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Beyond the Boundary: Vanuatu's Journey at the ICC Women's T20 World Cup Qualifier

The Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu Women’s team concluded their ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier campaign last Friday in Abu Dhabi after taking defeat to the UAE, ranked #16 in ICC Women’s T20 Internationals, and unfortunately were unable to secure a spot in the Semi-Finals. Teams who progressed through to the Semi-Final stage and qualified for the 2024 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, included Scotland who will make their maiden debut at the World Cup after defeating Ireland, and Sri Lanka who were put to the test by the UAE in their final match. Despite Vanuatu not qualifying, there have been several historic achievements, milestones, lessons, and experience gained for Vanuatu Cricket and the squad.

The team, with eight players stationed in Australia doing seasonal work with our partner Rod Prestia from iComply, one player pursuing studies at USP in Fiji, and the remaining six in Port Vila, meant we faced an uncommon challenge. Spread out across different locations, we found ourselves training and playing cricket individually in the lead-up to the tournament, adding complexity to our preparations.

Embarking on our campaign, our team faced a mammoth challenge: our inaugural participation in a global event. This alone marked a significant milestone for us, stepping onto the international stage and confronting teams of such calibre for the first time. Our journey commenced with a practice match against Uganda ranked #18 in ICC Women’s T20 Internationals, followed by Sri Lanka, ranked 7th globally, where we had the honour of training and competing alongside cricketing legends like Chamari Athapaththu, the top-ranked ICC Women’s ODI batter. The practice matches were invaluable in preparing us for our official matches, as many of the other competing teams had been playing and touring together for weeks into the lead-up to the competition.

Securing a historic victory against Zimbabwe, another full-member nation, ranked 11th globally was not only a testament to our progress but also an upset that derailed Zimbabwe’s chances of qualifying and sent the cricketing world into a frenzy. Notably, our team's performance kept Zimbabwe to their lowest-ever international score, adding another remarkable achievement to our journey.

Throughout the tournament, standout performances illuminated the squad's journey. Nasimana Navaika emerged as a pivotal player, showcasing her prowess by taking 4 crucial wickets and contributing over 20 runs in the victory against Zimbabwe. Her consistency persisted in subsequent matches, earning her the title of "Top Wicket Taker" of the round stage, with an impressive tally of 10 wickets at an average of 7.5 runs per over. This achievement underlines her resilience and skill as she beat out players from every participating nation.

All-rounder Rachel Andrew also left her mark on the tournament, displaying her impressive bowling and batting abilities. Her standout moment came when Sana Mir, former Pakistan Women’s captain and ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier Ambassador, singled her out for praise. Mir selected Andrew's dismissal of Zimbabwe captain Mary-Anne Musonda with an exceptional inswinging yorker as her "Favourite Moment" of the group stages, highlighting Andrew's impact on the field.

The competition served as an opportunity for the squad to showcase their talent on the world stage and put Vanuatu firmly on the cricketing map. The presence of officials and cricketing greats, including Sana Mir, brought attention to Vanuatu as a nation with promising prospects in the sport. Despite setbacks against higher-ranked teams like the Netherlands (ranked 12th) and Ireland (ranked 10th), the squad embraced each match as a learning opportunity. Their ability to take lessons from defeats and apply them in subsequent games has lifted the morale of the entire team, demonstrating their growth throughout the tournament

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