Ireland’s eyes are certainly smiling as they return to the world stage for the Women’s World T20 Cup in South Africa, with an impressive win over champions Australia in their final warm-up match.
This result will have sent a warning not only to England’s opponents in Group Two, but also to the rest of the competition that Laura Delany’s side are not just there to make up the numbers.
When you hear coach Ed Joyce talk about their planned approach to the challenges ahead, it’s easy to see why Ireland arrive in South Africa after arguably their most successful year in the format.
In 2022, they won eight T20 internationals, the most in their history, including landmark wins against Pakistan in November to secure a 2-1 series win, which was followed by another historic win against South Africa in Dublin in June , just the second. win against Proteas in all formats.
“These results over the last few months, in the qualifiers and since we’ve been here have been great, but the way the players have embraced playing fearless cricket has been really pleasing,” former All-Ireland captain Joyce said. Sky Sports News.
“We feel there is no point in hitting the ball.
“Sometimes that might not necessarily work out, but we feel like we have to do it and hopefully we’ll be more successful if we do.”
Sound familiar? There are certainly echoes of England Men’s ‘Bazball’ approach to Test cricket and also the philosophy of his rival in England Women’s coach Jon Lewis who wants his side to “play with freedom”.
Joyce’s philosophy probably comes with having a team with the youngest average age in the competition at just 24.
But while the players may be young, they are certainly not new to international experience.
All-rounder Gaby Lewis is the best illustration having already made 64 T20 international appearances since her debut at the age of just 13 years and 16 days in 2014.
“We’re trying to get away from picking players that young,” Joyce said.
“There are too many disadvantages to debuting at 13, 14. I think we’ve probably lost a few players as a result of the young age that they’ve come into the team in the past.
“But someone like Gaby at 21, she’s played so many games and so many tournaments considering her age. She’s a very good player and we’ve got a lot of younger players, but we’ve got some big players there too.
“That’s really important to bring to the youngsters. But from a coaching perspective, we feel we’ve got an exciting squad with some real talent and ability as well, which makes for an exciting time.”
The above performance results in Joyce’s immediate priority
First up for Ireland is England in Paarl, a challenge which Joyce admits will see them as “huge underdogs” as he expects to also be up against Pakistan, the West Indies and 2020 runners-up India in their other three matches in 2nd group.
But the former Middlesex and Sussex player, who also played internationally for both England and Ireland, believes a “proactive approach” with the bat will give his side the best chance.
“The games we’ve had going into this tournament have certainly given us some confidence that we can compete with the best, none more so than this win against Australia,” he said.
“We’re hitting all the way down. “Throwing the bat at it” is probably not the right phrase, but we have to take risks and look at the positives to put a good score on the board and compete with a very good England team. “
Monday, February 13, 12:30 p.m
There is a strong chance that Ireland will get a first win in the T20 World Cup when they take on Pakistan and then the West Indies in Cape Town, but Joyce is more interested in seeing his team perform at their best.
“If we can do that, we’re confident we can compete with the best teams, if not necessarily beat them,” he said.
“We want to be consistent and play the way we want to in all four games and see where we end up.
“Hopefully in a few years we can continue to grow and maybe target some things, but for now it’s about maintaining the level of performance.”
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As Joyce, 44, looks beyond the next few weeks in South Africa and what the future may hold for his side, he points to the impact the introduction of professional contracts has had on Irish women’s cricket in the past year as well as the development of the tournament franchise.
“Obviously it gives women’s cricket an amazing platform,” he said.
“It would be amazing if more of our players could play in these events. Gaby Lewis has definitely been a trailblazer for us playing in The Hundred, and my sister (Isobel) and Kim Garth (now from Australia) have also previously played in the Women’s Big Bash League.
“We’ve got the talent and it would just be another exposure and experience that our girls wouldn’t have if they were just playing in Ireland.
“This World Cup is huge and the exposure is obviously great, but there are also a lot of opportunities for our girls and it’s a hugely exciting time in the game.
“It is a shame that the Indian Women’s Premier League auction is also on Monday and not a week later as I believe it would have given our players a great opportunity to showcase themselves during this tournament.”
Watch the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 live on Sky Sports throughout February. Ireland v England is live from 1pm on Monday (12.30pm) on Sky Sports Cricket and Main Event.