The fare dished out in the ongoing tri-series in Australia is certainly not for those with faint hearts. Almost every match has gone down to the wire marked by the twists and turns that are the hallmark of limited overs cricket.
But perhaps this was only to be expected with the three participating teams rated No 1, No 2 and No 4 in the ICC rankings. Certainly it has been a welcome revival for the CB series last held in 2008 when India won it for the first time.
The points table at roughly the halfway stage of the preliminary competition might suggest that Sri Lanka are way behind India and Australia but the lengthy format of the tournament wherein each team plays each other four times before the best of three finals means that there is plenty of time for Mahela Jayawardene and his team to come back even as the leaders could well falter.
In the face of the growing and raging popularity of Twenty20, the cynics might have started to write off Fifty50 as dead or no patch in comparison with its shorter cousin when it comes to entertainment. But events in the CB series have clearly illustrated that ODIs are far from finished.
Indeed the format is alive and kicking and in some ways even more exciting than Twenty20. It has also gone on to underline that the form displayed in Test cricket is no yardstick for performances in the shorter versions of the game.
The Indians for example have quickly put the disastrous Test series behind them and have proved a match for Australia who proved so strong in the traditional format. With two wins, a loss and a tie they are currently heading the table. In MS Dhoni they have a galvanized captain. Whatever his shortcomings in the Test arena he is still a winner both as leader and batsmen in the limited overs game.
The manner in which he has engineered the run chase in the two matches at Adelaide has been exemplary besides providing high drama. The young players who have replaced the seniors have brought about a certain zest and exuberance and there is an urgency in the fielding and running between wickets - very important aspects in the shorter formats.
The much discussed rotation policy hasn't affected the team adversely in any way. The batsmen and bowlers have done their job admirably and while they are weaknesses - more runs from the middle order would be welcome - these could be plugged in the remaining matches.
For that matter Australia are not without their problems but again these are early days and there are indications that they will get their act together and be in a position to qualify for the finals. Two wins and a loss have put them currently in second place but the No 1 ranked team in the world have the personnel to turn things around and get to the top again.
They may not be the formidable side of old and the rebuilding process is still very much on but they have the happy knack of discovering young players who come good as the ongoing competition has underlined. The form of Ricky Ponting who averages just three after three matches however sticks out like a sore thumb.
Sri Lanka appeared to be at a disadvantage when they arrived. After all India had been in Australia and had acclimatized themselves to the conditions. Sri Lanka however had done reasonably well in South Africa from where they landed in Australia and with conditions there not very different from those prevailing Down Under they took little time to settle down.
The skill and talent of Angelo Mathews has been on display for some time now but the Lankans seemed to have discovered an absolute gem in 22-year-old Dinesh Chandimal. The youngster is in form and oozes class and should be a tower of strength to the batting for years to come.
For starters he could be a key figure in the CB series. Perhaps another plus point is the return of Mahela Jayawardene as captain. Arguably the shrewdest captain in international cricket he is a cerebral leader and with the right bowling changes and field placings can muzzle the opposition and hustle them into errors.
All in all, the piping hot ingredients are there for an engrossing, high quality competition as the caravan goes round Australia till the best of three finals early next month. Classy and experienced players, three teams almost evenly matched and a format tailor made to thrill spectators and viewers alike for the next three weeks.The rise and rise of a cerebral cricketerMore columns