March 18, 2015
Choice of game
I have lived in Australia for 23 years, and this is the first time in my time here that the World Cup has been played in this country. I could not pass up an opportunity to attend a World Cup quarter-final in my home city of Sydney, regardless of the teams playing. That Sri Lanka made it to the knockouts was a bonus.
I always support Sri Lanka, even on days like this when they are soundly beaten. I was also looking forward to seeing Dale Steyn, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla in action for the first time.
Imran Tahir's excellent spell of leg-spin bowling was the defining performance of the match. His googly was not read well, even by good players of spin. De Villiers used attacking field placements and Tahir bowled accordingly, with very few loose balls. The wickets of Lahiru Thirimanne and Mahela Jayawardene turned the match significantly in South Africa's favour, and they did not relinquish control after that. Tahir was well supported by JP Duminy, whose spread-out hat-trick went largely unnoticed by the crowd, and even the announcer only mentioned it at the end of the over!
One thing I would have changed
The crowd was hoping for another significant partnership between Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardene for one last time, but, unfortunately, it wasn't to be.
Face-off I relished
Before the match, I was looking forward to the showdown between South Africa's pace spearhead Steyn and the maverick TM Dilshan. The winner of that battle could dictate the rest of the game, and it was decided in spectacular fashion by Faf Du Plessis' superb diving catch at second slip.
Watching du Plessis' catch live at the ground, unlike on television, can make you truly appreciate the astonishing hand-eye coordination required to take a reflex slip catch marginally above the ground whilst diving forward, off a fast bowler bowling at 140+ kph.
To be honest, given the low-scoring nature of the game, outfielders were few and far between. It was clear, however, that Sangakkara, Lasith Malinga and de Villiers were the most popular players in the match.
Shot of the day
Thirimanne played some eye-catching shots in his 41, but the pick was a glorious lofted off-drive off Steyn. It was an effortless stroke, and one of the very few highlights for Sri Lanka on the day.
The ground was about 75% full, an excellent turnout given Australia were not playing, and both sets of patriotic fans created a fantastic atmosphere. Every boundary or wicket was raucously cheered. The split between the supporters was about 65-35 in favour of Sri Lanka. There were thousands of flags and jerseys (from both teams) and plenty of noise. The Sri Lankan fans, as always, continued to cheer enthusiastically until the end, even as the result became more and more apparent.
A group of fans were dressed up as Tigger from Winnie-the-Pooh, and there were a few Irish fans wearing St Patrick's Day gear after celebrating yesterday.
The entertainment began outside the stadium with Baila music being played by a Sri Lankan band on a stage. Inside the ground, the papare bands played throughout the day. The acoustics in the upper tiers of the Trumper stand meant the music reverberated thunderously off the roof to a near concert-level volume. The drummers in those bands drowned out the official drummers at the ground. The fans next to the bands danced until the very end, and even as Sri Lanka's ship sank, the bands played on. Some notable song choices by the DJ included Africa by Toto when South Africa took a wicket, and Summer Rain and Why does it always rain on me? during the rain break.
I had plenty of food (which ultimately wasn't needed given the early finish), a Sri Lankan jersey (one of thousands in the stadium), and blue and yellow sneakers.
Despite a brief rain shower, it was largely a wonderful day for cricket, played in an iconic stadium in front of 27,000 passionate fans. Unfortunately, a thoroughly one-sided match left most in the crowd disappointed.
Marks out of 10
If I was a South Africa supporter, I'd say 10/10, but for me it was just pass mark. Despite the result, a day out at the cricket with friends and family is still an enjoyable experience, particularly at the picturesque SCG.
Last chance to see
It was a solemn farewell to two legends of world cricket - Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. On behalf of all Sri Lankan fans, I thank you for your tireless dedication, the countless great performances and many unforgettable victories. We will miss you, and we wish the two of you the best for the future.
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Praveen Indraratna has been watching and playing cricket for as long as he can remember. He is a doctor at St George and Sutherland Hospitals in Sydney
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