Ireland's hopes of reaching the 2022 Women’s Cricket World Cup are over after the International Cricket Council announced the cancellation of the qualifier stage due to the introduction of travel restrictions from a number of African countries, including the host country Zimbabwe, following the detection of a new Covid-19 variant in southern Africa.
Ed Joyce’s side had already played two Group A games, losing to the West Indies and beating the Netherlands, and were due to play Sri Lanka on Monday with a spot in the Super Six stage of the tournament all but guaranteed.
Half of the Super Six sides were due to advance to the World Cup tournament, but now the top three ranked teams - Bangladesh, Pakistan and the West Indies - have instead been selected to progress.
There is some consolation for the Ireland team in Harare as they will now advance to the next edition of the ICC Women's Championship, which is expanding from eight teams to 10.
ICC head of events Chris Tetley said: "We are incredibly disappointed to have to cancel the remainder of this event but with travel restrictions from a number of African countries being imposed at such short notice there was a serious risk that teams would be unable to return home.
"We have explored a number of options to allow us to complete the event but it isn’t feasible and we will fly the teams out of Zimbabwe as soon as possible. Bangladesh, Pakistan and the West Indies will now qualify for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2022 by virtue of their rankings, whilst Sri Lanka and Ireland will also join them in the next cycle of the ICC Women’s Championship."
Reacting to the news, Cricket Ireland High Performance Director Richard Holdsworth said: "We are disappointed for all the players and teams who are in Zimbabwe at the moment, but from a health and safety perspective this is the correct decision.
"We will now concentrate on working with the ICC in getting our squad home as soon as practicable."