82 days to go: Sanath Jayasuriya's blitzkrieg sends England packing

The zenith of his incredible World Cup campaign in 1996 came in the quarter-final against England at Faisalabad.

Published: 09th March 2019 02:48 PM  |   Last Updated: 04th May 2019 05:31 PM   |  A+A-

Sanath Jayasuriya

Jayasuriya's finest WC knock came in Faisalabad | AFP

Online Desk

Going into the 1996 World Cup, Sanath Jayasuriya had an average of 19.73 and strike rate of 74.27 after 99 ODIs. Not exactly the track record that would have you predicting he would finish with the Man of the Series award.

Yet that is what happened as one of cricket's finest fairytales was being scripted. From his place in the side being questioned ahead of the tournament, he would end his career as one of the greatest ODI all-rounders to have played the game.

The zenith of his incredible World Cup campaign that saw him become the country's fourth-leading scorer and leading wicket-taker in the tournament came against England in the quarter-final.

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

The southpaw had already managed to make his mark on the tournament during the group stage as he scored a run-a-ball 79 against India to help his side win a thrilling encounter at the Feroz Shah Kotla. But the best was yet to come.

As one of only two unbeaten teams in the tournament at the end of the group stage, Sri Lanka came into their quarter-final clash brimming with confidence.

England won the toss and were struggling at 173/7 but somehow managed to get to 235/8 thanks to Phil DeFreitas' fifty. It wasn't a challenging total but Sri Lanka still had to get those runs and history was against them as England had never failed to progress to a World Cup semi-final until then.

Unfortunately for England, Jayasuriya wasn't one for the history books, proceeding to smash what was at the time the fastest World Cup fifty (off 30 balls).

Whether it was the left-arm spin of Richard Illingworth or pace of Darren Gough and DeFreitas, the southpaw simply kept sending them to the ropes.

17 runs were taken off an Illingworth over, 15 off Gough and the introduction of DeFreitas saw him smashing one past cover to bring up his 10th boundary and, along with it, his fifty.

He was particularly hard on the all-rounder, who was looking to continue his good form with the willow but was creamed to all corners of Faisalabad. In his second over, Jayasuriya plundered 22, just one shy of the costliest over in World Cup history at the time, including a couple of sixes down the ground and a couple of boundaries.

Before too long, he was closing in on obliterating the record for the fastest World Cup century, which at the time was off 72 balls by Kapil Dev in 1983. But a smart stumping by Jack Russell off Dermot Reeve meant that Jayasuriya was dismissed for 82 in just 44 balls, having scored more than 70% of his team total until then.

Sri Lanka duly cruised to victory with almost ten overs to spare. And the rest as we know is history. 


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