Black Immigrant Daily News
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Sri Lanka threw up a big surprise in the opening game of the Women’s Twenty20 World Cup on Friday, holding their nerve in the field in a frantic finish to beat host South Africa by three runs.
Sri Lanka captain Chamari Athapaththu hit 68 from 50 balls to set up a total of 129-4 after her team was put in to bat.
Sri Lanka’s bowling and fielding carried them home, though, with spinners Inoka Ranaweera, Oshadi Ranasinghe and Sugandika Kumari accounting for seven of the wickets as South Africa fell short on 126-9.
Sri Lanka also pulled off two important run outs in the last two overs to cut short late counterattacks by South Africa tailenders Sinalo Jafta and Shabnim Ismail.
Last batter Nonkululeko Mlaba lofted a drive over mid-off for four off the last ball of the game for South Africa but it didn’t matter as the host needed eight off that delivery to win.
Sri Lanka’s players celebrated their famous win energetically at Newlands in Cape Town, and all ended up in a huddle on the field doing a team chant.
Athapaththu was a crucial leader with her performance with the bat but also for marshaling her bowlers and fielders in the tense final overs.
“I always try and lead from the front,” Athapaththu said. “I try and be a role model for the team. We played good cricket today.”
Athapaththu hit 12 fours in her half-century and put on a partnership of 82 off 62 balls with 17-year-old Vishmi Gunaratne, who made 35 off 34 batting at No. 3 and promises to be the next star of Sri Lankan women’s cricket after Athapaththu.
The defeat for South Africa was a bitter blow and came after a tumultuous buildup to their home tournament when captain and allrounder Dane van Niekerk, one of the world’s top players, was left out of the squad for the tournament for failing a fitness and conditioning test.
The decision to drop Van Niekerk because she missed the cutoff time for a two-kilometer (1.2-mile) run by 18 seconds has stoked hot debate in South Africa. Coach Hilton Moreeng said the team’s fitness requirements were “non-negotiable” and Van Niekerk ended up working as a TV commentator at the tournament-opener as her team lost.
“One game doesn’t define a team and the World Cup still has a long way to go,” new South Africa captain Sune Luus said.
Defending champion Australia, which have won five of the seven T20 World Cups played, start their tournament against New Zealand in a night game in Paarl on Saturday.
England play West Indies earlier the same day.
The Aussies are favoured to retain their title at the World Cup despite a surprise loss to Ireland in a warmup game this week, their first T20 defeat in nearly two years.
“We come into this World Cup on level pegging with everybody else and we’re coming here to win and we know how difficult that is,” said Australia captain , who has led her country to three of those World Cup titles.