On This Day: Mad Max Arvinda de Silva Helps Sri Lanka Claim 1996 World Cup
1996 was the year when Sri Lankan cricket changed for the better and under the charismatic leadership of Arjuna Ranatunga, they overturned their mediocre record in World Cup cricket to bag their maiden title as they defeated Australia in the final at Lahore.
This was also the tournament that saw Sanath Jayasuriya redefine the art of batting in the first. He was explosive upfront and was ably assisted by the reliable Aravinda de Silva. Even though he got dismissed early in the final match, his overall performance helped him win the Man of the Series title. de Silva was the Man of the Match for his unbeaten century in the final.
While the batting was explosive, and the bowling very penetrative in favourable conditions, Sri Lankan fielding stood out for their athleticism and in many ways, they set the template for fielding in limited overs cricket.
At the Gaddafi Stadium, Sri Lanka asked Australia to bat first after they won the toss. Led by the efforts of Mark Taylor, Australia managed to post a decent score of 241/7. Chasing the target, Sri Lanka got off to a terrible start as both openers Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana fell cheaply. However, the innings was then taken forward by Asanka Gurusinha (65) and Aravinda de Silva, who built a solid partnership to lay a good foundation.
De Silva finished on 107 and he got great support by captain Arjuna Ranatunga (47) and this helped them seal a memorable and historic seven-wicket win with almost four overs to spare.
This tournament changed Sri Lankan cricket as this was a team which had never made it to the knockouts of all the previous five World Cups and they went on to win their first ever finale and this was a massive achievement.
After this achievement, the Sri Lankan team made it to five finals in the next 10 ICC World tournaments (50-over and 20-over), and they also went on to beat India and won their maiden World T20 in 2014.