World Cup 1996: Sri Lanka emerge as a new-subcontinental superpower

first_imgThe World Cup returned to the subcontinent for its sixth edition with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka sharing hosting duties. United Arab Emirates, Netherlands and Kenya were the new entrants for the sixth edition, making it 12 teams that were pooled into two groups of six.This edition was also filled with several flashpoints, some of which erupted even before the tournament started as Australia and West Indies refused to play their games on the island nation, citing security concerns. Despite the ICC assuring them of their safety, both countries refused to travel, resulting in Sri Lanka winning those matches by forfeit and directly qualifying for the quarter-finals stage even before a ball was bowled.That said, Sri Lanka were by no means lucky to be in the quarter-finals as the rest of the tournament would prove. Led by Arjuna Ranatunga, Sri Lanka showcased a revolutionary style of play that abandoned the norm of conserving wickets early on. Instead, they demonstrated a fearless brand of cricket that looked to make the most of field restrictions in the first few overs by going hard at the bowlers. Such an approach by batsmen was unheard of at the time, leaving opposition sides stupefied and in search of answers.Having said that, Sri Lanka weren’t the only side looking to play attacking cricket. South Africa’s Gary Kirsten lit up the tournament with an unbeaten 159-ball 188 against minnows UAE. The Proteas won the contest by 169 runs and Kirsten’s innings stood as the highest score in World Cup history for a long time.advertisementAustralia’s Mark Waugh was another player in good form and smashed back-to-back centuries. The Sri Lankans though were playing with unparalleled confidence at the time and seemed to be a level up when compared to the rest of the teams as India found out more than once at their own expense.The Islanders’ first meeting against India required them to chase a target of 272 in Delhi. Sachin Tendulkar had earlier made a run-a-ball 137 and was instrumental in what could have been considered a match-winning total at the time. However, Player of the Series Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana’s blitz at the top gave Sri Lanka the platform for the likes of Ranatunga and Hashan Tillakaratne to guide them home and top the group. Sri Lanka then went on to score a record total of 398 in a 144-run win over Kenya in their last group game before Jayasuriya walloped England’s bowlers for 82 off 44 balls in the quarter-final.Jayasuriya’s pyrotechnics set up a comfortable chase and helped Sri Lanka qualify for their first semis, while also knocking out the English before the semis for the first time in history.The Islanders’ semi-final opponents were India, who came into the encounter confident after beating arch-rivals Pakistan in an emotionally-charged quarter-final clash, which featured the now iconic exchange of words between Venkatesh Prasad and Aamer Sohail. Sri Lanka won the semi-final by default, but only because the game had to be called off. Angered by India’s collapse to 120 for 8 from 98 for 1 in pursuit of 252, a section of hostile fans threw bottles onto the outfield and set seats on fire, making it impossible for the players to continue.The other semi-final pitted Australia against West Indies with both sides banking on their in-from batsmen. Chasing 287 against New Zealand in the quarters, Mark Waugh rose to the occasion and scored his third century of the tournament to help Australia win, while Brian Lara’s classy 94-ball 111 was enough to overcome South Africa for a semis spot. However, the semi-final between the two nations wasn’t lit up by quality batting, but world class spin instead. Shane Warne was Australia’s hero and took four wickets as they successfully defended 207.While many believed Australia could have a slight edge having played in finals before, Sri Lanka beat the Aussies comfortably in the end. In pursuit of 242, they lost Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana early on but didn’t panic. Aravinda de Silva demonstrated his class on the big occasion with a century and was well supported by Asanka Gurusinha and Ranatunga as Sri Lanka strolled to victory and announced their arrival as a superpower on the cricketing stage.Also Read | Great position to be in as compared to 10 months ago: Aaron FinchAlso Read | World Cup 2019: Pat Cummins highlights Glenn Maxwell’s role in Australian teamAlso seelast_img