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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
The 2011 World Cup ticket fiasco had taught me to prepare early for this one. Yes, three months ahead. Since Sri Lanka's group matches were played in Hambantota, the best choice was the only Super Eights match in Kandy during the weekend, and with Sri Lanka's qualification it was a no-brainer.
Sri Lanka, no doubt. But deep down somewhere my heart said West Indies. They definitely have the team to do it, and I wanted it for their loyal fans. If not Sri Lanka, I wish West Indies win the trophy.
Tough choice. Marlon Samuels, for holding the West Indies innings together; Ajantha Mendis, Nuwan Kulasekara and Angelo Mathews tamed the strong West Indies line-up. But, for me, Mahela Jayawardene walks away with this one for his captaincy, bowling changes, field placings, and his batting. He makes it look so easy that the crowd hardly realises his efforts, and the cheers come in late most of the time.
One thing I'd have changed about the match
I would have loved to see Chris Gayle go berserk, especially since I was seated two tiers away from long-on. You have to keep your eyes fixed on the game when he's batting or you might wake up in a hospital ward.
It was a local religious holiday so no beer was sold at the ground. A few English fans were not happy about it.
Face-offs I relished
Kulasekara v Gayle. They battled like David and Goliath.
Ajantha Mendis v West Indies batsmen. The batsmen had no clue what was coming at them, and for a moment you could sense you'd be home for an early dinner.
An old gentleman, a couple rows below us, started off the Mexican wave only to regret it later when it swept the ground four times. The crowd enjoyed it. After that Jeevan Mendis stole the show with his version of "Gangnam Style", and when both his and Gayle's versions were shown on the big screen in tandem, the crowed went wild. The DJ kept playing "Gangnam Style" after that.
Ajantha Mendis was stretching after every over close to us. Jayawardene had to signal him to keep his eyes on the ball. Kieron Pollard and Tillakaratne Dilshan got loud cheers from the crowd too. After he picked up Gayle's wicket, Kulasekara was sent to field at fine leg and the crowd began chanting "Kula! Kula!", which he acknowledged with a wave and a shy smile.
Shot of the day
Samuels' six over the bowler's head landed at least two tiers into the stands, not far from where we were sitting. At 102m, it was the biggest in the tournament so far.
The buzz in Kandy city signalled cricket was in town. All roads led to Pallekelle, so naturally the stadium was packed. The fireworks lit up the bright sky under a full moon. The crowds were chanting "Malinga! Malinga!" and Sangakkara got a loud cheer too when he reached 1000 Twenty20 runs. But Gayle's wicket brought the loudest cheers.
A few blokes were in Power Rangers costumes, there were Malinga wigs everywhere, and a Japanese flag!
Retro was the theme until the DJ played "Gangnam Style". He had a tune for every situation - Billy Ocean's "When the Going Gets Tough" when West Indies were struggling early in the innings and Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" when Ajantha Mendis ran in to bowl.
ODI v Twenty20?
ODIs, because the build-up of the game and the with variations add to a strategic display of cricket.
Marks out of 10
7. The packed stadium, good weather, party atmosphere and Sri Lanka's win all added to the score. The only negative was Gayle and the entourage not firing.
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