Left-arm spinner impresses with figures of 10-3-18-4, before Sri Lanka overhaul 150-run target with ease
For a generation of cricket followers, Sri Lanka wins were built around a spinner’s mastery and an attacking left-handed opener’s blistering knocks. A similar script played out in front of the home fans at the Nondescripts Cricket Club in Colombo on Sunday (February 11), as Sri Lanka Women beat Zimbabwe Women by eight wickets in a Group A clash of the Women’s World Cup Qualifiers 2017, almost assuring itself of a place in the Super Six.
Inoka Ranaweera is camera shy, but she comes of her own while bowling left-arm spin. One of only nine players with a hat-trick in the history of Women’s One-Day Internationals, she returned figures of 10-3-18-4 to dismiss Zimbabwe for 149 in 50 overs (this game was not an ODI as Zimbabwe don’t have the status).
Even as the fans were finishing their lunch of varied vegetables and a good portion of meat, Chamari Athapaththu, who idolises Sanath Jayasuriya, hit nine powerful fours on her way to a 60-ball 58, as Sri Lanka reached 153 for 2 in 36.5 overs, winning with plenty to spare.
Ranaweera brought herself into the attack in the 12th over with Zimbabwe having all its wickets intact. She started with a maiden over, and needed just nine balls for her first wicket. Loren Tshuma, who had survived a stumping chance the previous ball, played a shot early to offer an easy return catch.
Soon after that, Chamari Polgampola had Modester Mupachikwa caught sharply by Nipuni Hansika at first slip. Hansika has been brilliant at slip throughout the tournament, with six catches in three games so far.
Ranaweera’s first spell read as 4-2-8-1, and when she brought herself on for the third time in the innings in the 32nd over Zimbabwe had just lost its third wicket. They were looking to rebuild, but Ranaweera produced the defining phase of play with returns of 5-1-6-3.
She struck with her fourth ball when Nonhlanhla Nyathi, the wicketkeeper, gave Hansika her second catch of the game. Then in her next over, Sharne Mayers, Zimbabwe’s captain, missed the line of a delivery to be lbw for 2 after being tied down for ten balls.
Mary-Anne Musondo, who top scored with 32, was the next to fall when Ranaweera bowled her in the 36th over. Polgampola chipped in with the wicket of Pellagia Mujaji as Zimbabwe became 108 for 7 in 39.3 overs.
Zimbabwe was not bundled out early because of the 37-run stand between Precious Marange, who remained unbeaten on 29, and Josephine Nkomo. Athapaththu broke the partnership and picked up the final wicket to finish with figures of 2 for 21.
Ranaweera, who finished her quota in the 44th over, was successful because she pitched the deliveries up and drew the batters forward with her flight. She had an attacking field, with a slip constant for most parts of her ten overs. It resulted in her producing 51 dot balls. She went for just two boundaries, of which one was against her only short delivery across three spells.
Athapaththu carried her bowling confidence into the second half of the innings. She started cautiously before hitting her first four in the third over. Instead of playing wild shots, Athapaththu chose her deliveries well. It meant that there was no particular block in her innings where she had a sudden spike in her strike-rate. Only once did she hit back-to-back fours.
Athapaththu missed connecting a sweep shot and was adjudged lbw against Tshuma in the 16th over. By then she had an opening stand of 73 with Hansika. Even as Athapaththu walked out to applause from those who were at the venue including Asoka de Silva, the former international umpire, Hansika’s role was equally crucial in the partnership. She was not bogged down by dot balls, and gave Athapaththu adequate strike.
Hansika (26) became Tshuma’s second wicket, and Zimbabwe had another chance but it missed a run out with Sri Lanka needing just 19 to win. The unbroken third-wicket stand of 57 runs between Polgampola (27 not out) and Prasadani Weerakkody (33 not out) took Sri Lanka to its second win in as many matches.
The duo were contrasting in their play. While Weerakkody hit five fours, Polgampola relied only on ones and twos to get her runs.
Sri Lanka now takes on Thailand Women in its final league game at the Mercantile Cricket Association, while Zimbabwe will need to beat India Women at the P Sara Oval to extend its stay in the island nation. Both the matches are on February 13.