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Eight players to watch out for at the Women's World T20 Qualifier

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Women's_World_T20_Qualifier_CricketThe stakes will be high in the Netherlands from July 7, as eight nations begin a weeklong battle to vie for two spots at the Women’s World T20, to be played in the Caribbean in November. The teams in action are 2016 Women’s World T20 participants Bangladesh and Ireland, European-Americas qualifiers Scotland and the Netherlands, Asia qualifiers Thailand and the United Arab Emirates, Africa qualifier Uganda, and East Asia Pacific qualifier Papua New Guinea.

Women’s T20I cricket has been immensely competitive of late, with the latest example being Bangladesh’s Asia Cup win in Malaysia last month. Moreover, the Qualifier assumes added significance, as it will be the first tournament to be played in line with the ICC’s decision to grant T20 international status to each of its 104 member nations. As the potentially unpredictable tournament draws close, here is a look at eight players - one from each team - to watch out for.

Rumana Ahmed (Bangladesh)

Khulna-born all-rounder Rumana Ahmed, who was the Player of the Tournament at the previous Qualifier in 2015, is one of the pillars of a highly talented Bangladeshi outfit that will be aiming to qualify for the Women’s World T20 for the third consecutive time. A right-handed batswoman and leg-spin bowler, the 27-year-old played a pivotal role in Bangladesh’s historic triumph in the Asia Cup final, in which they upstaged favorites India to underline their T20 credentials.

After taking 2/22 to help restrict India to 112/9, Rumana walked in at 55/3 and stayed till the last over, scoring a brisk 23 to engineer a three-wicket victory. She also starred in the win over India in the league stage of the tournament, with a return of 3/21 and an unbeaten 42. Having been a part of the national team for more than six years, Rumana will again look to use her experience and versatility to steer Bangladesh to success.     

Gaby Lewis (Ireland)

Like Bangladesh, Ireland too will qualify for their third Women’s World T20 in a row if they manage a top-two finish. Winners of the previous Qualifier in 2015, the Irishwomen have shown glimpses of promise in the 20-over format in the past few years, and anything less than qualification might be considered a failure. One of the key players in their quest will be the up-and-coming 17-year-old Gaby Lewis.

Lewis, a top-order batswoman who also bowls handy leg-spin, was only 13 when she made her T20I debut, and has since emerged as one of the brightest young talents in the women’s game. She has been in good form of late, as both of her T20I fifties have come in the past month - she stood tall with 61 in a ten-wicket defeat to New Zealand in June, while her 31-ball 50 gave Ireland a consolation win in the final game of their series against Bangladesh last week.

Heather Siegers (Netherlands)

The Netherlands cannot be underestimated on their home turf, and central to their chances of qualification will be captain Heather Siegers. Siegers, a 21-year-old pace-bowling all-rounder, led from the front at the World T20 European-Americas Region Qualifier in Scotland in August 2017, scoring 108 runs at 54.00 and taking four wickets at 18.00. The Netherlands have never made it to the Women’s World T20 so far, but a stellar show from their skipper could change that.

Sibona Jimmy (Papua New Guinea)

Known as the Lewas, Papua New Guinea Women have the wherewithal to spring a surprise or two. They finished fifth out of eight teams at the last edition of the Qualifier in 2015, beating Thailand, China and the Netherlands on the way, and will strive to do even better this time. An important cog in their line-up is 25-year-old Sibona Jimmy, a left-handed opener and a competent off-spinner. Jimmy’s all-round skills can give the Lewas hope of a bright campaign.  

Kathryn Bryce (Scotland)

In April, Kathryn Bryce was named captain of the Scottish women’s team at the age of just 20, testament to the value that she brings to the table as an all-rounder who is capable enough to open the batting as well as the bowling. Since making her T20 debut for Scotland in 2015, Bryce averages a highly commendable 37.05 with the bat, while her medium pace has fetched her an excellent bowling average of 15.37.

Under Bryce’s leadership, Scotland finished third out of nine teams in Division Two of this year’s Vitality Women’s Twenty20 Cup, which bodes well for them ahead of the Qualifier. Placed in a tough group along with Ireland, Thailand and Uganda, Scotland will hope for their captain to deliver, as they bid to reach their maiden Women’s World T20. Also part of the Scottish squad is Kathryn’s younger sister Sarah, who is the team’s wicketkeeper.

Wongpaka Liengprasert (Thailand)

Thailand achieved their most memorable win yet when they upset Sri Lanka by four wickets in their last league game of the Asia Cup last month. The woman who derailed Sri Lanka’s innings was off-spinner Wongpaka Liengprasert, with a haul of 5/12. Liengprasert also played her part in the chase of 105, scoring 13* and fittingly hitting the winning run. There is no reason why she cannot continue in the same vein in the Netherlands and spur Thailand to even greater heights.

Gertrude Candiru (Uganda)

Uganda owe their qualification to Gertrude Candiru, who produced a brilliant all-round performance at the World T20 Africa Qualifier in Namibia last year. The 23-year-old was the highest wicket-taker in the tournament, capturing 15 wickets at just 7.00 apiece, with a best of 4/12 against Tanzania. She was also the highest run-getter for her team, with a tally of 107 at 35.66. Not surprisingly, she was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

Candiru reserved her best for the final against Zimbabwe. She began by spinning a web around the Zimbabwean middle order en route to figures of 3/14, and later scored an unbeaten 23 under pressure to shepherd the Lady Cricket Cranes, who were struggling at 61/6 in pursuit of 100, to a three-wicket win. Uganda have been one of the most improved women’s teams of late, and a lot will depend on Candiru if they are to progress to the top tier.

Nisha Ali (United Arab Emirates)

The United Arab Emirates women’s team will be making their first appearance at an ICC global tournament, by virtue of their second-place finish at the Asia Region Qualifier last year. At the forefront for the UAE was 31-year-old off-spinning all-rounder Nisha Ali, who has earlier played for Delhi and Madhya Pradesh in Indian domestic cricket.

Bhopal-born Nisha scored the most runs (90) and took the most wickets (12, at an incredible average of 3.00) in the tournament, with her best figures of 5/7 coming in a losing cause in the final against Thailand. As a result, she won four successive Player of the Match awards. The UAE may be entering the Qualifier as rank outsiders, but their opponents would do well to be wary of Nisha’s game-changing ability.  

 

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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