There was a hint of helplessness in Chamari Atapattu's voice in the lead up to Sri Lanka's game against South Africa. © Getty Images

There was a hint of helplessness in Chamari Atapattu’s voice in the lead up to Sri Lanka’s game against South Africa. © Getty Images

There seems to be a sense of frustration around Sri Lankan cricket – both the men and women have come so close to winning matches in the ICC World Twenty20 2016, but have often failed to get over the line.

That frustration is evident in Chamari Atapattu when she mistimes a shot, when she watches her team-mate bowl a bad delivery, or when someone misfields in practice. And when she spoke to the media afterwards, the stand-in Sri Lanka Women captain tried to be positive, but there was a hint of helplessness in her voice.

Atapattu’s stint in the nets on Sunday (March 27) ahead of Sri Lanka’s final Group A match against South Africa Women was not more than 20 minutes long, but it seemed to mirror the team’s performance in the tournament. There were a couple of mighty heaves that sailed into the stands, a couple of miscued strokes that were accompanied by screams of anger, and after a few calming words from Nuwan Zoysa, she slipped in to the zone again. It was like a vicious cycle — one that not only the batters are stuck in, but the bowlers as well.

Sri Lanka have managed scores of 110, 129 and 123 against New Zealand Women, Ireland Women and Australia Women respectively, but the numbers don’t quite reveal how reliant the team has been on their top order. All these innings have followed the same pattern of Atapattu’s nets session — the top order gets the bulk of the runs quickly, the middle order tries to carry the momentum and collapses, and the lower order tries to pick up the pieces before time runs out.

It is probably the absence of Shashikala Siriwardene, their captain who suffered a hamstring injury in the warm-up match against India Women, that has rattled the team, but Atapattu was not willing to use that as an excuse.

“Shashikala is one of the best allrounders in the world and obviously her injury was a huge loss to the team, but the other players have really supported me as captain,” said Atapattu. “Our batters have been batting well in the first six overs, but after ten to 12 overs we have been losing wickets consistently, which is why we have struggled. We have also made a lot of fielding and bowling errors.”

Their match on Monday is a chance to turn things around and end their campaign on a high, something Mignon du Preez’s South African team would be looking to do as well, both teams having fallen off in the race to the semifinals.

After a disappointing show against New Zealand, South Africa chose to take the day off on Sunday. While their bowling and fielding have been impressive through the tournament, it is the batting that has failed to stand up.

Against New Zealand, they were dismissed for 99, losing their last five wickets for just nine runs. The opening pair of Trisha Chetty and Dane van Niekerk has been their only saving grace with the bat with partnerships of 72 and 41 against Australia and Ireland respectively, but even they failed to get going in the previous match.

“I think our biggest concern throughout the last few campaigns has been our batting,” agreed du Preez. “We have played good cricket in patches and I don’t think our failures (with the bat) are due to a lack of skill; it’s more about execution or maybe planning a little better.

“Our bowlers have done very well to defend the low totals. We have one of the best bowling units in the world, but it is not easy when you don’t have runs on the board.”

The match is a dead rubber, but neither team is treating it that way. “It’s our final game in the World Cup and we want to end it on a high. I think we will go out there and give it our all,” explained du Preez. “Obviously we know that our tournament is done and dusted in terms of the fact that we can’t go through to the semifinal, but there’s still a lot to play for and I think we want to go home with some positive memories.”

The sides are rather equally balanced with neither batting lineup having found its feet, but South Africa’s strong bowling attack led by the pace of Shabnim Ismail and the guile of Sune Luus would mean they go into the match with their noses slightly ahead.

Teams (from)
South Africa Women: Mignon du Preez (capt), Trisha Chetty (wk), Moseline Daniels, Dinesha Devnarain, Odine Kirsten, Yolani Fourie, Chloe Tryon, Shabnim Ismail, Marizanne Kapp, Masabata Klaas, Ayabonga Khaka, Lizelle Lee, Marcia Letsoalo, Sune Luus, Dane van Niekerk.

Sri Lanka Women: Chamari Atapattu (capt), Nilakshi de Silva, Nipuni Hansika, Ama Kanchana, Hansima Karunaratne, Eshani Lokusuriyage, Sugandika Kumari, Harshitha Madavi, Yasoda Mendis, Udeshika Prabodhani, Oshadi Ranasinghe, Inoka Ranaweera, Dilani Manodara, Prasadani Weekakkody, Anushka Sanjeewani.