Nothing goes right for Wayamba
For the third time in as many games, Wayamba have played the part of the scorned lover, on the wrong end of a one-sided break-up. They've failed to produce any memorable clashes driven by hot-headed passion or any exchanges fuelled by sheer desire. The real truth is that the Sri Lankan champions showed little inkling of wanting to be here at all and that's been their biggest downfall.
On paper, Wayamba look as strong a squad as any, filled with international players. They are one of only three teams making a second appearance in the competition and, astonishingly, of the five teams in their group, Wayamba have the best record in Twenty20s - winning 73% of their matches. None of those impressive numbers made a sliver of difference tonight as the Centurion crowd was lulled to sleep for the second time by Jehan Mubarak's side. In their dreamy slumber, amid thoughts of pristine Sri Lankan beaches, some might have wondered, just what went wrong with Wayamba?
This time, they had their best start with the bat in three outings. When compared with the precarious 64 for 3 that they were perched on at the halfway stage against the Warriors, or the suicidal 57 for 6 they managed to scrape together after 10 overs against Chennai, the 81 for 2 that Wayamba had crafted at the midpoint of their innings today was glorious. They were well poised to go on and post a confident 170-plus total to really test Victoria.
Mahela Jayawardene, who made just 10 runs in his two stints at the crease before this match, was finally showing ever-so-small glimpses of form. His first boundary came from a top edge that squeaked over the rope for six and he found two fours through risky edges, but Jayawardene's determination shone through. In between his nerves, he was trying to reclaim his old self, the one who played the ball with classic touches of delicacy and finesse.
If he had had a partner on the other end, the results could have been spell-binding. Mubarak did the job for a while, but when he went, it was though someone had eaten all the chocolate off an Easter egg. Only the soft marshmallow remained and how simple it looked for Victoria to plough their way through that mush. Eight wickets for 25 runs was the result. Wayamba have not had more than two batsmen go past 20 runs in an innings and that trend continued tonight.
It could be blamed on the conditions, with the South African pitches offering more life and bounce than what the Sri Lankans are used to, but Mubarak quashed that argument. He said that the pitch for this match looked quite similar to tracks his team would have encountered at home and Jayawardene admitted it was a slow wicket. What Wayamba really needed was some semblance of the continuity that saw them inch over the 150 mark in Port Elizabeth.
With just 106 on the board, the bowlers couldn't be expected to be more than cannon fodder, as they were in the Warriors chase. On both occasions, the bowling rarely had the opportunity to show itself off, and when it did, against Chennai, it looked woefully inept.
Wayamba have been able to build pockets of pressure. At the start of the fifth over, they had Victoria at 27 for 1. The next three overs yielded just 10 runs and produced a wicket. Instead of tightening the noose, the next over went for 17 runs and all the hard work unravelled like a misbehaving ball of wool.
As their main two main disciplines fell so short of expectations, the fielding was never going to be breathtaking. It had few memorable moments to show itself, and when it did it was not in a flattering light. Matthew Wade top-edged the ball in the direction of long-on and Chanaka Welegadara was left to scan the skies for the prize. The lights would not have made it easy for him to find it and despite running a loop around the area he hoped it would land, Welegedara's hands never found the ball.
That sort of confusion and perplexity sums up the Wayamba campaign so far. They have looked unsure of themselves and their purpose. Wednesday gives them an opportunity to change that. Their match against Central Districts is set up to be a lullaby but if they are to start playing to a more edgy tune, they can leave South Africa with notes of a redemption song.
Firdose Moonda is a freelance writer based in Johannesburg