The road to the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 in South Africa kicks off with the European qualifier that begins on Thursday (August 26). The six-team tournament will take place over a five-day period at the La Manga Club in Spain.
Defending champions Netherlands will be joined by the usual contenders Ireland and Scotland, with Germany a possible dark horse in this edition. Both France and Turkey will make their maiden appearances in the tournament, with the latter yet to make their international debut.
All teams will play each other once through the course of the tournament, with the table topper qualifying for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier in 2022.
Ahead of the tournament, Associate Women in Cricket and Women’s CricZone gives you some important details about the participating teams.
The highest ranked team in the competition, Ireland are the favourites to top the points table and book their spot in the global qualifiers. Having failed to make the cut for the previous T20 World Cup, the Laura Delany-led squad come in to the tournament with plenty to prove. Since the disappointment of the 2019 T20 World Cup Qualifier in Scotland, Ireland have built a strong unit – one that comes into this tournament with a decent amount of game-time under their belts having played the domestic Super Series and a couple of international series against Scotland and Netherlands.
Team speak: Having taken over the role of full-time head coach shortly after the global qualifiers in 2019, Ed Joyce and his charges had to wait over 600 days to take the field in an international match. However, since then, the no.10 ranked T20I side have won two series, against Scotland and Netherlands, leading in to this tournament.
“We’ve had a decent preparation period with the squad – the Super Series, the match against Lancashire and the Netherlands series have all allowed us the opportunity to hone our tactics and help shape the roles each member of the squad will be expected to play," said Joyce. “With only one side going through from here, it will be a challenging week”
Key player: Fresh off a short stint at The Hundred and a successful couple of series against Scotland and Netherlands, Gaby Lewis will be high on confidence heading into the European qualifier. With 850 runs in T20Is, Lewis is Ireland’s third-highest run-getter in the format. Her strike rate of close to 110, makes her the fastest scorer for her team amongst those with over 150 runs.
Batting at the top of the order, the 20-year-old is Ireland’s most dangerous weapon. She has the ability to score quickly – hitting over and through the field – and the propensity to pile up big scores once set.
One to watch: A promising allrounder, Orla Prendergast has quickly established herself as Ireland’s premier fast bowler after the exit of Kim Garth. With 14 wickets in as many T20Is, the 19-year-old has shown great control when bowling her big, booming inswingers. Having earned a part-time contract with Cricket Ireland last year, Prendergast has improved dramatically over the last year, scoring heavily in the domestic competition while also taking plenty of wickets.
Most recently, against Scotland and Netherlands, the right-arm seamer took nine wickets in just six matches at an astounding average of 8.88, and scored 64 runs at a strike rate of 118. As coach Joyce identified, “Her all-round talent has been recognised for a while, and she has shown that she can step up with each challenge that has come her way.”
Squad: Laura Delany (c), Georgina Dempsey, Amy Hunter, Gaby Lewis, Louise Little, Sophie MacMahon, Lara Maritz, Cara Murray, Leah Paul, Orla Prendergast, Eimear Richardson, Rebecca Stokell, Mary Waldron (wk)
With some well-known stars in their line-up, Scotland have often under-performed at global events. No.13 in the ICC T20I rankings, the Kathryn Bryce-led side should be one of the main contenders in the regional qualifier.
With a new head coach, Mark Coles, at the helm they will be hoping to use his experience and tactical nous to turn their recent form around, and put together string of good performances to finish at the top of the table.
Team speak: Much like Ireland, Scotland too had to wait for an eternity to finally return to the international fold in May this year. After a tremendous against-the-odds win against Ireland in their first game back, they faltered, and conceded the series 3-1. Since then, however, they have continued to play matches – club and regional – and be involved in training camps to fine-tune their skills ahead of what is a hugely important tournament.
Skipper Bryce, who turned out for Trent Rockets in The Hundred competition, believes the players – who were largely “rusty” in May, are in much better shape now. “There’s been quite a lot of club cricket going on in Scotland – like the premier league that’s been going on,” she told Associate Women in Cricket. “Most of the girls have been playing in that, so the standard of that is definitely getting stronger. And there’s been six weekends of regional cricket with two teams, so kind of about 25 of the girls split into two equal teams. They’ve had a series, which I think they tied in the end. So, that was really competitive cricket amongst themselves, which hopefully stands us in good stead.”
Key player: Recently crowned the ICC Associate Player of the Decade and one of the top allrounders in T20Is, it’s hard to look past Kathryn Bryce as being Scotland’s key performer. A genuine threat with the new ball – as she has proven over the years across various international series and domestic leagues – Bryce has taken 20 wickets in 18 T20Is. She gets the ball to hoop in to right handers, and bowls a nagging length that often has the batters stuck on the crease.
With the bat, too, she is a handful. A powerful striker with a calm head on her shoulders, Bryce can move quickly through the gears when called upon. A strong front foot player, she also owns a vicious cut shot with which she almost always finds the boundary.
Late last year, Bryce became a full-time professional cricketer having earned a contract with the East Midlands region in England. She continues to train and develop her game alongside sister Sarah under the keen eye of Lightning head coach Rob Taylor.
One to watch: 16-year-old off-spinner Katherine Fraser is one of Scotland’s superstars. Roped into the squad at only 14, she has since become a key cog in the side’s bowling attack, picking up 19 wickets in 16 T20Is.
“She’s been around for a bit now, but she’s still a young off-spinner,” skipper Bryce said of Fraser. “I think her batting’s really come on as well over the last year or so. She’s just got a fantastic cricket brain on her – just constantly stays composed under pressure and things like that. It will be a big tournament for her with the off-spin and probably a little more responsibility on her now.”
Squad: Kathryn Bryce (c), Sarah Bryce (wk / vc), Abbi Aitken-Drummond, Priyanaz Chatterji, Katherine Fraser, Becky Glen, Samantha Haggo, Lorna Jack, Ailsa Lister, Abtaha Maqsood, Katie McGill, Hannah Rainey, Charis Scott
Having topped the table in the 2019 regional qualifiers, Netherlands will be keen to defend their European crown. However, they will face stiff competition for the title this time around, with the return of Ireland, and fast improving squads from Scotland and Germany.
In the 2019 T20 World Cup global qualifiers, the Netherlands finished sixth, losing to Scotland in the play-off. Since that disappointing run, they have made several changes – recruiting a full-time coach in Shane Dietz and appointing a new skipper as well.
Team talk: Despite their 1-2 loss in their recent T20I series to Ireland, the Netherlands will be thrilled they managed to pull off a win in the last game. Heather Siegers’ side showed great spunk through the tour, challenging Ireland in every game, before putting in a convincing performance in the final game.
Aside from that preparatory series, Netherlands allrounder Esther Corder said the team have also played a few competitive games against age-group boys’ teams – something she believes will hold them in good stead.
“Additionally, Shane Dietz (head coach) coming from Australia - that’s just been a great change also. It’s the first time there’s a full-time coach for the Dutch team. So, definitely I would say that is the best prep for the team because they had the opportunity to be able to train every single day and have that full-time coach available for the team.”
Key player: With 122 runs in three matches, at an average over 40 and a strike rate close to 125, right-hand batter Miranda Veringmeier was the Netherlands’ highest run getter through their series against Ireland. The middle order batter bludgeoned three sixes and 14 fours through the course of the series, showcasing her brute power.
“Having the experience of Miranda Veringmeier is absolutely key. She performed really well during the Ireland series as well. I would expect her to step up in every single game because we need that base of being able to build around that and she has the most experience in the team, so will have to step up every single game, I reckon,” Corder admitted.
One to watch: Corder picked 19-year-old seamer Isabel van der Woning who made her international debut in the series against Ireland, as a young player who could have a big impact on the tournament. “Talking young guns, I would say Isabelle van der Woning – who has just joined the team for the Ireland series, and made her debut there – she can really surprise the batter with her pace and with that new ball and that swing. So, I think that’s absolutely something to look out for.”
“I definitely think with regards to her bowling she can definitely make that impact and turn around a game in getting those early wickets.”
Squad: Heather Siegers (c), Marloes Braat, Hannah Landheer, Babette de Leede, Caroline de Lange, Eva Lynch, Fredrique Overdijk, Robine Rijke, Juliet Post, Silver Siegers, Annemijn Thomson, Isabel van der Woning, Miranda Veringmeier, Iris Zwilling
Popularly known as the ‘Golden Eagles’, Germany are on a bit of a roll at the moment, with 14 T20I wins on the trot. Skipper Anuradha Doddaballapur and her team whitewashed all of Oman, Austria and France, breaking a string of records along the way.
Only in their third European region qualifiers, Germany are keen to put in some improved performances through the tournament and really challenge the top teams. Ahead of her team’s departure for Spain, Doddaballapur admitted that her side will be faced with an uphill task of having to beat several higher-ranked opponents, “but we’re going to go all guns blazing every game, because we want to emerge on top as well”.
Team talk: Despite the pandemic, Germany have been one of the more active squads, playing as many as three series since February 2020. Doddaballapur believes that pandemic has been a bit of a blessing in disguise for the team – allowing individuals to work on their skills, and the team to get fitter as a whole.
“Previously, with Covid around for a while, there hasn’t been as much cricket as one would have liked, but we’ve tried our best to kind of keep our fitness routine going, training as often as we can and getting together in groups with all the restrictions and precautions in place,” Doddaballapur explained. “But last year we managed to get a few series in as well. Although it’s a while back, we had a successful tour to Oman early last year, as well as to Austria in August last year. So, it was a fair bit of games considering the last 18 months have been pretty difficult globally. I’m really happy that we’ve been able to take a lot of positives from that going into the qualifier.”
“We’re super excited for the tournament, and can’t wait for it to get underway.”
Key player: Germany’s impressive run in the last 18 months has been headlined by the contributions of their opening batters Christina Gough and Janet Ronalds – both of whom went on a record-breaking spree against Austria last year. The pair scored their maiden T20I centuries, and also shared record opening stands, both unconquered, of 191 and 198 on consecutive days. Since June 2020, Gough (334) and Ronalds (261) occupy two of the top three run-scoring positions – the former’s runs coming at a Bradman-esque average of 111.33.
“We’ve got a pretty good batting line up. I think that’s one of our strengths as well. Some of our top batters – according to statistics at least – are Tina, Janet, (Anna) Healey. They’ve been very consistent for us over the last couple of years,” added the skipper.
One to watch: On 13 August 2020, Emma Bargna became the first German player to register a T20I five-fer. Opening the bowling, the teenager ripped through Austria’s line-up to finish with incredible figures of 4-0-9-5. She currently sits second on the list of Germany’s top wicket-takers with 15 scalps in 15 games.
Doddaballapur, showered praise on her young teammate, saying Bargna has shown great potential in her short career, but what has impressed her more is the youngster’s consistency over the last couple of series.
“Emma is our youngest… She is something else!”
Squad: Anuradha Doddaballabur (c), Emma Bargna, Milena Beresford, Anne Bierwisch, Staphanie Frohnmayer, Christina Gough, Anna Healey, Bianca Maes Loch, Suzanne McAnanama-Bereton, Antonia Meyenborg, Janet Ronalds, Sharanya Sadarangani, Karthika Vijayaraghavann (wk), Peris Wadenpohl
Making their maiden appearance in a World Cup qualifier, France are one of the most excitable teams on the circuit. Led by the effervescent Emmanuelle Brelivet, they come into the tournament with the aim to not just learn, but also “show we are playing cricket in a good level in France too”.
Team talk: Following a 0-5 loss in their series against Germany last month, Brelivet admitted that her team had taken plenty of lessons from that performance.
“It was a really good experience against Germany because we played five games against the same team. For us the objective was to really know our team well – to know our strengths, and also what we have to really improve [upon] before going to Spain. We saw we have a very, very good team spirit. We are very close and supporting each other, and we also learnt that we have to be more aggressive from the batting side. We worked a lot on this during the last week.”
Looking to take as much as they can from their experiences in Spain, the skipper added, “It’s a really good opportunity to learn because we will play against high level teams. So, to be on the ground and to play against them we will learn a lot. And as you know in cricket anything can happen in a cricket game.”
Key player: Opening batter Jennifer King is France’s highest run-getter with 175 runs in nine innings. She also holds the record for the country’s highest individual score in T20Is – an unbeaten 46 against Austria in 2019.
Brelivet singled out King as a player the side would rely on if they were to excel in the tournament. “I would say as a batswoman we have Jennifer King, who is a really good batswoman. When she feels confident on the ground, it just shows and she is batting very well.”
One to Watch: 23-year-old Marie Violleau made her T20I debut against Germany this July. According to her skipper, she is a rapidly improving player, having only taken up the game a few months before her debut.
“I think the youngest player in this team is Marie Violleau, She has started to play cricket only few months ago. I can see she will have a really good future in cricket. She is already a very good fielder, starting to bat well and she is bowling also. Allrounder.”
Squad: Emmanuelle Brelivet (captain), Jennifer King (vice-captain), Lara Aramas, Cindy Bretéché, Tara Britton, Alix Brodin, Maëlle Cargouët, Emma Chancé, Thea Graham, Magali Marchello, Poppy McGeown, Tracy Rodriguez, Marie Violleau, Irma Vringnaud
Yet to play an international match, Turkey is an unknown in this tournament. However, none of the participating teams are willing to take them lightly, knowing full well that “in T20, anything can happen”.