The records keep tumbling for Amy Hunter, still less than four months after her 18th birthday, but the Belfast schoolgirl is taking it all in her stride and a whole cricket career ahead of her.
Already the record-holder for the youngest batter, male or female, to score a century in a one-day international, she became the first to double up with a hundred in the T20 format as a teenager when she scored 101 not out in the first game of Ireland’s recent series against Zimbabwe. Indeed, only Kevin O’Brien and Paul Stirling have achieved the feat for Ireland in all formats of the men’s game.
That’s the sort of company that Hunter is already keeping — and there’s more. Not only did her 220 runs, for once out, in the first three T20 internationals in Harare make her the unanimous choice for January’s Electric Ireland Game Changer of the Month award but she has also been nominated for the ICC Women’s Player of the Month, alongside Australia captain Alyssa Healy and team-mate Beth Mooney.
Amy Hunter: Electric Ireland/Belfast Telegraph winner for January
“It’s some standard,” Hunter admits. “They are two of the best players in the world.” The winner will be announced on Monday but even being in the top three shows the worldwide impact that Hunter is making.
The Australians scored their runs against India and South Africa, which will probably sway the ICC judges, but Hunter’s achievement has not gone unnoticed, with the citation noting that the Ireland “young wicket-keeper batter’s runs came at a sensational strike rate of 144.73”.
After a quiet ODI series, by her own high standards — 58 runs in the three games that started last month’s tour of Zimbabwe — Hunter was just happy to get to 50 in the first T20I.
“Coming off the back of not one of my best ODI series, it was just a relief to get a couple away early,” Amy recalls. “And after that I felt really good. But I never really considered getting a hundred. It was only when I got to around 85, I think it was, with a couple of overs to go that I thought there might be a small chance.”
Hunter was on 94 at the start of the final over but she lost her partner, Rebecca Stokell, to the first ball and in came captain Laura Delany.
“Laura made it pretty clear she wanted me on strike, something I hadn’t even considered, but she said she would tuck it into the leg side (for a single) and if I backed up she would go,” she said.
The single duly followed and Hunter then hit a four and a single off the next two balls to take her to 99 but, of course, she was off strike.
Delany, however, took a single to give Hunter the chance to face the last ball and bring up her first T20I century. The next ball was down leg side “which I was disappointed not to hit” but the umpire signalled a wide and Hunter made no mistake tucking the extra ball through mid-wicket for the century-making runs.
“It was a great feeling,” she said. Two days later, in the second match of the series, Hunter won her 50th cap and celebrated with another unbeaten innings, 77, as Ireland went two up, needing to only win the third match to take an unbeatable lead in the five-match series.
“Getting the hundred was good but to be able to back it up is always something we speak about and by the third match (having been on the field for every ball of the series) towards the end of that innings, I was feeling tired,” she admits. Hunter was finally dismissed, this time for 42 but a comfortable 60 runs victory clinched the series and they went on to win the last two games and become the first Ireland team to claim a 5-0 success.
Hunter says it is just coincidence that her only two centuries so far have come at the Harare Sports Club, “but I like playing there”. The 28 months between the two games, however, has seemed like a lifetime for the Methodist College student.
“I have developed a huge amount,” she says. “Back in October 2021 it was very early in my career and I didn’t know my game a huge amount. That innings was a big relief but now I trust my game a lot more.
“I used to try and hit everything but now if Gaby (Lewis, her opening batting partner) goes off like a rocket I am happy to just anchor the innings. It’s always good to have days like that and it’s something I have become much more comfortable with.”
While Amy is ready to score many more runs for Ireland, there are a couple of challenging months ahead.
“I’m doing chemistry, biology and maths for A-levels and they start at the end of May, which is straight after we come back from the T20 World Cup qualifiers in UAE. I think I miss my first practical so it’s not the end of the world.”
Then, it’s decision time, whether to become a professional cricketer, with a full-time contract from Cricket Ireland, or to continue her education.
“I’ll probably keep going with education,” is her instant response, “and if I can study at UCD down south it would be pretty convenient for the cricket.”
Once the A-levels are out of the way, however, it’s a huge summer for Amy and Ireland with visits from Sri Lanka and England, the latter for three ODIs in the ICC Women’s Championships and T20 internationals.
“I’ve only played England once so far, in the World Cup, but this time we’re at home and that’s a huge boost. We’ve beaten Australia in a warm-up match at the last World Cup and we played them here last summer so while a lot has to go right for us, the potential is definitely there.”
And Hunter’s goals mirror the Ireland side’s upward trajectory.
“I’d like to qualify for a few more World Cups, it’s the pinnacle of cricket, and then I would like to play some franchise cricket and qualify again for the next ODI championship,” she says. “That’s hugely important. We have seen massive development within the women’s game in Ireland since we’ve qualified so hopefully we can do that again.
“It’s a very young squad which is a good thing for the future and if we can continue challenging those immediately above us, the likes of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, in