By Shashank Kishore in Sylhet
Rumana Ahmed, Panna Ghosh star with bat and ball as Sri Lanka Women falls three runs short
Bangladesh had most things going its way. Salma Khatun’s decision to bat was vindicated as the team posted 115 for 9, its highest-ever total in 23 T20Is. It was only the third time it had crossed the 100-run mark in the shortest format. While it wasn't a match-winning total, the bowlers showed spirit and hunger to ensure the batting effort didn't go in vain in front of yet another strong crowd in excess of 8,000 on a balmy evening.
Bangladesh’s bowling star was the medium pacer Panna Ghosh, who took three wickets including an important strike in the final over. Sri Lanka needed 13, and it had captain Shashikala Siriwardene unbeaten on 31. But Ghosh, who had earlier put down a simple chance at short third-man, made the key breakthrough when Siriwardene miscued a skier to mid-on, ending with 3 for 18.
It was a moment to be captured for posterity, as Bangladesh flags fluttered high. Even coach Shane Deitz was caught up in the excitement and couldn’t hold back his elation.
It was a game Bangladesh dominated for most parts. That it got into a position to challenge Sri Lanka's fragile batting, who had posted sub-100 scores in its previous two outings, was courtesy Salma and Rumana Ahmed (41 off 34), its most experienced batters.
Ayasha Rahman was bowled in the first over, but Bangladesh’s intent to get on with the scoring was established quite early as Salma and Sharmin Akhter, playing her first game of the tournament, provided the spark. Salma took a liking to Madhuri Samuddika, smashing four boundaries and taking 19 off her first over to set the tone for the innings.
The boundaries came off a fierce cut, a late cut and two swipes across the line. But Salma’s luck ran out when an attempted cheeky paddle landed in Chamari Polgampola’s hands at short fine-leg to break a 30-run second-wicket stand. Off the next over, Lata Mondal was lbw off Chandima Gunaratne to leave Bangladesh reeling at 39 for 3.
Rumana quickly got into the groove when she walked in to bat with the focus on strike rotation. Akhter was then stumped attempting a big shot, and it wasn’t until Fahima Khatun came in at No. 8 that the innings received a lift.
Fahima didn’t panic and allowed her senior partner to do all the scoring, while simply lending a helping hand in an important 32-run stand for the eighth wicket that allowed Bangladesh to post a competitive total.
The home side’s confidence received a further boost when Sri Lanka lost Hasini Perera and Chamari Atapattu inside the seventh over. Perera was yorked by Jahanara Alam in the second over, while Atapattu was run out while attempting a single to short cover, leaving the side 39 for 2.
Yasoda Mendis was offered a lifeline on 18, and added 15 more to her total before a mix-up with Siriwardene resulted in her downfall. Mendis slipped after running halfway down the pitch as Jahanara Alam hit the stumps at the bowler’s end.
The Bangladesh spinners bowled at the right pace on a pitch that offered appreciable turn. The Sri Lanka batters committed to their strokes too early, trying to swing their way out of trouble as Siriwardene tried to limit the damage during her 31.
With 13 needed off the final over, there was a sense of helplessness around Siriwardene as she sought the winning hit. In the end, she only managed to toe-end a slog to Lata Mondal, who held her nerve to complete a fine catch at mid-on. It wasn't a defining moment, but certainly one that hammered the final nail for Sri Lanka.