Shashikala Siriwardena starred with both bat and ball as Sri Lanka turned the tables on South Africa with an emphatic 88-run victory in a fifth-place play-off clash in the ICC Women’s World Cup 2013 at the Barabati Stadium on Friday (February 15).
The victory was set up by Chamari Athapaththu and Eshani Kaushalya, who led Sri Lanka’s much-improved batting performance to help post a score of 244 for seven in 50 overs after opting to bat. In reply South Africa’s inconsistent batting line-up folded for just 156 in 40.1 overs with none of the top four batters going past 20.
At 49 for four in the 17th over, the match was as good as over, but Shandre Fritz (54) and Dane Van Niekerk (26) kept the fight going with a mixture of caution and aggression. But the flurry of wickets at the top meant the duo couldn’t take too many risks, resulting in a spiraling required run-rate. With more than 25 overs remaining, South Africa needed to score at better than 8 runs per over, and that pressure consumed Niekerk, who was out caught at mid on. With South Africa 101 for five, the writing was on the wall.
Despite that setback, Fritz kept the chase going with some attacking strokes. It took an excellent throw from Kaushalya at fine leg to dismiss Fritz, and after that the tail caved in against the spinners, with Siriwardena, the captain, picking up four wickets.
“The response from our fans and well wishers has been tremendous,” gushed the soft-spoken Siriwardena. “After seeing the performance of the side, especially (Eshani) Kaushalya, Deepika (Rasangika), (Chamari) Athapaththu and myself, we’ve heard a lot of people are encouraging their daughters to start playing cricket.”
Sri Lanka had their batters to thank for a win that enabled the team to finish fifth in the tournament. Athapaththu (52), coming off a fine 63 in the previous game between the two sides, rebuilt the innings in the company of Deepika Rasangika, and then Siriwardena after the side lost both openers – Yasoda Mendis (1) and Prasadani Weerakkody (8) – with just 14 runs on the board.
Rasangika absorbed the pressure created by South Africa’s new ball pair of Shabnim Ismail and Chloe Tyron, and then opened up to play some delightful cover drives and wristy flicks in her knock of 43 studded with seven boundaries. When Sri Lanka lost Rasangika against the run of play in the 22nd over, they needed someone to hold one end up.
That role was played to perfection by Siriwardena, who was happy to nurdle the ball into the gaps and tackle the spinners with relative ease. She put on a vital fourth-wicket stand of 81 with Athapaththu to play Sri Lanka into a position from where they could attack in the batting Power Play. And they did, with Siriwardena increasing the tempo with some fine strokes with the field restrictions in place, the best of the lot being a lofted hit over extra cover.
Just when it looked like Sri Lanka’s aim of getting to a total close to 250 received a boost, came twin-blows courtesy Marcia Letsoalo, the offspinner, who had both Siriwardena (43) and Athapaththu (52) stumped in a space of four deliveries as Sri Lanka were pegged back on 172 for five in the 41st over.
But that didn’t prove to be fatal as the side found a saviour in Kaushalya, the big hitting allrounder, who swung her way to a quickfire 43 off 31 balls in the company of Chamani Seneviratna (17 off 12 balls) to help Sri Lanka amass 80 runs off the last 10 overs.
The win capped off a memorable tournament for Sri Lanka, who upset England and India to qualify for the Super Sixes. The result also ensured the team had secured a berth in the 2017 edition of the ICC Women’s World Cup by virtue of finishing in the top six, a qualification that South Africa also earned.
Mignon du Preez, the South African captain, however, admitted that it was increasingly frustrating to be unable to perform well when it mattered. “We know we’ve done a lot of hard work but nothing seems to be coming together when it needs to,” said a dejected du Preez. “Sometimes when the pressure is off we’ve brought our best game forward, and at crucial times we’ve struggled. But we’re richer from the experience and hopefully we will be a stronger side four years later.”