While Laura Delany fought back tears, Amy Satterthwaite put on a brave face after their teams suffered serious setbacks in their ICC Women’s World T20 2018 campaigns.
Ireland were at Guyana National Stadium half an hour early on match day afternoon for their game against Pakistan. Pumped up. Bumping fists. Game faces on. Happy. Channelling all that nervous energy.
This, Match 9 of the tournament in Group B, was their own ‘final’. The lowest-ranked team in the tournament believed – really believed – that it was their best chance to get their first ever win in World T20s. And if they did, they knew there was a good chance they would no longer have to go through the long route of qualifying to be part of the next edition.
Pakistan claim their first points of @WorldT20 2018! 🇵🇰— ICC (@ICC) November 13, 2018
Ireland are kept to 101/9 by after Javeria Khan's 74* set up a 38 run win in Guyana. #PAKvIRE scorecard and highlights ➡️ https://t.co/Lt5byghJ8M pic.twitter.com/JbCUzwVNYw
For the first eight overs after putting Pakistan in, their bowling, like their ambition, seemed to be made of stern stuff. A maiden. A wicket. A Powerplay that went for just 20 runs.
But then things – like their batting – unravelled quickly. Chasing 140, the 38-run loss was chastening. At the post-match press conference, an emotional Delany couldn’t hide her disappointment.
“Pakistan was a target for us. We definitely thought we could get a win over them,” she said again. “Bitterly disappointed. To come 40 runs short after the confidence and self-belief we had going into today's game is very disappointing.
“After beating Sri Lanka in such a convincing way (in a warm-up match) I thought Pakistan would be the next target for us.”
Watching the Ireland hopes crumble from their dressing room were New Zealand. They might have empathised with the plucky dreamers, but quickly had to turn all focus to their own ‘final’ against Australia, taking place less than an hour after the conclusion of the Pakistan-Ireland clash.
Of all the teams, New Zealand might have been most aggrieved by the schedule. Their campaign opened against India and Australia, the two toughest challenges in the group going by reputation and ranking. They began under pressure, knowing that their future in the tournament might be decided as early as two matches in. Having lost to India on the opening day, Tuesday’s match came with all the pressure of a knock-out game.
The crack of bat hitting ball at the nets sounded good, the practice catches were taken cleanly. Yet, come game time, they floundered. They dropped sitters. They swung and missed or mishit.
We want to try and get a bit more out of the youngsters, but the senior players, some of us really need to step it up
Satterthwaite pulled up the senior players, including herself and Sophie Devine, for not being consistent. “Sophie and myself have not scored any runs in the tournament. We can't be winning games if we're not stepping up in situations like this,” she said.
“We want to try and get a bit more out of the youngsters, but the senior players, some of us really need to step it up.”
But this wasn’t just about how the teams did on the day. Both Ireland and New Zealand would have realised that they have work to do before they catch up to their competitors.
Ireland, for instance, were left wondering what may have been if they, like the other nine teams in the tournament, were professional, or at least semi-professional cricketers. For now, many members of the team have had to take leave from studies and full-time jobs to play in the West Indies.
To lose by 40 runs [when] we genuinely believed we could win, it's very disappointing
“It’s so incredibly frustrating,” said Delany, choking up. “Because if we were professional, I wonder what the score would've been out there today. To lose by 40 runs [when] we genuinely believed we could win, it's very disappointing.”
As for New Zealand, they were the only team apart from England to have a favourable T20I record against dominant Australia. But a run of four losses means the sides are now on 19 wins each, with one tie. It is a team with talent, but not all members of the New Zealand team are full-time cricket professionals like their trans-Tasman neighbours.
“It's definitely not a nice feeling,” said Satterthwaite about the widening gulf. “I've been playing for so long and throughout my career we've been really competitive with Australia. So to feel like we're probably slipping a little bit, yes, certainly is frustrating.”
Acknowledging the need for a strong bench and grass roots, she pointed out that it was “something we've got to keep building”. “You've seen the likes of Australia and England with the competitions that they've brought in, that have started to grow their depth even more, and we've got to keep addressing it in our country,” she said.
Going by the long faces after a particularly rough day, it may seem like the end of the world for the two teams. But they have little time to mourn: the competition is far from over. They each have two group games left. Ireland can still eye an upset, New Zealand can mathematically get into the semis.
The pieces of the dream can yet be rebuilt and realised.