After two less-than-nailbiting semi-finals, two home favorites have made it through to the final. Sri Lanka brought New Zealand’s dream run to an end in the first semi-final with a quasi-clinical deconstruction of the Black Caps inadequate total of 217. Meanwhile, in the Big Game of the tournament, India ultimately proved too much for Pakistan, who were almost as unlikely contenders for the final as New Zealand were. So, that sets up a final in Mumbai that on paper favors the Indians, but in fact might just allow the Sri Lankans to relax. The pressure on the Indian side will be enormous—one billion people rooting for you can be a burden as well as a blessing. Both teams have incredible strikers of the ball. The Sri Lankans have a more diversified and flexible bowling attack, but they made heavy weather of beating New Zealand, so they are vulnerable. It is, frankly, anybody’s game.
For the disinterested fan, there are two items of related interest: it will be Sri Lankan spinning legend Muttiah Muralitharan’s final one-day international. He retired from Test cricket last year, having taken an astonishing 800 wickets, including one off his final ball. Against New Zealand, Murali managed to take a wicket with his final ball on home soil, leaving him with an astounding 534 one-day wickets. Will he add to that total and, more sweetly, sign off from international one-day cricket with a wicket in his final ball? That would have to be some kind of record, to add to the numerous he now holds.
The other nugget is that Indian immortal Sachin Tendulkar has scored 99 international centuries (in one-day and Test cricket)—a colossal number that is seconded only by Ricky Ponting, who has a mere 69. Tendulkar scored a lucky 85 against Pakistan, before being caught. Will he choose the occasion of the World Cup Final to make his hundredth hundred? And, if he does, will he retire? Or will that only whet his appetite for 50 more?
All these questions and more will be answered on April 2nd. Stay tuned.