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Twenty of the Best

Your Humble Blogger got a text yesterday from Facebook:

Facebook safety check: Have you been affected by the explosion? Reply SAFE if you’re OK or OUT if you aren’t in the area

If y’all were worried, I was not in Lahore yesterday. I have never set foot in the Punjab in my life. I wasn’t in Brussels the other day. I wasn’t in Maiduguri a couple of weeks ago. I’m fine. I have no idea why Facebook felt concerned about my safety (mine and many others’) but my gut feeling was that since I care about the Cricket T20 World Cup, they assume that I am from South Asia.

In retrospect, I regret referring to the March 18 match in Mombai as a firestorm.

But it was!

When I write about cricket here (and yes, this is going to be a cricket post, not a terrorism post or a social-network post) I most often write about the Test form of the game, which is my favorite, and is in some sense the classical form. In the limited-overs version of the game, there is not the bizarrely wonderful sundial-management of the five-day version. The most popular kind of cricket world-wide right now is the T20 game of twenty overs to a side. I’m not sure how to describe the difference. I suspect saying that it’s a sprint rather than a marathon is cliché, but it’s probably also useful: both footraces are fundamentally about the same activity, but at the elite level, a marathoner is doing a lot of thinking, making strategic and tactical tradeoffs, adjusting to wind and weather, while a sprinter is just running hell-bent for leather. I mean, I’ve never done either or even followed either as a spectator, but that’s my guess. And while it is presumably fascinating to follow a marathon as the runners do all of that thinking and adjusting and whatnot, it’s probably also the case that most finishes aren’t terribly close, as the marathon is won in the 18th mile. And while sprints aren’t perhaps as involving intellectually, they almost always go down to the wire. And you don’t have to take a day off work to follow them. And, frankly, a marathon World Cup that had to be entirely two-person races in some sort of hideous round-robin of exhaustion would be bad.

Actually, I don’t know anything at all about sprints and marathons, so that’s all very likely a terrible analogy, but the point is that the T20 version, which takes about three hours or so, seems to be tailor-made for casual television-watching, with a lot of exciting run-scoring throughout and a very good chance of going into the last fifteen minutes with real doubt about who will win. Looking at the results of this World Cup Super 10 round, I count seven (A v NZ, E v SA, I v B, SA v WI, E v SL, A v WI and A v I) matches out of twenty-one that were nail-biters, and only four (I v NZ, B v P, A v SA, B v NZ) that were laughers. That’s a pretty damn’ good ratio for excitement. On the other hand, I follow England, who were in two close matches and no blowouts, so that might have an impact on my view of the competition.

England’s two close matches were very different. The aforementioned firestorm against South Africa, in which South Africa’s batsmen bashed 229 for the loss of four wickets (the first 50 in only 23 balls and finishing with 36 in the last two overs) and then England made the highest successful run chase in World Cup T20 history (and the second highest in any international T20 match), was just a marvel of bashing and smashing. Smashy smashy, bashy bashy. England never scored fewer than 5 in an over. In the match against Sri Lanka, England took 48 balls to get their first 50 and were at only 99 runs after fifteen overs before finally shifting their arses and getting 72 in the last five. Then Sri Lanka had a terrible start, taking 55 balls to get their first 50, continuing to flail until kicking it into gear at the 12th over and making a huge comeback, in the end needing only twenty-two runs from the last two over to win and then coming ten runs short. It was fantastic. And winning that one meant that England broke through to the semi-finals, just for extra excitement.

I still prefer the Test matches, with their ebbs and tides of momentum over five days, and I am looking forward to England’s upcoming three-Test series with Sri Lanka with tremendous anticipation. But the short game is tasty, too, in its way, and when England meets New Zealand in Delhi Wednesday evening (10am Eastern Daylight Time) I expect to be ignoring my work duties for three hours or so.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

Comments

World Cup Update—I am very pleased with England's chances here, keeping New Zealand to 153 runs. On the other hand, New Zealand's attack has been outstanding so far... I wouldn't put money on it.

-V.


Victory! England will be in the finals on Sunday. While the margin wasn't particularly small, there was a moment or two around the 15th over where it looked dicey. Then when the end came, it came swiftly.

Thanks,
-V.


Carrying on this conversation with myself—in the other semi-final, West Indies beat India with only three balls to spare. It was another nail-biter, a well-balanced game with an outcome difficult to predict through the 18th over of the chase.

This form of the game really does seem to be perfect for television, as near as I can tell by watching the scoreboards. I would love to watch Sunday's final.

Thanks,
-V.


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