Sri Lanka women’s cricket team led by Chamari Atapattu will face their first challenge tomorrow (23) when they will play against Netherlands in the first World Cup qualifying tournament fixture in Harare, Zimbabwe.
To qualify, Sri Lanka women’s team, who are grouped with the Netherlands, West Indies and Ireland in Group A, must finish within the first three to get to the Super Six stage, where they meet the top three teams that qualify from Group B in a round-robin league. The first three teams of the Super Six will be joining the five teams who have already qualified through the ICC Women’s Championship Australia, England, India, South Africa and hosts New Zealand. Ten teams, five in each group, were to contest in the qualifiers but Papua New Guinea were forced to pull out due to several players testing positive for COVID-19. Thus, Group A will have only four teams. Group B comprises Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Zimbabwe and USA.
Sri Lanka women’s team preparation was very limited due to Covid 19 as well as adverse weather but the team was determined to practice with their limited resources. They haven’t get much match practice especially against International teams. They were planning to tour Pakistan before this tournament but that was cancelled due to logistics matters. However the head coach Hashan Tillekaratne had to face all challenges with the squad. Having played more than 20 one-day, intra-squad, 50-over matches in the past three months in preparation for the ICC Womens World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe.The team was very keen to play matches before this qualifying tournament. They played against boys under 17 team and intra sqaud matches to get match exposure and their first real test was in Harare when they played against USA in a warm up match last Friday.
Sri Lanka women’s team notched up a 200-run win over USA in their only warm-up game ahead of the ICC Womens Cricket World Cup Qualifiers.This massive victory gave real boost for the Sri Lanka team before the qualifying tournament.
Sri Lanka team managed to amass 326 for five wickets in their 50 overs, with contributions from batters throughout the line-up and this is the first time Sri Lanka women’s team scored over 300 runs against an International team.
The USA were no match for Sri Lankas skill with the ball either as they were bowled out for 126 in 46 overs. Veteran Inoka Ranaweera was the pick of the bowlers, claiming figures of 3/26 while 20-year-old left-arm wrist spinner Sachini Nisansala picked up 2/11.However Nilakshi Silva made superb all round performance by scoring 77 not out and taking four wickets giving away only one run to seal the massive win. Skipper Chamari Atapattu who came back to the team after Women’s BBL in Australia scored a brisk knock of 41 in 28 balls while deputy skipper Harshitha Samarawickrama scored 54 not out. Ama Kanchana (39), Imesha Dulani (31), Hasini Perera (28) and Kaveesha Dilhari (20) made useful contributions to build up the innings.
Sri Lankan batters are among the runs and this was a good sign before the tournament.
Before this Zimbabwe tour Sri Lankan players played two practice games in Hambantota where Harshitha Samarawickrama scored hundreds in both matches and Hasini Perera also got a hundred in the first game.
The batters are performing, we have improved our bowling a lot, especially the spinners. They know their game and their fields and how to set it up” said head coach Hashan Tillekaratne. The way they are playing I believe we can qualify, said Tillakaratne, for whom this will be the first major assignment since taking over the role in June this year.
The girls have identified their own game and they are banking on their individual performances and skill. They have started to believe in themselves that they can compete with the top sides and also come to understand the game and crucial points which are very vital to winning games. Skill alone wont win games, you have to improve your knowledge. All the support staff should be thanked because they have worked very hard towards improving these girls.
Sri Lanka in Group A WC qualifying matches are November 23, Vs Netherlands; November, 27 Vs West Indies; and November, 29 Vs Ireland. They are tough opponents, you cannot take them lightly. West Indies are a good side and Ireland and Netherlands are not bad but very competitive. We need to play our best cricket to beat these three sides and never underestimate any team said coach Tillakaratne.
Sri Lanka has not played an ODI match since October 2019, Tillakaratne said : in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has given us all the facilities. We have played more than 20 intra-squad one-day matches in the last three months. In the last few games, we played against U17 boys sides. We cant give any excuses because now the girls are improving and they have learnt their game. It is a matter of time that they get together and show some improvement on the field.
Our plan is to go match by match in the qualifying tournament especially we have experienced as well as talented youngsters in our team. They should realize their responsibility and go forward. As a coach we can’t do everything but players really want to win the matches and their commitment is very high . Skipper Atapattu always gives good leadership and make much needed strength to the team. Our aim is to qualify for the Women’s Cricket world cup 2022 which is scheduled to be played on March 4 to April 3 in New Zealand.
Sri Lanka Women WC Squad: Chamari Atapattu (Captain), Harshitha Madavi (Vice-Captain), Inoka Ranaweera, Nilakshi de Silva, Hasini Perera, Sugandika Kumari, Oshadi Ranasinghe, Ama Kanchana, Udeshika Probodhani, Achini Kulasuriya, Anushka Sanjeewani, Kavisha Dilhari, Tharika Sewwandi, Prasadini Weerakkody, Imesha Dulani, Vishmi Rajapaksha, Sachini Nisansala.