New Zealand were forced to work hard for their victory, but they eventually prevailed by four wickets, defeating plucky Rwanda in their opening Super Sixes fixture in the ICC Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup in Potchefstroom on Saturday. 

The East Africans won the toss and elected to bat first, keen to set the Kiwis a testing target. 

They didn’t make the best of starts, Merveille Uwase was smartly stumped by Izzy Gaze in the first over bowled by Olivia Anderson, before a run had been scored. Fellow opener Cynthia Tuyizere (3) didn’t last much longer, and it was up to Gisele Ishimwe and Henriette Ishimwe to repair the damage. 

That they did, thanks to Gisele (27 from 28 balls, three boundaries) who played more freely than Henriette (30 from 46 balls, four boundaries). Belise Murekatete swiped a four and a six to make 14 from 12 balls, but the Kiwis kept the rate under control. 

Anderson picked up two for 21, while Kate Chandler’s leg-spin was good for two for 21. Rwanda had to settle for 95 for seven in their allotted overs. 

The chase by New Zealand was steady, if not spectacular. They also lost two wickets upfront, slipping to nine for two inside the first couple of overs. Rosine Irera did the early damage, trapping Georgia Plimmer (9) in front and then having Gaze caught and bowled without scoring.

Emma McLeod then took it upon herself to change the course of the contest. She carted two sixes and nine boundaries, as she sped to 59 from 39 balls. 

Izzy Sharp (11 from 24 balls) hung around while McLeod made merry. Though both fell before the last rites, the heavy lifting had been done. McLeod became Irera’s third victim of the day - also trapped leg-before – but it counted for little by that point. 

Chandler (7 not out) and Abigail Hotton saw the Kiwis home, as they went to six points in the Super Sixes standings, leaving them in a strong position to make it into the semi-finals. 

Scores in brief: 

Toss: Rwanda, who elected to bat first. 

Rwanda 95 for seven in 20 overs (Henriette Ishimwe 30, Gisele Ishimwe 27, Olivia Anderson two for 21, Kate Chandler two for 21)

New Zealand 99 for six in 16.1 overs (Emma McLeod 59, Izzy Sharp 11, Rosine Irera three for 17)

New Zealand won by four wickets.