On the inaugural match of the Women’s Twenty20 World Cup, Sri Lanka shocked everyone by retaining their composure on the field during a tense finish to defeat hosts South Africa by three runs. After being called to bat, Sri Lanka’s captain Chamari Athapaththu scored 68 from 50 balls to help her team build up a total of 4-129. With South Africa scoring 9-126, spinners Inoka Ranaweera, Oshadi Ranasinghe, and Sugandika Kumari each took seven wickets as Sri Lanka’s bowling and fielding carried them home.
In the final two overs, Sri Lanka also accomplished two significant runouts to end late counterattacks by South African tailenders Sinalo Jafta and Shabnim Ismail. Nonkululeko Mlaba, South Africa’s final hitter, lofted a drive over mid-off for four off the game’s final ball, but it was ineffective because the hosts required eight runs off that pitch to win. At Newlands in Cape Town, Sri Lanka’s players enthusiastically celebrated their illustrious victory and then gathered together to do a team song.
In addition to her batsmanship, Athapaththu was a critical leader in controlling her bowlers and fielders during the difficult final overs. In her half-century, Athapaththu smashed 12 fours, and she and 17-year-old Vishmi Gunaratne, who made 35 off 34 while batting at No. 3 and appeared to be the next big thing in Sri Lankan cricket, stitched up a partnership of 82 runs off 62 balls.