The defending champions England were left stunned in their women’s World Cup opener as Eshani Kaushalya’s late fireworks saw Sri Lanka claim a last-ball one-wicket win after a nail-biting finish in Mumbai.
Kaushalya blasted five fours and three sixes en route to 56 off 41 balls to pull the underdogs back from the brink after they had lost quick wickets in their pursuit of 239.
The big-hitting all-rounder fell in the last over and, with the scores tied and Sri Lanka nine wickets down, it was left to tail-ender Dilani Manodara to hammer a six off the final ball to seal a memorable victory for the Asian side.
In England’s innings earlier, Jenny Gunn scored 52 to help the team recover from a shaky start and finish on 238 for 8 after losing the toss.
Chamani Seneviratna struck twice in her first four overs as England slipped to 29 for 3, before Heather Knight (38) and Arran Brindle (31) added 64 for the fourth wicket. When they fell in quick succession, Gunn teamed up with 19-year-old debutant Amy Jones (41) in a stand of 83.
As the pair grew in confidence, Gunn hit back-to-back boundaries off Sharina Ravikumar, and Jones, impressively taking her chance with Sarah Taylor out injured, plundered three fours in four balls off the captain Shashikala Siriwardene.
Gunn and Taylor fell in successive overs but it did not stop the acceleration, Katherine Brunt hitting the only six of the innings and Danielle Hazell plundering 19 off eight balls as England added 62 in the last five overs.
Sri Lanka’s openers Chamari Atapattu and Yasoda Mendis rose to the challenge, putting on a century partnership.
Brindle made the much-needed breakthrough when Atapattu chipped tamely to mid-on for a fine 62, but Mendis (46) and Siriwardene (34) set about continuing Sri Lanka’s good start. They were both dismissed as Sri Lanka fell from 142 for 1 to 157 for 5.
They needed 73 runs from the final 10 overs, but Kaushalya almost single-handedly gave her side hope, hitting sixes off Holly Colvin and Hazell.
She reached just her second one-day half-century with another crunching maximum over square-leg, but fell two balls later whilst backing up.
Sri Lanka needed just one run off the final two deliveries and the tension rose after a dot ball, but Manodara held her nerve and hammered Georgia Elwiss over midwicket for six to spark celebratory scenes.
In yesterday’s other games, New Zealand racked up a massive 320 for 5 after losing the toss against South Africa in Cuttack, as captain Suzie Bates scored 72 and Sophie Devine smashed six sixes in her 145 from 131 balls. South Africa were never in the hunt, and were bowled out for 170 as the White Ferns wrapped up a 150-run win.
Also in Cuttack, Pakistan bowled out Australia for 175, with left-arm spinner Sadia Yousuf taking 3-30. However, only Bismah Maroof (43) made more than 10 in Pakistan’s reply as they were skittled for 84 in 33.2 overs, handing the Southern Stars victory by 91 runs.