On this day in 1996, former Sri Lankan great, Sanath Jayasuriya smashed 82 runs in just 44 balls at the Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad to dump England out of the World Cup. Incidentally, Jayasuriya came into the 1996 World Cup with a batting average of 19.53 from 98 ODIs. But it all changed during the ICC event, as he went on to become one of the most lethal, and valued all-rounders in the limited-overs format.
England won the toss and opted to bat first and only all-rounder Phil DeFreitas was able to cross the half-century mark as the Three Lions were able to accumulate only 235 runs in 50 overs. After being at 173/7, it was DeFreitas’ 67 runs that lifted the Englishmen to a respectable score. The trio of Muttiah Muralitharan, Sanath Jayasuriya, and Kumar Dharmasena picked up two wickets each to keep England in check.
Resuming the run-chase, Jayasuriya went all guns blazing from the start. He was particularly savage on left-arm spinner Richard Illingworth who was asked to open the bowling with Peter Martin. In the fourth over of the Lankan innings, Illingworth conceded 17 runs which included four boundaries.
Striking at 131.54, the opener flashed his blade at everything outside the off-stump or carved the field with a cover drive. He pulled the short balls and fuller deliveries were hit over mid-on for sixes or were worked through the gaps on the leg side. He hit 13 boundaries and 3 sixes in his deadly knock.
At a time when 60 runs were considered par at the 15-over mark, Jayasuriya had shown the world that this was the way to take a limited-overs game by the scruff of its neck and take the opposition out of the game within the first 90 balls.
While he ultimately departed with the scoreboard on 113, the job was done and for the rest of the Lankan batters, it was a cakewalk as they cantered home in 41 overs with five wickets in hand.
Jayasuriya reached the zenith of his career in the tournament against England in the quarter-finals where he became the country’s fourth-leading scorer and leading wicket-taker.
He went on to end his career as one of the greatest ODI all-rounders to have played the game even though his place in the side was being questioned ahead of the tournament.
As far as the Islanders, they had hammered England in the quarter-final and then repressed Indian hopes of semis in the Eden Garden. Arjuna Ranatunga led Sri Lanka finally outplayed Australia in the final at Lahore and lifted the World Cup — one of Sri Lanka’s finest hours in international cricket.