Two World Cup games today. South Africa managed a very clinical, completely expected ten wicket win with 38.4 overs to spare against Kenya. This is exactly what they needed after their loss to the West Indies on Sunday. India, on the other hand, appeared to be in some difficultly batting against the Netherlands. Their resultant score of 204 was very unimpressive for supposedly one of the best batting sides in the world. India did follow up by bowling very well and although the match is still going on as I write, India looks set to win by a very comfortable 80 runs or so. Still, their performance today could not be described as impressive.
After four days of matches, I would describe Sri Lanka and the West Indies as having performed above expectations, Australia approximately to expectations, and India, Pakistan, New Zealand and South Africa below expectations. As an Australian supporter I am still reasonably confident (although the loss of Shane Warne obviously doesn't help), but from the Australian point of view, the resurgence of Sri Lanka is a negative. No other side has a better recent record of beating Australia in important matches. A semi-final or final against Sri Lanka is really something Australia would prefer to avoid.
On the Shane Warne business, Peter Fitzsimons has the following to say in the Sydney Morning Herald
There are only four possibilities. 1. Shane Warne is a drug cheat. 2. Shane Warne's mum is a drug cheat. 3.Shane Warne is as stupid as a speed hump. 4. Joe the Cameraman did it.
While there will be many who will point to Warne's extraordinarily quick physical transformation in recent times and rapid recovery from injury as evidence for point 1, there is no doubt Warne's legal representatives will have to argue that point 3 is the only reasonable conclusion.
As evidence they will have an awesome arsenal of Warne's past performances to point to.
My long term feelings on Warne are simply this: the man is capable of being an idiot, but there is nobody else in the world (except perhaps Vivian Richards, who I am sadly no longer able to watch) who I would rather watch playing cricket. For this reason, my heart wants to see him get a light suspension so that I can return to watching him play cricket.
On the other hand, this piece on why Warne might have taken the pill is potentially quite damning. There seem too possible reasons: the first is that Warne had been taking steroids to help him recover from his injury, and he was in fact using the drug to mask steriod use. The other is that Warne had put on some weight over due to being unable to train properly after the shoulder injury, and he took the pill to lose some weight, largely because of vanity. This strikes me as a stupid thing to do, but who knows. To quote Fitzsimons again.
Adam Gilchrist couldn't possibly argue he is capable of that level of stupidity and be believed. As a matter of fact, nobody else in the whole Australian squad could but, hell, with Warne you just never know.
And the final thing that makes me uncomfortable is just this: Warne has over the last year lost a great deal of weight, and he has recovered remarkably and perhaps suspiciously quickly from a serious injury. Taking illicit drugs would certainly have helped him in these endeavours. The more I think about it, the more cynical I am becoming. And I don't want to be cynical. I want Warne to keep playing until he is 43, for the rest of his career to be unblemished, and for him to take 900 test wickets.