Ireland had already lived up to the tag of being one of the tournament favourites by winning all three of their games going into this encounter, while PNG had won two, with their only defeat coming against heavyweights Bangladesh. It had the makings of a mouth-watering tie.
PNG won the toss and bowled first, as they looked to qualify for the WT20 for the first time. Their captain Pauke Siaka was left out due to internal disciplinary action, which meant Kaia Arua was tasked with leading the side.
PNG struck straight away, with Clare Shillington – the top-scorer in all three of Ireland's games, and the tournament’s top run-scorer – departing for a duck, slicing straight to point off the bowling of in-form Mairi Tom. PNG celebrated like they had won the final – it was a big scalp and a welcome confidence boost.
The PNG fielders were shelling chances though. Ravini Oa impressed yet again and could have had a three-for – though she only had herself to blame for the third spill of the innings, when Isobel Joyce smashed one back at her. Ireland were 13/1 after four overs, but it could have been so much worse.
Gaby Lewis authoritatively clipped her third ball behind square for four and looked assured from the get go, as she became the tormentor in chief in an Ireland recovery, striking four boundaries, including two off an over off stand-in captain.
Arua struck to blunt Ireland’s fightback, bowling Cecelia Joyce, while Lewis went on to hit a 33-ball 36 before being run out by Sibona Jimmy, who also caught the first wicket, with Ireland 62/3 after 12 overs.
Aru also caught out Joyce and Eimear Richardson, both off the bowling of Vicky Araa, before Oa run out Kim Garth as Ireland posted 113 from their 20 overs. It was a stuttering effort encapsulated by captain Laura Delany's scratchy 30-ball 21.
Making up for their early loss of Shillington in the first innings, Ireland struck early – twice. Firstly, Richardson flighted one outside off-stump before Kopi John skipped down the track for a cross-batted swipe that failed to connect, as Mary Waldron gratefully accepted the gift behind the sticks.
In the last ball of the third over, a length ball from Joyce was flicked by Jimmy straight to midwicket, leaving PNG 7/2. Tanya Ruma and Brenda Tau offered a mini revival before Waldron got her second stumping of the game, this time off the bowling of Ciara Metcalfe to remove Tau, and assisting in a run out to dismiss Ruma.
At 47/4 after 13, PNG had left too much work to do in the back-end of their innings. Tau accounted for the only boundary in their innings up until that point. It was a chase that lacked muscle, not to take anything away from the canny Irish attack.
The chase was all but over when Delaney struck twice in the sixteenth, first bowling Arua and then enticing a leading edge from Naoani Vare that skewed to backward-point to leave PNG 65/6. Richardson removed Isabel Toua the next over via a catch from Joyce.
Lucy O'Reilly then took three wickets in five deliveries across the 18th and 20th over to blow away the PNG tail and ignite wild celebrations for the elated Irish Women, who have a WT20Q final to look forward to in the knowledge that they have already qualified for the flagship event.
First Published: July 13, 2018, 5:44 PM IST