Guyana's best not enough for victory
Georgetown, Guyana is the kind of place where even some of the locals won't drink the thin viral soup that dribbles dubiously out of the taps from whence water would elsewhere come.
A wall of grim grey concrete, three metres high and another three metres wide, keeps the Atlantic from flooding a city built three metres below sea level.
So, the miserable wind that whipped up a hail of gritty beige dust and flung it viciously over Johannesburg and all who dwelled in it on Tuesday, wasn't going to scare any son of the country that broods uneasily along South America's northern coast.
That seems as good an explanation as any for Ramnaresh Sarwan's decision to put the South Australia Redbacks in to bat in their Champions League game at the Wanderers.
Thus unleashed, the Australians leapt lickety-split to a total of 191 for six, the second highest of the tournament so far. Their flow of runs started as a stream, strengthened to a gush as Callum Ferguson and Cameron Borgas set about proving their middle order mettle with a stand of 88, and finished in a flurry of 61 off the last four overs. That last bevy of blows, particularly in a 17th over - bowled by Steven Jacobs - that hemorrhaged 22 runs, was difficult to watch dispassionately.
And yet, even after that battering, the West Indians looked unruffled as they loped languidly towards the dressing room. Could it be that, like the weather, which was previously perfect wherever CLT20 matches have been played, Guyana could no longer give a damn? As cynical as it seems, at some level you couldn't blame them if that was their sad state of mind going into the game. The Redbacks were in the semi-finals before Tuesday dawned bleak and blustery, even as Guyana were no doubt packing their kit for the long trip home.
The brash flash, dash and cash of T20 cricket is all very well. But it can't take away the numbing effect of one loss piled on top of another, and another, and yet another in a matter of days. Similarly, all the thrills and spills in the world wouldn't be able to resolve the limbo that the Redbacks must be feeling trapped in as they await their opponents in the final four.
Which left expectations of Guyana's reply intriguingly poised. Would their lack of purpose overcome them, and lead to embarrassment they would be too underwhelmed to face with dignity? Or would the Redbacks' bowlers be so focused on the semis they wouldn't know off stump from leg? The answer, happily, fell between those two extremes.
South Australia's attack didn't quite spit the same fire as earlier in the tournament, which was due in no small way to Shaun Tait's omission with an elbow problem. But there was no questioning their basic commitment to taking wickets at minimal cost. Australian cricketers are nothing if not canny, and they know that an engine once started in an event like this is best kept purring smoothly. That was their mission and they accomplished it impressively.
For Guyana, the point to prove was that they were a team worthy of this stage despite losing all their matches. They batted like men in sharp suits rather than surfer dudes fresh off the beach. There was, as there must be in this format, a lurch of wickets late in the innings. But that couldn't spoil a job done well.
They were handsomely led by Sarwan, who survived being dropped on the boundary on 45 and prospered to a fine 70. It was an innings driven from within, like all the best have to be. In the end, Guyana looked up and saw they had fallen just 15 runs short. Or did they look past that and realise that the wind had dropped and the dust had settled?
Whatever. Let no-one say they do not care.
Telford Vice is a freelance cricket writer in South Africa