Written by Sriram Veera | March 19, 2015 9:13 am
Someone has just defended a ball from Imran Tahir. The camera zooms to his face and there is this hilarious expression of bewilderment as if he has been betrayed. How did that meet the middle of the bat? Wasn’t it supposed to take the edge? How can this game be so cruel to me? Can I just take a wicket every ball and run away on my mad sprint to nowhere, please? (Full Coverage| Points table| Fixtures)
Tahir ran away with the game on Wednesday at the SCG. His face contorted into pain, which is bliss actually, at every near-miss, his hands were ready to spring up in appeal, he was half-turning towards the umpire to let out his pleading cry of an appeal, and his eyes darted here and there with feverish excitement.
This intensely emotional energy that he puts in each of his delivery is a reason why he isn’t a good Test bowler. It’s also the reason why he is a good ODI bowler. In Tests, he is a bowler who gets drained out quickly and can be very impatient. In ODIs, that impatience actually seems to help him. A googly comes, a quicker one follows, a slower legbreak lands, a quickish legbreak that doesn’t turn much is next and then back to the googly.
It’s a testament to his skill that he has this incredible 4.38 economy rate in this era of 300+ targets. This adventurous cocktail of this and that in a frenetic mix has been working for him in the ODIs. It worked like a charm against Sri Lankans.
The pitch did help. There was something in it for Tahir – the ball spun a bit and held up a touch and it was enough for him to create panic in Sri Lankan line-up. When Lahiru Thirimanne stabbed a delivery that held up a touch on him for a return catch to Imran Tahir, memories of Mohammad Azharuddin falling in that Eden Gardens semi-final of 1996 flooded in. It was almost a similar dismissal and a thought popped up immediately: around 240-250 can be a good score for Sri Lankan spinners to harass South Africa.
Sri Lanka were 69 for 3 in the 20th over then, and Jayawardene and Sangakkara were in the middle and it seemed that at least Sangakkara knew what was a good score on this pitch. He was playing cautiously, pushing the ball quietly after the openers had fallen to the seamers early, and seemed to be ready for the waiting game. Jayawardene, though, wasn’t in nick and certainly not ready for Tahir.
Tahir threw in all his repertoire quickly at Jayawardene who prodded and pushed around. The googly came, and Tahir’s doesn’t cloak it with any great deception but Jayawardene had already planted his front foot and seemed in a trance as the ball hit him probably just outside off stump. It was a close call, the DRS didn’t help South Africa and it was the end of that over. At the next opportunity, Tahir ripped a quicker one and it skidded on rapidly at Mahela who couldn’t control his pull. From there, everything went pear-shaped for Sri Lanka and Sangakkara was left watching his team-mates desert him.
Everything happened so quickly that JP Duminy’s hat-trick didn’t even register. The lower order collapsed meekly and Sangakkara too couldn’t do much. Game over.
It said much about state of the Sri Lankan mind in this quarter-final that they lost on a track that was so much in their favour. It also said something about South Africans’ skill that they crushed Sri Lanka on this Sydney pitch. It helped that they were led by this dervish legspinner, with this fascinating ability to turn his impatience into a great strength in the ODIs.
Match – As it happened, and as it was discussed
Skipper Angelo Mathews did debutant Tharindu Kaushal little favour by comparing him with Murali at the toss. Kaushal was perhaps so keen on getting the Murali googly eyes during the delivery stride that he unfortunately seemed to have forgotten about the part after that.
Sri Lanka’s tactics, from disturbing the Dilshan-Thirimanne opening combination to playing two still-wet-behind-the-ears bowlers in a do-or-die encounter, were more mysterious than their so-called mystery spinner.
For once, it was the chokers who put the choke on, as Messrs Steyn, Morkel, Abbott strangled the Sri Lankan top-order in the mandatory powerplay. Choke’s on you, buddies.
Midway through the Sri Lankan innings, the ball started to grip and turn as Tahir and Duminy came into their own. Did the Proteas just order a drop-in at the SCG from the Premadasa?
Tahir’s celebration after a wicket was reminiscent of the footballers of the 70’s. The sharp sprint with both hands raised to the heavens had a touch of a Gerd Muller, Zico, or Eusebio. Take your pick.
Sangakkara’s fluency with bat went from cruising in a chartered flight to being stuck in Andheri traffic.
Forty years after Sunil Gavaskar’s epic 36 off many balls, Sangakkara seemed to be paying homage to that World Cup innings. A strike-rate in the late-20s after four centuries; there are no fairytales.
The heavens opened up as soon as Sangakkara fell to Morne Morkel and walked off the field for one final time as an ODI batsman. Luckily for the Proteas the shower didn’t last for too long. But how can it not rain if South Africa are playing a World Cup knockout at the Sydney Cricket Ground?
Kulasekara decided he would march right back to where he came from — the dressing room — after nicking JP Duminy despite the umpire looking unsure. Probably he had an evening out with Gilchrist.
Even on a day that South Africa broke their long-standing WC knockout jinx, they had to doff their hats to two retiring rivals — Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara— allowing them to steal their thunder.
This was the shortest World Cup knockout match of all. Will the fans get partial refunds?
—Express News Service