Ten teams head to South Africa for the 2023 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, looking to follow in Australia’s footsteps and lift the coveted trophy. Three years after Beth Mooney and Alyssa Healy inspired Australia to the title on home soil, they remain the team to beat. However, nine teams will have other ideas, with only one change from the 2020 line-up as Ireland takes the place of Thailand, having made it through a nerve-wracking qualifier to reserve their spot.
The first team to clinch a place was South Africa, as hosts, and they were joined in automatic qualification on 30 November 2021 by the world’s top seven teams in the world rankings.
That meant Australia, the defending champions, India, the 2020 runners-up, as well as England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the West Indies, would all join South Africa in the tournament.
Two spots remained to be allocated, with 37 teams scheduled to battle it out in five regional groups. The winners of those five regional qualifiers were joined by Thailand and Bangladesh, the two lowest-ranked teams that had competed in the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, in qualifying.
The last spot in qualifying went to the remaining top-ranked team that failed to qualify through the regional qualifier, meaning Ireland joined a group with Bangladesh, Scotland and the USA.
The other group consisted of Zimbabwe, Thailand, Papua New Guinea and the United Arab Emirates.
Nigar Sultana was outstanding for Bangladesh as they won all three of their group matches and scored 157 points at an average of 78.5.
They were joined in the semi-final by Ireland, who triumphed in a winner-takes-all clash with Scotland by 19 runs, thanks in large part to Gaby Lewis’ 37-ball 66.
Group B saw a tighter match, with each team losing at least one match. Kelis Ndlovu’s performances with bat and ball were crucial in Zimbabwe’s first two wins over Papua New Guinea and Thailand.
Thailand qualified for the semifinals alongside Zimbabwe, thanks to a 12-run victory over PNG in a straight shootout for the last four. Nattaya Boochatham was the hero as she took four for eight.
Both semi-finals, which served as deciders for South Africa’s last two places, were thrilling affairs, with Ireland beating Zimbabwe by four points.
After first making 137 for six at bats, Ireland looked up with five to go when Zimbabwe was 99 for three. But some tight bowling left Zimbabwe needing 15 from the final and that proved too much of a task as Ireland secured a spot in the main event after earning the last spot in qualifying.
In the other semi-final, Bangladesh were pushed hard by Thailand after making 113 for five from their 20 overs – even skipper Sultana struggled, making 17 from 24 balls.
That turned out to be enough though, as Thailand was quickly reduced to 13 for three, falling well short of the required run rate. Natthakan Chantham’s 64 off 51 balls wasn’t enough to get them back in as 11 runs beat them.
Having already qualified, Bangladesh and Ireland met in the tournament final for the second time, with the same result as the Asian side came home with seven runs to win the tournament.
Their reward is a place in Group A in the tournament, alongside champions Australia, hosts South Africa, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
In Group B, Ireland joins England and India, finalists of the last T20 and ODI World Cups respectively, as well as the West Indies and Pakistan.
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