Wairarapa’s Emma McLeod only needed one opportunity to shine and announce herself as one of the stars of the Women’s Under-19 T20 World Cup. She did so with a blistering half-century as New Zealand made it four wins from four in South Africa.
McLeod had been listed to bat in the middle order in the one-sided victories over Indonesia, Ireland, and West Indies in the first group stage but was not needed, with New Zealand cruising to two nine-wicket and a 10-wicket victories.
The St Matthew’s student’s chance came when she was promoted to open against surprise package Rwanda in the first round of the Super Six group stage at Potchefstroom on Saturday.
The East Africans managed 96-7 off their overs, leaving the Kiwis an apparent straightforward run chase, but the slow nature of the worn pitch meant that fast scoring would be difficult.
The loss of Georgie Plummer  and Izzy Gaze , out to the bowling of Rosine Irera with only nine runs on the board, was an early setback before McLeod and Izzy Sharp [11 from 24 balls] stabilised the New Zealand innings, adding a partnership of 26 runs.
After the loss of Sharp, McLeod increased the tempo and changed the course of the contest, as she raced to 59 from 39 balls, using her pull shot to great effect, smashing two sixes and nine fours, in bringing up her 50 in 33 balls.
The ICC match report said, “even as other Kiwi batters struggled to get bat to ball,
McLeod looked as if she was batting on a different strip. Her aggressive strokeplay put Rwanda on the back foot and helped her side close in on the target.”
McLeod was dismissed in the 15th over – lbw to Irera – with five runs needed for victory.
McLeod’s Southey Sayer Wairarapa Korus coach Simon Roseingrave is extremely proud of the 16-year-old. To get an opportunity to open the batting showed the confidence the coaches had in her, he said.
“What surprised me is how she looked so good, and every other batter struggled against the bowlers. We only scored 99-6, and to score 59 of them just shows what quality she’s got, and she deserves to be in that team based on her ability.
“That will make other team selectors sit up and take notice, I would suggest,” Roseingrave said.
McLeod also made an impact in the field, catching the dangerous Belise Murekatete, who had scored 14 off 12 balls as Rwanda tried to up the run rate.
New Zealand’s next outing is against Pakistan on Tuesday [South African time]. A win would be enough to secure a place in the semifinals.
Rwanda 96-7 [Henriette Ishimwe 30, Gisele Ishinwe 27; Olivia Anderson 2-21, Kate Chandler 2-21] lost to New Zealand 99-6 [Emma McLeod 59; Rosine Irera 3-17] by four wickets.