Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Australia through to final,and thoughts on "walking"

As I reported in my update to an earlier piece, Australia batted first in their semi-final against Sri Lanka and scored 7/212 off their 50 overs. This would not normally be a terribly good score, but given the earlier results on the Port Elizabeth pitch, there was a certain suspicion that 212 might be a better score than it appeared. Sri Lanka got off to a good start, scoring 20 off the first 3 overs. Australia looked well and truly in it, though, due to a couple of near or dropped catches. (These were all very difficult, but the Sri Lankans were taking risks). Then, however, as I thought he might, Brett Lee went up a gear. He bowled Atapattu with a beautiful delivery that went at over 160 km/h and came in from outside off stump and that Atapattu didn't get anywhere near. Soon afterwards, McGrath got Jayasuriya, and Lee continued to bowl well, to remove Tillakaratne and Gunawardene for not much. Aravinda De Silva then started batting beautifully, including an absolutely sublime four through mid off. It seemed that Sri Lanka had some chance he could keep batting. However, Andy Bichel ran de Silva out in an amazing piece of fielding and throwing with a direct hit at the striker's end. A couple of wickets from Bradd Hogg, and Sri Lanka looked completely out of it at 7/76. Sangakkara and Arnold then put on a slow 47 off 14 overs, before the heavens opened. The match was abandoned, and Australia were declared the winner by 48 runs on the Duckworth Lewis rule. It would have been nice to have finished the game, and I would much prefer a situation allowing games to be completed on the reserve day. Realistically, though, Sri Lanka were a long way behind and had little realistic chance of winning. Some might compare this with the Australia versus England game and say that if Australia won that then Sri Lanka could have won this, but I don't really agree. On that occasion, Bevan and Bichel did a perfect job of getting the runrate right throughout the innings. On that occasion the required runrate didn't pass the six mark until around the 48th over, at which point a boundary or two was enough to win the game. In this case the Sri Lankan batsmen had allowed the required runrate to blow out to around 8 by the 38 over mark. The Australians never had a task that difficult. My response is well played Australia. I am thankful they will not be playing any more games in Port Elizabeth. In the end, the 212 that Australian scored was a good innings, and Andrew Symonds' 91 not out was worth a big century in most matches.

Australia have now made their third consecutive World Cup final, their fourth in the last five World Cups, and their fifth overall (out of eight World Cups held). This is easily the most by any side (The West Indies (two wins) and England (no wins) have each made three finals, Pakistan (one win) have made two finals, and India and Sri Lanka (one win each) have each made one final. If India beat Kenya, on Thursday, they will qualify for their second final.

An interesting thing about the Australian innings was the dismissal of Adam Gilchrist. The umpire ruled that Gilchrist was not out, but Gilchrist knew that he had hit the ball and walked off. Cricket has a tradition of "walking" when you know you are out, based on the idea that this is the gentlemanly thing to to, but it is more common in some cricketing subcultures than others. Australians do it more often that English sportswriters would have you believe, but they generally do not do it. Former Australian captain Ian Chappell did not walk. His justification was that some players would walk when they were out in unimportant situations, and would get a reputation for walking when they were out. Then, when there was a close decision in an important situation, they would not walk, but would be given the benefit of the doubt by umpires due to having a reputation for walking. Chappell preferred to accept the umpire's decision on the basis that you would get some go your way and some go against you and they would even out over time. You may or may not find this justification on Chappell's part convincing, but he at least had convinced himself of it. In any event, nobody can accuse Gilchrist of such cynicism, as he walked today in a World Cup semi-final: about as important a situation as you can imagine. The Australian sportswriters were apparently not made especially happy by this, although their articles tomorrow won't say this. And he will certainly be praised in the English press for his sportsmanship.

And I haven't forgotten my promise to explain the Duckworth Lewis rule. This will come soon.

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