Ireland Women’s Amy Hunter on ‘that’ century and looking ahead to the World Cup Qualifier
HARARE, Zimbabwe – Just over one month ago Ireland Women’s Amy Hunter wrote her name in world cricket’s record books by becoming the youngest international centurion (men or women) during a One-Day International against Zimbabwe – this week she returns to that southern African nation to compete in the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup Global Qualifier. Amy was talking about her cricket ahead of the tournament.
Belfast-born Hunter, 16, hit an unbeaten 121 in the fourth ODI of the series between Ireland Women and Zimbabwe Women in Harare on 11 October 2021 – which was her 16th birthday. She has now returned to Zimbabwe with the Ireland Women’s squad for the World Cup Qualifier tournament, and is looking forward to the event that will see Ireland take on West Indies, Sri Lanka and Netherlands in the Group Stage. Prior to this, the side takes on Thailand tomorrow in a warm-up match, followed by Pakistan in another warm-up on Friday.
Speaking after training at Old Georgians Sports Club today, Hunter said about that record-breaking innings:
“It was pure relief and delight, to be honest. I found out about the record during the innings break, but didn’t fully understand how big it was until after the game. The girls and management were delighted for me as I’d obviously gone through a bit of a tough patch just previously. I had hardly done one interview before, so it was quite a shock to do all the ones that followed.
“It is not something that I ever would’ve expected and while it was an amazing experience, it was definitely new territory and unlike anything I’d experienced before. It was definitely a day I will cherish forever and never forget. It was a bit surreal to be honest, I have grown up watching Mithali Raj on TV so for her to tweet about me was an incredible feeling.”
“I’ve worked pretty closely with Ed [Joyce] this season - primarily on game plans and mindset. I’ve always struggled with batting for long periods of time, but Ed has been invaluable to work with. The whole management team, particularly Ed and Glenn Querl (Assistant Coach) just told me to be really positive at the crease and back my skills. No one put pressure on me despite previous low scores, the girls and were so supportive and just kept reassuring me and backing me.”
Amy started playing cricket when she was around eight years old at Instonians Cricket Club, playing with the boys in the Under-11s ‘C’ team. After a few years, she featured in the Northern Cricket Union (NCU) Boys Under-11s representative side, and also played her first women’s Super Series match at the age of 11. This led to her selection for the Ireland Girls Under-15s. The following year  she was selected for the Ireland Women’s Under-19s and was named in the Shapoorji Pallonji Cricket Ireland Academy.
“Last November I was delighted to get my first national call-up – it was for a series against Scotland. Unfortunately that series didn’t go ahead due to Covid reasons, but in May this year the series was rescheduled and I made my international debut at Stormont in front of home supporters.”
It has been challenging to balance my studies with cricket, but school - Methodist College, Belfast - make it relatively easy for me to work online when I’m away from home. I tend to work in the car to or from training if I have work to get done, but it isn’t too hard.”
During the time, Amy has also had the support of a Northern Irish athletics legend – Lady Mary Peters LG, CH, DBE, DstJ:
“Yes, myself and Cara Murray are recipients of scholarships from the Mary Peters Trust. It has absolutely helped me, from making it easier to combine work and school to being able to attend more training sessions. I’m so grateful to the Mary Peters Trust for their continued support.”
While her debut series against Scotland was special, Hunter feels the Zimbabwe series was where she gained the most confidence in her game:
“It was a great series for the girls, despite losing the first game we bounced back in great fashion. Personally, I just wanted to give myself a chance to get in and experience what international cricket was really like. The only real plan I had was to be really positive in my batting and to play my own game, taking bowlers on from the beginning.
“It was great to be able to bat with the likes of Gaby Lewis and Laura Delany. In the middle Gaby and I mainly just chatted about batting long but still showing intent to score runs and to enjoy it. She was so supportive of me and kept reassuring me with my plans.
“Laura is incredible - she’s absolutely clear about her plans, and I think this really helped me when I was out there as she helped me establish what I was trying to do and supported me in doing it. I’ve played a lot of cricket with Laura with the Typhoons in the Super Series - she’s an amazing person to play under, as regardless of how you are doing she will always back you. This season when I was struggling for the Typhoons, she kept reassuring me. Laura has definitely made me a better cricketer as I have and continue to learn so much from the way she goes about her game.”
And looking ahead to the qualifying tournament?
“Going into the Qualifier, we are hoping that if we play our best cricket we can come in the top five and qualify for the ICC Women’s Championship. This will be a huge step in the right direction for us as it will ensure we have regular fixtures against the best sides in the world.”
Ireland Women’s squad
Laura Delany (captain), Georgina Dempsey, Amy Hunter, Shauna Kavanagh, Gaby Lewis, Louise Little, Sophie MacMahon, Jane Maguire, Cara Murray, Leah Paul, Orla Prendergast, Celeste Raack, Eimear Richardson, Rebecca Stokell, Mary Waldron. Head coach: Ed Joyce.
In addition, as part of Covid-19 protocols, the following players have been named as reserves:
• Travelling reserve: Sarah Forbes
• Non-travelling reserves: Alana Dalzell and Kate McEvoy
The ICC Women’s World Cup Global Qualifier
The schedule was recently announced for the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup Global Qualifier, with an official warm-up match against Pakistan. In addition, Cricket Ireland has arranged a further warm-up match against Thailand.
For the tournament proper, nine teams will compete for three places at the 2022 Women’s Cricket World Cup, set to be held in New Zealand (the tenth team, Papua New Guinea, withdrew this week and will not be replaced in the draw).
The Qualifier groups are:
• Group A: West Indies, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Netherlands
• Group B: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Zimbabwe, USA
As a consequence of the Papua New Guinea withdrawal, the playing schedule has been amended from previous advice. Ireland Women’s playing schedule is:
• 16 November: Ireland Women v Thailand Women (warm-up match, Old Georgians Sports Club; start 9.30am)
• 19 November: Ireland Women v Pakistan Women (warm-up match, Harare Sports Club; start 9.30am)
• 23 November: Ireland Women v West Indies Women (World Cup Qualifier Match 1, Old Hararians Sports Club; start 9.30am)
• 25 November: Ireland Women v Netherlands Women (World Cup Qualifier Match 2, Old Hararians Sports Club; start 9.30am)
• 29 November: Ireland Women v Sri Lanka Women (World Cup Qualifier Match 3, Sunrise Cricket Club; start 9.30am)
* All times referenced are local to Zimbabwe
The top three teams from each group go to the Super 6 stage, with group stage points carrying over to the next phase. From there, the top three after the Super 6 stage will qualify for the Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 being held in New Zealand next year, along with the hosts, Australia, England, South Africa and India, who have directly qualified for the event.
As a bonus, the top five teams will also qualify for the next edition of the ICC Women’s Championship, which is expanding from eight teams to 10.
The ICC will livestream the matches on ICC.tv, as well as livescoring and providing a range of digital content.
If successful, this will be the first time that Ireland Women have played in a 50-over Cricket World Cup since 2005.