Sri Lanka consolidated their reputation as big game players by sealing a place at another final. It was Sri Lanka vs Australia at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 Final on the 28th of April 2007, a Saturday.
Free hit contributor – Musharaff
All of Sri Lanka was excited to have made it to another final and was anticipating rejoicing the moment of becoming the World Champions yet again after 11 years by defeating the same opponent (Australia) which Sri Lanka ruthlessly and gleefully hunted down in the 1996 World Cup Final at Lahore. In 1996, the Sri Lankan team dismantled Australia’s bowling line up as well as their arrogance to secure the 1996 World Cup title. Everyone thought Australia would defend the total of 241, but Aravinda De Silva, Asanka Gurusinghe and Captain Cool Arjuna Ranatunga had other ideas and made sure the 1996 World Cup was ours.
In 2007, we were all sitting down expectantly to see history repeat itself. It was noon and Rupavahini was scheduled to telecast the 1996 World Cup final. My father said to me everyone in 1996 thought it was impossible to beat Australia but our lions proved them wrong, so this time we have a good chance of winning the World Cup again. Hours passed; the match was supposed to start at 7pm Sri Lankan time but it was raining at the Barbados Stadium in the Caribbean. They didn’t have proper covers and were short of ground staff and probably wished they had the nifty Sri Lankan ground staff. *Most importantly, there was no reserved day for a World Cup Final.
After a few agonizing hours, the match was reduced to 38 overs per side and Australia elected to bat after winning the toss. Adam Gilchrist smashed a stupendous 149 runs off 104 balls. The superhuman innings had a twist, Gilchrist had used a squash inside his gloves to boost the swing of his bat. Of course, it was undue advantage and had a Sri Lankan done that his career would have ended that day. The Australian innings concluded, they scored 281 runs, losing just 4 wickets in their allotted 38 overs. Target – 282 in 38 overs, daunting.
Sri Lanka lost Upul Tharanga early but Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara started to smash some boundaries and kept the scoreboard moving. In the meantime, in Colombo the LTTE launched a few airstrikes and the Sri Lankan government sent Colombo into darkness by disconnecting the electricity. We then switched to the radio, Sangakkara and Jayasuriya were batting well, Sangakkara smashed a brilliant six and 2 consecutive boundaries in a Glenn McGrath over. At one point, Sri Lanka was 123-1 needing 159 to win from 110 balls. Sri Lanka had just scored 102 in the last 10 overs against New Zealand in the semi-final, so hope was alive, the target gettable. Like the match had not seen enough drama, light showers interrupted and made the pitch a bit damp and it started to get dark at the Barbados Stadium in the Caribbean, Sri Lanka started to lose their way and they batted their last 18 overs in absolute darkness as the organizers had not set out a reserve day and this final had to be completed. Disadvantage Sri Lanka. It was not their day and they lost the final by just 53 runs.
If Gilchrist had played without using that squash ball Australia would have finished with 30-35 runs less than they actually scored. If Sri Lanka batted in the good conditions, Sri Lanka could have won the World Cup on that day. If the match slipped over to reserve day Australia and Gilchrist could not have got an unfair advantage. Ifs and buts may be, but a great injustice was done to Sri Lanka by the ICC.
There is the 1996 Sri Lankan team which won the Cricket World Cup and there is 2014 Sri Lankan Team which won the T20 World Cup but this 2007 Cricket World Cup Sri Lankan Team will always have a special place in the hearts of every Sri Lankan Cricket Fan.
*ICC regulations for the tournament did include a reserve day
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