of history being made. This is a massive occasion, and we only want to make our country, families and selves proud.”

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