As the duo of Chamari Atapattu and Umesha Thimashini was taking on the Australian bowlers at the WACA in Perth on Monday (February 24), a colleague wondered aloud, “Can we see two Asian teams in the semi-finals of Women’s T20 World Cup this time?”
Sri Lanka then had Australia, who were chasing 123, on the mat at 10/3, with Udeshika Prabodhani’s swing being too hot to handle for the hosts. At that time certainly, it seemed that the fans around the world could really see a change in the mega event mostly dominated by England, Australia, India, New Zealand and West Indies.
For the record Sri Lanka have never gone beyond the group stages in T20 World Cups. Considering the squad they have this time and the ten-wicket win over England during the warm-ups, it gave everyone a feeling of the unexpected happening in this edition. They looked positive on the field, were aggressive, had great intent and above all seemed to have the skills.
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But there was something missing in this Sri Lankan side. In both the matches they lost (against New Zealand and then Australia) skipper Chamari Atapattu top-scored with 41 and 50 respectively. Apart from her, no other batter could really cross the 25-run mark, thereby showing their over-reliance on Atapattu.
It is not that Sri Lanka don’t have the skill-set required to be at the level, but instead, it is about the practice of handling the pressure in big tournaments that is lacking. The likes of Hasini Perera, Thimashini, Anushka Sanjeewani and Nilakshi de Silva all had starts but failed to capitalize on that.
On Monday (February 24), once Atapattu fell, the next six overs brought only 31 runs at the expense of thee wickets. Similarly, versus New Zealand, the Lankans could manage only 40 runs in 8.1 overs losing five wickets in the process after the captain’s return to the pavilion.
Fielding woes have hurt Sri Lanka dearly as they have dropped as many as six catches in the two matches. While New Zealand skipper Sophie Devine and her partner-in-crime Suzie Bates were dropped twice and once respectively on Saturday (February 22), Sri Lanka grassed Rachael Haynes twice on Monday. She went on to score a match-winning 60 for Australia. And the reaction on Atapattu’s face in both the matches was palpable. It was understandable, given both Devine and Haynes’ knocks proved to be the difference between a win and a loss for the Asian team.
Sri Lanka’s bowling has been pretty average, as apart from Udeshika Prabodhani and Shashikala Siriwardene (both will be retiring after the T20 World Cup), – the duo have been impressive with a combined tally of four wickets – none of the others have contributed consistently. Although Atapattu defended her girls after the Australia match, it’s time for Sri Lanka to reflect on their tactics for the coming matches.
“Actually, I’m really happy about my girls because we are a young side,” said Atapattu after the loss against the hosts. “So the young girls performed very well. Unfortunately, we lost the match against the world champions, but we had a lot of heart (support) in this crowd.”
Sri Lanka next play India on February 29 and Bangladesh on March 2. On paper, Sri Lanka do have the potential to beat both of them and need to win them too if they want to have the slimmest of hopes of qualifying for the knockouts. But it is the performance on the day that counts.
Will Sri Lanka be able to regroup and find their mojo against their Asian counterparts? Time will tell.