Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town
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South Africa 94 for 3 (van Niekerk 71*, Kulasuriya 1-14) beat Sri Lanka 90 for 8 (Hasini Perera 27, van Niekerk 3-12) by seven wickets
South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk's all-round brilliance set up a resounding seven-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the first T20I at Newlands. Van Niekerk led the way with three cheap wickets as Sri Lanka were held to 90 for 8, and then followed that up with an unbeaten 71 from 55 deliveries to complete the hosts' chase with more than five overs to spare.
Sri Lanka captain Chamari Atapattu called correctly at the toss and opted to give her team the chance of setting a total but van Niekerk's 3 for 12 scuppered a good start and rattled the middle order.
Hasini Perera combined with Anushka Sanjeewani in an opening stand of 20, Sanjeewani swiping two leg-side boundaries in Masabata Klaas' first over but then chipping a drive to Tumi Sekhukhune in the covers attempting a third. After her dismissal, Hasini helped to guide Sri Lanka to the reasonably stable position of 26 for 1 at the end of the Powerplay, but the innings began to stagnate as van Niekerk brought herself on with the field spread and started to choke the flow of runs.
Her first over went for just two runs, and with the first ball of her third she had a frustrated Hasini caught at short fine leg by Lara Goodall for 27 - the top score of the innings. In her next over, van Niekerk struck twice to have Shashikala Siriwardene caught by a backpedaling Shabnim Ismail at long-off before bowling a slogging Atapattu with one that spun into the left-hander.
In the very next over, Sekhukhune flattened Nilakshi de Silva's leg stump with a full, swinging delivery and Sri Lanka were floundering at 53 for 5 in the 14th over. Imalka Mendis struck two late fours in her 25 to boost the run rate a little, but Sri Lanka's eventual total was well under par.
Van Niekerk showed just how far beyond a competitive total the visitors were when she strode to the crease and stroked four fours to motor through the Powerplay at a run a ball. Unafraid to loft the ball, she brought up a 40-ball fifty in the 11th over, crunching three fours in four balls off Inoka Ranaweera.
By then, South Africa were already closing in on victory, and wickets at the other end did little to stem van Niekerk's charge. Tazmin Brits was the next highest scorer with 10, but van Niekerk entered the 70s and ended the game with her 13th four, slapping medium-pacer Udeshika Prabodhani straight back over her head to the boundary.
Lauren Agenbag, the first SA woman to umpire in a T20I
At just 22 years old, she may well also be the youngest ever umpire to stand in an international since George Coulthard in 1878-79
Van Niekerk's three-for and half-century demolishes Sri Lanka
Her 3 of 12 restricted Sri Lanka to a below-par score before the hosts chased down the target with over five overs to spare