96 days to go: Maiden hosts, maiden World Cup - A Sri Lankan fairytale 

From controversies and forfeited matches to belligerent batting and breathtaking bowling, Sri Lanka's tale of triumph in '96 had it all.

Published: 23rd February 2019 07:49 PM  |   Last Updated: 04th May 2019 05:35 PM   |  A+A-

Aravinda de Silva

Throughout the tournament, Aravinda de Silva made the difference | AFP

Online Desk

Underdogs. They are the lifeblood of sports. There are few greater pleasures in life than watching an athlete or a team, against whom the odds are stacked, come out on top.

When it comes to underdog stories, there are few more memorable ones than Sri Lanka's victory in the 1996 World Cup. But their tale of triumph is quite unlike any other. From controversies and forfeited matches to belligerent batting and breathtaking bowling, their journey had it all.

Hosting the World Cup for the first time (along with India and Pakistan), controversy plagued them from the outset. 

Both Australia and the West Indies opted to forfeit their matches against Sri Lanka after the bombing of the Central Bank there by the Tamil Tigers, even though the ICC determined that the country was safe and additional security was arranged.

As a result, Sri Lanka, who were in Group A along with the aforementioned two teams, India, Zimbabwe and Kenya, automatically qualified for the quarter-finals before a game was played.

Despite this advantage, Sri Lanka were not complacent. After thrashing Zimbabwe, Arjuna Ranatunga's side beat India in a thrilling encounter at the Feroz Shah Kotla despite another Sachin Tendulkar masterclass with the bat.

Such was their form that at the end of the group stages, Sri Lanka were one of the two unbeaten teams in the tournament, along with South Africa. The Aravinda de Silva show was also slowly kicking into gear.

In the quarter-final, Sanath Jayasuriya's blitzkrieg after Sri Lanka managed to restrict England was enough for them to set up a semi-final encounter against India at Kolkata.

The tie at Eden Gardens was dramatic.

India snared both openers, who had destroyed them in the group stage, but there was Aravinda de Silva. The Sri Lankan No.3's majestic 66 set the platform before Roshan Mahanama, Arjuna Ranatunga and Hashan Tillakaratne took them to 251 on a fast crumbling pitch.

India never quite got going and lost seven wickets for 22 runs. At 120/8, it was well and truly over before crowd trouble meant that the match referee, Clive Lloyd, awarded the game to the visitors.

It all came full circle for Sri Lanka in the final as they were up against Australia in Lahore. Aravinda de Silva got the crucial wickets of Mark Taylor and Ricky Ponting with the ball before scoring an unbeaten century to help them clinch their maiden World Cup crown. The year of victory: '96.


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