Our girl!

Yesterday proved to be a momentous day for Sri Lanka’s women’s cricket team when they beat defending champions England for the first time ever in all formats (ODIs and T20Is) of the game at the ICC World Cup.

Eshani Kaushalya
Eshani Kaushalya. Pic/Suresh KK

The celebrations after Dilani Manodara hit a six off the last ball for a historic one-wicket win at Brabourne Stadium was as if they had clinched the World Cup itself. The team pounced on the last pair as soon as the winning run was hit.

There were a number of calls from back home to congratulate the players, especially for Player of the Match Eshani Kaushalya. One significant call came from Kaushalya’s parents who couldn’t stop weeping.

Life’s biggest moment
“Her parents had called to say they are very proud of their daughter. This was the first time they were seeing her play. Now they know why she was training so hard over the years. It was their life’s biggest moment,”

Sri Lanka skipper Shashikala Siriwardene revealed to MiD DAY. ¬†Kaushalya, who hails from Wadduwa, a village near Colombo, is inspired by Sri Lanka’s star all-rounder Thisara Perera.

Sri Lankan women
Sri Lankan women cricketers celebrate their thrilling one-run win over defending champions England in the ICC World Cup at Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai yesterday. The islanders won off the last ball when batter Dilani Manodara hit a six. PIC/Suresh KK

First, she put her medium pace into good use, removing dangerous England skipper Charlotte Edwards before finishing with two for 49 in nine overs.

Kaushalya then took the match away from England with her game-changing 41-ball 56 (5x4, 3x6). Chasing a 239-run target, Sri Lanka started off well with a 103-run opening stand between Chamari Atapattu (62) and Yasoda Mendis (46). It was also their highest opening partnership in the World Cup.

But a rush of wickets that fell in the middle made the going tough for Sri Lanka. Kaushalya, however, steadied the ship, managing a 40-run partnership with Chamani Seneviratna and a 23-run partnership with Deepika Rasangika. Kaushalya was lucky to be dropped on 10 by Jenny Gunn at long on.

A thriller was on the cards when nine runs were required in the last over. Kaushalya slammed a huge six over square leg to bring the equation down to two off four balls. Trying to find the elevation Kaushalya miscued a shot, but the bowler Georgia Elwiss dropped a sitter.

A single levelled the scores. Keen to finish off the game, Kaushalya rushed for a single which was never on and was run out for 56. Needing one off the final ball, Manodara slammed a six over midwicket to successfully complete the highest-ever run chase in Sri Lanka’s ODI history.

Self-belief did it
Kaushalya expressed her feelings with the help of skipper Siriwardene doing the translation. “I always believed we could do it. We had faith in our batting line-up. I knew we would definitely win the match,” she said.

For the Sri Lankan skipper, it was a dream moment. “It is a big surprise, but we had faith. It’s a dream come true. We’ve been waiting for this for 16 years. We did our homework and our bowlers did really well,” said Siriwardene.

England skipper Edwards wasn’t surprised with the shocking result. “They have been playing pretty good cricket, and when we went over there two years ago, they gave us two good games of cricket. It is not a surprise to me today because they have some talented players, and unfortunately, they have all come good on the same day. For the outsider looking in, it is a huge upset and we just got to come back strong from here on,” Edwards said. ¬†

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