England 186 for 4 (Capsey 51, Wyatt 48) beat Sri Lanka 55 for 3 by 12 runs (DLS method)
England slipped and slid to victory on a damp evening in Hove, with Alice Capsey's rapid half-century and a wicket on debut from Mahika Gaur underlining the sense of promise for a young, experimental side. Although the winning margin was eventually just 12 runs, after Duckworth-Lewis-Stern brought Sri Lanka's target down to 68 from six overs, there was rarely any doubt that England were the side in control.
Capsey equalled her career-best T20I score with 51 from 27, including five fours and three sixes, as England bludgeoned their way to 186 for 4 from 17 overs. Danni Wyatt continued her flying form from the Hundred with 48 from 30 at the top of the order and there were sparky cameos from Freya Kemp and Heather Knight as Sri Lanka's attack struggled for control in the wet.
Sri Lanka had opted to bowl after heavy rain during the day led to the start being delayed by an hour, but there was little assistance from the conditions as Udeshika Prabodhani's opening over went for 12 and England rattled along at a rate in excess of 10 for the rest of the innings.
The upshot was a record chase for Sri Lanka in T20Is, but the weather returned to lend an air of jeopardy to proceedings. Heavy rain took the players from the field with only 3.1 overs bowled - 11 balls short of a result - and the DLS calculations left Sri Lanka with a puncher's chance, particularly with belligerent skipper Chamari Athapaththu at the wicket. But the 17-year-old Gaur had Athapaththu caught behind and the requirement of 45 off 17 balls proved too much for the tourists.
With Sophia Dunkley rested for this series, and the England selectors opting not to bring Tammy Beaumont in from the cold despite her scintillating Hundred form, Maia Bouchier walked out alongside Wyatt to open the batting for the first time in international cricket. Bouchier had batted exclusively in the lower-middle order during her 19 previous T20Is but was given an opportunity on the back of impressive form at No. 3 for Hundred champions Southern Brave.
But it was Wyatt, Brave's barn-burner and the Hundred's leading run-scorer, who set the tone. Her first ball was stroked nonchalantly through the off-side ring for four, and three more boundaries came in next over - including a hoick on to the concrete over deep backward square leg - as Wyatt took Sugandika Kumari for 16. Kawya Kavinda's opening over was even more costly, featuring seven wides and 18 runs all told, and it took two tight overs of offspin from Athapaththu to limit the damage as England cruised to 55 without loss from the powerplay.
Bouchier, for her part, launched her third ball down the ground for four but was largely content to rotate the strike and let Wyatt tear it up. She struck a second boundary in the seventh over, slog-sweeping Inoka Ranaweera for six towards the scoreboard - but was then run out looking for a single off the bowling of Kavisha Dilhari, the spinner scampering to her right and throwing down one stump with Bouchier inches short to end a stand worth 77 off 45 balls.
Capsey cashes in
Wyatt fell short of her fifty in the next over, missing a swipe at Ranaweera to be bowled. That heralded the arrival of Kemp, the 18-year-old allrounder making her first England appearance in almost a year after a back stress fracture - an injury that means she is being deployed as a specialist batter in this series. Pushed up above the captain, Heather Knight, she launched a towering six into the Sharks Stand at long-on as Kumari's second over went for 18.
Kemp was stumped off Dilhari a few balls later but Capsey, the third teenager in the XI, took up the cudgels. Having moved to 23 off 17, she triggered Beast Mode with a trio of leg-side sixes in the space of four deliveries from Ranaweera. Having charged out to slug the spinner over long-on, she swivelled on a pull that only just cleared the fielder at deep midwicket and then, after Ranaweera had overstepped, crunched a huge blow high into the crowd in front the pavilion.
The 14th over had gone for 22 and the next, delivered by the veteran Prabodhani, cost 17 as Capsey slapped two more fours to go to a 26-ball half-century. She didn't add to her score, bowled aiming a reverse at Athapaththu, but England were already formidably placed.
Gaur gets going
Knight indicated before the game that this was the beginning of a new World Cup cycle for her team, just over a year out from next year's tournament in Bangladesh, with Gaur the most eye-catching member of the next generation. A 6ft 3in left-armer, Gaur was born in Reading but made her international debut for UAE at the age of 12, and has impressed in the Hundred for Manchester Originals and with Thunder on the regional domestic circuit.
In the end, the rain limited her to just two overs but the attributes that saw her fast-tracked through the system after being scouted by Lancashire in 2020 - bounce and swing from a high, left-arm action - were on full display. Her first ball was a nervy leg-side wide that evaded Amy Jones but she soon found her rhythm and, after the resumption, hit back from being clubbed over long-on by Athapaththu to find the Sri Lanka captain's outside edge for her maiden wicket in England colours.