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Irish girls retain place alongside world's best by making Super Sixes

By Ian Callender

As Test cricket looms for Ireland, the women will also be playing alongside the elite for the next four years after retaining their one-day international status by reaching the Super Sixes at the World Cup qualifying tournament in Sri Lanka.

A 46-run victory over Thailand on Saturday in their final group game, following their opening win over Zimbabwe, all but confirmed third place behind India and Sri Lanka, and once tournament favourites India had completed the formality of beating Zimbabwe yesterday - they bowled them out for 60 - Ireland qualified for the next stage.

It will immediately get tougher as Ireland will probably have to win two of their three Super Six games as only the top four go through to the World Cup finals in England this summer, and Ireland start the next phase at the bottom of the table as only points won against the other qualifiers are carried forward and Ireland lost to both India and Sri Lanka.

Their must win game is the first tomorrow against Bangladesh, who also lost both their group games against South Africa and Pakistan. Ireland will, most likely, also have to beat Pakistan on Friday to have any chance of making the finals.

Their final Super Six match is against the unbeaten Proteas on Sunday but it is certainly not a lost cause for Ireland because they beat South Africa at The Hills last August - albeit in the last of a four-match series already won by the visitors - and then bowled out Bangladesh for 106 at Shaw's Bridge before collapsing to a 10 runs defeat.

Captain Laura Delany is relishing the opportunity for the team to reach their first World Cup finals since 2005.

"I am incredibly excited about reaching the next phase of the tournament," she said. "We have played some really good cricket at times over the last week and are very aware that we will need to play our best cricket in these next three games to get the outcome we are after.

"The results could have a major impact on Irish women's cricket going forward. Not only qualifying for the World Cup but also for the Women's ICC Championship, meaning a lot more international fixtures.

"We will be taking it one game at a time and I'm confident if we play with the belief we had when we beat South Africa last summer we will get the job done."

However, just making the Super Sixes was so important for Irish cricket as experienced opening batter Cecilia Joyce explained: "Since we play so little one-day cricket compared to teams ranked in the top eight, every opportunity to play more ODI matches is crucial.

"If we can cause a couple of upsets and qualify for the World Cup, which I believe we are capable of doing, the opportunity to improve will then be there for us to kick on individually and as a team."

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