Well, we did tell you that the Lankan attack was brilliant and lethal. And we told you that the Lankans would win, because their class would differentiate them from a rather plain, if very talented and consistent, New Zealand side. But we had no idea just how dominant the victory would be, as Sri Lanka won by 81 runs. After losing two wickets — Jayasuriya and Sangakkara! — relatively early, Mahela Jayawardene built a remarkable innings, scoring 115 off 109 balls, and powering his side to an imposing 5/289. The Kiwis never had a chance chasing that kind of target — not when Murali, Malinga, and Vaas were in such fine form.
Cricket World Cup Archives
The Deuce staff apologizes for its weeklong absence. Suffice it to say that we simply didn’t have time to blog, given that we were spread across the planet on critical missions. One of us was called in to work on a top-secret investigation in the Caribbean — and Mustafa’s remarkable knowledge of snake venoms has never been of such practical use. The Code Monkey was meditating with Agent Zero and Caron Butler in Cleveland, in a futile attempt to hypnotize them into playing shape. And I was in Dehli, seeking to thwart the most brazen attack on the people of the Indian Subcontinent since the Sino-Indian War.
So the World Cup semifinals start in about two minutes, and I’m sure you’re waiting for the Deuce’s official predictions before you head over to Bet 365. Well, here you go:
Tuesday: Sri Lanka v. New Zealand at Sabina, Jamaica
Prior to the tournament, I predicted that Sri Lanka would join Sethaffrika and Australia in the semis. I didn’t see New Zealand making it — though their attack was undeniably strong, I couldn’t imagine that the batting would be consistent enough to make it through the Super 8s. Of course, I didn’t imagine that India would shit the bed in such spectacular fashion.
But the Kiwis have been consistently excellent, with Scott Styris the anchor of the batting, and Shane Bond leading an attack that has performed even better that one could have expected at the beginning of the tourney. And as many have noted, the fast, hard pitch of Sabina — denuded of the grass that so flummoxed Pakistan against Ireland — will be fun for Bond. But it’s going to take more than Bond to beat Sri Lanka, because Sri Lanka aren’t just consistent. They’re brilliant. The varied attack — with the conventional pace of Vaas, the freakish deliveries of Malinga, and the genius of Murali — complements a strong batting order. In the end, while NZ is a very good team, SL is a special team. They just have the extra intangibles necessary to win a match between two talented sides. SL by 45 runs.
Wednesday: Australia v. South Africa at Gros Inlet, St. Lucia
When de Villiers and Smith were at something like 0/130 (and batting ahead of the required run rate) against Australia in late March, they really had a chance to beat the champs. Then they lost a cheap wicket, and collapsed in a mire of Jacques Kallis cautiousness. They won’t come nearly as close this time, as the Aussies have just kept improving, and as the Saffers attack lacks the variety to really trouble the Aussie bats. As obnoxiously arrogant as they may be, Ponting and his boys will cruise to a fascinating matchup with Sri Lanka on Saturday. Australia by 5 wickets/75 runs.
For reasons we can’t begin to understand, we received the following note from Shane Watson this evening. The opinions contained therein are entirely his.
Oi. Shane here. I’ve had a decent amount of time on my hands lately, what with my wonky calf. And while I’m getting buff for my big return — watch out, Lankans! — you can’t spend all your time in the nets. Or in the weight room. The mental training is important, too. Least that’s what Punter says. Me, I’d rather be lifting. Can’t stay fit unless I add 30% more mass. But you gotta keep Skip happy.
So I’ve been relaxing. Drinking Red Stripe and reading the blogs in the baths at the Cricket Australia 3 Mobile/Victoria Bitter ICC World Cup Training Facility. Men sauna in corporate sauna, I guess. That’s what Punter always says. Not sure waht it means. But whatever. Anyway, Punter reco’ed that I read the blogs while I took the treatment. Said they keep you angry. They just confuse me, though.
For example. These knobs keep harping on me just because I’ve had a string of bad luck. Folks don’t seem to care that I’m out of the XI. But all these bloggers can’t say enough about that pretty boy Boer AB De Villiers. Guy doesn’t even have a proper name. Like Shane. Or Mike. Or Steve. Aussie names, mate. Strong. Relentless. I mean, I work my abs as much as my lats or quads. But I don’t need to name myself after them. That’s crass.
Anyway, this AB is the darling of the bloggers. “Achingly talented.” Whatever. It’s funny. What these bloggers don’t get is that the Saffers would have beat us a couple weeks ago thanks to Baby AB if it weren’t fo me. Yeah, me. Because AB was having the best innings of the bloody World Cup before I threw him out. From 40 meters. Long leg. One stump to hit from long leg. And I did it. If I didn’t do it, AB wasn’t getting out. No way. Would’ve been not out for 250. Those bloggers are right. The guy is all that. AB is the best young player out there. ‘Cept me. Cause I got him. Me. Shane.
Right. So don’t forget it. You need me, Oz.
As I type, Bangladesh is defending 251 against the Sethaffrikens, and have them 4-67 after 20 overs. And de Villiers, Smith, and Kallis represent three of the wickets. You gotta think that it’s going to be nigh impossible for the Saffers to rebound from their atrocious start, especially with two of their three best batsmen retired to the pavilion. (I’ll take Gibbs over Kallis any day in a one-day — Kallis just isn’t aggressive enough.) (UPDATE: SA are 8-140 after 39. And while Gibbs is still in the middle, this one is just about over.)
Who says that the minnows aren’t fun? Do you real think that an old, cranky, and divided India could have rocked SA like this? All credit to your 2011 World Cup champs, Bangladesh. Even if they do manage to lose today, they’ve shown that they can compete with the big boys. But damn, Mushfiqur Rahim is a mouthy wicketkeeper. Makes Nixon look like a shrinking violet. Sort of the Leo Getz to Bashar’s Murtaugh and Tamim Iqbal’s Riggs.
In other news, Chimp Rage and I attended our first Nats game of the year last night. It’s going to be a loooooong season. I really believe that the Nats could lose 120 games. And it doesn’t help when you’ve got a mediocre journeyman like Chris Snelling who feels the need to repeat his OC ritual of 1) Unwrapping and wrapping gloves; 2) Tapping each cleat once; 3) Making a cross on the plate before each pitch. Especially in light of the fact that he seems to take time after every other pitch. That means 50% more ritual. And that means longer, yet still ultimately futile, at-bats. And that means longer, and even more painful, games.
As we reported on Sunday, the Cricket World Cup took a turn for the depressing and macabre over the weekend. First, Pakistan lost in a shocking St. Patrick’s upset to Ireland, which led some Pakistani fans — outraged over their side’s early departure from the tournament — to riot while chanting “Death to Woolmer! Death to Inzi!,” referring to Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer and captain Inzaman ul-Haq. Then the big news hit — Bob Woolmer was found dead in his Jamaica hotel room on Sunday morning. Folks noted the sick coincidence of testosterone-fueled calls for Woolmer’s death and his actual demise, but few publicly wished to speculate that there might be a connection.
Well, the time for speculation is now. Jamaica police are now treating Woolmer’s death as suspicious — and while the cops are publicly downplaying the idea that there’s an ongoing homicide investigation, word is beginning to leak out — it looks like Woolmer may well have been murdered.
If true, this is just jawdropping. Nothing like this has ever occured in American sport — as obnoxious and obsessive as Red Sox fans are, no one tried to kill Grady Little after the 2003 ALCS. Joey Porter is an amateur, by comparison. But the scariest part is that — while there is obviously speculation that a criminally insane Pak fan is responsible — rumors are coming out that tie a possible Woolmer murder to match-fixing. After all, the Pakistan team does have a sordid history of involvement in gambling and match fixing, and Woolmer was allegedly set to discuss that underworld in a new autobiography. And there are rumors that the fix was in on the St. Patrick’s Day match.
So Woolmer was quite possibly murdered. And if he was, the culprit is probably either A) an obsessed “fan,” or — more likely — B) a gambling syndicate. I can’t decide which is more depressing. If the police investigation reaveals that Woolmer was murdered, you really have to wonder whether the show can go on. But I’m sure it would– there’s too much money involved to call it off, despite the fact that it may well be tainted by fraud and, worse, by blood.