Sri Lanka need experienced hands to step up at Commonwealth Games
Sri Lanka missed out on the ODI World Cup earlier after playing barely any cricket for the first two years post the COVID-19 pandemic struck. They however will be in action at the Commonwealth Games, where they are drawn in Group B with New Zealand, South Africa and England.
They come into the tournament having played a fair bit of T20 cricket of late. They were blanked 3-0 by Pakistan but fought back to win the final match of the series after losing the opening two T20Is against India at home.
How they made it
Sri Lanka were the last team to qualify for the Commonwealth Games. They won a qualifier in January earlier this year that featured four other teams: Bangladesh, Kenya, Malaysia and Scotland.
Sri Lanka won all their four matches in the tournament to seal their spot at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
What have they done in the past?
This is the first time that women’s cricket will be a part of the Commonwealth Games but Sri Lanka have plenty of big-tournament experience.
They have been a part of each of the seven editions of the T20 World Cup so far but have only won eight of their 19 matches in the tournament and have never made the semis of the tournament.
How has their recent form been?
Sri Lanka were utterly dominant at the Commonwealth Games qualifier but they were also the most experienced team at the tournament.
They have had a much tougher time of late. Other than winning just one of their last six T20Is, they have also won only one of their last six ODIs. They lost 2-1 to Pakistan, winning the final ODI in their series, and were blanked India 3-0 by India.
Chamari Athapaththu (c), Hasini Perera, Harshitha Madavi, Vishmi Gunaratne, Malsha Shehani, Nilakshi de Silva, Kavisha Dilhari, Ama Kanchana, Achini Kulasuriya, Inoka Ranaweera, Udeshika Prabodhani, Sugandika Kumari, Rashmi de Silva, Oshadi Ranasinghe, Anushka Sanjeewani
Likely playing XI
- Chamari Athapaththu 2. Vishmi Gunaratne 3. Hasini Perera 4. Harshitha Madavi 5. Kavisha Dilhari 6. Nilakshi de Silva 7. Anushka Sanjeewani 8. Oshadi Ranasinghe 9. Ama Kanchana 10. Inoka Ranaweera 11. Udeshika Prabodhani
As is almost always the case, Sri Lanka’s fortunes in the tournament might be largely dependent on how well Athapaththu fares. She was the top scorer in both of Sri Lanka’s most recent wins, the ODI against Pakistan where she scored a century as well as the T20I against India, where she notched a half century.
Among Full Member nations, nobody has scored more runs than Athapaththu in the last 12 months. She has scored 408 runs from just 10 matches at an average of 45.33 and a strike rate of 147.29, with three half centuries and a high score of 86.
She has often bowled in the final overs for Sri Lanka off late and her quck off-breaks has only improved over the years and might be a good option to contain the opposition’s big hitters.
At 36, Oshadi Ranasinghe might be in the autumn of her career but she has never bowled better in T20I cricket. The vastly experienced off spinner has picked 13 wickets from just seven matches this year at an average of 10.38 and an economy rate of 5.51.
She is particularly lethal against left handers in the Powerplay with her ability to mix her conventional off-spin delivery with the arm ball. She had a lot of success against Smriti Mandhana in the recently concluded series against India and has the happy knack of striking early in her spell and dismissing the opposition’s most dangerous batters.
Like Ranasinghe, Inoka Ranaweera is also 36 now but she has also been in really good form this year. She’s second only to Ranasinghe on Sri Lanka’s wicket-taking charts in T20Is this year.
Unlike Ranasinghe, Ranaweera mostly bowls in the middle overs and Sri Lanka will be relying on her to keep things quiet during that period. Her arm ball is especially deceptive and she has had a lot of success with it.
Nilakshi de Silva
When Sri Lanka take the field against England on July 30, de Silva will make her 50th T20I appearance for Sri Lanka. De Silva has been around for many years and she has been in fine touch in 2022.
She’s the second-highest run getter for Sri Lanka after Athapaththu this year, scoring 194 in 10 matches at an average of 27.71 and a healthy strike rate of 110.22. She’s also the second most experienced batter in the team and Sri Lanka would want to her make that experience count in the middle order.
Sri Lanka are the lowest ranked team in their group and their recent form has also not been very encouraging. They begin their campaign on July 30 against England in what will probably be their toughest challenge in the group stages.
Athapaththu is one of the biggest and most dangerous hitters in world cricket and Sri Lanka would want her to bat for the bulk of their 20 overs. If Athapaththu can stay till the 15th over, Sri Lanka might upset New Zealand but a semi-finals berth looks out of their reach.