'It's out of our hands now' - Siddle
We came. We blinked. We almost missed the match between the Victoria Bushrangers and Wayamba in Centurion on Monday.
This wasn't so much a game of cricket as it was a reason to be cheerful that it didn't detain us any longer than was necessary. The brief blip of a match was all over, lock, stock and no smoking barrels, in a mite less than 30 overs.
Mahela Jayawardene's press conference afterwards was also done and dusted in less time than he would have needed to strap on his pads. Asked what had changed since last year's tournament, when Wayamba beat Victoria by 15 runs, he was as honest as he was brief.
"I don't know," he said disarmingly. "The line-up of our team hasn't changed much. We knew they would be very aggressive because they needed a big win, and we needed a total of 150 to 160 to be competitive. But we just weren't up for it on the night."
And with that he was gone, followed out of the door by his captain, Jehan Mubarak, whose sole contribution was a joke about how he might as well go and make himself "a cup of coffee" while Jayawardene got on with answering the only question put to them.
The Sri Lankans took their leave politely and perhaps a little relieved that there was nothing left to say that wasn't already obvious to all. Part of that has to be that the Victorians have played a positively Germanic brand of cricket. They deserve a place in the semi-finals on the grounds of their ruthlessness and efficiency alone.
Not that Peter Siddle, who was understandably granted a longer audience by the media, was ready to accept that bit of praise with good grace. "It's about time," he said. "It was disappointing to lose the first one, but since then it's been good."
That lone loss was suffered against a fired-up Warriors side in Port Elizabeth, the same team Victoria will hope like mad put one over the Chennai Super Kings on Wednesday. A win the other way at St George's Park would put Chennai, the Warriors and Victoria level on points, and the Aussies' net run-rate isn't great.
"It's out of our hands now," Siddle said. "Most teams wouldn't have thought they could win three out of their four games and still miss out."
How confident was he that the Warriors would do his team a favour? "They've got some good bowlers and some good batsmen up the top of the order. It should be a game worth watching." In other words, don't ask me, mate - I'm not nearly dumb enough to stick my neck out on that one.
There will be no such dreaming for Wayamba, who were woeful for the third consecutive match. In fact, that win over Victoria last year is the only success they have to show from five CLT20 outings. Thanks for coming, fellas. Better luck next time, and give our regards to Kurunegala.
They have one game left, against the already eliminated Central Districts, also in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday. Talk about dead men walking.
On Monday, the Sri Lankans were outplayed by opponents who approached their task with what Hemingway would have described as a cold mind. Wayamba wickets weren't so much taken as scythed off at the roots, and while the Bushrangers' run chase was more measured than manic, they still got the job done in 13.2 overs.
If they make it into the final four, they look headed for a confrontation with South Australia. The Redbacks have ridden rampant through the tournament, reeling off three wins to become the first team to nail down a semi-final spot. For all that, the prospect of taking them on in a knock-out context put a thin, menacing smile on Siddle's lips and made his eyes narrow until they were slivers of silent aggression.
Redbacks, you have been warned.
Telford Vice is a freelance cricket writer in South Africa