Sri Lanka v West Indies, The Oval
Attack of the openers, and a fan of gold
M to the power four, egging Dilshan on to a century, and a shiny bodysuit
Why I picked this match
I couldn't get tickets to the final, so the semi-final was the next best thing. I felt Sri Lanka would be the favourites, being unbeaten and so dynamic with their openers and bowling attack, though West Indies have shown they have the batting firepower and mojo to make almost any score.
It was a battle between opening batsmen. Tillakaratne Dilshan led the way and Chris Gayle tried to do the same, the difference being the support (or lack of) from team-mates, and Sri Lanka's stronger bowling attack. Ajantha Mendis in particular made it tough, strangling a succession of clueless batsmen. Angelo Mathews too became a star when he began the innings with that sensational three-wicket over.
One thing I'd have changed about the match
It was a shame it turned out to be one-sided. West Indies had a nightmare start to the run-chase and never really got back in the hunt. A bit more fight and nous from them may have made it more of a contest.
Face-off I relished
It was always going to be interesting watching Gayle take on the three Ms - make that four now. Gayle did take them on with aplomb, but the total lack of support from the other end made him merely the captain on the sinking ship.
As Dilshan motored towards his hundred with the balls ticking down, the crowd really revved up the noise until he needed six off the last ball to get there. It seemed scripted, but he couldn't quite make it.
I was seated right by the boundary, nice and close to the game. Jerome Taylor fielded near me and obliged the crowd with a wave, and later Lasith Malinga proved to be very popular when he was nearby. Mendis dropped a steepler off Ramnaresh Sarwan right in front of me at long-on, but luckily for him he got away with it as Sarwan was caught in the next over.
Shot of the day
It's a tie between Dilshan's early lapped six over fine leg and Gayle defiantly pulling Murali over midwicket with brute force near the end. It showcased the style of both stars.
I would say the crowd was about 95% full for this game and the atmosphere was certainly buzzing. Sri Lanka had the majority support, and the most loudness, but there were a few West Indians making themselves count as well, although one or two were spotted with heads ruefully in hands as things went awry.
The chant of Sri-Lan-Ka often reached a rousing crescendo. A cameraman who looked quite like Boris Becker really got the crowd going by filming them.
When the teams were read out, Murali seemed to get the biggest cheer.
At one point a Carribean fan stood up and did an impromptu little jig in the front row which perhaps drew an even bigger cheer than the official dancers did.
Fancy dress index
Not too many fans dressed up, although I did spot a couple of impressive-looking sets of fake dreadlocks - one of them on a fan who was also wearing a bizarre gold bodysuit and face paint like from a horror movie.
The music was mainly catchy new dance tunes which fit the vibe well, with a couple of older classics thrown in as well. MC Hammer was heard, and Queen's appropriate "Another One Bites The Dust" often accompanied wickets. Sri Lanka's chosen team theme of "Paint It Black" might perhaps symbolise the trauma and dark times they have so recently been through.
Although the game wasn't close there was strong attacking cricket played with both bat and ball, and although it was anti-climactic, one never gave up hope of a tight finish with Gayle around. .
Marks out of 10
8 for a boisterous atmosphere, vibrant music and two entertaining teams.
Jonathan Cowley is a late twenties IT contractor in Auckland, New Zealand, who grew up in Cape Town with regular trips to Newlands cricket ground on the back of his dad's motorbike to watch his heroes. He dreamt of being a famous batsman but was too shy to be a fixture in the school team, so nowadays settles for scoring centuries for his local club, Howick Pakuranga, while coercing unsuspecting young ladies into discovering the new rage that is Twenty20 cricket. You can read his blog here.
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