Can Sri Lanka cause a few upsets in Group A?

ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023

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The 8th edition of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup is set to kickoff later today, with Sri Lanka taking on the hosts, South Africa in the tournament opener. Let’s take a look at what Team Sri Lanka have to offer in the tournament.

History at the Tournament

Sri Lanka has featured in every one of the past 7 T20 World Cups but have never managed to make it past the 1st Round. They have played a total of 27 games across the 7 tournaments, their record standing at 8 wins and 19 losses.

Chamari Athapaththu poses alongside the captains of the 9 other teams at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 in Australia. © AFP

The Squad for 2023

Chamari Athapaththu (c), Oshadi Ranasinghe, Harshitha Samarawickrama, Nilakshi de Silva, Kavisha Dilhari, Anushka Sanjeewani, Kaushini Nuthyangana, Malsha Shehani, Inoka Ranaweera, Sugandika Kumari, Achini Kulasuriya, Vishmi Gunaratne, Tharika Sewwandi, Ama Kanchana, Sathya Sandeepani

Warm-up results

Generally speaking, warm-up results aren’t much to go by, especially when playing a tournament in the stature of a World Cup. However, Sri Lanka will take heart from their results, particularly the win against Ireland, who then went on to beat Australia.

Sri Lanka batted well in that game, making a total of 149, with the half century from opener Harshitha Samarawickrama being the highlight. They would have been disappointed with the bowling, which has been one of the more economical lineups over the last couple of years, as they struggled to defend the total.

Against the West Indies, the bowlers turned up, left to defend a meagre 107. They nearly pulled it off too, dragging things to the last over, but ultimately the score just wasn’t enough.

Read – Gunaratne returns as Sri Lanka name squad for T20 World Cup

In Focus

Chamari Athapaththu is Sri Lanka’s talismanic leader

Chamari Athapaththu, there’s no talking about the Sri Lankan team without the mention of her name. Skipper of the Sri Lankan side, Athapaththu has had a worrying run of form in the recent past. In her last 10 innings, she has a highest score of 41 and has crossed the 20-run mark just twice (including the 41), below-par by her standards. Athapaththu does fancy her chances against the bigger teams and with batting being Sri Lanka’s weaker suite, the team will dearly hope that Athapaththu fires when it matters.

The spin-bowling is another area of focus for Sri Lanka. The options are aplenty, with off-spinner Oshadi Ranasinghe and left-arm spinners Inoka Ranaweera and Sugandika Kumari set to lead the group and Kavisha Dilhari, Malsha Shehani and Athapaththu to play the support roles.

With only Achini Kulasooriya and possibly Ama Kanchana likely to feature as pace options, the onus will be on the spinners to carry the load, as they have done over the years. Pitches in South Africa are generally expected to be fast and bouncy but looking at scores from the SA20 and recent internationals, the tracks may not be as pace friendly as they have been in the past decades, meaning this line-up could cause a few problems.

Fixtures

Sri Lanka are set to face South Africa, Bangladesh, Australia and New Zealand in Round 1

Sri Lanka have arguably been drawn into the tougher of the two groups in the World Cup, coming up against defending ODI, T20I and Commonwealth Games champs Australia, hosts South Africa and New Zealand, who Sri Lanka has never beaten in any format. The only team they would back themselves to beat are Bangladesh, who they have the better of since 2014.

Ones to Watch

Harshitha Samarawickrama will be one of Sri Lanka’s key batters in the World Cup

Harshitha Samarawickrama

The southpaw has been slowly yet surely established herself as one of Sri Lanka’s best batters. With more that 1/3rd of her T20I runs coming in her last 8 games, she could prove to be one of Sri Lanka’s stars in this tournament. Her form has been good, but the strike-rate will be something the 24-year-old will be looking to improve on, especially if Sri Lanka lose Athapaththu early.

Vishmi Gunaratne Captained Sri Lanka during the recently concluded ICC U19 Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa. © ICC

Vishmi Gunaratne

The youngest of the bunch, 17-year-old Gunaratne is one of the most promising players in the Sri Lankan line-up. She’s yet to make her mark in senior internationals, but unlike her teammates, she did spend the last month in South Africa playing the U19 World Cup, making her one of the most important cogs in the Lankan batting line-up.

Inoka Ranaweera was named in the ICC Team of the Year for her performances in 2022

 

Inoka Ranaweera

A quiet achiever in the Sri Lankan line-up over the last decade, Ranaweera’s efforts finally got some recognition when she was named in the ICC T20I Team of the Year 2022 at the ICC awards earlier this year. The left-arm spinner has carried the bowling attack over the years, delivering consistently economical yet wicket-taking spells. Like Samarawickrama, she comes into the tournament in form, having had the best year of her career in 2022.

Read More – Samarawickrama and spinners secure nervy warm-up win

Expectations

It’s fair to say nobody is considering Sri Lanka as a title contender at this point, which could work in their favour. Without the burden of expectation on their shoulders, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain from the tournament.

The tournament opener against South Africa will be a key fixture for them, with the Proteas missing 3 senior players in skipper Dane Van Niekerk, Lizelle Lee and Mignon Du Preez. It remains to be seen whether the off-field drama surrounding Van Niekerk’s omission will have an impact on how the hosts go about things, but for Sri Lanka, there is no better time to come up against the Proteas.

If Sri Lanka are able to pull off an upset in the 1st game, they will back themselves to beat Bangladesh and push both New Zealand and Australia.

Realistically, it is hard to see Sri Lanka making it out of the Group Stage but they may be a team that could have a say in the semi-final hopes of the three big teams in the group, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.