South Africa hardly broke sweat as it cruised past Sri Lanka in the ICC Women's World Twenty20 2012 opener at Galle on Wednesday. Chasing 80, South Africa reached the target in 18 overs, with six wickets to spare.
Trisha Chetty (33), the wicketkeeper-batsman, and Shandre Fritz (14) blazed away at the top. They took full advantage of the powerplay overs, even as Shashikala Siriwardena, the Sri Lankan captain, introduced spin as early as the third over to stop the momentum.
Despite losing Fritz, who was bowled by the left-arm spin of Inoka Ranaweera, South Africa continued to attack. Chetty held firm, despite South Africa losing the wickets of Mignon du Preez and Susan Benade in quick succession. Dane van Niekerk, who came in at No. 5, was unbeaten on 15 as South Africa got off the mark in style. The comfortable win meant that its net-run-rate was also in good health, a factor which could come into the picture if teams are tied on points, or if rain has a say in a few matches.
Sri Lanka lacked a game plan, with as many as five bowlers being tried out in the first six overs. For a team defending a modest total, one would have thought the best bowlers would be on view. Ranaweera picked up two wickets, while Deepika Rasangika, the leg-spinner, had one.
Earlier, du Preez, the South African captain, spent a good ten minutes looking at the pitch before the toss. South Africa's decision to bowl came as no real surprise, given that there was a hint of early morning drizzle.
The South African bowlers vindicated that decision almost immediately as Sri Lanka slipped to 17 for four by the eighth over. Hopes were pinned on Siriwardena, Sri Lanka's captain and the side's best batsman. Once she was dismissed for 7, it was always going to be a tough task.
Sri Lanka, who was eventually restricted to 79 for 9 in 20 overs, could not build any effective partnerships. Siriwardena remarked on the eve of the game that 120 was a par score, but once the top four were dismissed, it appeared as if the batsmen had decided the game was already lost.
South Africa never let the intensity slip. The fielding was outstanding, and the bowlers exploited every inch of assistance available early on. The fact that just six fours were scored throughout the innings indicated the measure of control it had over the proceedings.
South Africa effected as many as four run-outs, but not everything could be put down to its fielding. Sri Lanka was also guilty of some poor communication between the batters. Dilani Manodara, who came in at No. 6, top-scored with 25. Along with Chamani Seneviratna, she added 31 runs in 29 balls for the seventh wicket, the highest partnership of the innings, but once that was broken courtesy a run-out, it became apparent that it would not even put 100 runs on the board.
Benade and van Niekerk were the most successful bowlers for South Africa, picking up two wickets apiece.