Sri Lanka spoil South Africa’s World Cup opening party with surprise win

Sri Lanka spoil South Africa’s World Cup opening party with surprise win
Down but not out: Sri Lanka's Anushka Sanjeewani is congratulated by teammates after taking the wicket of Shabnim Ismail during the opening match of the ICC Women's T20 World Cup at Newlands on 10 February. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

A captain’s innings, hearty fielding and vibrant team spirit. Every ball fell dark horse Sri Lanka’s way in their scintillating three-run victory over hosts South Africa, in the opening game of the Women’s T20 World Cup at Newlands.

South Africa’s journey to T20 World Cup glory just became a lot more difficult after a shock defeat to Sri Lanka in the opening game of the International Cricket Council (ICC) tournament.

Experienced Sri Lanka captain Chamari Athapaththu played an inspired innings of 68 off 50 deliveries – scoring more than half of her team’s 129 runs – to guide her side to an upset victory over South Africa on Friday 10 February.

The skipper opened the innings and carried her bat to the 18th over, to help guide her young side to a competitive total against the hosts.

Chasing 130 to win, in front of more than 8,000 home spectators – the biggest crowd ever for a women’s game in the country – and with a batting lineup brimming with confidence, South Africa looked prime to start their World Cup campaign with a victory at the halfway mark.

But the home side buckled under the pressure of the occasion, losing wickets in regular intervals, to fall three runs short of the total.

Tumbling wickets

Sri Lanka’s spin trio of Inoka Ranaweera, Sugandika Kumari and Kavisha Dilhari – bowling 11 overs of spin between them, compared to South Africa’s four – had the Proteas batters in a web picking up seven wickets among the three of them.

South Africa needed one of their big players to stand up and be counted on the big occasion but only skipper Suné Luus passed the 20-run mark.

Openers Laura Wolvaardt (18 off 23) and Tazmin Brits (12 off 18) got the team off to a decent enough start of 29 within the first five overs, before the latter fell to fast bowler Oshadi Ranasinghe.

Marizanne Kapp, batting at three, was dismissed shortly after for 11 by Inoka Ranaweera, before Wolvaardt fell to the same off-break bowler two overs later.

The incessant fall of wickets saw the required run rate, which started at six and a half per over, shoot up to more than 11.

Captain Luus tried to stem the fall of wickets with a well-constructed 28 off 27, but the wickets consistently fell around her with big hitters Chloe Tryon (10 off 10) and Anneke Bosch (0 off 2) dismissed within two deliveries of each other.

Sri Lanka skipper Chamari Athapaththu smashed 68 to guide her team to a famous victory at Newlands on 10 February. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

Writing on the wall for Proteas 

From there the writing was on the wall for the Proteas as they languished at 72 for five in the 13th over, needing 58 runs in the last six overs.

Wicketkeeper Sinalo Jafta (15 off nine) and Luus gave the team a glimmer of hope with a 23-run seventh wicket partnership, but after the captain was stumped off Ranaweera, the glimmer quickly vanquished.

Sri Lanka’s brilliant fielding saw the departure of Jafta and Shabnim Ismail through two dazzling run-outs as the hosts succumbed to a heartbreaking loss.

Read in Daily Maverick: “The moment is now for the Proteas Women to achieve World Cup glory

The shock loss derails the Proteas’ ambitions of exiting the group and reaching the semi-finals. Their next three fixtures, against New Zealand, Australia and Bangladesh, now become must-win clashes.

South Africa, however, has recent World Cup history to fall back on – albeit not in cricket – of overcoming an opening match defeat and lifting the trophy in the final.


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In 2019, the Springboks famously lost their opening fixture 23-13 to arch-rivals New Zealand, but had the last laugh by going on to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy six weeks later at Yokohama International Stadium in Japan.

Good start

Luus, somewhat surprisingly, chose to bowl first after winning the toss. The news almost excited Sri Lankan skipper Athapaththu who said she would have opted to bat anyway.

South Africa, however, had Sri Lanka at ones and twos with their pace bowlers during the powerplay.

Opening bowlers Ismail and Kapp had Athapaththu and Harshitha Madavi dancing to their tune, conceding only four runs in the opening three overs.

Kapp was the standout bowler with figures of one wicket for 15 runs in her four overs.

Sri Lanka then had two overs of seven each in the fourth and fifth, but the Proteas still had control despite not picking up their first wicket.

Luus then turned to her No 1 spin bowler, Nonkululeko Mlaba, in the final over of the powerplay but she went for 10, all off the bat of Athapaththu.

Sri Lanka celebrate after winning the match of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup at Newlands on 10 February 2023. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

Shift of momentum 

That over was the shift of momentum the subcontinent side needed to start building their innings.

Madavi fell to Nadine de Klerk in the seventh over, but the shackles were already loosened.

An 86-run partnership off only 63 deliveries between Athapaththu and 17-year-old Vishmi Gunarathne followed, which helped the subcontinent team reach 129 — the par first innings total at Newlands.

But the total could have been a lot less with a more ruthless display in the field, and with the ball by South Africa. Still, 130 should have been chased by the home team.

Every match in the group stage now becomes a knockout match for South Africa. And the task does not become easier, as the team awaits New Zealand at Boland Park in Paarl on Monday. DM



Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ian Gray says:

    Excellent experience for our future stars ahead of the next world cup!

    I suppose there is the small matter of this world cup, but if 3 key players (Lizelle, Mignon and Dane) are sat watching the games then we must focus our attention on the next!

  • Jonathan Soames says:

    Our bowlers were below par and our wicket keeper looked as if she was wearing iron gloves.

    We only have one batter (Wolvaardt) who can play shots all around the wicket, the rest all play leg-side hooks, pulls and mows. Sri lanka put most of their fielders on the leg-side, the runs dried up and the Proteas panicked. Most teams in the World Cup will beat the Proteas if they continue to bat every ball to leg.

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