Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Cricket: Semi-Live

The Cricket World Cup is into their Elite Eight phase. As I type this Sri Lanka is batting against South Africa. The Guardian is providing virtually live over-by-over coverage, pretty much live blogging. Sri Lanka is currently at 162-5.

Here is Andy Bull's preview for the match:

It's time to pick a side, to decide how you like your cricket. Here's the choice: on the one hand you've got the brutal, bullying and clinically efficient South Africans. They're all muscular fast bowlers and straight-batted big-hitters, staring you down or knocking you out of the way. Or, you've got the Lankans: a craftier team, with more guile and more joy about their game, they may irritate you with their incessant on-field enthusiasm, but they'll charm you too. Brawns or brain folks?

The thing is this match dosn't have an underdog. These two teams have played each other 44 times, and won 21 each. In World Cups they've met three times, won one each and had one tie. On neutral venues? 8 times, four wins each. For all that, they couldn't be more different.

Statistics aside - I never was much of a one for stats - there is a lot of bad blood between these two teams. South Africa cost the Sri Lankan cricket board $12m last year when they pulled out of a three-match series in Colombo because of the security threat. South Africa themselves will still be scarred by Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara's stand of 624, a record in first-class cricket, set just last year.

South Africa is almost inarguably the greatest side never to have won a World Cup and this year provides perhaps their best opportunity yet.

You can also check out what could be an exhilerating finish as the West Indies pursue Australia's run total of 323 here.

Update: What a peculiar match so far. Sri Lanka was rolling, with a national one-day record after 6 wickets, and then in their last overs they gave up 4 wickets on 8 balls, finishing at 209. South Africa is on to bat after the break and after scoring one run, give up a wicket themselves. South Africa needs a reachable (assuming they protect their wickets a little better than they have at the beginning of their time in the stump) 210 to win. As of right now they are 5-1 and need 203 from 47 overs.

Update Part Deux: Holy boerewors! In one of the truly great finishes, South Africa barely ekes out a 210-9 to win by the slimmest of margins. Epic. South Africa shows it can close out a tight game and Sri Lanka shows that after putting up 209 it can almost hold off one of the best teams in the world.

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