Rwanda has pulled off a massive upset in the Women’s Under-19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa, defeating the West Indies by four wickets in Potchefstroom on Sunday.
The East African country, currently 27th on the ICC Women’s T20I rankings, chased the 71-run target with 10 balls to spare, knocking the West Indies out of the inaugural tournament.
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The West Indies won the toss and elected to bat first, with Rwanda spinner Sylvia Usabyimana (4-20) ripping through the top order to leave the Caribbean side reeling at 5-38 in the ninth over.
Fellow tweaker Marie Tumukunde (4-8) wreaked havoc after the drinks break to help topple the West Indies for 70, bowled out in less than 17 overs. Opener Realeanna Grimmond (18 off 21 balls) was the only West Indies batter to reach double figures.
Rwanda’s run chase got off to a stable start, patiently crawling towards 2-32 in the ninth over before losing 4-8 in the space of 22 balls.
The match was suddenly in the balance at 6-40, but Rwanda captain Gisele Ishimwe (31 not out from 53 balls) and Rosine Irera (right not out from 14 balls) combined for a crucial 31-run partnership for the seventh wicket to guide the team home in the penultimate over.
The West Indies, who are No. 6 on the ICC Women’s T20I rankings, subsequently have no chance of progressing through to the semi-finals, left to rue their erratic batting and sloppy fielding.
Rwanda’s “unthinkable” victory comes after they defeated Zimbabwe, another Full Member nation, by 39 runs on Tuesday, during which seam bowler Henriette Ishimwe picked up four wickets in four balls.
Rwanda’s participation in Under-19 Women’s Cricket T20 World Cup marks the nation’s first appearance in a tournament of this stature.
“This is a historic moment, (qualifying) in just a few years from when cricket was introduced in the country. It shows how far we have come as a country,” Emmanuel Byiringiro, the General Manager of cricket in Rwanda, told the ICC earlier this month.
“This was a victory for the whole country, not only for cricketers.”
Cricket was introduced to Rwanda in 1999 – after less than 24 years of developing the sport, they’ve managed to topple a cricket powerhouse at an ICC event.
“If we compare with the opposition that are taking part, it’s countries who have been playing cricket for much longer. We will keep our expectations in check,” Julius Mbaraga, the secretary general of the Rwandan Cricket Association, told ESPNcricinfo ahead of the tournament.
“What we want is for the team to perform to the best of their ability and to use the World Cup as a learning curve. We know it will give many of them the exposure and insight of what it takes to perform at a higher level.”
Meanwhile, Australia needs to defeat the United Arab Emirates on Monday evening to secure their spot in the semi-finals.
Earlier this week, the Aussies cruised to a seven-wicket victory over tournament favourites India in Potchefstroom to keep their World Cup campaign alive.
“We had a bit of a rough start losing a couple of warm-up matches and our first game (against Bangladesh) but I think from that the girls have definitely bounced back,” Australian captain Rhys McKenna said after the match.
“We’re doing all the right work to play our best cricket, so keen to see what happens in the next game.”