Women’s T20 World Cup: Ireland coach Ed Joyce backs ‘fearless underdogs’ in youthful squad | Cricket News


Ireland’s eyes are most definitely smiling as they return to the global stage for the Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa, buoyed by an impressive victory over reigning champions Australia in their final warm-up match.

That result will have sent out a warning to not only their opening group two opponents England, but the rest of the competition that Laura Delany’s side are not just there to make up the numbers.

When listening to head coach Ed Joyce talk about their planned approach to the challenges ahead, it’s easy to see why Ireland have arrived in South Africa off the back of arguably their most successful year in the format.

In 2022, they won eight T20 internationals, the joint-most in their history, including landmark victories against Pakistan in November to secure a 2-1 series victory, which followed another historic victory against South Africa in Dublin back in June, just their second win against the Proteas in all formats.



“Those results in recent months, in the qualifiers and since we’ve been out here have been great, but the way the players have embraced playing fearless cricket has been really pleasing,” former Ireland opener Joyce told Sky Sports News.

“We feel like there’s no point in just tapping the ball around. The top teams are all really, really good cricketers and we feel like we’ve got to go out and express ourselves.


“Sometimes that might not necessarily pay off, but we feel we need to do that and hopefully we’ll have more success if we do.”

More from Women’s T20 World Cup 2023


Former Ireland opener Ed Joyce, who also played for England, is the women's head coach
Former Ireland opener Ed Joyce, who also played for England, has been women’s head coach since 2019

Sound familiar? There are certainly echoes of England men’s ‘Bazball’ approach to Test cricket and also the philosophy of his opposite number in England Women’s head coach Jon Lewis wanting his side to “play with freedom”.

Joyce’s philosophy potentially comes with having a squad with the youngest average age in the competition at just 24.

But while the players may be young in age, they are certainly not young in international experience.

All-rounder Gaby Lewis is the best illustration having already made 64 T20 international appearances since her debut aged just 13 years and 16 days in 2014.

Ireland batter Gaby Lewis (pic courstesy of ICC Media)
Gaby Lewis has already made more than 60 T20 international appearances by the age of 21 (pic courstesy of ICC Media)

“We’re trying to get away from picking players so young,” Joyce said.

“There’s a few too many downsides to handing out debuts at 13, at 14. I think we’ve probably lost a few players as a result of the young age they’ve come into the team in the past.

“But someone like Gaby at 21, has played so many games and so many tournaments considering her age. She’s a really good player and we’ve got a lot of younger players, but we’ve also got some senior players in there too.

“That’s really important to bring through the youth. But from a coaching perspective, we feel like we’ve got an exciting group with some real talent and ability as well, which makes for an exciting time.”

Performance above results Joyce’s immediate priority

First up for Ireland come England in Paarl, a challenge Joyce admits will pit them as “huge underdogs” as he expects they will also be against Pakistan, West Indies and 2020 runners-up India in their three other group two matches.

But the former Middlesex and Sussex opener, who also played internationally for both England and Ireland, feels a “pro-active approach” with the bat will give his side the best chance.

“The games we’ve had leading into this tournament have certainly given us some confidence that we can compete with the best, no more so than that win against Australia,” he said.

“We bat all the way down. ‘Throwing the bat at it’ is probably not the right phrase, but we need to take risks and look to be positive to put a good score on the board and compete with a very good England side.”

Monday 13th February 12:30pm

There are strong chances Ireland can pick up a first T20 World Cup win when they take on Pakistan and then West Indies in Cape Town, but Joyce is more concerned with seeing his side deliver their best possible performance.

“If we can do that, we’re confident we can compete with the best teams, if not necessarily beat them,” he said.

“We want to be consistent and play the way we want to play over the whole four games and see where we end up.

“Hopefully in a few years’ time we can keep growing and we might be targeting certain things, but for now it’s about keeping up the performance level.”

Wednesday 15th February 4:30pm

Friday 17th February 4:30pm

Monday 20th February 12:30pm

As Joyce, 44, looks beyond just the next few weeks in South Africa and what the future may bring for his squad, he points to the impact introducing professional contracts has had in Irish women’s cricket in the past year as well as the growth in franchise tournaments.

“It’s obviously giving women’s cricket an amazing platform,” he said.

“It would be amazing if more of our players could get into those competitions. Gaby Lewis has certainly been a trailblazer for us playing in The Hundred, plus my sister (Isobel) and Kim Garth (now of Australia) have also previously played in the Women’s Big Bash League.

Ireland wicketkeeper-batter Amy Hunter (pic: ICC Media)
Wicketkeeper-batter Amy Hunter is set to open for Ireland against England on Monday (pic: ICC Media)

“We have the talent and it would be just another bit of exposure and experience our girls wouldn’t have if they were just playing in Ireland.

“This World Cup’s huge and the exposure’s obviously great, but there’s also a lot of opportunities out there for our girls as well and it’s a hugely exciting time in the game.

“It’s just a shame the auction for the Women’s Indian Premier League is also on Monday and not a week later as I think it would’ve given our players a great chance to put themselves in the shop window during this tournament.”

Watch the 2023 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup live on Sky Sports throughout February. Ireland vs England is live from 1pm Monday (on air 12.30pm) on Sky Sports Cricket and Main Event.


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