The Irish eyes were smiling

Don Cameron

November 23, 2000

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The Ireland team for the CricInfo Women's World Cup cricket tournament scored highly for charm when they reached their Hamilton base this morning - and even higher for enterprise.

They have already had three players Catriona Beggs, Clara Metcalfe and Clare Shillington playing club cricket in Auckland, so they could polish up their match-play rather than rely on net training at home.

The Irishwomen will play Northern Districts in two warm-up matches at WestpacTrust Park on Sunday and Monday, before joining the other World Cup sides in Christchurch.

This will be Ireland's fourth World Cup, and they have the steady record of scoring two wins in each of their previous tournaments in 1988, 1993 and 1997.

"This time we are aiming at a top-six place as that would qualify us for automatic entry to the next World Cup in South Africa," said the manager Grania Medcalf.

Asked if they might aim even higher, for a semi-final place in the eight-team competition, Medcalf said that any talk about that might ruin their plans to enter the tournament as an under-dog squad.

Medcalf felt that Ireland were stronger than in past years. They reached the final of the European Cup last year, losing to an England 'A' side in a nerve-wracking, last-over finish.

This year Ireland defeated the touring Pakistan side in a Test (the first four-day Test played by Ireland) and in three One-Day Internationals.

Medcalf said these matches gave further evidence that the Ireland captain Miriam Grealey was still the leading all-round performer in the team. However, the test against Pakistan also brought to light a 17-year-old schoolgirl, Isobel Joyce, who took six wickets for 21 in a Test innings.

"Isobel bowls left-arm medium-pace," said Medcalf, "and has had to take time away from her schoolwork for this tournament."

Grealey has played 47 matches for Ireland, and seems certain to become the first Irishwoman to get 50 caps during the coming tournament.

Unlike the Netherlands side, which had an exhausting three-day journey from Amsterdam to Auckland, caused by fog-bound airports and missed connections, the Irish players appeared to have handled the Dublin-Heathrow-Los Angeles trip comfortably, and even after a dawn landing at Auckland were planning some sight-seeing this afternoon.

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