‘Fearless’ Sri Lanka sink South Africa in World Cup opener

Sri Lanka's Sugandika Kumari celebrates after Sri Lanka won the Group A T20 women's World Cup cricket match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town on 10 February, 2023AFP

Sri Lankan captain Chamari Athapaththu said a fearless approach was key to her team’s upset three-run win against hosts South Africa in the opening match of the Women’s Twenty20 World Cup at Newlands in Cape Town on Friday.

“No one expects Sri Lanka to win,” she said. “We had no pressure so we could play fearless cricket. In this format rankings is just a number.”

Athapaththu’s 68 off 50 balls enabled Sri Lanka to make 129 for four after they were sent in to bat.

Sri Lanka's Chamari Athapaththu plays a shot

Sri Lanka restricted South Africa to 126 for nine with accurate slow bowling backed by good fielding.

Left-arm spin bowler Inoka Ranaweera took three key wickets and conceded only 18 runs in four overs, while fellow left-armer Sugandika Kumari and off-spinner Oshadhi Ranasinghe took two wickets apiece as South Africa were unable to put together any substantial partnerships. Captain Sune Luus was the top-scorer with 28.

The left-handed Athapaththu hit 12 fours and shared a second-wicket partnership of 86 with 17-year-old Vishmi Gunarathne, who made 35.

Sri Lanka's Inoka Ranaweera celebrates after the dismissal of South Africa's Laura Wolvaardt

They had to absorb early pressure and Sri Lanka scored only 40 runs in the first 10 overs before both players took the attack to the South African bowlers.

“Vishmi is an up-and-coming young superstar,” said Athapaththu.

Luus said the difference between the sides was that Sri Lanka had a big partnership while South Africa had none. Their best stand was 29 for the first wicket between Laura Wolvaardt and Tazmin Brits.

Ranasinghe made the breakthrough when Brits was caught at cover and the South African innings started to unravel when Ranaweera had leading batters Kapp and Laura Wolvaardt caught in her first two overs.

When Kumari had the big-hitting Chloe Tryon caught in the deep and bowled Anneke Bosch two balls later South Africa were in deep trouble at 72 for five.

Athapaththu said she believed Sri Lanka had the ability to reach the semi-finals despite being in the same group as Australia and New Zealand. “But now our focus is on our next game against Bangladesh.”

Sri Lanka play Bangladesh at Newlands on Sunday as part of an all-Asian double header which also features India and Pakistan.

South Africa are faced with a huge task if they are to emerge from the group stage. Their next match is against New Zealand in Paarl on Monday. “The World Cup still has a long way to go,” said Luus.