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Captain Chamari Athapaththu produced a superb all-round effort to help Sri Lanka score a fine 22-run victory over Bangladesh and win the ICC Commonwealth Games Qualifier 2022 at the Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.
The last match of the five-team tournament, played to decide the final qualifying spot at this year’s Commonwealth Games, saw Athapaththu score 48 runs to propel Sri Lanka to 136 for six before returning figures of three for 17 to restrict Bangladesh to 114 for five.
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) will announce the cricket line-up in due course, once Sri Lanka are officially confirmed as the eighth team in Birmingham, joining Australia, Barbados, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa, who have already qualified for the Games.
Athapaththu did everything right today right from winning the toss in the crucial fixture.
Electing to bat, Sri Lanka were kept quiet by opening bowlers Salma Khatun and Soraya Azmim in the first few overs. Azmim was rewarded for consistently hitting hard lengths when Vishmi Gunaratne lobbed her to Fargana Hoque at mid-off to leave Sri Lanka at 14 for one in the fourth over.
A few balls later, Athapaththu slashed Azmim over the infield for four before unleashing a barrage of sweep shots against Bangladesh’s spinners, two of which cleared the ropes for six.
Off-spinner Salma Khatun, the only bowler up to that point to keep Athapaththu in check, was brought back into the attack. She responded by trapping Hasini Perera plumb in front with the score 61 for two in the ninth over.
Athapaththu muscled Rumana over extra cover for six as she approached what could have been her third half-century of the tournament. However, she missed out on her fifty when she tried to repeat the shot, only managing an edge through to Shamima Sultana behind the stumps.
Unsurprisingly, the fall of Athapaththu’s wicket allowed Bangladesh’s spinners to claw back before Nilakshi de Silva and Anushka Sanjeewani helped Sri Lanka accumulate 42 runs in the last five overs to take the score to 136 for six.
In reply, Bangladesh benefitted from a dropped catch and four overthrows in the first couple of overs. Shamima Sultana was caught in the circle by Udeshika Prabodhani off the bowling of Ama Kanchana to leave Bangladesh at 18 for one in the third over.
However, left-handed opener Murshida Khatun continued her fine form by clearing the infield for boundaries on three occasions during a Powerplay that fetched Bangladesh 46 runs.
However, Sri Lanka’s spin quartet of Athapaththu, Inoka Ranaweera, Sachini Nisansala, and Kavisha Dilhari put the squeeze on Bangladesh, who could not score a single boundary in the next six overs.
Athapaththu’s arm ball trapped Murshida in front to leave Bangladesh at 71 for two after 12 overs, requiring a further 66 runs off 48 balls for victory.
Despite a dropped catch that went for four and a no-ball from Athapaththu, Bangladesh were unable to fight back as Sri Lanka completed a comfortable victory.
Bangladesh captain Nigar Sultana identified what went wrong for her team.
“They managed to score extra boundaries in the last three overs. And we could not do well with the bat,” she said.
Athapaththu was particularly impressed with her bowlers in this game.
“I had complete confidence in our experienced bowling attack. The plan was to bowl lots of dot balls to exert pressure,” she said.
Athapaththu was awarded the Player of the Match and Player of the Tournament awards.
“I wanted to bat through, but I’m reasonably happy with the start I got today, giving a platform for the other players to compile a challenging total,” she said.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh by 22 runs. Sri Lanka 136/6 in 20 Overs; Bangladesh 114/5 in 20 Overs.
Player of the Match: Chamari Athapaththu