Sri Lanka’s World Cup Report: Individual brilliance and reason for optimism
Wins – 1
Losses – 4
Finishing position – Fifth in Super Six Group 1
The draw was unkind to a Sri Lanka squad packed full of talent. Out of their five games at the tournament they faced semi-finalists Australia and India, as well as the tournament hosts South Africa and a hugely impressive Bangladesh team.
But even with such a tricky draw, Sri Lanka acquitted themselves well, playing some great cricket and maintaining a highly positive outlook even once their semi-final qualification hopes had disappeared.
After a decent win over USA, they pushed Bangladesh close in an interesting encounter, and the last-ball loss to South Africa was one of the tightest finishes of the tournament in a game that saw both teams impress.
So close! 😔— Sri Lanka Cricket 🇱🇰 (@OfficialSLC) January 24, 2023
Good fight by #SLU19, South Africa won by one run.
Scorecard: https://t.co/3xSTmunVG9#SLvSA #U19T20WorldCup pic.twitter.com/hkwjrOKpqC
The results may not have been there, but this young group of players could well provide plenty of future stars of the game.
VIEW FROM THE GROUND
Sonali Dhulap was part of the ICC’s team on the ground in South Africa, and had this to say about her experiences working with and alongside the squad:
“As soon as the Sri Lanka girls landed in South Africa they had to rush to the hotel to get their official headshots done. It had been a long day for them, but they didn’t complain and were genuinely excited about being involved.
“They were shy and reserved in the beginning but came into their own as the tournament progressed. While results might not have gone their way, they improved with every match and almost pulled off a big win in their final game.”
STAR PERFORMER – Dewmi Vihanga Wijerathne
Sri Lanka have a real potential superstar in off-spinning all-rounder Dewmi Vihanga Wijerathne.
The 17-year-old finished the group stages with nine wickets to her name, more than any other Sri Lankan and behind only Pakistan’s Anosha Nasir in the wicket-taking charts at that stage of the tournament.
And with the bat she was Sri Lanka’s second-highest scorer in the tournament, banging 113 runs and showing the ability to clear the boundary when required.
NOTABLE MENTION – Vishmi Gunarathne
One of the better batters on show during the group stages, Gunarathne hit 135 runs at an average of 45, producing important knocks on a number of occasions.
Still just 17, she top-scored in Sri Lanka’s win against USA, and was also outstanding against a Bangladesh bowling attack that troubled plenty of top batters in the remainder of the tournament.
USA – Won by 7 wickets
A winning start for Sri Lanka was built on the back of a terrific bowling display as USA were restricted to 96/9.
Dewmi Vihanga Wijerathne (3/11) and Vidushika Perera (2/15) were particularly impressive in their respective four-over bursts.
The reply was perhaps a little too slow and steady, requiring some second-half acceleration. But Manudi Nanayakkara provides that spark with an unbeaten 32*, while Vishmi Gunarathne top-scored with 34*.
The win came with an over to spare and with seven wickets in hand.
Bangladesh – Lost by 10 runs
A high-quality encounter went Bangladesh’s way in Benoni as bat dominated ball.
The Lankan bowlers struggled to contain the opposing top order, with the top four all contributing in a vibrant first-inning score of 165/2.
Losing both openers cheaply meant Sri Lanka were always going to struggle in the chase, but they gave it an excellent shot, with Dewmi Vihanga Wijerathne hitting an excellent 55 from 44 balls, and Vishmi Gunarathne again top scoring with an unbeaten 61*.
The reply ended ten runs short, but it was an impressive effort against a decent bowling attack.
Australia – Lost by 108 runs
It was a day to forget for Sri Lanka with the bat against Australia. The bowlers did a decent enough job of stopping any Australian from building on their good starts, with five Aussies passing 20, but the top score was just 36 from Ella Hayward.
159/5 was theoretically a total within Sri Lanka’s reach. But they struggled to get the pace of the chase right, going far too hard early on as wickets tumbled. Only opener Nethmi Senarathna reached double figures, as they were bowled out for 51 in just 13 overs.
India – Lost by 7 wickets
Sri Lanka’s batting blip continued against India, as they again lost plenty of early wickets.
This time they avoided the ignominy of being bowled out, managing to see out their full allocation of overs. But a total of just 59/9 was well below par.
The bowlers had very little to work with and it was no surprise to see India’s quality top order cruise the chase. Dewmi Vihanga Wijerathne did at least have reason for personal cheer, taking all three of the Indian wickets.
South Africa – Lost by 1 run
In a heartbreaking yet encouraging way to end the tournament, Sri Lanka showed real class and determination to very nearly overhaul South Africa in a last-ball thriller.
Dewmi Vihanga Wijerathne (2/22) and Vidushika Perera (3/25) were the pick of the bowlers as the tournament hosts were held to 134/7 in their 20 overs.
And the momentum of the chase swung back and forth. A solid platform was built by the top three, and acceleration was provided by Wijerathne’s sizzling 37 from 23 balls and Manudi Nanayakkara’s 17 from 9.
It looked for a while like Sri Lanka were going to pull off the chase, but five wickets in the last three overs hampered their chances, and new batter Rashmi Nethranjali’s pulled four off her first delivery and the last ball of the match wasn’t quite enough.
It was an agonising way to lose the game, but the performance will have given Sri Lanka’s coaches plenty to work with as the players continue their careers in the international game.