The island nation’s golden moment
There has to be a first time for everything. Certainly for the elevation of the Sri Lankans to the rank of cricketing gods as they anointed themselves World Cup champions on a most memorable night before an appreciative global audience.
Aravinda de Silva did the star turn in an outstanding all-round contribution of wickets, catches and a stunningly attractive century.
No team has won a World Cup final batting second, and Arjuna Ranatunga’s men were chasing by choice.
Ranatunga was masterly in his handling of the middle overs. Shuffling his spinners around quickly in the face of an onslaught by Mark Taylor, he found a key card in his deputy de Silva, whose off-spin had bite and flashes of inspiration.
Such creativity was also to be seen in de Silva’s batting which was as effective as it was aesthetically pleasing. His partner in the clinical destruction of the bowling was Asanka Gurusinha who could not have re-found his touch at a more appropriate time.
An Australian innings poised to climb on Taylor’s aggression and Ponting’s anchoring role was nipped in the middle game by the spinners. The Aussies had a fighting total rather than a massive one, and the calm ways of de Silva were just what the islanders needed.
The Warne threat was seen off by Gurusinha, who hit him for a huge six over long-off. The left-hander fell when he gave Reiffel the charge.
There were to be no late show of nerves as Ranatunga supported de Silva, who got to his century off 119 balls, until the golden moment came.
Earlier, Taylor made the most of the chance to bat first on a good-looking strip. He was all flair, but not all method, as he attacked the bowling with rare gusto, and didn’t lose his tempo though Mark Waugh fell quite early on to Jayasuriya.
The overs of spin in the middle were the turning point of the innings. Ranatunga’s superbly varied field placement might have been just what the bowlers wished for. To their credit, the off-spinners bowled to the fields set.
Taylor, so much in command on the on-side but looking just a shade shaky on the square cut, was ironically to perish on the leg side.
de Silva was jubilant as he turned that ball into the middle stump to beat Ponting, and Warne was stumped down the leg-side to give the economical Muralitharan his only wicket.
The one man who could provide a fighting total, even after a middle-order slump, was Michael Bevan. He did just about everything to pull the innings up to the mid-level respectability of 241.
The scores: Australia 241 for seven in 50 overs (Mark Taylor 74, Ricky Ponting 45, Michael Bevan 36 n.o., Aravinda de Silva three for 42) lost to Sri Lanka 245 for three in 46.2 overs (Asanka Gurusinha 65, Aravinda de Silva 107 n.o., Arjuna Ranatunga 47 n.o.) by seven wickets.
Toss: Sri Lanka.
Man-of-the-match: de Silva.
SUNDRIES FOR 1996
The 1996 edition was hosted by PILCOM (Pakistan India Lanka Committee)
An estimated 1,00,000 were at the Eden Gardens for the opening ceremony during which a laser show lost some shine due to a system malfunction
On February 27, 1996, Bombay had the honour of hosting the first floodlit World Cup ODI in India (opponent Australia).
UAE captain Sultan Zarawani, wearing a floppy hat, was struck on the head off the first ball he faced from Allan Donald
Javed Miandad became the first player to figure in six World Cups
Sri Lanka was a 66-1 outsider to win the World Cup.
It took home BP 30,000 while runner-up Australia received BP 20,000. The total prize money was BP two million
QUOTES FOR 1996
The refusal of Australia and the West Indies to visit Sri Lanka for their preliminary matches was, in my view, an over-reaction, lacking in understanding and foresight – Tony Greig
One of the things that people did not notice was that Sri Lanka was probably the most experienced team in the competition, especially in batting, both in terms of years and ODIs. When it came down to the last two matches, the team was absolutely at its best; it took the pressure really well and rose to the occasion – Imran Khan
My dream was to get to the final and contest it. Now that we have won, and I myself have contributed, it makes me very happy. But, this honour should go to many a person, not just me and my team – Arjuna Ranatunga