|ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier semi-final, Abu Dhabi|
|Ireland 137-6 (20 overs): Prendergast 28, Stokell 26*, Delany 22; N Sibanda 2-24, K Ndlovu 2-36|
|Zimbabwe 133-6 (20 overs): Mayers 39, Musonda 31; Maguire 2-18, Kelly 2-27|
|Ireland won by four runs|
|Scorecard (external site)|
Ireland edged Zimbabwe by four runs in a thrilling Qualifier semi-final finish to guarantee a place at next year’s Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa.
Orla Prendergast top-scored with 28 and Rebecca Stokell hit an unbeaten 26 as Ireland posted137-6 off their 20 overs.
Zimbabwe needed 15 runs off the final over to win, but Irish captain Laura Delany conceded just 10.
Sharne Mayers made 39 and Mary Anne-Musonda 31, with Jane Maguire and Arlene Kelly taking two wickets apiece.
Bangladesh and Thailand meet in the second semi-final later on Friday to decide Ireland’s opponents in the final.
Ireland lost to Bangladesh in their opening group game but went on to beat USA and Scotland to make the semi-finals.
Zimbabwe punished for missed catches
Ireland’s top six batters all registered double-figures, while the bowlers remained composed under mounting pressure as Ed Joyce’s team clinched one of the two T20 World Cup berths on offer.
Having been put in to bat, Ireland started off with positive intent, Gaby Lewis slapping the second ball of the day to the deep square leg boundary.
Along with her opening partner Amy Hunter, the pair punished any short deliveries as they looked to take the early initiative. However, Lewis (11) fell in the fourth over after she top-edged one to backward point, with Ireland 25-1.
Orla Prendergast entered the fray and looked in fine touch once again – striking two fours and a six from her first nine balls, as Ireland moved on to 44-1 after the powerplay.
Following a 31-run stand, Hunter (19) advanced down Audrey Mazvishaya but was stumped in the ninth over.
Prendergast tried to take advantage of a second opportunity after being dropped earlier in her innings and powered her way to 28 before holing out at cover off the bowling of Kelis Ndlovu.
At 68-3, Ireland’s innings was in the balance, but several dropped catches saw Ireland ride their luck. A quickfire 30-run partnership between Delany and Eimear Richardson (14), followed by a 27-run partnership between Delany and Stokell saw Ireland regain control.
Stokell’s late cameo saw her smash 20 runs off the 18th over, as 37 runs flowed from the final three overs.
Maguire claimed two early wickets in the Zimbabwean run-chase – Ndlovu (8) and Chipo Tiripano (4) – but Ireland’s opponents began to recover with Mayers and Musonda posting a 50-run partnership.
That partnership was broken by Kelly in the 13th over when she clipped the off stump of Mayers and Zimbabwe were 71-3.
Zimbabwe upped the scoring rate in the latter overs – needing a feasible 39 from 30 balls, Cara Murray struck, removing Musonda with a flighted delivery that spun away from the right-hander leaving her stranded, and Mary Waldron duly completed the stumping.
Delany took the ball for the final over, but despite conceding a boundary with her second ball and also bowing a wide, Ireland held on for the win.