Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Opening Day in, Baseball

This is opening week in baseball--and I'm planning to be at Opening Day late Thursday afternoon in DC and perhaps attend the Orioles tonight (Weds) in Baltimore. Weather forecast is good for tonight, not so good for Thursday.

While waiting for the season to start, and as I happened to be in Sri Lanka on a consulting trip focused on improving caseflow management there, I was able to follow the major world cricket tournament then going on in India. The matches were carried on TV there and this cricket format--called T20--generally runs about 3 1/2 hours, which is very quick for cricket and may explain its increased popularity. West Indies, a great cricket power in the 1970s and 1980s, managed to oust home team India in the semis, and the always underrated English managed to muddle through and then trounced New Zealand in the other semi.

So here's the final--West Indies, which these days has lots of solid hitting (back in the old days they were also powerful bowlers, i.e., pitchers, with five men on their squad who looked and acted like Bob Gibson, the great St. Louis pitcher), versus England, with a bunch of guys who weren't great at anything but managed to win a lot during the tournament.

The setting: one of the classic cricket venues--Eden Gardens in Kolkata, nee Calcutta. Used to squeeze upwards of 200,000 in but figure that only could've happened if the home team had made it to the finals. They renovated the place a few years ago, and stated capacity went  down from 150,000 to 66,000. Whatever, the place was packed and they were screaming.

England was put in to bat first--in this match, West Indies won the coin toss and usually it's preferred to go last since you then know what total you need to catch up to win. The English are very workmanlike, they don't miss catches (for outs, or wickets as the term has it) and they're good at seizing opportunities. They have two men in the middle of their batting order who seem to do well together (remember, two are up at bat at one time, one at each end). With one of them doing very well, they managed to get at total of 155 runs, which is ok but not great. 
West Indies came in to bat and they started out terribly, losing three of their best hitters very quickly. One man came in and seemed to steady them, gradually building up runs but slowly (as if he were playing a five-day game). They tend to be carefree and hit away but here he was being cautious--very English, not West Indian! He stayed in for the rest of the match--no one else was great for W.I. but he had a few big hits and at the very end they were about 20 runs behind with 10 balls left to hit. This means they needed some big hits--which get you 4 or 6 runs each-- and they had not had many. 
So a new bowler comes in for England and pitches to a man who hadn't done much hitting and he sends a powerful shot over the boundary--equivalent of a home run; this gets him six runs.
Then he does it again on the next pitch!
Then he does it a third time on the next! This one ties the score.
And finally he does it yet once more, on the fourth straight pitch and they win! This was like ending a game by hitting four straight homers--and of course, it was a walk-off too!

They actually had two balls left that they didn't need (and to recall the famous cricket phrase, both batsmen were "not out"--that is, left standing at the end--).
As you can imagine, the West Indians went crazy--for most of the match, it looked like they would lose but the commentators kept saying that these guys could explode at any time--so they did, at just the right time! Thrilling finish!

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