BARBADOS -- Terror rocked Bridgetown's Kensington Oval on Tuesday morning, when the middle of the English order burned briefly and then collapsed utterly, turning to powder while the eyes of the cricket world looked on in disbelief. Early reports made no mention of survivors.
The English batsmen were always in trouble in their must-win match against South Africa, scoring only 9 runs in their first 7 overs, and taking an additional 19 overs to reach the century mark.
But the real tragedy struck in the 33rd over. England were 111 for 3 when Andrew Strauss was hit by what appeared to be a hijacked airplane. He crashed and burned with a fire so intense it razed Paul Collingwood to the ground as well.
A general collapse ensued, with Andrew Flintoff [top photo], Paul Nixon and Sajid Mahmood disappearing in short order. Mahmood made a particularly awful mess when he collapsed at free-fall speed after watching the only ball delivered in his direction crash into his stumps.
Rescue and recovery workers should have been warned that the scene would be toxic and that survivors were unlikely to be found, but apparently no such warnings were issued. So it goes.
Officials who claimed to represent the host committee said the collapse was caused by a catastrophic weakening of the English side, due to the velocity of the object that hit Strauss and intensity of the ensuing fires. They blame Australian bowler Andrew Hall [lower photo] for the collapse. Hall, who took 5 wickets while allowing only 18 runs, could not be reached for comment. He is said to be hiding in a cave on an unspecified Caribbean island, communicating with his teammates only via cell-phone.
In Barbados, officials vehemently denied any hint of pre-positioned explosives contributing to the utter destruction of the English side.
But the so-called "collapse" -- in fact a total disintegration -- was so explosive that fragments of England's remains have been found embedded in buildings hundreds of metres from the scene.
Bridgetown officials have denied rumors of molten steel under the rubble, but relief workers continue to appeal for more boots, saying their soles are melting from the intense heat of the disaster.
The official collapse theory has attracted the inevitable skeptics who claim that gravity and heat alone could not have thrown such heavy fragments such huge distances with such force, let alone leaving boot-melting heat to bedevil the cleanup efforts.
Defenders of the official story laugh and call the skeptics crazy. So it goes.
But the question remains: What indeed did take England down?
Some critics of Tony Blair's so-called foreign policy maintain that the English side will never again compete on anything like even terms with the world's cricket powers until Tony Blair is removed from office, and either hanged for treason or impaled for war crimes and crimes against humanity. They site the USA's failure to reach the final 16 -- shut out by powerhouses such as Canada and Bermuda -- as well as Canada's failure to reach the Super Eights, as further evidence in support of their assertion.
Most cricketologists ridicule the notion that karmic intervention could be responsible for the English collapse, pointing to the seemingly unlimited success of the Australians, who having pasted England 5-0 for the Ashes, now seem on their way to yet another glorious international triumph.
Were Australia not complicit in the very same war crimes, these experts say, the cricket-karma hypothesis might be be worthy of serious consideration. Instead they call it a wacky conspiracy theory.
But other cricketologists dispute this assertion and claim the seeming mystery of Australia's success can be explained by the Coriolis effect, which may cause karma to spin backwards in the southern hemisphere.
New Zealand won't win this tournament, they claim, because the Kiwis don't cause enough death and destruction overseas.
Who am I to say they're wrong? We'll find out in less than two weeks.