Day 2 of the Women’s Cricket World Cup (WCWC) Qualifier saw the Netherlands Women’s side show admirable fighting qualities at Harare Sports Club, only to be beaten in the end by a determined Sri Lanka, losing their Group A match by 34 runs on the DLS method.
What had initially been billed as a return to ODIs for the Dutch after a ten-year gap disappointingly turned out not to be as the ICC, quietly and unaccountably, reversed its previous stance that all matches in global qualifiers would have ODI status.
The Dutch might have been blitzed out of the game by a stunning onslaught from Sri Lankan captain Chamari Athapaththu, who smashed 111 from 70 deliveries, hitting 11 fours and five sixes, and indeed the bowlers and fielders showed every sign of wilting under her sustained attack.
She was well supported by Hasini Perera (27) in an opening stand of 93 in 13.4 overs, but the Sri Lankans’ progress was halted by leg-spinner Caroline de Lange, who after conceding 50 runs from her first six overs, in which she claimed the wickets of both Perera and Prasadani Weerakkody, went for only 14 in her remaining four, picking up both Athapaththu, well caught by Robine Rijke on the midwicket boundary, and Imesha Dulani.
Once Athapaththu had gone plunder gave way to accumulation, Nilakshi de Silva (26) and Anushka Sanjeewani (32) adding 54 for the fifth wicket, but Silver Siegers now took over where De Lange had left off, removing Sanjeewani and Tharika Sewwandi with successive deliveries and conceding not a single run in her final two overs.
The new ball pairing of Iris Zwilling and skipper Heather Siegers bowled tidily in the closing overs and were rewarded with a wicket apiece, but the damage had been done by Athapaththu’s innings, and Sri Lanka closed on 278 for nine.
De Lange finished with four for 64 and Silver Siegers two for 41.
The Dutch suffered a setback when Juliët Post was bowled by Udeshika Prabodhani in the third over, but any fears of a dramatic batting collapse were dispelled by a splendid 142-run partnership between Babette de Leede and Sterre Kalis which for a time seemed to threaten a remarkable upset.
Boundaries were initially hard to come by, although a cover drive by De Leede and a square drive by Kalis were strokes of the highest calibre, but after a break for rain with the Netherlands on 57 for one after 15 overs the batters started to take charge, running with greater urgency and picking off the looser deliveries.
At the end of the 22nd over they went ahead on DLS, and they stayed there for 13 overs, De Leede bringing up her half-century, off 76 balls, and the hundred partnership at the same time, and Kalis following, from just 70 deliveries, in the following over.
Both sides knew, however, that breaking this stand was probably the key to the game, and the Sri Lankans maintained the pressure well even when things seemed to be going the Netherlands’ way.
In the end, it was De Leede who holed out to De Silva at deep mid-on off Athapaththu’s bowling and departed for a fine 99-ball 78, and that was the final turning-point.
Rijke was run out by a neat piece of fielding by the Sri Lankan skipper, and then Kalis, too, was caught in the deep, a lofted drive off Oshadi Ranasinghe brilliantly taken by Sewwandi at long off.
The bowlers were now back in charge and with dark clouds building and wickets falling the Dutch fell further and further behind.
Heather Siegers was perhaps a shade unlucky to be given leg-before attempting a massive slog-sweep, but the issue was no longer in doubt, and although Zwilling and De Lange showed determination in taking the score to 196 for six, when the weather forced the players from the field for the final time, Sri Lanka were 34 runs ahead on the DLS calculation.
Ranasinghe and Inoka Ranaweera were the pick of the Sri Lankan attack, conceding just 3.6 and 3.7 runs an over respectively, but all the bowlers contributed to what was, in the end, a comfortable victory.
In the other Group A match the West Indies proved much too strong for Ireland at the Old Hararians ground, bowling their opponents out for 159 and going on to win by six wickets with more than ten overs to spare.
Leah Paul (25) and Gaby Lewis (36) gave Ireland a great start with an opening stand of 79, but thereafter only Eimear Richardson (32) looked at all comfortable as the experience off-spinner Anisa Mohammed claimed three for 40, backed up by Stafanie Taylor’s two for 15 and a superb spell from Hayley Matthews, who took two for 20 from her ten overs.
Then Deandra Dottin went after the Irish attack, hammering 49 out of an opening partnership of 61 with Rashada Williams and going on to make 73 from 87 deliveries before falling to Richardson.
Once she had gone Taylor took control, finishing with an unbeaten 41 as the West Indians firmly positioned themselves at the top of the group.
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