Monday, February 10, 2003

Okay, More Cricket

Two World Cup games today. Zimbabwe beat Namibia very easily. This was completely unsurprising, although there was a little bit of a scare due to the weather. However, enough cricket was played for Zimbabwe to be declared the winner. The most striking thing about the game was that Zimbabwean players Andy Flower (the best cricketer to have played for Zimbabwe and one of the best batsmen in the world) and Henry Olonga wore black arm bands as a statement about their country. Good on both of them.

In the second game, Sri Lanka beat New Zealand by 47 runs. Interestingly enough, of the three sides I confidently predicted to be semi-finalists, two (South Africa and New Zealand) have lost in the first two days of the tournament. Still, I haven't changed my mind that much. Neither side was disgraced, both lost to quality opposition, and in each case the best batsman in the opposing side played superbly. This game was in a way a lot like yesterday. The less favoured side batted first, and a fine player (today Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya) scored a hundred. Following up this example, other batsmen in the side (today Hashan Tillakaratne) batted well at the end in order that an excellent total is compiled. Batting second, the more favoured side lost early wickets and got very behind in the run chase. One batsman, today Scott Styris for New Zealand, made a valiant effort at the end, but fell short in the end.

Today's game was not nearly as close as yesterday's, and New Zealand didn't get close at the end, although Styris' 141 was utterly superb. His teammates rather let him down, however. It wasn't that New Zealand ran out of overs as much as Styris ran out of partners. He was the last man out, but only because New Zealand were nine men down and he was at that point trying to hit about three sixes an over. New Zealanders must have found that a little disappointing.

The other difference between yesterday and today was that although the West Indian bowling was lacklustre yesterday, this wasn't true today. Sri Lanka have one of the best bowlers in the tournament in Muttiah Muralitharan, and it showed. He bowled well, didn't concede many runs, and took wickets. Whereas I don't think the West Indies can win the tournament, if things go their way it isn't out of the question that Sri Lanka might. The conditions do not suit their players, but judging by today's effort, there might be some chance they can overcome this.

Two world cups ago, when Sri Lanka won the tournament, Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva both had superb tournaments. Jayasuriya being in form now is very encouraging for them. (De Silva is playing too, but he is probably well past his best). My suspicion is that the Sri Lankans today are very happy. Theirs today is the best performance of the tournament so far.

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