The 1996 ICC Cricket World Cup Final was the sixth installment of the ICC Cricket World Cup since its inception in 1975 in England. The match was played on 17 March 1996 at Lahore's 62,645 capacity Gaddafi Stadium in Pakistan for the first time.
|Event||1996 ICC Cricket World Cup|
|Date||17 March 1996|
|Venue||Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, Pakistan|
|Player of the match||Aravinda de Silva (SL)|
|Umpires||Steve Bucknor and David Shepherd|
The match was contested between former World Cup winners Australia and underdog Sri Lanka. It was Australia's 3rd World Cup final appearance after their win in the 1987 edition and the loss to West Indies in the 1975 ICC Cricket World Cup final.
Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga won the toss and sent Australia out to bat. After a blazing start from captain Mark Taylor and young superstar and future captain Ricky Ponting, Australia fell from being 1–137 to 5–170 after which Sri Lanka's 4 prong spin attack took its toll. After Australia limped to 7–241 in its quota of 50 overs, Sri Lanka overcame a nervous start where they lost both openers before the score was 30, to win in 45 overs. Sri Lankan batting sensation Aravinda De Silva played a match-winning knock of 107 not out and was assisted ably by fellow veterans Asanka Gurusingha (65) and captain Ranatunga (47 not out). De Silva was named man of the match after he had taken 3–42 in his 10 overs eairlier in the Australian innings as well & Sanath Jayasuriya got man of the series award.
Australia and Sri Lanka had never previously faced each other in a major tournament final. Australia were former winners of the World Cup in 1987 whilst Sri Lanka had never gotten past the group stages of the competition. The two teams however, had a fierce rivalry stemming from Sri Lanka's tour to Australia in the summer of 1995/1996. Their up-and-coming spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan was the subject of much scrutiny during the tour as he was called for 'chucking' during the Boxing Day Test of 1995 by field umpire Darrell Hair. After the test series resulting in a resounding 3–0 win to Australia, the triangular one-day series, known as the 'Benson and Hedges World Series' was a much closer contest. Along with other participants the West Indies, Sri Lanka proved a challenge for the all conquering Australian team, who were not able to win easily like their past fixtures. Sri Lanka brushed the West Indies aside to reach the final of the tournament against Australia, sporting a full head of steam after defeating Australia in their previous match at the MCG. However, Australia ran out 2–0 winners and the tension between the teams was evident through the post-tournament celebrations. Mark Taylor, Australia's captain had offered to shake the hand of Ranatunga, who declined. Many thought that this was due to the Muralitharan affair. Many Sri Lankans cited the incident as an act of racism and discrimination towards the Sri Lankans and to Muralitharan himself. This was augmented by the chants from the fanatic Australian fans yelling No Ball!! every time Muralitharan bowled a ball. Tensions, further overboiled with Australia refusing to play a scheduled World Cup group match in Colombo, Sri Lanka due to safety issues. Thus, handing Sri Lanka the points.
Road To LahoreEdit
Sri Lanka had finished top of Group A ahead of Australia in who were in the same group. Their first match of the tournament was scheduled to be against Australia themselves at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. However, Australia citing safety concerns refused to play the game and forfeited, giving Sri Lanka a handy 2 points. Their next match against Zimbabwe also in Colombo proved to be an easy win for the Lankans with De Silva pounding 91 off 86 balls to lead the chase of 228 in 37 overs. The West Indies then also followed suit handing Sri Lanka a further 2 points for the same reason as the Australians. Sri Lanka then head to Delhi, India to take on an in-form India. Tendulkar blitzed a century before Sanath Jayasuriya provided some fireworks of his own smashing 79 off 76 balls and leading Sri Lanka to a comfortable 6 wicket win chasing 272 for victory. Sri Lanka's final group match was against the lowly Kenya who had upset the West Indies earlier in the tournament. However, Sri Lanka were far from complacent as a ruthless batting display lead them to the highest One Day International Team Score ever scoring 5–398 in their 50 overs. De Silva once again the star this time scoring 145. Sri Lanka then faced England in the quarter-finals of the competition. But the Englishmen proved to be no contest for the Sri Lankan's as new star Sanath Jayasuriya revelled in his opening role scoring a merciless 82 off 44 balls leading Sri Lanka to reach the score of 237 in 40 overs. The semi-finals saw Sri Lanka pitted against India yet again at the 120,000 seater stadium of Eden Gardens in Kolkata, India. India were hot favourites to win, despite Sri Lanka's hot form coming into the game. India's home advantage was expected to see them through to the final. Captain Mohammad Azharuddin won the toss and knowing Sri Lanka's ability to chase down totals whilst batting second, put them in to bat first, even though the pitch was predicted to play up under the floodlights. Sri Lanka's hopes seemed to be dashed as they lost both Jayasuriya and the equally destructive Romesh Kaluwitharana in the first over of the innings leaving Sri Lanka at 2–0. However, De Silva made a counterattacking 66 off just 47 balls shifting the momentum back to the Lankans. Sri Lanka eventually reached 8–251 from their 50 overs thanks to their long batting order. However, it again looked bleak for Sri Lanka as Sachin Tendulkar, India's own batting sensation lead India to 1–98 in around 20 overs. But his dismissal triggered an amazing collapse which left the favourites at 8–120. The Kolkata crowd began to throw bottles and other projectiles at the Sri Lankans who were awarded the match by default. On the day, 110,000 plus people attended the event at Eden Gardens
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- "The Wills World Cup, 1996". Cricinfo. Archived from the original on 12 August 2007. Retrieved 7 August 2007.
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