After a couple of quiet games, Hayley Matthews came to the party in the ICC Women’s World T20 2018 game against Sri Lanka, striking with bat, ball and in the field.
Once a star performer like Matthews gets going and has a dream game, there’s little oppositions can do. So it was with Sri Lanka in St Lucia – Matthews first slammed a 36-ball 62, then returned 3/16, not to forget an excellent catch to send back an in-form Chamari Athapaththu off Chinelle Henry.
A complete performance then, one that worked even better because Deandra Dottin (49) and Stafanie Taylor (41) chipped in too, the team put up 187/5, won the match by 83 runs, and sealed their spot in the semi-finals.
“I think in the first two games we weren't able to fire at the top the order. To be able to go out there today and be able to get going and get a start, what me and Deandra had was really good. If we keep getting starts like that, it will definitely make it easier on our lower order and, you know, help to ease the pressure on the team a bit,” Player of the Match Matthews said afterwards.
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“We definitely didn't think it was a 180-pitch. When we went out there and were able to actually bat on it, it started coming off really well and didn't have too much turn in it. I think overall it was a really, really good batting pitch for us, and we were happy to play on it.”
The crowd at the games featuring the home side have been outstanding, both in terms of the numbers as well as the colour and noise they bring with them.
“It’s good to be able to come out to the games and really see the support we've been getting. From game one, when we played in Guyana, we had an amazing crowd, and since we've been here in St Lucia it's been just as good or even better,” gushed Matthews.
“I think especially when we set the low totals in the last game, the crowd really helped to push us on and I guess hype us up in the field a bit. We saw the same thing happened today.”
No talk about Matthews can happen without a reference to that night at Eden Gardens in the final of the ICC Women’s World T20 2016, when she smashed 66 in 45 balls to set up the Windies win over Australia in the final. It was when Matthews burst on to the world scene, and she has only built on that performance since.
“For sure. I think it's definitely something I can look back to. The first two games, I didn't get any runs in. For me it's kind of a reminder of what I can do and keep believing in myself,” she said. “I'm really happy that I could get some runs, and hopefully I can replicate some more performances like that.”
The Windies have now won three in three, but there’s a game against England left, one that both teams must try to win to top the group.
“We have to go out there and still play the same level of cricket we've been playing or even better,” said Matthews. “We would like to qualify first in the group and really be able to send a message out to the opposition from the other group that we're coming hard and we're really coming to defend our title.”
For Sri Lanka, meanwhile, it was the end of the road at the marquee event. They beat Bangladesh, had a point from the washout against England, but lost their other two matches.
Still, it was a learning experience for Athapaththu’s team, one they can build on.
“We have only a few players (in Sri Lanka), we have only a few international-quality players. Shashikala (Siriwardene) and me, we are playing good cricket couple of years, but unfortunately we don't have enough good international-level players,” pointed out Athapaththu.
“But we try our best and we trust our players. We give chance for them to improve. I think they have here and today they played a good match and they want play more cricket. In the next couple of years, we can build good team. That's my target.”