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Lanka do the impossible at Eden Gardens
By Sa`adi Thawfeeq - Thursday 14, March 1996

CALCUTTA, Wednesday, Sri Lanka did the impossible in front of a disgraceful 100,000 crowd when they entered their first-ever World Cup cricket final at Eden Gardens under lights here today.

They beat India by default when unruly crowd behaviour forced International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee Clive Lloyd to award the match to Sri Lanka.

Chasing Sri Lanka's impressive goal of 251 for 8 in 50 overs. In- dia collapsed from 98 for one to 120 for 8 in the 35th over. When tailender Ashish Kapoor was dismissed for a duck, the whole sta- dium crupted and fanatic Indian supporters who could not stomach the outcome of the match, began pelting the Sri Lankan fielders with fruits and bottles.

When the situation got out of hand the players accompanied by the two umpires. Cyril Mitchley and Steve Dunne along with Lloyd, who had walked into the middle, came off the field.

The pelting of objects finally ceased after about 20 minutes and once more the players and umpires took the field to resume the match. But before a ball was bowled, another bottle was thrown at Upul Chandana (substituting for the injured Roshan Mahanama) fielding at long-on.

The umpires decided that enough was enough and called off the match, much to the joy of the Sri Lankan players who in a frenzy grabbed the stumps and headed for the pavilion.

It was not the way Sri Lanka would have wanted to enter their first World Cup final. They had totally outplayed India in every department in a thoroughly professional manner, and deserved to have won the match outright. They were only two wickets away from that triumph when the unruly spectators spoilt their day.

The disgusting behaviour of the Indian spectators gave a poor reflection of sportsmanship. In over six decades of cricket they have still not learnt to accept defeat gracefully. The behaviour of these spectators watched by a television audience of over 600 million viewers all over the world gave a poor reflection on India as a cricketing nation.

India's triumph over arch rivals Pakistan in the quarter finals paled into insignificance after their defeat tonight. The spectators were backing the home country to the hilt cheering at every run. All of India's hopes rested on their star batsman Sachin Tendulkar, but no sooner was he dismissed, brilliantly stumped down the leg side by wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana, India's batting went into total decline.

Seven wickets crashed for 22 runs off 69 balls as Sri Lanka's spinners, Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumara Dharmasena and Aravinda de Silva exploited the turning pitch to the maximum, making strokeplay impossible.

Once more Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin and the team management had erred. In the first meeting between the two teams in this competition at Delhi, they failed to play an off spinner and paid the penalty with Sri Lanka winning by six wickets.

Today, Azharuddin having won the toss invited Sri Lanka to bat first on a newly laid pitch where even the curator would have been unable to judge how it would play. Fearing Sri Lanka's ability to chase runs and win. India decided to field first thus exposing themselves to a wearing wicket.

Azharuddin's gamble failed, and with it ended India's Cup hopes.

Quite apart from the excellent team work by the Sri Lankans, the man who caught Indians on the wrong foot was the dynamic cricketer, Sanath Jayasuriya. Everyone was cock-a-hoop at his dismissal for one in the fourth ball of the match. But what they had overlooked was that Jayasuriya's outstanding talents didn't stop with his aggressive batting.

The left-handed all-rounder coming on to bowl in the 21st over. With India at 83 for one, struck three telling blows with his left-arm legspin.

Tendulkar who was going strongly with 65 off 88 balls was beaten by a wide delivery down the leg side and smartly stumped. Then second top scorer of the Indian innings Sanjay Majrekar (25) and Ajay Jadeja (0) were both bowled round their legs attempting to sweep. When Dharmasena picked up the prize wicket of Azharuddin for a 'duck ' hitting back a return catch as the ball stopped, the writing was on the wall for India. Jayasuriya made amends for his batting failure with a sensational spell of 3 for 12 off seven overs, which would have made him the Man of the match. But that award was taken away from him by de Silva who followed his classic knock of 66 off 47 balls with one wicket for three runs and excellent running catch from deep midwicket to dismiss Kapoor, which started the riot.

After the fall of Jayasuriya, Kaluwitharana and Gurusinha for 35 in seventh over, De Silva with 14 fours, most of them hit with perfect timing and Roshan Mahanama who made a patient 58 off 101 balls before retiring hurt with cramps in his legs, made the substantial contribution towards the Sri Lankan total.

Source: The Daily News