Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain, is not impressed with the use of the same pitch for Tuesday's semi-final as the one that was used for the quarter-final against England on Saturday. "They've told us we're playing on the same one as England, which is very surprising for us," Vettori said on the eve of the first semi-final against Sri Lanka. "Playing a World Cup semi-final on a used wicket; we would have thought it would be mandatory to prepare a fresh wicket, but obviously not." Sri Lanka won their quarter-final easily, strangulating England's scoring through clever use of slow bowlers and Lasith Malinga at the death, and went on to win comfortably by 10 wickets.
Now, from the outset, we can clarify that it is not mandatory to play World Cup matches on a fresh surface. This decision though, made by Sri Lanka's head groundsman and rubber-stamped by the ICC smacks of being a home-town one.
It would seem that the ICC is determined to have the final of a World Cuop in the sub-continent contested by teams from the sub-continent, and preferably the remaining hosts, India and Sri Lanka. Conditions in Sri Lanka are sufficienty in favour of the home team that any additional "tweaking" by the ICC should be superfluous.
Of course, cricket's power base has changed in the last 10 years. The game is no longer run by the English; it is controlled by the ICC from its Dubai offices, and the playing schedule and Future Tours Programme has been built around the lucrative Indian Premier League T-20 competition. It should not surprise that the ICC is setting up for the final suggested above. Ironically though, this World Cup has been a shot in the arm for the 50-over version of the game.
Realistically, the Black Caps have only an outsider's chance of winning tonight. But that is when they play their best cricket. Their best hope is to win the toss and bat first, taking advantage of any early life in the pitch, then strangling the Sri Lankan batsmen, who have been known to coke, although not as often as other teams. The chances of them chasing down a big total against what is likely to be a five-pronged spin attack are not great.
Regardless, we'll be watching the first couple of hours at least, and letting MySky take care of the rest. Even as well sleep, our sub-conscious support will be with the Black Caps, even though this is likely to be a step too far for them, dodgy pitch or otherwise. We wish Dan Vettori and the team all the very best for this match, and hope that whatever the final result, they give a strong account of themselves. They have defied the odds to make it this far in the tournament; let's hope that they can defy the odds one more time tonight!