Until the last World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, the fastest fifty in World Cups belonged to Arjuna Ranatunga. The former captain had smashed a half-century against Kenya off 29 balls at Asgiriya during Sri Lanka’s victorious campaign in 1996.
In the same tournament, Sanath Jayasuriya had come close to breaking the record, having reached his fifty in the quarter-final against England off 30 balls. A few days later, Aravinda de Silva had a crack at it but fell short having taken 32 balls for the half-century.
For nearly 20 years and over four tournaments Arjuna’s record remained impregnable until Dinesh Chandimal went berserk against the Aussies at the gorgeous SCG in Sri Lanka’s penultimate group game of the tournament in 2015.
This was no mean attack mind you, comprising Starc, Johnson, Watson and Faulkner. Of course, they were the eventual World Champions. Some of the strokes that Chandimal played that night were just out of this world and the Sri Lankans had a glimmer of hope that they might be able pull off the mammoth 378-run target, thanks to him.
Batting at number six, Chandimal slog swept the spinners repeatedly to pick up boundaries and played some exquisite drives, at times stepping outside the crease to the seamers even when Johnson and Starc were clocking nearly 150kmph.
Chandimal’s 52 came off 24 deliveries with eight fours and one six. His effort was five balls fewer than that of Arjuna’s and a record that had stood 19 years had fallen.
Soon after completing the milestone, he was forced to retire having pulled a hamstring muscle. He was ruled out of the World Cup campaign. Had he stayed around, the result of that game would have been very interesting. There was a nice 81-run partnership building between Angelo Mathews and Chandimal for the fourth wicket after Kumar Sangakkara had earlier smashed a hundred.
Once Chandimal had to retire, Sri Lanka lost momentum and went onto lose by 64 runs.
There was little doubt at that stage that he should be a permanent fixture of Sri Lanka’s ODI outfit. Few doubted that he will be in Sri Lanka’s World Cup plans for the next edition four years later in England and Wales. But there was too much of chopping and changing and little patience shown.
Chandimal’s last ODI at home was in October last year against England. He made 80 off 73 balls. When Sri Lanka played an ODI again, he was dropped as captain and was made to bat at number five. After two failures, he was axed from the ODI side as well and his World Cup campaign was over.
In 2015, after he posted the fastest half-century by a Sri Lankan in World Cups, his record lasted barely three days. From Sydney, the Sri Lankans took an hour’s flight to Tasmania to play their last group game against Scotland and Angelo Mathews batted like Garfield Sobers at the Bellerive Oval.
Mathews took the Scottish attack to the cleaners smashing six sixes to reach the half-century off just 20 deliveries and establish a new Sri Lankan record in World Cups.
The Scottish had been already put to sword by less than run a ball hundreds from Sangakkara and Dilshan and they copped it again as Mathews toyed with the bowling to help Sri Lanka post 363.
Mathews was dropped on 21 off Matt Matchan, who is eligible to play for England. In the off-spinner’s next over, Mathews carted him for four successive sixes. He was dismissed in the last ball of the over attempting a fifth six over mid-wicket.