Jayasuriya shines through Windies gloom
Guyana - Getting out of the taxi this morning just as the downpour was starting and walking the 200 or so yards to the ground felt like being stuck under a hosepipe.
After a pretty soggy start of his own, Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya put on yet another batting masterclass for his 25th century in his 384th one-day international.
But for the fans who almost filled the Guyana National Stadium for the West Indies’ first and only appearance of the World Cup at this venue the entertainment looked like being cold comfort as their side lurched towards elimination.
The press box at Providence looks out over the grass bank - packed with supporters and Guyanese flags even as the rain poured - and the cane fields beyond, where you can spot the rain sweeping in from a distance.
Nevertheless, the poor weather cleared in time to start play just 45 minutes late and, as the West Indies side warmed up in front of the bank, it was good to hear an old-fashioned home-crowd roar.
Jayasuriya, the man who defines pinch-hitting, was uncharacteristically low-key as the home bowlers took advantage of the early movement on offer to claim two early wickets. He dabbed and flicked to get his innings underway but had faced 33 balls for his 14 before really getting his dander up. Then, suddenly, the momentum of the match changed completely.
Biff! He hooked Ian Bradshaw for four and then slashed the left-armer over midwicket for another.
Kapow! Dwayne Smith went for 18 off the 18th over, with a risky cut four, a lofted straight drive for six, a sweep past third man and a flourishing cover drive which took him past the recently-retired Inzamam-ul-Haq as the second highest score in ODIs.
Zowie! The shot of the day, a casual flick off Jerome Taylor that sailed over midwicket for the 233rd six of his career.
The humid conditions took their toll on the 37-year-old, who began to struggle after reaching three figures and fell to a tired drive five runs short of his World Cup record, set against New Zealand in Bloemfontein four years ago.
But his earlier whirlwind looked to have set his side up for a total out of reach of the West Indies, who have yet to pass 250 in the tournament.
Their performance in the field appeared flat, their bowling undisciplined, a shame given that they finally had the sort of support they had been hankering for.
The front page of Guyana’s Sunday Chronicle proclaimed the match a sell-out, although there were still some empty seats on view, their owners perhaps waiting on the weather.
Nevertheless, this has to count as the ground’s coming of age as an international venue after two pretty un-atmospheric matches to start the Super 8.
Meanwhile, the debate over whether I should be forcibly silenced has thankfully moved from newspaper front pages to the comment sections.
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," said the French philosopher, quoted here by“Bill Cotton”.
Bill goes on to say, with some prescience: “[Martin] may yet enjoy his 16-day sojourn in El Dorado despite his initial forebodings.”