Malinga brings fireworks for Guyana opening
If a new cricket ground has ever had a baptism better than Guyana’s National Stadium did on Wednesday, I don’t think my nerves could take it.
Lasith Malinga, the 23-year-old poster boy of the Sri Lanka team, became the first bowler ever to take four wickets with successive balls in international cricket and it was just a shame he couldn’t celebrate a victory as well after that display.
What had seemed like a stroll in the park for South Africa turned into a nail-biter of a finish, with one run scored from 11 balls before Robin Petersen’s edged four off Malinga sealed it.
It seemed strange that Malinga was forced to share the man of the match award with South Africa’s Charl Langeveldt, whose career-best 5-39 included three suicidal shots from Sri Lanka tail-enders in the penultimate over.
Malinga apparently thought he had won it, only to be told he hadn’t. After captain Mahela Jayawardene had a moan in the news conference it was promptly announced that there had been a “miscommunication” and that a joint award had been made.
Those who scoffed at suggestions of chaos at the new ground did not see the frenetic work put in this week to prevent it.
After some early showers, the sun was out and the new place looked lovely, all US$30m of it.
Unfortunately we got to see a little too much of the gleaming seats, as another World Cup ground failed to get anywhere near its capacity, with an estimated 6,000 in a stadium with a capacity of 15,000.
Fortunately, there was the grass bank in the north-east corner, where local fans mixed with those from several of the visiting nations. It wasn’t packed, but it was busier than the rest of the ground.
“They’re pricing out the locals and that’s not right,” said one man I spoke to on the bank, where those with US$25 tickets were sitting on the grass or standing in groups.
Those spectators may have been horrified to learn that wandering amongst them was a man for whom “the serpents and gorillas that live in his mind compelled him to descend to a level of pitiful, sickening and Hitleristic journalism”.
This is the latest outpouring from a columnist in the Kaieteur News, to whom I shall prevent my personal serpents and gorillas speaking in future, in the saga over Monday's blog.
Blissfully unaware as they were, the local fans brought the sort of impromptu, cricket-loving atmosphere that has sadly been missing from many World Cup games so far.
There were a few highlights for them, including Langeveldt’s two wickets in his first spell, and athletic run out by Herschelle Gibbs of Chamara Silva and Chaminda Vaas’s pearler to dismiss AB de Villiers at the start of South Africa’s reply.
But the match was fizzling, with Jacques Kallis’s even-tempered 86 apparently having put South Africa on course for victory until Malinga the Slinger struck.