Sune Luus, South Africa Women

Dane van Niekerk and Sune Luus shared five wickets between them to engineer a collapse of 6 for 16. © ICC

The Sri Lankan baila was vigorous, the dancing cheeky, the drums merry. But where the home team could have embraced that carefree attitude, they were careless instead, paying for poor shot selection and squandering a solid start.

On the 35th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s first day of Test cricket, on the same ground where Arjuna Ranatunga and Somachandra de Silva took on the likes of Graham Gooch and David Gower, the women’s team couldn’t prevent a nine-wicket loss at the hands of South Africa.

At 70 for 1 after 20 overs and a bit, Sri Lanka would have hoped for more than the 142 for 9 they finished with in their second ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2017 Super Six match, at the P Sara Oval on Friday (February 17). Dane van Niekerk (2 for 14) and Sune Luus (3 for 40), the legspinners, shared five wickets between them to engineer a collapse of 6 for 16. Fifties from Luus and Laura Wolvaardt then helped South Africa chase down the target in 36.1 overs, and seal their spot in the final with India.

Van Niekerk, the captain, broke a 67-run second-wicket partnership to trigger the free fall. Chamari Polgampola, who had faced 56 balls for her 15 until then, attempted to sweep a straighter one and was trapped in front.

Dane van Niekerk:
“We took a chance with Sune. We popped her up the order and said just have a crack. The way she did it in Australia, when we threw her in the deep end, she put up her hand and batted brilliantly. Laura Wolvaardt was due. She’s 17 years old and she looks like she’s been playing her whole life. Cool and calm heads – they’re the babies in the side. So I’m very pleased.”

A sharp throw from Shabnim Ismail in the covers to the wicketkeeper caught out Dilani Manodara going for a run where there was none. Prasadani Weerakkody’s lazy shot to a Luus full toss was held by van Niekerk in the extra-cover region. The captain had Eshani Lokusooriya bowled trying to charge down the pitch. Her partner, bowling around the wicket, denied Nipuni Hansika (48) – the most comfortable of Sri Lanka’s batters – a fifty, before Trisha Chetty was credited with a debatable caught behind to complete the sequence of quick wickets.

Hasini Perera (26) ensured her side lasted their 50 overs, but even with the spinners bowled out by the 35th over, the runs came in a trickle.

Sri Lanka’s slide, after they chose to bat, was unfortunate, given their efforts at the start of the innings and their stream of left-hand batters capable of throwing off the South African bowling.

Ismail and Kapp, the new-ball pair, gave little away in their first spells, and Moseline Daniels and Ismail employed the short ball and the bouncer with little hesitation. Kapp was especially probing, having three loud appeals for lbw in her first over, with only the second given off the dangerous Chamari Athapaththu.

On a day of poor fielding by the South Africans, Ismail was among those denied a wicket. Polgampola was granted a second life on nought when Luus at slip dropped a sitter.

Dane van Niekerk:
“We’ve been hammering on fielding. You can’t win games when you’re taking 13-14 wickets. We create so many chances, and we don’t take them. We have to take 14-15 wickets to bowl a team out. That kind of bites you – and it did against India. That is an area of concern, but we’ll take the win today.”

Lizelle Lee’s attacking play, especially in the area between deep extra cover and long off, forced Inoka Ranaweera to use five different bowlers in the first ten overs of the South Africa innings. Lee’s innings came to an end at a 29-ball 35, a well-struck widish ball caught by Athapaththu at point. The knock included seven fours.

Her wicket slowed down the scoring considerably. If the fifty came in 10.2 overs, the hundred needed 22.4. Laura Wolvaardt was circumspect, and despite showcasing some impressive drives, couldn’t knock off the runs with Luus, who earned a promotion up the order. In keeping with the theme in the middle, it seemed only right that a large group of budding cricketers in white were practising their defence at one corner of the grass banks.

A boundary over long-on from Luus took South Africa to 145 for 1 and wrapped up proceedings in the 37th over. Luus capped an all-round showing with a round 50 off 70 balls. Wolvaardt, who also finished on 50 not out, needed 118 balls, with six fours.

Sri Lanka next play Bangladesh in their last match of this round. If they win, they will confirm their place in the World Cup. If they lose, it could come down to net run-rate. It isn’t time for the baila to stop just yet.