SINGAPORE - It has been seven years since Singapore last defeated Sri Lanka twice at the 2015 Netball World Cup, but the hosts’ attempt to break their duck against the regional powerhouse ended in a 67-49 defeat at the Asian Netball Championship (ANC) on Wednesday.
Since stunning Sri Lanka at the World Cup in Sydney, Singapore have been beaten four times in major tournaments – the 2018 ANC (twice) and 2019 World Cup (twice).
Up against the reigning champions for the first time since 2019, a young Singapore side found themselves outclassed and outplayed at both ends by the towering Sri Lankans, who boasted 2.06m veteran Tharjini Sivalingam.
Both teams started strong in the second-round match, taking turns to convert their centre pass to keep the score level, but Singapore found their attack curtailed by Sri Lanka’s tight defending.
Despite a few interceptions from Singapore’s Sindhu Nair and Jamie Lim, their rivals remained on the front foot throughout thanks to Sivalingam, who converted 88 per cent of her attempts to help her team remain unbeaten in the tournament.
Sri Lanka captain Gayanjali Amarawansa was pleased with the win, especially after their hard-fought 55-53 win against Malaysia on Tuesday, as it gives them confidence ahead of their next match against Hong Kong.
She said: “Our team did really well, the teamwork and strategies are all good. We’re having a good mentality as well for tomorrow and hope to do well.”
Despite the loss, Singapore head coach Annette Bishop was pleased with their performance against a more experienced Sri Lanka team. Eight members of the 12-player Sri Lanka squad have over 40 caps, compared to only two for Singapore.
She added: “It’s a young team and it’s growing so it’s just about us building and learning from each game.”
Next up for the hosts are Malaysia, whom they beat twice at the 2018 ANC. Both teams will meet again in Saturday’s semi-finals, if Sri Lanka beat Hong Kong on Thursday.
Goalkeeper Nair, 27, had the tough job of defending Sivalingam – who is 33cm taller – but said she enjoyed the challenge.
She said: “I’m very proud of the team. We obviously knew there was going to be a challenge going up against Sri Lanka... but the team worked really hard and hopefully... we’ll get the win next time.
“Malaysia will be a very tough team to go against. Today, we took a bit more time to settle down. So our aim will be to settle down and get into the game quicker.”
In the other Group E match, Malaysia survived a scare before prevailing 55-46 against Hong Kong.
The SEA Games champions were trailing by four goals at half-time before coach Lisa Beehag introduced a host of substitutes, with their seasoned players coming on to steer the team to victory.
Beehag, who coached Singapore from 2008 to 2009, will be plotting victory in the Causeway derby on Thursday. She said: “We’ll go back, look at some video breakdown of what we did and didn’t do well. We’ll also have a look at Singapore and see what they’ve been doing.”