Unbroken partnership helps Sri Lanka level T20 series against Proteas Women

Unbroken partnership helps Sri Lanka level T20 series against Proteas Women

An unbroken partnership between Vishmi Gunaratne and Kaveesha Dilhari propelled Sri Lanka to a series-levelling victory by seven wickets in the second T20I against the Proteas Women in Potchefstroom.

Gunaratne excelled with a career-best 65 not out off 57 balls, striking nine fours and one six, while player of the match Dilhari played a swashbuckling 28-ball 45 during the successful chase of South Africa's first innings total of 137/8 after Anneke Bosch led from the front with 50 off 32 deliveries for the home side.

Choosing to bat first after winning the toss, the Proteas got off to a positive start at the crease as openers Bosch and Tazmin Brits (7) quickly progressed to 26/0 after three overs before Achini Kulasuriya (2/26) made an impact, dismissing Brits who dragged one onto her stumps on her 50th T20I.

Following the early setback, Bosch and the experienced all-rounder Marizanne Kapp began rebuilding effectively, taking South Africa to 48/1 at the end of the powerplay before reaching their half-century partnership for the second wicket.

Shortly after achieving her well-deserved fourth career T20I fifty, Bosch became the second wicket to fall as Dilhari (1/22) finally broke the 58-run partnership, leaving the hosts at 84/2 after 10 overs.

After the crucial breakthrough, Sri Lanka quickly picked up three more wickets as Sune Luus (3) fell victim to a run-out, and Kapp was caught in the inner ring for 44 off the bowling of Inoshi Priyadharshani (1/21).

Chloe Tryon (2), Annerie Dercksen (3), and debutant Karabo Meso (0) were also swiftly dismissed as another run out and wickets for Kulasuriya and Chamari Athapaththu (1/18) shifted the momentum of the match in Sri Lanka's favour, leaving South Africa 118/7 with three overs remaining.

With stand-in captain Nadine de Klerk and Nonkululeko Mlaba (4) at the crease, South Africa eventually posted 137/8 after 20 overs, with Mlaba becoming the last wicket to fall to another run out while de Klerk remained unbeaten on a run-a-ball 16*.

Needing 138 to level the series, Sri Lanka faced a tough challenge in the initial four overs of their chase as South Africa restricted them to 16/0 before seamer Tumi Sekhukhune (1/27) dismissed Athapaththu (6), with Meso taking her maiden T20I catch behind the stumps.

Ending the powerplay on 37/1, young Gunaratne led the charge with the bat, forming a 31-run partnership with Harshitha Samarawickrama (12) to guide Sri Lanka past the 50-run mark after nine overs.

As the partnership gained momentum, Samarawickrama was bowled by Tryon (1/14), followed by de Klerk dismissing Hasini Perera (1), leaving Sri Lanka at 68/3 after 12 overs.

With 70 runs needed off 48 balls for victory, Sri Lanka's in-form opener Gunaratne was joined by fellow youngster Dilhari. 

The duo showcased their temperament in a match-winning 76-run stand for the fourth wicket, with Gunaratne reaching her first-ever T20I fifty while Dilhari remained unbeaten on 45*, sealing a convincing seven-wicket triumph in the penultimate over.

The series-deciding match of the series will take place at Buffalo Park Stadium in East London on Wednesday.

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