Ireland (169-7, 19.4 overs) (Laura Delany 32; Megan Schutt 2-16) beat Australia (168-3, 20 overs) (Alyssa Healy 62 retired; Orla Prendergast 2-19) by three wickets.
It may only be a warm-up and Australia certainly made life easier by opting to retire in-form batters in order to utilise their squad, but Ireland nonetheless pulled off a major upset to stun the defending champions ahead of the start of the women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa.
Bowling first in Wednesday’s clash in Stellenbosch, Ireland started off perfectly with Orla Prendergast’s extra bounce forcing Australian opener Beth Mooney to chop on with the game’s first delivery. From there, the heavily-favoured Australia settled nicely, Alyssa Healy (62) and Tahlia McGrath (56) both reaching half-centuries before being called ashore to give others an opportunity.
It was a move that would ultimately backfire. Arlene Kelly enhanced her burgeoning reputation at the death with an economical three-over spell, picking up the wicket of Grace Harris in the process when she picked out Georgina Dempsey in the deep. Prendergast also returned to see the back of Meg Lanning, bowling her with a slower ball, but the power hitting of Elyse Perry (40 not out off just 20 balls) ensured that a competitive score was reached - albeit almost certainly a higher total would have been posted had Healy, McGrath or both been allowed to continue.
Given an injury to Rebecca Stokell in the Irish middle order, the top three would be forgiven for pulling back slightly from their usual aggressive approach in order to take the game deep. That was not the case. Amy Hunter started the innings off well, scoring five boundaries in her effort of 26 off 14, good for a strike-rate of 185.
“Me and Gabs [Gaby Lewis] always look to go hard in the powerplay, it’s definitely my gameplan,” confirmed Hunter. “That went down the batting order once we got out, we always look to bat positively and we certainly did that today.
“It will give the squad a huge amount of confidence. It is a warm-up game but we need to carry our mentality and our plans into the tournament.”
When Hunter departed, skying Megan Schutt to the fielder at long off, Prendergast (26 off 15 balls) carried on where she left off, finding the fence a further four times. At the other end, skipper Laura Delany was the glue player, scoring a more sedate 32 off 28 balls that allowed others to bat around her.
Australia did ensure one batter would not go on and win the game single handedly for Ireland. McGrath had Prendergast caught at mid off, Heather Graham bowled Delany while Alana King picked up the wickets of Eimear Richardson (9) and Louise Little (21). However, a combination of Little, Leah Paul (11 not out), Mary Waldron (15) and Arlene Kelly (9 not out) ensured Ireland made up for Stokell’s impact at the death by committee, seeing the game over the line in a tense finish with two balls to spare.
Ireland begin the tournament proper next Monday against England in Paarl (1pm start, live on Sky Sports).
Irish-born Australia international Kim Garth did not feature in Wednesday’s warm-up.