The Group A ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2016 encounter between Sri Lanka Women and Ireland Women at the IS Bindra PCA Stadium in Mohali on Sunday (March 20) will be best remembered as the game in which Claire Polosak became only the second female umpire, after Kathy Cross, to officiate on the biggest stage. But, for those few fans who were in the stands, they will also have memories of a good fight put up by Ireland.
Even though Ireland lost by 14 runs, the manner in which Ciara Metcalfe, the veteran legspinner in her 17th season of international cricket, bowled to return career-best figures of 4 for 15 was the talking point of the game. Her effort restricted Sri Lanka to 129 for 7 after it had been 45 for no loss at one point. The Irish batters then tried their best but could manage only 115 for 8.
Captaining the side in place of an injured Shashikala Siriwardene, Chamari Atapattu got the game off to a blazing start with seven power-packed fours on either side of the wicket. Like Sanath Jayasuriya, her hero, she stood and delivered and it looked like she was on autopilot mode.
Atapattu and Yasoda Mendis were going strong when Isobel Joyce introduced spin through Metcalfe in the sixth over, and that produced the most absorbing phase of play.
Mendis played Metcalfe’s second delivery across the line and was trapped in front, and three balls later Atapattu hit one straight into the hands of mid-off to perish after making a 22-ball 34.
Sri Lanka had struggled against New Zealand’s spinners and Isobel did not miss a trick as she introduced herself very soon. Sri Lanka’s batters failed to rotate the strike and it resulted in the panic button being pressed. Dilani Manodara was involved in a terrible mix-up with Prasadani Weerakkody and was run out in the ninth over.
Metcalfe struck twice in the tenth over when Oshadi Ranasinghe and Harshitha Madavi, the debutant, were bowled in similar fashion. At 57 for 4, Sri Lanka was in a deep mess, but once Metcalfe finished her spell, the other Ireland bowlers couldn’t keep the pressure on.
The experienced pair of Weerakkody and Eshani Lokusuriyage capitalised to put on 49 runs for the sixth wicket. It proved decisive in the final analysis, and credit must go to Lokusuriyage for anchoring the innings. She curbed her natural instinct of going for the big shots and just focussed on running hard between the wickets. It put the pressure on the fielders and took Sri Lanka to safer shores.
Weerakkody fell in the 18th over when Lucy O’Reilly bowled her for 32, but Lokusuriyage remained unbeaten on 35.
Ireland’s chase did not get off to a good start as Sugandika Kumari, the left-arm spinner, struck twice in two overs to reduce it to 18 for 2 in 3.4 overs. It included the wicket of Cath Dalton, Ireland’s big hope, who was caught behind after hitting a glorious boundary.
The onus was on the Joyce twins – Cecilia and Isobel – to construct the chase, and for a brief while it looked like they had found a way to score against the spinners. But, Cecilia stepped out to Oshadi Ranasinghe to be caught at long-off for 29 and Isobel was run out for 24 while trying to up the scoring. Laura Delany made 29, but that was never going to be enough against an army of spinners.
Even though Ireland lost, its ability to bounce back after a 93-run loss against New Zealand at the same venue pleased many. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, needed to win by a big margin to boost its net run-rate, but Metcalfe may just have spoilt its party even before it faces Australia Women and South Africa Women in the tournament.