New Zealand captain Sophie Devine says her team is comfortable to “fly under the radar" after starting the women’s Twenty20 World Cup with a seven-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in Perth on Saturday.
The Kiwis have made the early running in Group A along with India, who downed defending champions Australia on day one. Only the top two from each of the two five-team groups qualify for the knockout phase.
Favoured New Zealand battled chasing 128 against Sri Lanka until Devine capitalised on two dropped chances en route to a match-winning unbeaten 75.
After a nervous start, Devine found support through Maddy Green in a 61-run third-wicket partnership to power New Zealand to victory with 14 balls to spare.
“You always want points in the bank early in the tournament and we knew how hard Sri Lanka were going to come at us," Devine told reporters.
New Zealand still face a battle to reach the semi-finals with tough matches against India and Australia ahead.
Devine, however, said her team was not bothered about being underestimated.
“If we can keep ticking off wins, pressure is on the other teams," she said. “We typically fly under the radar and go about our business."
New Zealand had started sloppily with the ball before clawing back and restricting Sri Lanka to 127-7 off 20 overs with allrounder Haley Jensen (3-16) starring on the bouncy WACA pitch.
After being sent in to bat, Sri Lanka feasted on wayward New Zealand bowling with openers Chamari Athapaththu and Hasini Perera combining for a rapid 46-ball 60-run partnership.
Athapaththu, Sri Lanka’s captain and best batter, clubbed two sixes and five boundaries in her whirlwind 41 before spooning a return catch to Lea Tahuhu in a decision overturned on review.
Sri Lanka’s lack of batting depth was exposed as they fell away in the backend of the innings.
“If we had been a bit smarter and not thrown away wickets, we were in line to make 140-160," Sri Lanka coach Harsha de Silva said.
Earlier, the West Indies beat gallant debutant Thailand by seven wickets in the first match of Group B.
The 2016 champions appeared set for an expected easy victory after restricting Thailand to a modest 78-9 off their 20 overs.
But the West Indies struggled at 27-3 before captain Stafanie Taylor (26 not out) and Shemaine Campbelle (25 not out) chased down the total with 20 deliveries to spare.
“Today was definitely tricky," player of the match Taylor said. “I reckon in a few years’ time they will definitely give teams challenges."
Thailand, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, are making their debut at a cricket World Cup –- men’s or women’s –- after a fairytale run in qualification.
“It’s been a long time waiting. It’s been 13 years for us," Thailand opener Nattaya Boochatham said.
“It was really exciting to get on the ground, get on the World Cup stage and show the people of the world that Thailand can play very good cricket."