Thursday, March 15, 2007

It probably doesn't matter for the tournament, but a first exciting match

The two games to conclude today had completely contrasting finishes. Sri Lanka finished off bowling out for 78, to complete a 243 run victory. Top order wickets to Lasith Malinga are encouraging for Sri Lanka - he is an exciting bowler when in form.

The other game was an absolute nailbiter. Set 222 to win, Zimbabwe lost wickets along the way, but looked for most of the time like they would probably ultimately scrape the runs. At 5/133 they were perhaps in a little trouble, but Stuart Matsikenyeri steadily compiled runs. At 5/203 off 43.4 overs they looked to be crusing home, and even at 6/212 off for 47.3 it did not look especially hard. Then, however there were wild swings. From needing 10 off 15 balls with four wickets in hand, three wickets fell for one run in ten balls, and suddenly Ireland were in the box seat, with Zimbabwe needing nine runs off the last over with one wicket in hand. However, Matsikenyeri was still batting and he managed to gain strike and Zimbabwe got eight runs off the first five balls of the over. Matsikenyeri only needed one run off the last ball and it looked Zimbabwe's game again, but he couldn't get it. Rainsford was run out in a suicidal attempt at a run, and Zimbabwe were all out for 221. The match was tied - only the third tie in World Cup history. The last such result was of course the extraordinarily memorable semi-final between Australia and South Africa in 1999. Zimbabwe were disconsolate and the Irish ecstatic, indicating the perceived positions of these sides. Matsikenyeri must have been livid considering all the wickets that fell at the other end - three of them run outs. His partners panicked - it is that simple.

Either of these sides have a clear task to achieve a place in the Super eight - they just have to beat Pakistan. If either side can do so, their three points will be above Pakistan's maximum of two points. It is a very tall order, but Pakistan are the most unpredictable and most vulnerable of the strong sides. It isn't likely, but it is not quite beyond the realms of possibility.

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