The people of Sylhet love cricket. Be it a men's game or a women's, they don't seem to bother; they just pour in numbers at the newly-renovated Sylhet Cricket Stadium. They came in their thousands yesterday to watch the opening day's matches of the ICC Women's World Twenty20 and were richly-entertained; firstly by the humdinger of an opening match between New Zealand beat two-time defending champions Australia, which New Zealand won by seven-runs. Later, they were treated to a run-fest from South Africa who beat Pakistan by 44 runs.
The White Ferns, as the New Zealand women's team are known, set up a decent total of 128 in their 20 overs before managing to restrict the defending champions to 121, thanks to crucial run-outs and some accurate bowling on a surface which offered some assistance to both spinners and faster bowlers.
That New Zealand scored 128 despite losing Suzie Bates in the second over owes a great deal to the valuable contributions in the upper and middle orders from Frances Mackay (25), Sara McGlashan (15), Katie Perkins (31) and Nicola Browne (29).
In the second match, Lizelle Lee (67 not out) and Dane van Nieker (90 not out) produced a record-breaking unbeaten opening stand of 163 runs to give Pakistan a mammoth target. The Pakistanis came out with a spirited reply, but eventually fell 44 runs short, managing 119 for nine.
WOMEN'S WORLD T20 SCORES
NEW ZEALAND: 128 for 8 (Perkins 31, Browne 29, McGlashan 25; Jonassen 2-22, Coyte 2-8)
AUSTRALIA: 121 all out in 19.3 overs (Healy 41, Blackwell 31, Perry 14; Huddleston 2-23, Nielsen 1-14)
Result: New Zealand won by 7 runs.
Player-of-the-match: Nicola Browne (New Zealand).
SOUTH AFRICA: 163 for no loss (Lee 63 not out, Van Niekerk 90 not out; Siddiqui 0-21)
PAKISTAN: 119 for 9 (Abidi 28, Nida 32; Kapp 3-16)
Result: South Africa won by 44 runs
Player-of-the-match: Dane van Nieker (South Africa).