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Famous victory for Ireland Women as they defeat South Africa by 10 runs

Leah Paul
Leah Paul
©Oisin Keniry

A superb, disciplined all-round display saw Ireland Women claim just their second-ever victory over South Africa in T20I cricket on a sunny Friday evening at Pembroke Cricket Club.

It was a record-breaking day on two fronts for first-time captain Gaby Lewis. At 21, she became the youngest person to captain Ireland while with the bat, she overtook Clare Shillington to become Ireland’s leading run-scorer in women’s T20I cricket.

Her partnership with Leah Paul set the tone for a momentous day. Ireland got off to a flier having been inserted in to bat by South Africa, reaching 40 without loss at the end of the powerplay. Lewis raced out of the blocks, scoring a flurry of boundaries in the opening six overs. She was particularly impressive against the pace of Shabnim Ismail – the number three ranked bowler in women’s T20Is; one assured cover drive in the fourth over was arguably the shot of the day.

Paul was more watchful in the opening stages but grew into her innings well, latching onto anything short and maintaining the tempo set by her partner at the other end. She finished her innings with a T20I career-best score of 47 in just her second innings opening the batting in a T20I. The 98-run opening stand was Ireland’s joint third-highest in women’s T20I cricket; Lewis has been involved in all of Ireland’s top four partnerships in the format.

That platform gave the rest of the Ireland order freedom to attack in the second half of the innings. While the wickets tumbled – seamer Tumi Sekhukhune took three wickets in the 20th over – the runs continued to flow as the hosts eventually finished on 143-7 from their 20 overs, their seventh-highest total in women’s T20I cricket and their second-highest against Full Member opposition.

But on a true pitch and a fast outfield against a side as accomplished as South Africa – the visitors were semi-finalists at the most recent women’s T20 World Cup – defending such a total was always going to be a tough ask. Ireland enjoyed a dream start in their defence as Rachel Delaney claimed the wicket of Lara Goodall with the very first ball of the innings with the South Africa opener edging the ball behind to Mary Waldron.

A second breakthrough followed soon after as Arlene Kelly completed a sharp return catch to remove Tazmin Brits. Kelly, in her first game for Ireland, consistently swung the ball into the right-handers complementing the frugal Jane Maguire at the other end who generally sought to move the ball away.

Maguire’s opening spell of 3-0-10-0 kept South Africa in check as the required rate quickly went past eight runs per over. Lewis was shrewd and proactive with her field placings, dropping a fielder to deep point in the powerplay in order to protect the long square boundaries.

The spin of Cara Murray removed Laura Woolvardt, who was beginning to bat with ominous control, for 20. When Celeste Raack accounted for Anneke Bosch in the 14th over, the required rate had risen above 10 runs per over and the hosts looked set for the win.

The pendulum then swung in the tourists’ favour as South Africa captain Sune Luus and the experienced Chloe Tryon provided a timely reminder of their collective class, reducing the equation to 33 from four overs with the momentum very much on their side. Tryon was in a destructive mood, racing to 14 off six to keep South Africa in the contest. 

That momentum was arrested by the excellent Kelly who returned to the attack and conceded just six from the seventeenth over. The left-arm spin of Paul – who would earn the Player of the Match award – was entrusted with the eighteenth, and she repaid her skipper’s faith with the key wicket of Tryon, bowling her as the South African batter looked to loft Paul over the off-side. Kelly and Maguire – who combined so well earlier in the innings – coolly closed out the game with a disciplined pair of overs at the death to hand Ireland just their second ever win over South Africa in T20I cricket.


Ireland Women v South Africa Women, 1st T20I, Pembroke Cricket Club, 3 June 2022

Ireland 143-7 (20 overs; G Lewis 52, L Paul 47; T Sekhukhune 3-32)

South Africa 133-7 (20 overs; A Bosch 29, C Tryon 26; A Kelly 2-25)

Ireland won by 10 runs