The group Ireland will play in in the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2021 has been reduced to four as Papua New Guinea have withdrawn because they are unable to send a team due to several members of the squad testing positive for COVID-19.
PNG were to take on defending champions the West Indies on the opening day of the tournament, which runs from 21 November to 5 December across four venues in Harare.
There will be no replacement for PNG in Group A, which includes Sri Lanka, Ireland, the Netherlands and the West Indies.
The five-team Group B comprises Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Zimbabwe and the United States.
ICC Head of Events Chris Tetley said: “Obviously we’re incredibly disappointed not to be able to welcome PNG to the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier, but they have been unable to field a team because a number of the squad have contracted COVID-19.
“The safety of the players and everyone involved in our events is paramount and we will go ahead with the tournament maintaining our bio-security standards.
“I really feel for the PNG players, who have been preparing extensively for this event and for whom it would have been a wonderful experience playing against several top sides in Harare, with the opportunity to qualify for the Women’s World Cup and the next round of the ICC Women’s Championship.
“We hope that they are back playing international cricket soon and continue to develop as a team.”
The Zimbabwe event is an important one on the calendar as it decides three qualifiers for the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 to be held in New Zealand from 4 March to 3 April, joining five teams who have already qualified through the ICC Women’s Championship – Australia, England, India, South Africa and hosts New Zealand.
The three qualifiers as well as the next two teams will also ensure places in the next ICC Women’s Championship (IWC) along with the top five from last time, as the number of teams in the third cycle of the IWC goes up from eight to 10 teams.