Women’s T20 World Cup: Athapaththu inspires Sri Lanka’s stunning win over South Africa in opener

Women's T20 World Cup: Athapaththu inspires Sri Lanka's stunning win over South Africa in opener
Women’s T20 World Cup: Athapaththu inspires Sri Lanka’s stunning win over South Africa in opener

Captain Chamari Athapaththu starred with the bat as Sri Lanka produced an inspiring performance to stun hosts South Africa by three runs in the opening match of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup at Newlands.

Athapaththu led from the front with a 50-ball 68 (12×4), Sri Lanka’s highest-ever individual score at the showpiece event on Friday night. Having set South Africa 130 to win, Sri Lankan spinners took control with guile and discipline to restrict the hosts for 126 for nine. It was Sri Lanka’s first T20I victory over South Africa since 2016.

The islanders made a slow start, scoring just four runs out of the first three overs, but Athapaththu broke the shackles soon with back-to-back fours off Nonkululeko Mlaba. Opener Harshitha Samarawickrama’s struggle came to an end when she chipped Nadine de Klerk to midwicket to depart for eight from 20 balls.

Despite the fall of wicket, Athapaththu continued her attacking game and hit De Klerk for five boundaries in nine balls. Seventeen-year-old Vishmi Gunaratne 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. Athapaththu and Gunaratne (35 off 34b; 4×4) put on 86 for the second wicket, Sri Lanka’s highest partnership for any wicket at the T20 World Cup, to lay the base for the team’s total.

But just when they were looking dangerous the duo departed abruptly in successive balls. Gunaratne was 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 down Sri Lanka, with Marizanne Kapp conceding only five from the last over.

In reply, South Africa were off to a steady start to their chase and opener Tazmin Brits was struck on the helmet by the fifth ball of the innings, forcing the opener to pass concussion tests twice. Off-spinner Oshadi Ranasinghe bowled four dot balls in the penultimate over of powerplay putting pressure on Brits who was caught at extra cover for 12.

Kapp (11) offered stability but Sri Lanka claimed the Proteas’ prized scalp in the eighth over when she was holed out to De Silva at long leg off Inoka Ranaweera. Ranaweera struck again when Laura Wolvaardt (18) top-edged a sweep which was caught by Ranasinghe.

Chloe Tryon (10) curbed her natural attacking game early on but mistimed a leg-side slog to be holed out to De Silva. Left-arm spinner Sugandika Kumari struck once more in the same over when Anneke Bosch played on, leaving South Africa tottering at 72 for five as Proteas captain Sune Luus (28) remained stranded at one end.

It was 95 for 6 soon when Nadine de Klerk was caught by De Silva. Ranaweera got the vital wicket of Luus in the penultimate over, stumped by wicketkeeper Anushka Sanjeewani. Sinalo Jafta and Ismail were both run out in the closing stages as South Africa fell short.

Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 129 for four in 20 overs (Chamari Athapaththu 68, Vishmi Gunaratne 35; Nadine De Klerk 1/38, Marizanne Kapp 1/15) beat South Africa 126 for nine in 20 overs (Sune Luus 28, Laura Wolvaardt 18; Inoka Ranaweera 3/18, Oshadi Ranasinghe 2/20) by three runs.

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