Photo Credit: ICC
Chamari Athapaththu hailed the power of youth and the value of experience as Sri Lanka stunned hosts South Africa at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup.
Athapaththu has long been her side’s star player, owning seven of the top eight scores by Sri Lankan batters at the tournament.
She reached new heights on opening night at Newlands, smacking a superb 68 from 50 balls, the highest-ever score by a Sri Lankan batter at the World Cup.
But she knew that in order to beat the Proteas for the first time in six years, she couldn’t do it all on her own.
A record-breaking second-wicket stand of 86 with 17-year-old Vishmi Gunaratne laid the groundwork for a winning total of 129.
Spin trio Sugandika Kumari, Oshadi Ranasinghe and Inoka Ranaweera took nine wickets in 12 overs between them to script a historic victory.
Player of the Match Athapaththu said: “I always try my best to lead from the front. I want to be a role model for the whole team.
“But this is not an individual performance, it all depends on the team performance and the bowling attack. They all did very well today.
“Vishmi is the young superstar of our team. Her attitude is exactly what I want to see and she handled the fast bowlers very well. She has a very bright future.
“We have a good culture in the team, a lot of youngsters and the senior players share knowledge with them.
“We all know South Africa are one of the best teams in the world and they are playing in their home conditions. But we played good cricket today and finally, we won.”
Sri Lanka had not played a T20 international in five months coming into this pressure-cooker.
They have never progressed past the first round of the T20 World Cup in seven campaigns – Athapaththu has featured in all of them – and she is now aiming higher with Bangladesh up next.
She said: “We have upset some big teams a few times, and we’ve done it again. This time we will try to play good cricket and go to the semi-finals, that’s our aim.
“We don’t fear any team. The rankings are just a number.”
Proteas strike bowlers Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail operated well to restrict Sri Lanka to a par score.
But they failed to build partnerships with the bat, captain Sune Luus top-scoring with 28, falling flat in front of a bumper home crowd.
“Sri Lanka had a good partnership in the middle and we lacked those partnerships in our batting innings,” said Luus, whose side face New Zealand next.
“We felt 129 was a par score. I don’t feel like they ran away with the game, I thought we were always going to be able to chase that. We felt 140, 150 was achievable on that wicket.
“One game doesn’t define a team. There’s a long way to go in this World Cup.
“There are a lot of positives to take from today. The way Marizanne and Shabnim bowled in the powerplay was excellent and a few innings with the bat chipping in. There’s a lot to take into the coming games.”