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Chamari Athapaththu – ‘Want more match time ahead of 2022 Women’s World Cup Qualifier’

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Sri Lanka women’s captain Chamari Athapaththu believes the postponement of global Qualifier to determine the final three spots at the 2022 Women’s World Cup from it’s June-July window to December is a “good thing”. Just for context, Sri Lanka haven’t had any form of international cricket for over a year now due to the pandemic.

“Things have been uncertain because of the Covid-19 pandemic and I was a bit worried that if the event went ahead as scheduled, we would have been under-prepared,” Athapaththu told ESPNcricinfo. “I hope that leading up to December we get some a few more series apart from the one at against Pakistan that our board is trying to organise.”

ESPNcricinfo understands that talks between SLC and PCB about Pakistan potentially touring Sri Lanka for limited-overs matches before the Qualifiers are only at a preliminary stage currently. Should they come to fruition, the series might be held only after May.

Both teams, along with West Indies, are among the sides part of the 2017/18-2021 Women’s ODI Championship that will vie for the three qualifying berths for the World Cup to be held in New Zealand from March 4 to April 3.

“Getting some match practice on a regular basis is going to be very important for us before the Qualifiers,” Athapaththu said. “Thailand’s debut in T20 World Cup last year was proof of the kind of challenge teams outside of the top-ranked nations can present on the world stage. We cannot afford to take anyone lightly because it’s qualification to a World Cup that’s at stake.

“If there are longs gaps [for teams] without any cricket for say a year or a year-and-a half, even the best look ordinary. I followed the recent series between India and South Africa. India are a top side, but they hadn’t played for a year, so they couldn’t play well. On the other hand, because South Africa had played some games before coming to India, they looked far better even in the absence of some of their senior players.”

Among a raft of world tournaments that the ICC has postponed due to the pandemic is the inaugural Under-19 Women’s World Cup. Originally scheduled for this year in Bangladesh, the tournament has been pushed back until January 2023. In Athapaththu’s assessment, the postponement will rob several deserving young players of the opportunity to play in the world tournament.

“We have a good bunch of Under-19 girls,” Athapaththu said. “The school cricket tournaments were on over the past few weeks and I think a few girls were on the radar as far as making the potential squad for U-19 World Cup was concerned. But, unfortunately, most of them will no longer be able to take part in it because a gap of two years is a sizeable one.

“Age-group tournaments come with age-related restrictions, so not having the tournament this year is a very disappointing thing for those young Sri Lankan girls and for me as an international cricketer. I feel bad for them because our qualifiers have also been postponed, but we will still get a chance [to compete in that tournament], but so many of these girls won’t. We will now have to look for pretty much a fresh bunch of girls to field in the 2023 edition.”

Athapaththu hits form in domestic competition

Since the T20 World Cup last year, where Sri Lanka won only one of their four league games, Athapaththu’s only form of top-flight cricket has been BCCI’s Women’s T20 Challenge in November in UAE, where she was the leading run-scorer.

On the domestic front, she was part of the recently concluded Women’s Division One Tournament, the 50-over eight-team competition. Athapaththu, who plays for Chilaw Marians Cricket Club, finished atop the tournament’s run-chart with a 429 tally in innings at an average of 61.29, striking at 120.51. The next-best strike rate, 69.49, belonged to Nilakshi de Silva, who took the second place on this list, with 246 runs at an average of 49.2.

For the record, The Navy Sports Club, who were undefeated in the league stage, emerged champions after clinching a two-wicket victory over the Army A team in the final in Welisara on April 2.

Inoka Ranaweers, representing Navy, was the leading wicket-taker in the competition, with 25 wickets in seven innings, at an economy of just 2.27. Kavisha Dilhari, the 20-year-old offspin-bowling allrounder with 14 international caps to her name, finished in the top 10 of both charts.

“I am glad we were able to host the women’s inter-club tournament because several of our national team players, seniors and youngsters alike, got a chance to shake off a bit of the rust,” Athapaththu said. “It also allowed many of us to assess how we are doing individually because we have been mostly training individually in our hometowns because of the pandemic, though we have had a couple of national camps since September last year. The Covid situation has been an obvious a hindrance to hosting games in Sri Lanka but it’s good to have got some competitive cricket this year.”

Although there are substantial Covid-19 restrictions still imposed by the government, with over active 90000 cases, Sri Lanka has largely avoided the worst of the pandemic, and many aspects of life have returned to normal. The island’s Covid-19 death toll is just under 600.

In the recent past, SLC hosted the Lanka Premier League and a men’s Test tour, and has a schedule lined up for the men’s national team over the next three months. Athapaththu, is currently training under her personal coach in Kurunegala, has was hopeful that the Division One tournament would the pave the way for more playing opportunities for Sri Lanka’s women’s cricketers, too.

“The inter-club tournament went well and Kavisha and many of the other national team players expectedly did better than the others. If youngsters like her get more game time – on the domestic as well as international level – that will be good for the health of women’s cricket in Sri Lanka. The SLC is trying to organise practice matches against Under-17 boys, so that, too, could also help us.”

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha



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Recent Match Report – Middlesex vs Hampshire Group 2 2021

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Hampshire 131 for 7 (Vince 62, Bamber 3-41, Murtagh 2-16) trail Middlesex 172 (Gubbins 51, Abbott 6-44) by 41 runs

With three wickets on the first evening, Kyle Abbott felt he’d found his rhythm for the first time this season. By halfway through the second day, he’d slayed his gig at Lord’s with a haul of six to bowl Middlesex out for just 172.

But then the Middlesex bowlers got in on the act and ripped that to shreds as Hampshire, who slumped to 9 for 3 at one stage, closed at 131 for 7 in reply on a day when 13 wickets fell in total.

James Vince‘s fighting half-century, which included a partnership worth 54 with Keith Barker, kept Hampshire in the contest, just.

At the close, Barker, who scored an unbeaten 52 in a losing cause against Somerset last week, was not out on 23 with Abbott yet to score after Ethan Bamber and Tim Murtagh had claimed five wickets between them to dig Middlesex out of a hole.

Bamber had impact from the outset, bowling Ian Holland for a duck with a gem that angled in slightly and crashed into off-stump.

He then had Joe Weatherley out edging to Martin Andersson at third slip and, next ball, Murtagh dismissed Tom Alsop lbw to put Hampshire in terrible trouble inside seven overs.

It looked like it would come down to the experienced duo of Sam Northeast and Vince, their captain, to steady the visitors but when James Harris trapped Northeast clearly lbw, they were seriously struggling.

Vince and Liam Dawson returned from tea with their side 47 for 4 but they were unable to form the big partnership that was so desperately needed, with Dawson caught by a leaping first slip Robbie White as Murtagh claimed his second wicket.

With Lewis McManus going cheaply and unarguably lbw to Bamber, Vince continued to build a tenacious innings with Barker in support. But then 19-year-old Blake Cullen tempted Vince into a missed drive and pegged back his off-stump with a fuller ball that nipped back a little to end his knock on 62.

“It was a hard day for batting, it felt really tough out there,” Vince said. “It got a little bit easier as the ball got softer but there was always something happening. The ball is taking some divots out where there is still grass on the pitch.

“I think I used every part of the bat out there with some of them even coming off the back. I rode my luck a bit and tried to strike a balance between trying to hang in there until the ball got a bit softer but trying to score runs as well.”



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Shikha Pandey and Taniya Bhatia return, Shafali Verma gets maiden ODI, Test call-ups

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Also in the squad is the uncapped Jharkhand wicketkeeper-batter Indrani Roy



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West Indies to host South Africa, Australia and Pakistan in bumper home season

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The summer will include four Tests, three ODIs and 15 T20Is in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup

Cricket West Indies has announced a packed home schedule for the 2021 season, which includes visits from South Africa, Australia and Pakistan. In all, West Indies will play four Tests, three ODIs and 15 T20Is from June 10 to August 24.

The T20I-centric nature of the summer will help the teams prepare for the upcoming T20 World Cup, which is currently scheduled to be held in India in October-November 2021. The series against Pakistan was originally scheduled to include three Tests and three T20Is, but CWI and the PCB have mutually agreed to replace one Test with two additional T20Is.

The first part of the home summer will see West Indies face South Africa in two Tests in St Lucia (June 10-22) followed by five T20Is in Grenada (June 26 to July 5). This will be South Africa’s first bilateral tour of the West Indies since 2010.

This will be followed by a white-ball-only visit from Australia, who are scheduled to play five T20Is in St Lucia (July 9-16) followed by three ODIs in Barbados (July 20-24).

Pakistan will play their T20I series over two legs – the first two matches in Barbados on July 27 and 28 followed by the last three in Guyana from July 31 to August 3. They will then move to Jamaica where they will complete their tour with a two-match Test series (August 12-24).

“Following the successful hosting of the all-format series against Sri Lanka earlier this year, we are delighted to announce that we are set to welcome South Africa, Australia and Pakistan to the West Indies,” CWI CEO Johnny Grave said. “To host three international teams back-to-back in five territories is unprecedented, and putting these fixtures together was an enormous Covid-related logistical challenge.

“We must thank the visiting teams for agreeing to travel at this challenging period for world cricket and we are especially grateful to our regional Governments who are playing such a vital role in partnering with CWI to ensure that International cricket can be hosted safely, while providing entertainment for our loyal fans and income for our cricketers and cricket communities.”

The entire summer will follow biosecure safety protocols, with players and team officials undergoing regular tests for Covid-19. A CWI release said it is yet to be decided whether fans will be allowed at the stadiums.



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