Women’s T20 WC: Inspired Sri Lanka sink South Africa on opening night

Sri Lanka claimed a famous three-run victory over hosts South Africa at Newlands on the opening night of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023.

Captain Chamari Athapaththu led from the front with a wonderful 68 from 50 balls, her nation’s highest-ever individual score at the showpiece tournament.

Having set South Africa 130 to win, Athapaththu’s spinners took control with guile and discipline to secure a first T20I victory over the Proteas since 2016.

Sri Lanka made a slow start on Friday night, eking four runs out of the first three overs, but Athapaththu soon hit her stride and carved back-to-back fours off Nonkululeko Mlaba. Opener Harshitha Samarawickrama was far less fluent and her struggles came to an end when she chipped Nadine de Klerk to midwicket to depart for eight from 20 balls.

Now joined by 17-year-old Vishmi Gunaratne, Athapaththu didn’t take a backward step and took De Klerk for five boundaries in nine balls. Vishmi took time to settle but matched her skipper’s stroke play, lap-sweeping Mlaba to the rope and then hacking Shabnim Ismail for three fours in an over on her return to the attack.

Athapaththu and Vishmi put on 86 for the second wicket, Sri Lanka’s highest partnership for any wicket at the T20 World Cup, but they departed abruptly in successive balls. Vishmi took a single to short cover that wasn’t there, run out by Tazmin Brits for 35, before Athapaththu perished to long leg for a superb 68 to leave her side on 114 for three.

Ismail yorked Nilakshi de Silva in the penultimate over to slow Sri Lanka right down and Marizanne Kapp conceded only five from the last as South Africa were set 130 to win.

The hosts made a steady start, stymied when Tazmin Brits was struck on the helmet by the fifth ball of the reply, twice passing concussion tests from team doctors. Off-spinner Oshadi Ranasinghe joined up four dot balls in the penultimate powerplay over and Brits found extra cover to depart for 12.

Marizanne Kapp offered stability but Sri Lanka claimed the Proteas’ prize scalp in the eighth over when she holed out to Nilakshi de Silva at long leg off Inoka Ranaweera, dismissed for 11 at 44 for one.

Ranaweera struck again and the South African slide continued when Laura Wolvaardt top-edged a sweep onto her shoulder, pouched by Ranasinghe to go for 18. Chloe Tryon curbed her natural attacking instincts early on and chose the wrong ball to climb into, mistiming a leg-side slog and De Silva was steady under the catch once again.

Left-arm spinner Sugandika Kumari struck once more in the same over when Anneke Bosch dragged on, leaving South Africa in disarray at 72 for five. Proteas captain Sune Luus was left standing amid the wreckage and as the required rate climbed north of 10, she launched Ranasinghe over the long-on boundary.

Two balls later De Klerk tried the same but could only find the grasp of that fielder De Silva again, the hosts with it all to do at 95 for six.

The superb Ranaweera got the crucial wicket in the penultimate over, enticing Luus out of her crease for Anushka Sanjeewani to whip off the bails. Sinalo Jafta and Ismail were both run out in the closing stages to sink South African hopes.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 129/4 in 20 overs (Chamari Athapaththu 68, Vishmi Gunaratne 35; Nadine De Klerk 1-38, Marizanne Kapp 1-15) beat South Africa 126/9 in 20 overs (Sune Luus 28, Laura Wolvaardt 18; Inoka Ranaweera 3-18, Oshadi Ranasinghe 2-20) by 3 runs

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