Malawi national netball team fondly called The Queens survived an early scare from Sri Lanka to beat the visitors 71-51 in an international test match played Friday evening at College of Medicine indoor court.
It was a laboured victory for sixth ranked Queens and the basket margin of 71-51 does not reflect the true picture of the match because there was very little difference between the home side and their visitors ranked 26th by the International Netball Federation (INF). It was so close.
Sri Lanka dominated the first quarter by using their height advantage. They run circles around the short Malawi players. Their goal shooter, 40 year-old Tharjani Sivalingam probably the tallest netballer I have seen in my life, proved a menace as she made light work of Malawi defence like it were cherry picking.
It was no wonder that the first quarter finished in favour of the visitors at 17-16. Malawi put up some resistance in tje secon quarter but it was not enough to peel away from the visitors. The Queens did not seem to have a game plan to circumvent the height advantage that Sri Lanka had which was very frustrating.
This is a minus on the coaching pannel. This was not the first test match for Sri Lanka. They had already watched them play against Kukoma Diamond and and Blue Eagles Sisters but could not come up with a strategy, a game plan to combat tallness of the visitors.
It was not until the third quarter when the Queens made substitutions bringing England based professionals in the shape of Joyce Mvula and Laureen Ngwira that the Queens improved. The most telling substituion was the coming in of Takondwa Lwazi. Her presence completely snuffed the life out of Sri Lanka. Lwazi completely dominated the central area denying supply to Sri Lanka’s lethal goal shooter. For the first time Malawi led as the 3rd quarter finished 52-40.
In the last quarter Malawi showed some sparkle with their signature short passing game that makes them special in world netball. Sri Lanka completely lost shape and crumbled as the Queens run riot dominating possession. Lwazi, the Queens lioness orchestrated attacks in flamboyant style so much she was a joy to watch. The midfield dominace paid off as the Queens stretched the victory margin to 71-51.
Sri Lanks may have lost but they look a much improved side. They will take home alot of positive aspects from the test matches. They just need to work on their concetration particularly on passing accuracy. There was a time they misplaced too many passes even throwing the ball out.
And they should also improve on their fitness levels so that they can endure to the last quarter keeping the same level of performance. Their strength seemed to fade as the game progressed.
As for the Queens, the test matches have exposed some lapses in the team. Some players lack intensity in their play. The coaches need to work on a proper game plan which should be executed to the last detail. They need to improve their passing game and ball possession.
The Queens, who are preparing for the African Championships in Lusaka Zambia from 13th August, will need more than what they gave against Sri Lanka to lift the trophy. They will meet other tall players from Kenya and Uganda so they need to come up with a game plan. The coaches have alot to do to so that the team is 100% ready. From I witnessed the Queens are at 50% at the moment.
Few things to forget about this match, it was unpleasant for most people who watched this international netball match to see that at this digital age we are still using blackboards for updates the baskets. The organizers hired the poor sound system which even failed to play the national anthems
Dulanji Chamathka Wannithilaka (NA)
Hasitha Lakimali Mendis (GA)
Gimihani Gayanjali Amarawanga (C)
Tharjani Sivalingam (GS)
Sereka Kumari (WD)
Chathurangi Shanika Jayasooriya (GD)
Gayani Samanthika Dissanayake (GK)
Alinafe Kwamwala (GS)
Sindi Msowaya (GA)
Rihanna Msope ( WA)
Shira Dimba ( C)
Cathy Yikwenga ( WD)
Joana Kachilika (GK)
Madalitso Mkandawire ( GD)