Gaby Lewis will make her captaincy debut in the absence of Laura Delany when Ireland take on South Africa in Dublin for three T20Is and three ODIs. Apart from Delany, Ireland are missing six other players against a team also missing their captain and a number of key players, but the Proteas can afford the disruption, Ireland cannot.
There’s no shortage of talent in the home team, or experience, but players the calibre of Delaney, Orla Prendergast, Ava Canning will be missed. Lewis follows in the steps of her father Alan who captained the Ireland men’s team.
“It’s an absolute honour to be asked to captain Ireland for the first time,” said Lewis. “The opportunity to take on one of the world’s leading sides is one I am relishing, and I know the squad is looking forward to the challenge.
South Africa are not without their own challenges, but have played a lot of cricket with Sune Luus as captain in place of regular skipper Dane van Niekirk so the situation is less of a concern. Indeed, South Africa played almost the entire 2021 without van Niekirk.
Also missing is key allrounder Marizanne Kapp and blockbusting opening batter, Lizelle Lee, but such is the depth within the squad that they can be well covered. It’s a very good side on paper even without those players, a number working their way through the South Africa Emerging Players team in 2021 with experience against Thailand and Zimbabwe.
By the numbers, Ireland are currently ICC ranked 12th while South Africa are 5th. At this end of the table, that is a significant gap. The two teams have played each other on ten previous occasions with South Africa enjoying a 9-1 advantage. Their most recent meeting was in August of 2016 and resulted in a win to Ireland by 20 runs.
Ireland have four uncapped players in their squad of fourteen so at least one player will be making their debut in the very first match. Key will be the batting at the top of the order with Lewis and Leah Paul. If those two can blunt the South African new ball attack then it’s game on.
There’s good batting experience in the middle with the team’s two wicket keepers, Shauna Kavanagh and Mary Waldron. Those two players will be of great value to the skipper both with their batting and in the field.
The home team is blessed with two good leg-break bowlers in Cara Murray and Celeste Raack, but unlikely to both play in the same match. It might be a case of Murray for the ODIs and Raack for the T20s.
In the pace department this is an opportunity for Sophie MacMahon to cement her spot in the team. A handy bowler who can also swing a bat lower down the order.
Squad: Gaby Lewis (capt), Alana Dalzell, Rachel Delaney, Georgina Dempsey, Sarah Forbes, Shauna Kavanagh, Arlene Kelly, Sophie MacMahon, Jane Maguire, Kate McEvoy, Cara Murray, Leah Paul, Celeste Raack, Mary Waldron
You could make a very good cricket team from the players missing from this squad but the depth within the Poteas setup is such that some very good players often on the fringe will relish the challenge of stepping up.
Yes, the team is missing Lee at the top of the order yet there is still heavy competition to open the batting. Laura Wolvaardt needs no introduction and neither does Tazmin Brits. A very good opener is Andrie Steyn who captained the Emerging Players last year and was a standout with the bat.
Delmi Tucker is an exciting addition to the squad and looks set to make her debut on the back of a strong domestic series and again, runs for the Emerging Players. As is typical for South Africa, Delmi joins a team full of allrounders: Nadine de Klerk, Chloe Tryon, Anneke Bosch – not to mention the captain – the Proteas ooze bowling variety with these players.
Squad: Sune Luus (capt), Anneke Bosch, Tazmin Brits, Trisha Chetty, Nadine de Klerk, Lara Goodall, Shabnim Ismail, Ayabonga Khaka, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Raisibe Ntozakhe, Tumi Sekhukhune, Andrie Steyn, Chloe Tryon, Delmi Tucker, Laura Wolvaardt
On paper, South Africa win both the T20 and ODI series. They cover Ireland in both quality and depth. Of course, that’s on paper. In the fickle Dublin weather they may just get the wobbles as they have done before. Can Ireland step up and take advantage?
T20 Internationals (Pembroke Cricket Club)
One Day Internationals (Clontarf)
Main image: Getty Images (Oisin Keniry)