Nearly six feet tall, with broad shoulders, an athletic physique and a dad who captained Ireland – it was almost inevitable Gaby Lewis would be a top-class cricketer.

What was less obvious, only five years ago, was that her skills as an attacking batter and outstanding fielder would give the now 22-year-old a jet-setting lifestyle, playing in various franchise tournaments as well as for Ireland.

Today, Lewis will be in Amstelveen, opening the batting for the Girls in Green as they take on the Netherlands in the first of a three-match T20 international series, and at the end of the month, she is off to Barbados for a stint in the Caribbean Super League.

The explosion of opportunities in women’s cricket, backed by professional contracts from Cricket Ireland and support from sponsors like Certa, means that Lewis has already won more caps than father Alan did during his 14 years with the men’s team – and been paid for it.

“The last few years have been fantastic,” Gaby said.

“The World Cup in South Africa in February was special because we’d missed out on the one before, and it’s always hard sitting at home watching, and winning a T20 series in Pakistan last year was another highlight for the team.”

It was a highlight for the opener, too, with her 144 runs across the three games, including 71 from 46 balls in the decider, winning her the Player of the Series award.

“We played on good batting pitches out there, and once we’d got used to the conditions during a tough ODI series, we targeted the T20s, dug deep and were very proud coming home with the win,” she said.

The central contracts introduced by Cricket Ireland at the start of 2022 have led to a noticeable improvement in the team, with some of her international colleagues able to practice and play full-time while others, like Lewis, are on part-time student deals.

Perhaps the biggest improvement in the team has come at the top of the order, where the emergence of Amy Hunter and Orla Prendergast has given Ireland an attacking top three, each capable of taking a game away from the opposition.

Whereas a few years ago, if Lewis got out early, the odds were stacked heavily against her side.

“We’re getting more match-winners in our squad and everyone is pushing on and has the drive to get better. We’re not just out there to play, we’re out there to compete,” she said. “We’re trying to play a more expansive game. Ed Joyce wants those of us at the top of the order to play more freely, take on the game, and not be scared to get out.

“When that comes off, it’s brilliant, as we saw in Pakistan.’

The contracts also mean less pressure off the field as a degree of financial security helps to free up time for gym work and nets.

“I’m about to start my final year of a radiology course at UCD, and while it can be difficult fitting everything in - especially when I’m on placement to hospitals – the uni have been very supportive with moving around exams for me and stuff like that,” she said.

Time to recharge is important, too, of course, and earlier this year, Lewis was in Galle to watch boyfriend Harry Tector batting for Ireland in two Test matches against Sri Lanka and enjoying the weather and beaches between games.

“Harry and I have been dating for four years now,” she said. “With our different schedules and my college work, we don’t see as much of each other as we’d probably like, so spending that time together was great.”

Dad Alan likes to call them the ‘Posh and Becks’ of Ireland, a better comparison might be with Australian cricketing couple Mitchell Starc and Alyssa Healy, given both are talented in their own right.

“To be fair, we do tend to switch off from the game when we’re together,” Gaby said.

There is no escaping the game with the rest of the family, though, with early coaching from mum Sharon, regular net sessions to this day with dad, and an older sister Robyn, herself a full international, who is now also following the coaching path.

“My memories of growing up are of spending just about every day of the summer at the cricket club just messing about and training and watching mum and dad coaching,” Gaby said.

“We used to take our family holidays at Christmas.”

From that background – and with such help and encouragement – it’s no surprise she was playing U15s at the age of 11 and made her full international debut only two years later.

“I was lucky that Robyn was already in the team, and Lucy O’Reilly, who is the same age as me, was also playing, and I was made to feel welcome straight away. We were – and still are – a very close-knit group, which is great.”

Once established, Lewis has been ever present with her total of 2,896 runs across all formats second only to Clare Shillington on the all-time list, including a special innings of 61 from 45 balls against New Zealand in 2018 on home turf at Claremont Road.

“We played them at YM and I got some runs in the T20 – it was a great feeling and when you do get runs against one of those big teams, you just want to do it again, and even better.”

After the recent frustration of losing a couple of tight T20s in the West Indies - followed by a one-sided ODI series against world champions Australia last month – this week’s series on the outskirts of Amsterdam should see Ireland back to winning ways.

“We’re building towards the World Cup qualifiers early next year and we want to work on our plans and stick to the way we’ve been playing – our brand of cricket, if you like,” Lewis said.

“When you play teams who are maybe a bit below where we are, the worry is that you slip to their level, and we need to keep remembering how we play and not change what we’re doing. We need to be ruthless and win all three games.”