Sri Lanka's unwavering belief pays off
Belief. Faith. Both words figured prominently in the reactions of Sri Lanka Women captain Shashikala Siriwardene and Player-of-the-Match Eshani Kaushalya. Even after England Women recovered from 29 for 3 to a challenging 238, Siriwardene said she believed her batsmen could achieve Sri Lanka's first win over one of the top four sides - Australia, England, India and New Zealand. Kaushalya, whose defiant, hard-hitting 56 made victory possible, said despite Sri Lanka losing batsmen regularly, she never lost faith that they would win.
"Our batting line-up is strong with our No. 10 being the wicketkeeper-batsman, so we always had the faith," Kaushalya said. "So even though wickets were falling, the next person coming in was a batter, so that faith I had."
Kaushalya had been dropped on 10 by Jenny Gunn. She said the let-off gave her further assurance about it being Sri Lanka's day. "I believed today is a lucky day and I knew then we would definitely finish the match."
Siriwardene called it a "very special day" and credited "team effort" for the win, something she said had been lacking in the past from Sri Lanka. "We just wanted to keep them under 200 but there were 39 extra runs [conceded]. But I knew that my players would finish it and I had the faith in them.
"When we played against them in 2010 we lost by five runs, so again we always had the belief. This is the highest run-chase for us for a victory, this is not easy. The main reason is the team effort because out of the 11 there are seven-eight performers. That was lacking for us as a team. So this has changed from today and hopefully that continues."
England captain Charlotte Edwards was left hoping for a quick turnaround after an embarrassing defeat for the defending champions. Edwards had said in the run-up to the tournament that defending the title successfully would be the crowning glory for her in an outstanding career, both as leader and batsman. England left little to chance as far as preparation goes, turning up a couple of weeks ago for a training camp in Pune.
Edwards looked gutted after the last-ball loss but was candid enough to say Sri Lanka were not to be taken lightly as opponents. "We are bitterly disappointed, it is not the perfect start to the World Cup," Edwards said. "I think a lot of credit has to go to Sri Lanka and how they played. I think we had a decent score and we let it slip there in the end with a couple of dropped catches. It is not all bad cricket from us but the credit has to go to Sri Lanka.
"They have been playing pretty good cricket, when we went over there two years ago they gave us two good games of cricket, and it is not any surprise to me today because they have got 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 have just got to come back strong here on Sunday [against India] and hopefully go on and beat West Indies."
Edwards said it would not be difficult at all to get the team to pick themselves up. "I was very pleased how we came back [with the bat] and how Amy Jones played on her debut. Probably the bowling is a slight concern at the moment, especially the middle overs. It is hard to take wickets over here. I thought we didn't field particularly well either so that is an area we need to work on. We don't have long between games and I don't want to put pressure on the girls. We can beat India in India and we got to believe in ourselves and come out here and do that."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo