Chamari Athapaththu of Sri Lanka poses with the ICC Women's T20 World Cup Qualifier 2024 Trophy following the ICC Women's T20 World Cup Qualifier 2024 Final match between Scotland and Sri Lanka at Zayed Cricket Stadium on May 07, 2024 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
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Sana Mir reviews the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier supported by Dream11

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Last night’s ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier final was all about Chamari Athapaththu stamping her class and authority and doing so in style! I had mentioned earlier that she is a big match player who is truly world-class and someone who can win any game on her own and last night’s terrific ton was a testament to that special ability and skill that she possesses.

For Scotland, Kathryn Bryce’s absence due to injury was a huge setback, and despite a good start with the ball, the main wicket of Athapaththu eluded them, resulting in their eventual loss. After settling in and reaching her 50, Athapaththu unleashed her incredible power and stroke range at the Scotland bowlers, who crumbled under pressure. Athapaththu when in full flow, is almost impossible to stop and one felt that her breathtaking attack after reaching her fifty, and her flight from 50 to 100 in just 20 balls, left Scotland floundering.

Sri Lanka’s 169-run total was always going to be a massive task for the Scotland batters, who would have struggled to achieve the target even in their skipper’s presence. Unfortunately, they weren’t allowed to put up much of a fight with the bat.

Sri Lanka’s dominant performance was a continuation of their exceptional recent run, led by Athapaththu’s heroics. The series wins against South Africa and New Zealand and a comfortable run in the Qualifier barring the UAE semi-final puts them in great shape ahead of the Women’s T20 World Cup in Bangladesh.

Despite a tough group comprising Australia, India, Pakistan and New Zealand, Sri Lanka have the potential to cause upsets and if Athapaththu can deliver in Bangladesh they may surprise a lot of followers of the game and maybe even make it to the semis there.

Other than their two defeats in the group stage and final, Scotland’s performance and their journey has been nothing short of inspirational. They were not considered amongst the favourites coming into the tournament, but credit to Kathryn Bryce, her charges, and their support staff for stepping up when it mattered the most.

Bryce’s mother recently revealed in an interview that even as a 10-year-old, the captain wanted to play a World Cup, it is wonderful to see her finally realise her dream.

Scotland have Bangladesh, England, South Africa and the West Indies in their Women’s T20 World Cup group. I feel that they can certainly cause an upset or two, they have about four months to the event, and it all depends on how they use the time to prepare, the work has just begun for them, and I wish them the very best in this exciting journey.

In recent years, the depth of women’s cricket has improved considerably with developing teams becoming more competitive than before and a lot of credit must be given to the ICC pathway events around the world, which provide opportunities and much-needed exposure to the players.

As I mentioned in one of my earlier columns, new entrants Vanuatu certainly made their presence felt especially with their performance against Zimbabwe. Vanuatu beating a Full Member team was a big achievement indeed and was one of the highlights of the tournament. There was a lot of talent on display in the tournament in all 10 teams which pleased me immensely.

Ireland and UAE look like teams with an exciting future, both fell at the semi-final stage, yet they both possess a lot of promising young players and have two quality leaders in Laura Delany and Esha Oza, who can take the two sides a long way in the years ahead.

These are exciting times for women’s cricket as one of the top 10 teams (Ireland) that features in the ICC Women’s ODI Championship will miss out on the T20 World Cup, which clearly signifies that the gap between the top teams and Associate Member teams like Scotland and the UAE is closing, making the women’s international circuit more competitive than ever.

The top teams simply can’t take things for granted anymore!

At the end, I want to thank the ICC for providing me this incredible opportunity of witnessing the progression of women’s cricket up close and catching up with some of the players I played against in my career. When you are able to connect with the next generation of cricketers one-on-one and as a group, it becomes a wholesome experience while sharing of knowledge and experience takes place. This was one such event for me.

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