Australia have taken a two-nil series lead over Sri Lanka and sealed their place at next year’s ICC World Cup with a 78-run victory in the second one-day international at Rangiri Dambulla Stadium.
Alex Blackwell anchored the innings for the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars with an unbeaten knock of 56 and in doing so became just the third Australian woman to record 3,000 runs in ODI cricket, joining legendary duo Belinda Clark and Karen Rolton.
Pace ace Holly Ferling produced another scintillating opening spell of 2-11 from four overs to ensure an already unlikely run chase would become near impossible, before Kristen Beams sent down 10 overs of bamboozling and consistent leg spin to claim 4-15 from the 10 overs – the best figures of her ODI career.
The win sees Australia move three games clear on top of the ICC ODI Championship table and also become the first team to qualify for the showpiece event with five matches still remaining in the global series for the reigning world champions.
— Southern Stars 🌟 (@SouthernStars) September 20, 2016
“It’s great that we’ve been able to qualify for the World Cup and I think the ICC Championship has been a great addition," Australia captain Meg Lanning said.
“It’s nice to know we’ll be at the World Cup in England, they are certainly special events to be a part of.
“Lord’s is a very special venue and our aim is to be playing in that final but we know there is a lot of hard work to go before we get to the World Cup.
“It’s certainly going to be very tough and we’ll have to play good consistent cricket over a long period of time, and as we’ve seen over the last year or so it’s a very even competition.”
After Lanning won the toss and opted to bat in the morning, Western Australia duo Nicole Bolton and Elyse Villani laid the platform for the Southern Stars with an 81-run opening stand on another glorious day for cricket in the island nation’s dry zone.
Villani was in ominous touch right from the outset, treating anything loose outside off-stump with complete disdain to keep the scoreboard moving along while Bolton settled in to her innings.
The right-handed Villani peppered the off-side boundary with first-class driving, as well as a series of back-foot strokes that left the fielders with nothing to do but watch on in awe.
The gulf in class between the two sides was there for all to see as some sloppy fielding from the hosts regularly relieved the tourists from any sense of pressure that might have been mounting.
Villani surpassed her previous highest ODI score of 35, before being trapped in front attempting a sweep shot off tweaker Inoka Ranaweera in the 18th over when on 45 with seven boundaries to her name.
Sri Lanka’s first breakthrough of the day brought Lanning striding to the crease and the Australian skipper immediately set about stamping her authority on a pitch that was seemingly playing host to few demons.
The batting superstar displayed her power with a brutal slog sweep that cleared the rope, before Bolton worked one fine down to the boundary to bring up her fifth fifty for Australia in ODI cricket.
But just as the left-hander was starting to accelerate with back-to-back boundaries, Sugandika Kumari struck back with Bolton holing out in the deep for 64.
With Australia still 2-148 in the 30th over, a total close to 300 seemed a distinct possibility.
But the wicket of Lanning for 29 meant Ellyse Perry and Blackwell had to steady and the NSW pair put on 34 for the fifth wicket with regular strike rotation an obvious focus.
Sharp glovework from Prasadani Weerakkody claimed an edge from Perry for 17 and sparked another mini-collapse of 3-5 from the middle-order as Jess Jonassen and Alyssa Healy both fell without scoring.
Blackwell was typically resolute while ensuring things didn’t get out of hand for the tourists, and the vice-captain received welcome support in Erin Osborne (10), as well as Megan Schutt (18) in an entertaining cameo in the latter stages of the innings.
With a total of 8-254 in the book, Blackwell walked from the field unbeaten on 56 from 64 deliveries – the 22nd ODI half century in a career that continues to grow in stature.
Sri Lanka skipper Chamari Atapattu took it upon herself to lead the bowling attack as her off-spin claimed crucial wickets in Lanning, Perry and Healy to finish with 3-31 from her allotted 10 overs.
Following an absurd spell of bowling that yielded 3-4 in the series opener on Sunday, Ferling wasted little time in resuming the carnage as she had Weerakkody trapped in front second ball of the run chase.
The tall quick soon had another one as an edge from Atapattu went flying to counterpart Lanning at first slip. Following a brief consultation between the umpires, Sri Lanka’s skipper was sent on her way for her second duck in as many matches.
Beams was thrown the ball for the eighth over, while Perry began operating straight after, to apply the blowtorch on an already frazzled batting line-up.
Sri Lanka could only manage 2-7 from the time Beams landed her first ball right on the spot through until Perry’s spell came to an end nine overs later.
But Beams was far and away the pick of the bowlers.
Finding a poor delivery in her 10 consecutive overs would prove difficult as her sustained control and well-executed variations often leaving the batters pinned to the crease and desperately seeking a way to make it to the non-striker’s end.
With Imalka Mendis and Dilani Manodara falling in consecutive balls, Beams came within an exaggerated front-foot defensive stroke of claiming a hat-trick.
The 31-year-old simply didn’t relent as her patience – and brilliance – was rewarded with two more scalps to close out her spell.
You could almost hear the sigh of relief from the locals as Beams collected her gold cap from the umpire for the final time.
Sri Lanka were well and truly out of the contest by this stage, but Chamari Polgampola showed some fight to post just the third half century in her 61-match ODI career with an unbeaten 68 from 136 balls as the hosts managed to bat out their 50 overs and walk from the field on 9-176.
Holly Ferling (2-38 from nine overs) and Ellyse Perry (2-28 off 10) were the other multiple wicket-takers besides Beams, but of serious concern for head coach Matthew Mott and bowling coach Joe Dawes will be the whopping 50 extras conceded by the Australians, including 41 wides.
The series now moves south-west to Colombo where the third and fourth ODIs will be played at Sri Lanka’s premier cricket venue, R. Premadasa Stadium.
You can follow regular updates from Australia’s tour match, four ODIs and T20 in Sri Lanka at @SouthernStars on Twitter.
- Third ODI*: R. Premadasa Stadium, 23 September at 2:20pm AEST
- Fourth ODI*: R. Premadasa Stadium, 25 September at 2:20pm AEST
- T20: SSC Ground, 27 September at 6:30pm AEST
*ICC Championship matches