New Zealand 131 for 3 (Devine 75*) beat Sri Lanka 127 for 7 (Atapattu 41, Jensen 3-16) by seven wickets
Sophie Devine wants to lead by example as New Zealand captain it was no surprise that she was unbeaten to marshal her team to a victory that stretched them for stages. In the end, though, the margin was comfortable with 14 balls to spare as Sri Lanka’s lack of power with the bat beyond Chamari Atapattu again hurt them.
However, it was Sri Lanka who made the early running and they were 51 without loss after the powerplay with New Zealand a little untidy and getting a touch nervous that the target could be troublesome. Amelia Kerr made the first breakthrough, then it was Hayley Jensen who played the key role by equalling her career-best, the pair taking 5 for 37 in eight overs as Sri Lanka’s second 10 overs brought just 52 runs.
Devine, who is in the form of her life, was dropped on 18 but while she anchored the innings – shelving the full-on aggression seen recently – it was Maddy Green who seized the moment to put New Zealand ahead of the rate with a perfectly paced middle-order innings.
Atapattu applies pressure
New Zealand nearly broke through in the opening over but Green could not quite cling on to a chance at point to remove Hasini Perera that would have been an early contender for catch of the tournament. Overall, though, in the early exchanges Lea Tahuhu bowled a touch too short on a surface offering enticing carry. Atapattu, who enjoys batting in Australia after two hundreds on the tour late last year, collected a couple of early boundaries. Jess Kerr’s first over cost 13 with the aid of five wides and four byes – Rachel Priest was untidy behind the stumps – and Atapattu signed off the powerplay with a magnificent lofted cover drive for six. New Zealand knew they were in a contest.
Power fades away
The theme of Sri Lanka’s batting is what is there beyond Atapattu, especially when it comes to scoring at the rate required in T20Is. It wasn’t quite a lone hand here – Perera played nicely in the opening stand of 60, showing inventiveness to scoop over fine leg, although the strike-rate was 71 and Harshitha Madavi scored at a run-a-ball – but there remained a stark contrast. Once Atapattu fell, jabbing a full delivery off the toe of the bat back to Tahahu, New Zealand claimed full control on the innings. Outside of Atapattu’s five fours and two sixes there were only three further fours and a late six for Madavi. In fact, from when the opening stand was broken the remaining 12.2 overs brought 67 for 7. Jensen was key to this with a fine spell of wicket-to-wicket medium pace and clever use of cross-seamers, including two wickets in two balls in the 15th over.
There wasn’t a blazing start from New Zealand against some accurate Sri Lanka bowling. The first three overs brought just 10 before Devine slotted away a couple of boundaries against Achini Kulasuriya, but in the fifth over Priest was found short, beaten by Madavi’s direct hit, from a poor piece of running which continued her below par evening. After six overs, New Zealand were 25 for 1, half of what Sri Lanka had, and they had to make sure they did not leave themselves too much to do.
Fielding hurts Sri Lanka
If Sri Lanka wanted to secure a first-ever victory over New Zealand they had to hold their chances, but both Devine and Suzie Bates were dropped. Bates’ came before she had scored and got a thick edge to slip where Madavi spilled it. Devine’s key reprieve came two overs later when she tried to break the shackles down the ground, Ana Kanchana unable to steady herself under the catch at long-on. Still, at the halfway mark New Zealand had not quite broken the back of the chase and then Bates drove a catch to cover against young spinner Kavisha Dilhari. However, Dilhari’s second over is where the game took its major shift as 14 came off it including a free hit – after a front-foot no-ball called under the new system by the TV umpire – was flicked over midwicket by Green, who batted superbly to take the pressure off Devine. With the target close, Devine was dropped again at deep midwicket which highlight one of the major differences of the night.