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March 1, 2024
When Sri Lanka mounted cricket’s highest Planet to World Cup Glory in the blaze of the knightly Aravinda de Silva

Sri Lanka Cricket

Aravinda de Silva, exquisite ton to Player of the Match

Sanath Jayasuriya, Herculean willow works to Player of the Series.

By Srian Obeyesekere

The years 1995-96 remain etched in gold in the annals of Sri Lankan cricket history and as much the world when the little known nation, fawned upon by the gigantic global community in the game as the minnow whipping boys, blazed its way in changing that low conception by the rocket space act of scaling the highest planet of one-day cricket’s World Cup glory in going a step further in turning cricket on its head in ushering a new dimension of hitting over the top that has given way to the now popular power play overs. That this immortal turnaround from David to Goliath heights of a nation whose early beginnings, deep seated in leisurely softball cricket in every nook and corner best projected from improvised beach swishing but showcasing an inherent natural flair that has been the succor to making the mark consumed over a century of low key years to that appointed golden hurrah day via a hero called Aravinda de Silva taking on the might of the world in bringing down the supreme Australia in the decisive final on neutral soil in Pakistan’s Lahore. That it was wrung in a swish of the blade domination that towered in the great splendor of a knightly swish of the willow of a day that solely belonged to the Lankan in rendering the mighty Aussie attack redundant by a record unbeaten century – the only batter to have scored a ton in a world cup chasing a target – did decorate self and country in the radiation of the most colourful that beauty can envelope the bat ball game. Indeed, the game is known to be illuminated by such glamour that great stroke play by many greats have infused to it, and Aravinda de Silva belonged to that genre in inscribing his name of the super in that art to 107 off 124 punctuated by 13 boundaries.

ARAVINDA EXQUISITE TIMING

That Lankan red letter day was indeed magnified from the lowly depths of the early loss of Sri Lanka’s trend setters of hitting over the top new dimension imparted to the world in the world cup, namely Romesh Kaluvitharana and Sanath Jayasuriya, who n the big day were back in the pavilion in next to no time with Sri Lanka on 23 for 2 chasing 242 as Australia exerted early control. That was when de Silva changed the complexion of the game by a conspicuous mastery of measured stroke play accentuated on exquisite timing of the ball on front and back foot driving bordering on the majestic. He rode his way to glory heightened by effortless caressing of the ball to the boundary in extinguishing the deadly Aussie pace-spin attack fronted by Glen McGrath and Shane Warne. Indeed, it was a truly special day in the annals of Sri Lankan cricket in enacting history in tearing up to ribbons the Aussie attack deadly as it was that withered under sheer magical artistry as Aravinda de Silva found an able ally in the one drop anchor man Asanka Gurusinha who rose to his element in holding one end in that role in putting Sri Lanka on course to victory. Their 125-run bonding for the third wicket was cornerstone to touching gold with the left-handed Gurusinha unleashing a typical swordsman like innings of 65 of 99 inclusive of 6 boundaries and a six in carrying the attack to the Aussies. By the time he departed, the task was good as accomplished with skipper Arjuna Ranatunga joining de Silva in speeding Sri Lanka to a historic triumph in hoisting Shane Warne over his head for the winning boundary for a defining ultimate captain’s knock of 47 off 37 scripted in 4 boundaries and 1 over the top achieving victory with 20 balls to spare in putting Sri Lanka right on top of the world map at that level.

The feat by and large not only turned cricket on its head for all the subsequent bad period that engulfed the country’s international standings. Significantly, it was to pave the way for the rest of the world to follow. The epic bringing home of cricket’s biggest prize, the World Cup was indeed the culmination to breaking free in conquering the rest of the world. While Aravinda de Silva has gone down in history as the only batsman in world cricket to have scored a century chasing a target to emerging the Player of the Match on an all-round effort of 3 wickets to boot, Sanath Jayasuriya etched his name as the Player of the Series on sheer explosive stroke play of the herculean that propelled him to stardom as a mauler of the ball with the rare gift of breaking loose from the very first delivery who dared to square cut the most deadliest of fast bowlers over the top for six.

FLASHBACK:

Australia

(Mark Taylor 74, Ricky Ponting 45, Michael Bevan n.o. 36, Stuart Law 22, Aravinda de Silva 3/42, Chaminda Vaas 1/30, Muttiah Muralidaran 1/31, Sanath Jayasuriya 1/43, Kumar Dharmasena 1/47)

Sri Lanka 245/3 (46.2 Overs)

(Aravinda de Silva n.o. 107, Asanka Gurusinha 65, Arjuna Ranatunga n.o. 47, Damien Fleming 1/43, Paul Reiffel 1/49)

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