With remarkable shooting statistics from both sides the match was a compellingly competitive affair.
With their raucous support creating a so-far unparalleled atmosphere, the Zim Gems made a huge impression with their first ever World Cup victory.
The initial minutes were tentative as each team got a feel for the other, with both connecting well with their shooters. Zimbabwe got balls to goal utilising their speed and agility, whilst Sri Lanka delivered the ball to their towering goal shooter Tharjini Sivalingam, who, standing at 6’9″, is the tournament’s tallest player
Any turnover in this quarter was to be found either in the centre third or through penalties, and after finally breaking the steady goal-for-goal rhythm that had started the game, Zimbabwe gathered momentum and with that the lead, ending the first quarter 19-14 ahead.
Sri Lanka came out of the blocks fastest at the start of the second quarter, quickly reducing the goal deficit. They were able to steal ball from the Zim Gems where they hadn’t before and the steady, stalwart presence of Sivalingam, shooting at 100%, was able to reap the rewards.
However, Zimbabwe’s athleticism soon shone through again and the Zim Gems were able to locate the tips, intercepts and turnovers they needed to push on. With Ursula Ndlovu and Joice Takaidza firing at 93% and 92% respectively, Zimbabwe led 38-29 at half time.
The third quarter was a much more even, with Sri Lanka staying in contention by matching Zimbabwe’s physicality. Sivalingam maintained her 100% flawless shooting, a statistic matched by her supporting goal attack Dulangi Wannithileka.
Despite injures to both Ndlovu and Sharleen Makushka, Zimbabwe’s tenacious play wasn’t disrupted, and they led 53-42 heading into the final quarter.
They continued to dominate, with Sri Lanka only able to put their first shot of the quarter in as the ninth minute died away.
They found their rhythm, but it was too little too late, and the partisan support was able to delight in a final score of 79-49 in favour of the World Cup debutants.
Zimbabwe goal shooter Joice Takaidza said:
“I have goosebumps – this is a dream come true! We didn’t know we had so many people supporting Zimbabwe – to see the whole arena supporting us like that was so exciting.”
Sri Lanka coach Thilaka Jinadasa said:
“We weren’t in the game until the third quarter – it all happened in the last quarter. The girls lost the momentum, especially the centre court – they were not moving around as they should and I think it cost us the match.”