There is a rare joy for a Kiwi in seeing the Australian cricket team get thumped twice in a matter of days. It may be perverse, it may be irrational, it may be hurtful, it may be immature, it may be un-Australian - but it does feel good to see the previously all-conquering Australians return to the pack of international cricket. What a different side they would be with Gilchrist in for Haddin, Warne in for Hauritz, Symonds in for Watson and Hayden in for Warner.
New Zealand has managed to deliver joy occasionally in the past few years, most notably in the "Bond" VB Series, the extraordinary Chappell-Hadlee series where Mike Hussey exterminated his long-term Australian captaincy aspirations, and in February this year when our ODI team pinched a brace of wins at Perth and Melbourne.
In the past 56 hours, it has been the bats of Chris Gayle, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara that smacked the Australian Twenty20 team back into their Ashes preparation prematurely. Richard Ponting now has the dubious distinction of being the "losing-est" captain in international T20s now that he is responsible for 10 notches on other captains' belts. Even better, Australia has now strung together a recent record of LLLLL in T20 matches.
Ponting and his unmerry men leave Nottingham for Leicester and two weeks of sulking. Of course, this probably won't excite England too much as the Ockers will be full of fire and brimstone, and seeking redemption against England (and Wales) when the first Ashes Test ball is bowled at Cardiff in three weeks.
Gayle's all-out 27-run assault on Brett Lee at the Oval was an astonishing display: the pull shot to the bouncer was one of the best shots off Lee since Chris Cairns crunched a delivery over the hotdog stand and into Kent Terrace at the Basin Reserve.
The reclined La-Z-Boy of international cricket, Gayle is the talisman for his team. The West Indian bowling is not up to much and is woefully inconsistent but in T20 that becomes less of an issue when you have a batting lineup with a bloke in it who can chase down a million if need be. The NZ side sans Vettori is in a similar vein, although the talisman is shared between B McCullum, big ol' Jesse Ryder and the KFC Kid in our lineup.
This morning, at Trent Bridge, the director's obsession with Ponting's reaction to each delivery that sailed past, through or over was fantastic. There were no smiles as Watson, Bracken, Lee, Johnson, then Hauritz were dispatched to all parts.
The unforgettable shot from the Sri Lankan innings was Dilshan's outrageous ramp over the eyebrows of wicketkeeper Brad Haddin - perhaps they could even get the Sri Lankan IPL2 star a shirt with his name on it now. But it was Sangakkara that held the innings together with a controlled captain's knock of 55 from 42 balls. The consecutive sixes in the 15th over off Hauritz were crucial blows, just as Australia threatened to seize the initiative from the lippy left-handed Lankan and his team.
Unlike the Windies and New Zealand, Sri Lanka present a formidable and well-rounded lineup. The batting looks after itself with Jayasuriya not on many bowlers' "must see" lists, while on the bowling front it is the guile of Murali and bamboozle of Mendis that complement Malinga's pace. At $6 to win the tournament, behind IPL buddies India and South Africa, the men in blue shirts with the weird yellow singlet pattern on their backs may warrant closer examination.
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