The vast numbers of cricket fans out there in my blog’s readerland are no doubt anxiously wondering what is going on in the World Cup of cricket currently taking place in the West Indies. As I wrote earlier, the end of the first stage of group matches saw the shocking defeat of the strong Pakistani team by the lowly Irish, and the surprising elimination of the Indian team by the Bangladeshis. The murder of the Pakistani coach Bob Woolmer following his team’s defeat still remains unsolved, with no arrests.
The tournament is currently about halfway through the second stage, called the Super Eights, where the eight teams that qualified for the second round (Australia, South Africa, England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Bangladesh, and the West Indies) all play each other at least once (unless they had played each other in the first round group matches). At the end of this stage, the top four teams go to the third and final round, which is in sudden death format.
There has been plenty of excitement in the second round. Sri Lanka was involved in two exciting finishes, losing one match to South Africa and winning the other against England.
To understand how exciting the two Sri Lanka games were, you need to understand the rules of the one-day form of cricket. Although the basic rules of the game remain the same as in the five-day international tests, the one-day format has certain rules to ensure both a faster-paced game and that a decision is reached.
The basic differences when compared with the five day game is that (1) each side of eleven players gets only one inning of batting, unlike two in the five-day game, (2) Each side gets to face a maximum of 300 ‘balls’ (what pitches are called in cricket), consisting of 50 ‘overs’ of six balls each, and (3) no bowler (pitcher) can bowl more than 10 overs, which implies that at least five bowlers must be used in a full inning. The last two restrictions do not exist in the five day game.
Each batting side tries to score as many runs as possible in its fifty overs, and the inning is over when either the fifty overs are completed or 10 ‘wickets’ (outs) have occurred. The side scoring the most runs wins. A score of over 300 runs is almost always a winning score, while over 250 is respectable, 200-250 puts quite a burden on your bowling side to restrict the scoring of the opponents, and less than 200 means you are very likely to lose.
The biggest upset was on Saturday when the Bangladesh team (ranked seventh of the eight teams, just ahead of Ireland) easily defeated the top-ranked South Africans, showing that their previous defeat of India was no flash in the pan. Bangladesh scored 251 runs for eight wickets in its 50 overs, while South Africa was only able to score 184 runs before being all out in 48.5 overs.
This was undoubtedly a massive boost for cricket in Bangladesh and the streets of Dhaka immediately erupted in spontaneous parties even though the final result came in at 3:00 am in the morning local time. The South Africans are being criticized as perhaps being too cocky.
But the two most exciting games have involved Sri Lanka. In the game with favorites South Africa, Sri Lanka batted first and managed to score only 209 runs in 49.5 overs before having their tenth and last out, leaving an easy target for South Africa. The latter team seemed to be cruising to victory, reaching 206 for the loss of only five wickets while still having about 30 balls left with which to score the remaining four runs for victory. It seemed all over.
Then Lasith Malinga, a Sri Lankan fast bowler with an unorthodox delivery, did something unprecedented in international cricket, getting four outs in four consecutive balls, leaving the South Africans reeling at 207 for nine, suddenly facing the most dramatic ‘defeat from the jaws of victory’ ever. But after a period of incredible tension with no runs scored and no outs but with several close shaves, their last batsmen finally managed to score the winning runs with just 10 balls remaining. Although this would have been the most incredible win for Sri Lanka if they had managed to capture that last wicket, it was generally conceded that South Africa had played better overall and deserved to win.
The other dramatic game came when Sri Lanka played England. Sri Lanka again batted first and scored 235 in exactly 50 overs, with their tenth and last out occurring on the very last ball of their inning. When England batted, they seemed to be in trouble when they had scored only 133 runs while losing six wickets but a magnificent late rally by two batsmen saw them reaching 233 for seven wickets, needing only three runs to win, but with just one ball left of the fifty over allocation. In the attempt to score those winning runs off the last ball, the batsman was out, leaving Sri Lanka the victors of this thrilling game by just two runs.
According to the standings at this moment, Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and South Africa seem likely to make it into the final four. But England, West Indies, Bangladesh, and Ireland are not as yet mathematically eliminated, although it would take a tremendous series of upsets for Bangladesh and Ireland to qualify for the final round.
POST SCRIPT: Traffic rules? We don’t need no stinkin’ traffic rules!
Here is a scene from a busy intersection in China where they seem to manage without stop lights, stop signs, or traffic circles.
For those unfamiliar with the allusion that gave rise to the title of this post script, here is a clip from the classic film Treasure of the Sierra Madre starring Humphrey Bogart.