It took 23 days and 33 matches to produce a kind of result that most of the cricket fans were anticipating ever since the World Cup opening game was played between Pakistan and West Indies. It had the drama, the excitement and that edge of the seat suspense of which way the game would end when Ravi Bopara was about to receive the last ball of the match bowled by Sri Lanka’s Dilhara Fernando. A brace of his bat could have tied the game and a boundary could have earned England a miraculous win. But in the end it was Fernando who had the last laugh by bowling a perfect length delivery from wicket-to-wicket that cleaned up Bopara to ensure a 2-run win for Sri Lanka in the most thrilling game of this tournament yet. Though Ravi Bopara was adjudged as Man of the Match, the real Man of the Match for Sri Lanka was Dilhara Fernando who was entrusted with the responsibility of seeing Sri Lanka through in the match by captain Jayawardene ahead of his more illustrious bowler at death, Chaminda Vaas.
That England was still in the game when the last delivery of the innings was bowled was largely because of a great batting display by their last recognized batting pair of Paul Nixon and Ravi Bopara who added 87 runs for the 7th wicket of just 15.3 overs. It seemed the game would not last beyond 40 overs when England’s fifth and sixth wickets fell in quick succession in the form of Andrew Flintoff and Paul Collingwood to 1st and 3rd deliveries of 34th over of England’s innings bowled by Dilhara Fernando. The scorecard at that point was reading 133 for 6 and the target was still 103 runs away. But the terrific rescue act by Nixon and Bopara almost took the game away from Sri Lanka. And in the end though England lost the game they emerged victors exactly like their opponents did a week earlier in another thriller against South Africa.
Suddenly Sri Lankan team is becoming the darling of the crowds and favorites of the followers of game all over the world except may be in Australia. The more I see of Sri Lanka’s approach to the game the more I get convinced that they will be a major threat to Australia’s dominance in cricket. They are the only team in this tournament who are playing the game exactly the way Australia does. They believe that they can possibly win any game from any kind of situation. They almost sent South Africa back to the Chokers Parade with Malinga’s four wickets in four balls last week. In this game while Collingwood and Pietersen were cruising along well at 126 for 3, Muralitharan produced his magic doosra to get Pietersen’s leading edge and caught it of his own bowling. At last Muralitharan can sleep well as he won the battle against one of his chief tormentors of last year’s England tour and that too when the victory mattered even more as it almost seals a berth for Sri Lanka in the last four and might potentially halt England’s progress to the semi-finals.
Just for this Victory and the unbelievable performance they have put up against South Africa alone, Sri Lanka should advance to the semi finals. Jayawardene’s captaincy in both the games was of top quality and the way he kept his cool and led his teammates without crumbling under pressure deserves accolades of highest order. Sri Lanka’s coach Tom Moody too deserves equal praise for making this team a bunch of believers as not long ago they were carrying the tag of ‘A bunch of Chokers’.
Being a part of Steve Waugh’s 1999 World Cup winning team may have taught him how to inspire your tutelage and make them win any match from any kind of situation. On a day when one of his fellow countryman and a high profile coach of another Asian Nation, Greg Chappell expressed his inability to continue in his role citing “family and personal reasons”, Tom Moody announced it would be his family that would become a main reason when it comes to choosing his next coaching assignment either in Sri Lanka or in Australia. Who knows, he may very well end up in England without even giving any try and evidence of his capabilities as the team that Tom Moody has built, coached and transformed had not only thrashed them 5-0 in last year’s ODI series in England and now almost shut the semi-final doors on their face in this game in one of the closest finishes ever in World Cup history.
Today’s ‘Quiztion of the Day’
relates to the closest finishes in World Cup history. Here it is:
Only twice in the history of World Cup Cricket a match was decided by fewer runs than the game between Sri Lanka and England in this 2007 World Cup. When it happened first time a very well known cricketer made not only his World cup debut but also his ODI debut. Name the cricketer and his connection to all three closest finishes in World Cup which were decided by two or one run margins.