Preview - ICC Women's World T20 Qualifier Finals Day
Classification matches are often low-key affairs with little but pride at stake. Wednesday’s ICC Women's World Twenty20 Qualifier third-fourth place playoff between hosts Ireland and Netherlands can certainly not be categorised in that bracket.
The ICC's well-received decision to expand next year’s tournament to 10 teams means that the winners of tomorrow's clash will qualify along with finalists Pakistan and Sri Lanka who will do battle in the Trophy final with their fate already sealed.
Despite its inferior status, all eyes and attention will be on the day's second game at the YMCA Cricket Ground in leafy Sandymount ahead of the so-called showpiece final as the two Associate nations attempt to reach their first Twenty20 World Cup.
It's an opportunity which both Ireland and Netherlands have been waiting to grasp for a long time. Neither have qualified for an ICC event since 2005 and both will be eager to highlight the progress they've made in the last decade by booking their place in next year’s big-hitting edition in Bangladesh.
Although Ireland suffered another heavy defeat on Monday, their seventh in the space of a month, they will go into the winner-takes-all clash as favourites taking into consideration their familiarity with the ground and the fact they’ve only lost to the Dutch once in the last 10 meetings between the sides.
Ireland comfortably overcame the challenge of both Japan and Canada to advance to the semi-finals but struggled against superior opposition in their last two games, with their batting frailties ruthlessly exposed by Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Jeremy Bray’s side rely heavily on opener Clare Shillington to build an innings around and as the tournament has progressed, the top order including captain Isobel Joyce has failed to fire and therefore exposing the inexperienced middle order.
It’s a weakness which the Dutch will look to take advantage of in conditions which are likely to suit bowling with overcast and showery weather forecasted for Dublin.
Holland scraped through to the semi-finals on net run-rate despite two defeats in the group stages. They managed to narrowly defeat Zimbabwe in a low-scoring encounter by three runs before suffering a shock loss to Thailand in their second game and a comprehensive defeat to Pakistan.
They may have a dismal recent record against Wednesday’s opponents but all form and history goes out of the window in a game of this significance.
Speaking ahead of the game, Irish coach Bray said he was confident his side can book their place in Bangladesh.
"I think realistically we were always thinking that the third and fourth placed play-off would be between us and the Netherlands so I think we’ve got to still be upbeat, definitely,” said the former opening batsman.
"The last couple of years we’ve been a good bit better than Holland, but in saying that, in T20 cricket anything can happen and the Dutch have some good players as well.
"We have to be on top of our games, like we have been all tournament with the ball and in the field. It’s just our batting that hasn’t been skilful enough and hopefully come the Netherlands game girls can stand up and make a big total for our bowlers to bowl at," he told the Irish Times.
Meanwhile, Netherlands captain Denise Hannema was in positive mood ahead of the game, saying, "We were disappointed by Monday’s result, but we can take some positives out of the performance and bring that back on Wednesday, especially our positive batting. We can definitely sharpen our fielding up ahead of the next game and we are looking forward to it."
Before the third and fourth placed play-off is the small matter of the tournament final which sees top seeds Pakistan and Sri Lanka do battle for the silverware and bragging rights. As already covered, both sides are already guaranteed a place in the World Cup after near perfect campaigns to date.
Captain of Sri Lanka, Shashikala Siriwardene, was delighted to have qualified for Bangladesh in 2014 and is looking forward to Wednesday’s game with their Asian counterparts.
"We were very disappointed with our performance in the last ICC World Twenty20, so am delighted we have now qualified as well with it being in the Asian region. Looking ahead to the Trophy Final, we have played Pakistan quite a lot, so it will be a difficult match, but one we hope to win."
Also on Wednesday, Zimbabwe take on Thailand in the Shield Final at Merrion CCC while Japan and Canada face each other in the third/fourth place playoff in that same competition.
© Cricket World 2013
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PAK 66-1 beat IRE 65 by 9 wickets
SRI 157-6 beat NED 51-4 by 33 runs
ZIM 59-7 beat JAP 58 by 3 wickets
THA 92-6 beat CAN 79-8 by 13 runs
3rd/4th: Ireland v Netherlands
Shield: Thailand v Zimbabwe
7th/8th: Canada v Japan