It will be raining fours and sixes at the Botswana Cricket Association (BCA) Oval as Gaborone hosts the Women’s T20 World Cup Africa qualifiers which start on Thursday.
Botswana welcomes 10 nations tomorrow (Tuesday) as they prepare for a 11-day battle between September 9 and 19. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, spectators will not allowed into the cricket arena, instead will enjoy the action through live streaming.
The women’s team, fresh from participating in the Kwibuka T20 tournament in Rwanda, will face a sterner test as they look to progress furthest in the qualifiers. The team did not cover itself in glory in Rwanda, suffering heavy defeats, with some astonishing batting collapses. Qualifying for the T20 World Cup could be a bridge too far at the moment, but moving on to the final stage of the qualifiers would be considered a huge success. The winner will proceed to the final round of the global qualifiers.
BCA fixtures and publicity secretary, Sumod Damodar is elated that cricket is making a return after disruptions due to COVID-19. “The long awaited return to competitive international cricket is upon us and with the grace of God, the nation’s prayers and the discipline of all participating teams by adhering to the health Protocols, we can look forward to an extensive display of good cricket by the women on the playing fields,” Damodar said. “This is also the first tournament of this nature under the ICC banner to be hosted by BCA and the first on the continent under the pandemic period,” he added.
Damodar further said stiff competition is expected as only one team proceeds to the next qualifying round. “It is expected to be highly competitive and strenuously fought, considering that only one successful team will truly emerge victorious in every sense,” he noted. The participating countries are the hosts Botswana, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Mozambique, Eswatini, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe starts off as favourites along, Namibia but Botswana will look to utilize home advantage to pull off an upset. Amid COVID-19 concerns, Damodar said strict protocols would be observed, with all the teams placed under a bio-bubble at the Avani Hotel. “Due to the nature of the current global pandemic and the need to ensure utmost safety and security of all players, officials and support personnel involved with the tournament, the focus of the “Biosecurity Bubble” will be enforced with very stringent and strict measures,” Damodar said. The 11 teams will be divided into two groups of five and six teams for a round robin playing format. At the conclusion of the group matches, the top two teams from each pool proceed to the semi finals.
As part of protocols to minimize the spread of COVID-19, Damodar said eliminated teams will immediately depart to their respective countries. Botswana is in action on the opening day, with coach Innocent Chando’s charges facing Eswatini in 2:15pm kick-off.
Rwanda and Mozambique will get the competition rolling when they face each other at 9am. Botswana is in Group A with Rwanda, Mozambique, Tanzania, Eswatini and Zimbabwe, while Group B has Uganda, Namibia, Nigeria, Cameroon and Sierra Leone.