MATCH REPORT : Australia v Sri Lanka

Australia duly overcame a spirited Sri Lanka team by a convincing eight wickets, but it was not a win without a few jitters, thanks in the main to an utterly outstanding batting effort from Sri Lanka's Chamari Atapattu, also known as Athapaththu and Jayangani, depending on which scorecard you look at.

However you spell her name, she is a class batsman. She came in at number three for Sri Lanka to face the fourth ball of the first over. She left the field at the end of Sri Lanka's 50 overs, unbeaten on 178, having almost single-handedly taken Sri Lanka to 257/9 - their second highest total in ODIs. Only two other Sri Lankan batsmen got into double figures - Siriwardene 24 and Lokusooriya 13.

From ball one Atapattu showed she was not going to be overawed by the occasion or by the opposition. As Ellyse Perry tried to intimidate her with short balls, she responded by hooking; when Perry pitched up the lefthander drove her through extra cover, and then again straight back down the ground. Ellyse Perry withdrawn from the attack and replaced by Ash Gardner after just three overs. No matter who bowled at her she had the answer - clipping through midwicket, cutting, pulling and sweeping. As she advanced to her 50 off 62 balls, she lost the company of Polgampola, who had struggled to 6 off 33 balls, and then Manodara and keeper Weerakkodi. Sri Lanka looked to be struggling at 77/4, but former skipper Shashikala Siriwardene showed that there was not that much in the pitch or, indeed, the Aussie attack, which included Belinda Vakerewa for the first time, plus the unexpected bowling talents of Elyse Villani, and the previously unused twirling skills of Nicole Bolton. Together Atapattu and Siriwardene took Sri Lanka to a more respectable 129, before Siriwardene missed a sweep to Bolton and was given lbw. In the next over Bolton claimed her first ever international wicket as new bat Perera was bowled behind her legs for a three ball duck. She seemed quite pleased!

At the fall of the sixth wicket in walked the familiar squat figure of Eshani Lokusooriya. England supporters may well remember her from the 2013 World Cup when she smashed Sri Lanka to a famous victory over England. She provided invaluable support to Atapattu, who continued on her serene progress to her third ODI hundred. She is the only Sri Lankan to have ever reached three figures. The pair took full advantage of the five over powerplay, scoring 41 runs and leaving Sri Lanka handily placed on 176/6 with 10 overs to come. In the meantime Atapattu had reached her century off 106 balls.

Sri Lanka were to add another 53 off the last 10 overs, almost all of them to Atapattu. She hit all of the bowlers to all parts, and Ellyse Perry resorted to pitching the ball halfway down the pitch to try and stop her hitting boundaries. It was a tactic that worked in part, but even then Atappatu managed to swat a Perry head high bouncer straight back past her for 4. In the end Atapattu hit 22 4s and six 6s in her innings of 178 off just 143 balls, which is the second highest score ever in the World Cup, and her highest by some margin (beating her previous best of 111).

When Beth Mooney spooned a catch to Lokusooriya at extra cover in the second over of the Australian reply, Sri Lanka whooped with delight and, perhaps, a smattering of self-belief. If keeper Weerakkodi could have clung on to a chance offered by Nicole Bolton next ball, they would have been even more cock-a-hoop, but the chance went begging, and Bolton (60) and the imperious Meg Lanning (150* - her highest ODI score) set up the Aussie win with a confident second wicket partnership of 133 in 23 overs.

When the Sri Lankans eventually saw the back of Bolton, they saw the face of Ellyse Perry (45*) strolling to the wicket to replace her. Their hearts must have sunk further into their boots. It was not going to be their day after all, but it will be a day that Chamari Atapattu will remember for the rest of her life, as will the lucky few who were in the ground to witness it.

Comments

  1. Previous deleted for typo correction: They were a lucky few indeed. I dare say a number of potential spectators thought this fixture would be entirely one sided. Atapattu showed you need not be cowed by the 'mighty' Australia. I dare say there are a few England players who have reason to remember her too. What a difference a little more support might have made. That would have been an upset that the host country this time around would remember from the last World Cup.

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  2. With due respect to Denmark and Ireland, against who the two highest ODI individual scores have been made, one could make a case, given this was against an Australian attack, that this is the best ODI innings ever.

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  3. So close and yet so far from SL! It was a remarkable display from Jayangani, but how she must have wished for more contribution from the rest of the team. P. Weerakkody, often one of SL's better players too, sadly didn't have the best day at the office and the lack of support for Jayangani really showed.

    Questions must be asked of Australia's bowling attack, which seems to have been lucky so far in that it failings have not really been exposed. Beams is pretty accurate for a leggie, but she's not as good a bowler as say, Hazell or Hartley. Perry is taking wickets but remains expensive and Varekwa is a newbie. Only Schutt and Gardner are being consistent and economical in combination. This 250-odd was probably at least 30 too many runs to concede, and only their unflappable chasing skills, seemingly unique to Australia, along with Lanning's ability to adapt to any situation were able to save them. SL's friendly attack and fielding helped though.

    Aley was missed today, in my view. I don't think bowling from Villani or Bolton is going to frighten too many, and unless Aley features, I think better sides than SL could rack up a few scores that might require batting feats just as Herculean, if not more in the near future. At this rate will the Australian top order will be too tired by the time we reach the knockout stages? I think they should rotate and promote Blackwell and Healy again to keep things fresh.

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