|England 104 (18 overs): Dean 34 (26); Priyadarshani 2-16
|Sri Lanka 110-2 (13.2 points): Atapatho 55 (31); Gibson 1-9
|Sri Lanka won by 8 wickets. Series level 1-1
England suffered their first defeat against Sri Lanka in T20 internationals as the visitors leveled the series with an eight wicket victory over Chelmsford.
England collapsed to 104 in their 18 overs as the fine Sri Lankan spinners took eight of their 10 wickets.
Charlie Dean’s score of 34 was the only 20-plus score in England’s innings.
Then Sri Lankan captain Shamari Athapathu hit 55 off 31 balls as her team reached their target with 40 runs.
Athapaththu was dismissed by Alice Capsey with 26 runs remaining but Harshitha Madavi and Vishmi Gunaratne coolly completed the chase.
Sri Lanka were elated in celebration, with Harshitha raising her arms high to seal the victory with six goals from Kate Cross.
England opener Danny White was bowled out on his first over to spark a dismal collapse that saw England falter to 51-6 at the halfway mark, a stark contrast to the 186-4 they scored in First T20 in Hove Thursday.
The decisive match will take place in Derby on Wednesday.
Poor England excelled in all departments
England made the decision to rest their first-choice players in the series after a hectic summer in the Ashes, resting Sophia Dunkley, Nat Schaeffer-Brent and Sophie Ecclestone, who has since dislocated her shoulder.
But the relatively inexperienced England side were still strong favorites to win all three of their T20 matches against Sri Lanka, who lag significantly behind the hosts in terms of professionalism, finance and depth of talent.
The joy shown on the faces of the Sri Lankans as they celebrated on the field showed how important this historic victory was.
They put in an impressive performance, spearheading amazing knockout ball fighting in the series opener, using their main strength as bowling.
The England batsmen had no answers, as Amy Jones was trapped in the crease and Capsey, Knight and Maya Buchier all gifted loose shots – Azapatho’s sharp tool to throw White the only wicket not to show a batsman’s fault.
Athapathu has been a star of Sri Lanka for years, and is the only batsman with experience in the franchise, but she seems to enjoy the pressure of leading from the front.
England boasted a bowling attack that could defend 104, but they smashed 20 runs from the third in pursuit of Cross, and continued to attack with swagger to ensure their fine bowling performance was not wasted.
Questions surround Wong’s selection
England have opted to replace 17-year-old Mahika Gower, who shone on her debut on Thursday, with fellow speedy Essy Wong, who burst onto the scene in 2022 as one of the country’s brightest young talents before dipping into form this summer.
Wong never appeared in the Ashes and continued to struggle in domestic cricket, finding herself dropped from Birmingham Phoenix’s side of The Hundred due to problems in the lead-up.
Using international cricket as a way for the bowler to get back in shape seemed like a risky move – even against weaker opposition, as it is a game in front of a bigger crowd, a bigger TV audience, and with more pressure.
It didn’t help Wong, who bowled three no-balls with her front foot in her first match and hit three consecutive fours in her second to propel Sri Lanka to victory.
She wasn’t the only bowler to struggle, as Cross conceded 33 runs from 2.3 overs and a heavy debt too.
But England have an exciting group of fast bowlers, including Gore and Freya Kemp once they’re fit again, and it’s important they look after them.
“Huge for Sri Lanka women’s cricket” – Reaction
England captain Heather Knight: “Sri Lanka were fantastic. They went out and played the ball a lot better than they did last night, so credit to them. And then Shamari went out and did what she could do, which was to be aggressive and carry on with the game.
“We had a team that was inexperienced and that showed at times. It showed that when you go out in international cricket you can be humbled.
“Essie was struggling a bit with pace but had some good sessions. Finding her place is important in international cricket which is midfield, not just bowling into the net.
Sri Lankan captain Shamari Athapathu: “I am really happy with my team’s performance.
“We learned a lot from the last game and implemented all the right tactics here.
“As a leader and as a team, that’s huge for us. And that’s huge for women’s cricket in Sri Lanka.”
Former England player Alex Hartley on the BBC’s Test match programme: “The way England play is very positive and that means performances like this can happen.
“This result proves that teams are getting better. England can never be complacent.”