From humble beginnings in 1975 to being one of the more fancied teams at World Cups in the recent past, Sri Lanka has always managed to punch above its weight at Cricket’s biggest spectacle. Here are a few of the golden moments from 1975-2015.
Asantha de Mel – 5/32 vs NZ in 1983
Current National Selector Asantha De Mel rocked a New Zealand outfit which included the likes of Martin Crowe and Sir Richard Hadlee with a wrecking fifer to record the only win at the 1983 World Cup for Sri Lanka – an unforgettable affair that saw a ‘minnow’ overcome one of the bigger teams on the world stage.
Arjuna Ranatunga – 88* vs Zim in 1992
This unbeaten 88 by ‘Captain Cool’ Arjuna Ranatunga helped Sri Lanka become the first team ever to chase down a 300-plus score in one-day internationals. Ranatunga walked in with Sri Lanka on 155 for 3 chasing 313 runs against a formidable Zimbabwean line-up. With the entire top-order back in the hut, he steered the lower middle order brilliantly, to help Sri Lanka register a historic win.
Aravinda de Silva – 66 vs Ind (Semi-final) & 107* vs Aus (Final) in 1996
India got off to a flying start in the all-important semifinal. Both Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana were dismissed in the first over with just 1 run on board, the World Cup semi-finals, the roar of the 100,000 at the Eden Gardens…. None of these things seemed to affect Aravinda de Silva aka ‘Mad Max’. He was on a mission from ball number one. Sri Lanka’s plan was to attack in the first fifteen overs and put pressure on the bowlers, and that’s exactly what he did to get to his 44-ball 66 runs, caring least about the situation. Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and even Anil Kumble were counter-attacked as he struck 14 boundaries in his knock.
“He had strokes for every ball!” – Javagal Srinath
Four days later, it was another misfire at the top of the order in the Wills World Cup final at Lahore. In an era where batting first in a World Cup final meant you were halfway to a win and a target close to 250 runs was golden, de Silva turned things upside down. The swing of McGrath and the guile of Warne made no difference as de Silva took control. He struck an unbeaten hundred to help Sri Lanka chase down the 241 runs posted by Australia and win their maiden World Cup.
Chaminda Vaas – 6/25 vs Ban in 2003
Left-arm over the wicket to the right-hander, a good-length delivery starting just outside off and curving back to sneak through bat and pad – it clips the top of off-stump. If you’ve never experienced this, you could probably ask Hannan Sarkar about it. That was the welcome given by Chaminda Vaas to Bangladesh during the 2003 World Cup.
He followed it up with a curving in delivery, this time a little fuller, which stuck in the surface and swung. Mohammad Ashraful was surprised with the amount of swing Vaas got as he ballooned it straight back to the bowler.
Hat-trick ball, three slips and a gully in, along with two men catching on either side of the bat. This time it’s full-length again and outside off-stump, the ball shaping back into the right handed Ehsanul Haque. Haque shuffles across and offers the full face of the bat, edges and the ball flies to Mahela Jayawardene at second slip. This brutal spell by Vaas helped him become the first and only man to pick up a hat-trick with the first three balls of an ODI. He went on to pick up 6 wickets in the game, going for just 25 runs. Vaas was spot on from ball one on that day and picked up his fifer within the first five overs of the match.
Lasith Malinga – 4/54 vs SA in 2007
South Africa were on 206 for 5 with only 4 runs required for victory. Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock were at the crease. Malinga to Pollock, change of pace, bowled! Andrew Hall fell in the next delivery to end the over. Kallis nicked the first ball of Malinga’s next over and then Makhaya Ntini couldn’t do much against a 144 kmph yorker which castled him to make history. All of a sudden, South Africa were on 207 for 9 but they did win the game. Malinga was named ‘Man of the match’ even after ending on the losing side along with Charl Langeveldt of South Africa.
Sanath Jayasuriya – 115 vs WI in 2007
It took 7 overs for the Master Blaster to get his first boundary with his trademark hook, another 10 to get his next off a short ball on leg-stump from Ian Bradshaw. The very next ball he dances down the track to slap one over mid off for four. A ball later, now against Dwayne Smith, he slashes one over cover for four. Then he comes down the track and picks it up over the bowler’s head for six. He scored 31 runs in a stretch of 11 balls with just 1 single in it.
Sanath Jayasuriya was a nightmare to Jerome Taylor, Smith and Bradshaw as sixes were carted rows back into the stands and he always found a gap in the field. Jayasuriya made a classic ton to beat the hosts in style.
Mahela Jayawardene – 115* vs NZ in 2007
Jayawardene got to the crease when Sri Lanka was on 67 for 2. He got off to a very slow start and his first boundary came after 48 balls. He got to his fifty only in the 41st over of the game. But that’s when he stepped on the gas. He got to his hundred in the next 28 balls and Sri Lanka scored 102 runs in the last 10 overs. It was a well-paced ton by Mahela which helped Sri Lanka reach their second World Cup Final.
Upul Tharanga & Tillakaratne Dilshan – 282 runs vs Zim and 231 runs vs Eng in 2011
The most successful openers in World Cup history. This pair was magical in 2011 as they went on to pile up 800 runs in 9 games. This was also the most number of runs scored by openers in a series. Dilshan’s counter attacking was very well complimented by Tharanga’s stability and elegance.
In the Zimbabwe game, it was fire from the word “Play”. Tharanga drove one through the covers in just the 3rd ball to open his account. From then it was a rain of boundaries. They seemed to get a four every time they got bat on ball. Dilshan was flashing his bat at everything and Tharanga kept on playing his inside-outs. The pair batted till the 45th over and piled up 282 runs to set a world record. It was a ruthless display of batting by the duo until Tharanga miscued one off Christopher Mpofu.
The quarter-final was something special. More credit should be given to the pair’s assessment of the situation. Graeme Swann was brought in from one end to open the bowling and straight away Tharanga came down the track and launched it down the ground. The wicket was a little slower and did take some turn and the pair used their feet excellently to counter it. Again, Tharanga kept carving his crafty boundaries while Dilshan’s wrist work was smashing the balls to the fence. Tharanga had found his timing right and didn’t try to hit it hard, just made sure he picked it over the top of the fielders while Dilshan on the other hand was swinging his bat at everything. They reached the target inside forty overs with no troubles whatsoever.
Mahela Jayawardene – 103* vs Ind in 2011
The only century in a losing cause in a World Cup final. Unlike the others on the list, Mahela did not have any difficulties in this innings, bar the screaming Wankhede stands. The wicket was a flat deck and every other batsman got runs too. Even Nuwan Kulasekara got 32 runs, coming in at no. 7. But what made Mahela stand out was his nonchalance. He made a World Cup final look like just another game with his stroke play. He paced his innings brilliantly and ended unbeaten with a comfortable 274 runs on board for Sri Lanka.
Kumara Sangakkara – 105*, 117*, 104, 124 in 2015
Kumar Sangakkara bid goodbye to the international arena with a stellar run as Sri Lanka’s most elite batsman became the most consistent performer of the World Cup. He holds the record for the most hundreds on the trot and also most hundreds in a World Cup. His first hundred of the tourney came against Bangladesh where he played second fiddle to Dilshan in thrashing the Tigers. The next was against the Englishmen where Sanga raced to an 86-ball ton with 11 fours and 2 sixers. He followed it up with another brilliant hundred against the mighty Australians and that too in Sydney. Then, the record breaking knock was a walk in the park for the maestro as he hit a fierce ton against Scotland. He averaged an incredible 108.20 in the tournament and finished just 6 runs behind Martin Guptill in the top scorers list, despite playing 2 fewer games than the Kiwi.