Champions Trophy surpasses expectations
We're on the verge of the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy, and this tournament has by far exceeded expectations.
From a domestic point of view, it has helped that England have somehow turned their fortunes around with their unexpected win over Sri Lanka and their unbelievable innings against South Africa, but being here at the event is incredibly exciting.
The 50-over game has come in for a fair amount of criticism as the Twenty20 game becomes ever more popular, but whilst it must be pointed out that crowds here have been very disappointing (except for South Africa matches and the India/Pakistan game) the format of the tournament means that every match has had something riding on it.
We've also had some tense finishes, and there have been more than a few talking points.
The Australia-Pakistan game went down to the last ball as the Aussies sneaked top spot in the group to set up another ODI against England in the semi-final.
The batting of Owais Shah, Paul Collingwood and Eoin Morgan was breathtaking, as the hosts, South Africa, crashed out at Centurion, and the debate will rage as to whether a runner should be allowed for cramp.
In many ways it's a shame the World Cup proper can't follow a similar format to this; short, sharp, easy to follow (no 'Super Sixes' - what stage of the tournament is that?) with every match a potential 'do-or-die' situation.
People talk about 'tournament football' whenever the European Championships or Word Cup comes around, and in cricket it should be no different.
A five (or heaven forbid) seven-match one-day series is the time to allow side to lose a few games then make a comeback. In a tournament, the thrill should be in knowing that a bad game will make life difficult and two bad games could mean it's all over. It's about hitting form at the right time, and pulling it off on the day.
Admittedly, in cricket, you can be scuppered by a poor pitch, such as the minefield England played on at the Wanderers in Tuesday's defeat by New Zealand, but on the whole this tournament has been a lot of fun, and having it staged between two grounds, based around one city, means you can't help but feel in the absolute thick of the world's best players.
The problem is, there haven't been enough people here to share it. It'll be interesting to see how many turn out for the semis and then the final.
I started writing this blog in the media room during the ICC Awards at the Sandton Convention Centre. The ceremony has just ended and Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson has just picked up the main gong of the night, Cricketer of the Year (Andrew Strauss missing out), while England's Claire Taylor has added ICC Women's Cricketer of the Year to her bulging bag of accolades. Ireland captain William Porterfield has won Associate Player of the Year.
Johnson is perhaps a surprise pick considering the crisis of confidence he suffered during the Ashes but he's still comfortably the most prolific strike bowler of the year, with 80 wickets in 17 matches.
There has been a lot of chuntering in the media here about the distinct lack of South African players shortlisted for awards, considering the success they've achieved in the qualifying period; not only winning the Test series in England last summer but then consigning Australia to their first Test series defeat at home for 16 years. Not one South African player attended the awards ceremony.
Unfortunately, there was a distinct lack of players overall. I was at the event here two years ago during the 2007 World Twenty20 (invited as a guest - I've clearly fallen down the pecking order!) and if I remember rightly it was held just before the tournament began.
All the squads attended and it gave the T20 a real lift off. On that occasion I understand the teams were required to attend by the ICC, whereas this time there was no three-line whip. And, of course, with some teams already knocked out, they're hardly in the mood to party.
Test Match Special will have commentary of England's semi-final against Australia on Friday and the final on Monday. Both games will be live on Five Live Sports Extra, Radio Four Longwave and on-line for listeners in the UK, the programme stsrating at 1315 BST.
Friday's coverage will include a full-length interview with England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff and news of Thursday evening's ICC Awards ceremony.