Sri Lanka beat Afghanistan today in a rain-affected, low-scoring thriller, the third exciting game in a row after a dull start to the tournament. The quality of the cricket on both sides was decidedly less than stellar but Afghanistan was playing better for most of the game until their batting collapsed towards the end. Although Sri Lanka is technically the team I should support, given that I was born in the country and such tribal allegiances tend to determine whom one cheers for, I actually wished that Afghanistan had won. Beating a top ten Test match team for the first time in a World Cup match would have been an enormous boost to that war-torn country’s morale.
Sri Lanka meanwhile has been going through a woeful period, especially in the shorter forms of the game, and a loss to the lowest-ranked Afghanistan team would have been depressing for them but perhaps the shock that the Sri Lankan cricket authorities needed to realize that they had to shake things up in their administration, selection, and coaching. The only bright spot is that their current team captain Dimuth Karunaratne, appointed after a series of rapid-fire changes in the captaincy, is leading by example, batting and fielding well. It now requires his teammates, especially the batters, to step up.
So now we go on to tomorrow’s matches where India plays South Africa and Bangladesh plays New Zealand. Both games should be close. India has to be favored over the talented but underperforming South African team that has already lost twice and is furthered hampered by their ace fast bowler Dale Steyn being ruled out of the rest of the tournament because of a shoulder injury. New Zealand is favored to beat Bangladesh but the latter team has been surging, as seen in their upset win over South Africa.