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Kiwis grounded, Proteas Choked
by NT Shiv Kumar
Apr 26, 2007
The two semi-finals were billed as cracker jackers, each distinctly different, one no less exciting than the other but, alas, both ended up as damp squibs – thanks largely to the ‘3M’ show of Mahela, Murali and Malinga combining to stick the ‘perennial semi-finalists’ label on the Kiwis and the Aussies brutally engraving the ‘chokers’ tag on the Proteas, yet again.

If the SL-NZ contest was all about Jayawardene’s artistry on pacing a big match innings and the spin-mine laid by Murali that trapped the laden footed Kiwis, the Aus-SA was all about cerebral booby-trap brilliantly executed by Ponting and McGrath to make it a no-contest within the 10 the over of the match. Ponting had said at a pre-match conference that he wanted to see more of Kallis at the crease-alluding to his Boycott like approach to run making- and that statement was perhaps as lethal as McGrath’s dipper that rattled Kallis’ stumps after his uncharacteristic biff, trying to win the mind game rather than the real game. It was a perfect hook, line and sinker much to the delight of the half naked, beer guzzling Aussie fans at St Lucia. As Navjot Sidhu would say, the Proteas were one heck of a cycle stand- they all fell in heaps.

At the Sabina Park, the Sri Lankans had all the stars lined up their way- batted first, the skipper brilliantly glued the innings while dismantling Bond, youngsters like Upul Tharanga and Chamara Silva seized the initiative along with selfless team men like Dilshan and Arnold who hustled their way to post a total shy of 300 that looked formidable enough, under a cloud cover, to challenge any line up. Malinga proved too hot to handle, Vaas too accurate to get off the square and the pressure just enough to stifle the momentum.

Fleming’s tactics were questionable-there was no wisdom in sending at number 3 an out of form Ross Taylor who typified a Suresh Raina during his brief torture at the crease- talented underachiever not ready for the big stage yet-Franklin would have been a better bet up the order. Styris briefly threatened to wrest the initiative, thanks to Dilhara Fernando’s Agarkar like generosity that almost took the life away from the other Fernando at the commentary box-Ranjith- but thankfully for the Lankans, Dilshan provided the freak breakthrough when Styris scooped one to the SL Skipper who I reckon pouched the catch and the World Cup! Rest of the proceedings was pretty much Murali’s magic show.

The two semi-finals clearly exemplified the drab and listless tournament that WC2007 has been and as some wag suggested, the tragic Woolmer case is probably the only event that has been anything close to an edge of the seat suspense, though the England team can take some joy from the tournament for having provided 3 'thrillers' (against SL, Bangladesh and WI) on their way to toast for Duncan Fletcher's much awaited farewell.

While the two 'minnows' from the sub-continent reconstruct their respective teams with new paint on dilapidated buildings, the Bangladeshis will go back lot more energized for their next stage of evolution just as Colombo gears up to roll the red carpet for their heroes who have been as effervescent as their sponsor Dilmah Tea!
 
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