Proteas Women go down in Sri Lanka series decider

Proteas all-rounder Nadine de Klerk scored 44 not out and claimed 2-25, but it was not enough to deny Sri Lanka a series victory. Photo: BackpagePix

Proteas all-rounder Nadine de Klerk scored 44 not out and claimed 2-25, but it was not enough to deny Sri Lanka a series victory. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Apr 3, 2024


FOUR occasions spring to mind when it comes to Sri Lanka, men and women, beating South Africa in South Africa.

There were the men’s two Test defeats at Kingsmead and St George’s Park, and the women’s defeats in Benoni last week and one during the opening match of the 2023 T20 World Cup at Newlands.

On Wednesday night, Sri Lanka Women’s captain Chamari Athapaththu, alongside Harshita Samarawickrama, added one more stinging memory on South African soil with a series-winning four-wicket victory at Buffalo Park in East London.

It all started with Proteas captain Laura Wolvaardt returning to action, having missed the second T20I due to an illness.

The right-handed batter picked up where she left off in the first T20I, where she brought up her maiden T20 century, by following it up with a half-century in East London.

It was not that easy, though, for Wolvaardt as she lost partners at regular intervals as Tazmin Brits (7) was undone by the left-arm spin of Sugandika Kumira, while Marizanne Kapp (8) and Suné Luus (5) followed soon after with the score on 65-3, courtesy of visiting bowlers Udeshika Prabodhani and Kavisha Dilhari respectively.

Wolvaardt enjoyed a steady contribution from middle-order batter Anneke Bosch, who struck three boundaries in her 27-run stay in the middle, before she fell victim to Inoshi Fernando’s right-arm finger spin.

Wolvaardt (56 off 47 balls, 8x4) would get a reliable batting partner in Nadine de Klerk as the passionate all-rounder continued her impressive form this season.

The SA skipper brought up her half-century, while De Klerk steadily rotated the strike in search for rhythm.

When De Klerk (44 not out off 25 balls, 4x4, 3x6) finally found her mojo, she decided it was the right time to attack during the 19th over and smashed 26 runs in five balls to see South Africa cross the 150-run mark.

Having set a target of 156 runs, the Proteas knew they had a mountain to climb as the vastly experienced Athapaththu opened the batting alongside Vishmi Gunaratne.

Although Gunaratne lasted only three balls before being Nonkululeko Mlaba’s first scalp in her first ball of the match, Athapaththu did not seem to be bothered as she smashed Mlaba for a six and a four in the same over to set her intentions clear.

Athapaththu breezed to a 34-ball 50 with two consecutive sixes off Mlaba’s slow left-arm orthodox, pushed the visitors to 82-1 after 10 overs.

All the while, Samarawickrama (54 not out off 43, 4x4, 1x6) played the anchor role.

Athapaththu (73 off 46, 7x4, 5x6) was fittingly undone by another experienced head in Kapp to give the hosts a sense of hope.

South Africa took four more wickets after that, with De Klerk (2-25 in four overs) on a hat-trick, but it was not enough to deny Sri Lanka the 2-1 series victory.

The defeat meant that the Proteas have only won four of their 17 T20Is this season and lost all five series.

Going into the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh this year, there are questions that need answers if South Africa are to do well at the showpiece event.