Chamari Athapaththu smashed 57 off just 29 deliveries to power Sri Lanka to a nine-wicket win against Kenya, after the Sri Lankan spinners restricted them to a paltry total of 87/6, on the third day of the ICC Commonwealth Games Qualifier 2022 at the Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpur.
Sri Lanka got off to a bit of a shaky start as they conceded seven wides in the first three overs, after they won the toss and chose to field. But things started changing when Kavisha Dilhari’s direct hit sent opener Mary Mwangi back to the dugout. Kenya captain Margaret Ngoche was trapped lbw by Inoka Ranaweera in the very next over and the Kenyan batters never recovered from that.
The spinners came on to bowl after that and tightened Sri Lanka's hold on the match further. Kavisha Dilhari bowled a maiden, which included the run out of Sharon Juma, after being introduced into the attack in the eighth over. That paved the way for the powerful right-hander Sarah Bhakita's arrival to the crease. Just after her arrival, she pulled a delivery into deep mid-wicket for four and launched Ranaweera straight over her head for six.
Queentor Abel didn't hold back and played some exquisite shots through the off-side as well. The duo was going well but their 45-run stand was broken by Athapaththu as she trapped Abel lbw with Kenya's score on 71 after 16 overs. Bhakita departed a couple of overs later as she was caught at mid-wicket off Dilhari's bowling. Kenya could muster only nine runs in the final three overs as Sri Lanka restricted them to a paltry total of 87/6.
In response, Sri Lanka showed an aggressive intent right from the beginning of their innings. Openers Vishmi Gunaratne and Chamari Athapaththu attacked from both ends and got Sri Lanka to a score of 57/0 at the end of the powerplay. The match went out of Kenya's reach right there as Athapaththu smashed Mwangi for 16 runs in that sixth over.
Athapaththu didn't spare Bhakita either as she smashed the Kenyan bowler for a six and a four a couple of overs later. With just five runs required to win, Athapaththu got stumped off Esther Wachira's bowling in the ninth over of the innings. Sri Lanka, however, had no further trouble and took just one more over to score the remaining five runs and register a commanding nine-wicket win.
Kenya skipper Margaret Ngoche remained positive, despite the loss.
“We bowled too many extras, but the girls did well. We put up a fight,” she said.
Athapaththu heaped a lot of praise on spinner Kavisha Dilhari for her superb bowling performance in the match.
“Kavisha is one of our main bowlers who we rely on to keep the opposition in check. Today, she flighted the ball and drew the batters to make mistakes. We hope she keeps doing this in the remaining games,” she said.
The Sri Lankan skipper, who was also named as the Player of the Match, said that there is still a long way to go and that she wants to carry this form forward.
“This is how I always play. By my standards, I’m still not fully satisfied, and I feel I can still tighten up my game. I look forward to the next few games,” Athapaththu said.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka beat Kenya by 9 wickets.
Kenya 87/6 in 20 Overs; Sri Lanka 89/1 in 9.3 Overs.
Player of the Match: Chamari Athapaththu