In the first semi-final game against Pakistan in the Twenty20 world Cup tournament, Sri Lanka scored 139 in their 20 overs. This was lower than the 160 or so runs that teams feel gives them a pretty good chance of winning but according to the analysts, the quality of the pitch (an important factor is cricket where the ball bounces before reaching the batsman) was such that this was a reasonable score. And they were proved right when Pakistan was able to score only 123 runs in their 20 overs.
I was able to watch during the time when Sri Lanka batted and I thought that Pakistan performed brilliantly in the field. Their bowling was tight and controlled and their fielding was excellent. I could not get to watch them while they were batting, unfortunately, since I felt obliged to do some work, but reading reports of their effort suggested that their batting did not match the Sri Lankan batting in facing good bowling on a difficult pitch.
One of the attractive features of cricket is that in addition to it being about winning and losing as in any other competitive sport, it also allows for appreciation of style and aesthetics. Most fans, while cheering on their favored team, usually can appreciate the skill of their opponents and will applaud their good plays. At least that used to be the case. I am a little out of it now that I have been in the US for so long.
Style is most on display in the more leisurely five-day games when players are not forced to achive quick results and the current Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayewardene and its former captain Kumar Sangakkara are two of the finest batsmen playing the game today. Their technique is so good that they can play stylishly and also score runs prodigiously.
Unfortunately, the Twenty20 ultra-short version of the game places a very high premium on scoring quickly and thus becomes a slugfest. As a result, during his innings against Pakistan, in order to score quick runs Jayewardene made some shots that can only be described as hideous. They were the kind of risky shots that he would never have played in the five-day game. But he is not to blame. A great player adapts to the needs of the occasion and he did what he had to do.
So now Sri Lanka goes into the final to play the winner of tomorrow’s game between West Indies and Australia. On paper Australia is a much better team but as I said, in the Twenty20 format, anything can happen.