The Twenty20 World Cup cricket tournament is currently going on in Sri Lanka. The original 16 teams were whittled down to eight in preliminary group matches. Those eight were then reduced to four (West Indies, Sri Lanka, Australia, and Pakistan) in another set of group matches. These teams will now play in a sudden-death format to see who emerges as the winner.
The first semi final is between Sri Lanka and Pakistan on Thursday, October 4 at 13:30 UTC/GMT (9:30 am US Eastern time) and the second semi-final is between Australia and West Indies on Friday October 5 at the same time. The final between the two winners will be on Sunday, October 7 at the same time. The matches can be seen live-streamed at Cricinfo.
Cricket has many formats for its international games. The traditional one (and still the gold standard) is time-limited and played over five consecutive days, for six hours a day. I describe the rules of this game here and this short video explains some of the basic features.
Shorter versions of the game are becoming more popular. There is the one-day game which lasts about six hours, in which each team has to try and score the most runs from 50 ‘overs’. Each over consists of six deliveries (called ‘balls’ in cricket corresponding to pitches in baseball) by the same bowler, so 50 overs means 300 balls. The even shorter version lasts about three hours and is limited to 20 overs or 120 balls for each side. It is this last format that is called Twenty20 and is currently on display.
While I hope that Sri Lanka wins, and they do have a good team with a wily captain, it is harder to handicap these extremely short-form games than the longer ones because fortunes can switch suddenly. For example, South Africa, England, and India all rank higher than Sri Lanka and the West Indies and yet they were eliminated in the preliminary rounds. So basically anything goes and it should be fun.
Newcomers to the game are often amused at the names given to the fielding locations. There are eleven players on each side and when they are fielding two of them are the bowler (pitcher in baseball) and the wicket keeper (catcher). The positions that the other nine fielders occupy are precisely designated and have odd names like ‘short fine leg’, ‘silly mid off’, and ‘deep backward square leg’. To see where these and other positions are located on the field, see here.
In watching two of the earlier group games in which Sri Lanka defeated West Indies and then England, I was struck by how the Sri Lankan spectators had adopted many of the features of American sports fans. There were female cheer leaders with choreographed moves, music blaring out “We will, we will, rock you”, those giant foam ‘We’re #1′ fingers, and fireworks at the end of games. It felt quite strange to me since we had none of these things when I was a boy and avid fan of the game. All we did was clap and yell randomly.