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The Electronic Telegraph Rampant Sri Lanka awarded match as crowd vent anger
Christopher Martin-Jenkins in Calcutta - 14 March 1996

Sri Lanka (251-8) beat India (120-8)

Indian batting collapse sparks riot and referee Lloyd pulls teams off field

THE worst fears of this World Cup, threatened by violence from the start, were realised here yesterday. In the first semi-final at Eden Gardens, Sri Lanka, having outplayed, but not yet quite defeated India, were awarded their deserved place in the final by default because of a crowd riot.

Plastic bottles, fruit and stones were thrown onto the field from all areas of the huge stands, where a world record crowd for a cricket match of over 100,000 were packed in like sardines on an evening of sultry heat.

India had lost seven wickets for 22 runs in 70 balls and, needing a further 132 in 15.5 overs with only two wickets left, were effectively beaten when dismay turned to anger and unruliness.

Calcutta showed its dark side to millions watching on television and the citizens who put up with so much deprivation in their lives can turn rapidly to revenge when cricket, the opium of these particular masses, goes against them.

The match referee, Clive Lloyd, was critical of security arrangements for the game. He said the policing was inadequate and will be writing two reports on the game. One will go to Pilcom, the organisers of the World Cup, the other to the International Cricket Council.

``I shall detail what went wrong and make certain recommendations. It's up to the ICC whether they want to institute an inquiry, but the council's chief executive David Richards was here and saw for himself. As to whether the Indian cricket authorities take action, that is a matter for them.''

Jagmohan Dalmiya, the Pilcom convenor-secretary, said: ``It's unbelievable. This will weaken not only the case of Calcutta for hosting future international matches, but it will also tarnish the image of the city in the sporting world.''

Major occasions at Eden Gardens are rare: this was only the 14th one-day inter- national held here. Having begged and scrambled for tickets over months of eager anticipation, many of the spectators had expected too much of the home side's batting after Sri Lanka, unwisely put into bat by Mohammad Azharuddin, had set India 252 to win on a pitch taking increasingly sharp spin.

Sachin Tendulkar played superbly to keep them in sight of their target, but when he was unluckily stumped after overbalancing, having scored 65 out of 98 with nine fours of the highest quality, a rapid rot ensued against the left-arm spin of Sanath Jayasuriya and the off-breaks of Muralitharan, Dharmasena and the man of the match, Aravinda de Silva.

Tendulkar's dismissal had been received in a silence quiet enough for a library, but by the time that the eighth wicket fell in the 35th over, despair turned suddenly to disorder despite the huge police presence.

Fires were lit from any available combustible materials, presenting no serious danger to life because of the concrete seats but, taken in conjunction with the missiles being thrown onto the ground, they made continuation of the game impossible.

Referee Lloyd ordered the players off, initially for 15 minutes, to allow tempers to cool, but they did not and further play was ruled out. Absurdly, a sort of awards ceremony was conducted instead, but the sight of Vinod Kambli leaving the field weeping summed up the sad end to a match which had started so well for India.

For a glorious hour de Silva, a genius tuned to perfect pitch for the big occasion, took on India by himself

A deafening roar had greeted Javagal Srinath's first ball to Jayasuriya; two more thunderous explosions of joy followed as Sri Lanka lost their dashing opening batsmen from the second and fourth balls of the match.

Kaluwitharana and Jayasuriya were caught at third man from sliced shots, the former cutting, the latter driving. Such rash abandon would have been called lunacy before this World Cup. So far had Sri Lanka raised expectations in the first 15 overs, however, that everyone understood.

Nor did they panic. For a glorious hour de Silva, a genius tuned to perfect pitch for the big occasion, took on India by himself. He hit the ball smoothly through the gaps with the full face of the bat, steely wrists allowing him to place it where he wanted. He uses the bat, as Neville Cardus once wrote of Reggie Spooner, as a lady might use her fan.

There were 11 fours in his fifty made from only 32 balls, the majority rifled through extra cover. Gurusinha first admired from the other end and then, trying to play a shot himself, pulled gently to mid-on.

Shrewdly, Arjuna Ranatunga held himself back and promoted Roshan Mahanama, the orthodox player with the instincts of an opener. It not only kept a sober presence at one end, but also maintained the left-hand/right-hand com- bination.

That remained the case when de Silva, after three more fours, was unexpectedly bowled off the inside edge by Anil Kumble. While Mahanama, not yet affected by dehydration in the Turkishbath at- mosphere, picked up runs at a decent rate, Ranatunga deftly used the pace of the ball, three times tickling Jadeja's slow-medium dobbers past the wicketkeeper's left glove.

Tendulkar, however, was not so easy to nurdle and nick. Mixing his pace from slow to medium, he bowled straight. Mahanama reached the point of exhaustion and was allowed a runner; Ranatunga, having commanded his crease like a little Napoleon, was given out lbw, half forward as the ball clipped the top of his pad. India more or less had control in the field after that.

India had bowled better as the innings proceeded, the tall Prasad making particularly good use of his slower ball. They probably thought that they had restricted Sri Lanka's powerful batting sufficiently. Navjot Sidhu, however, was caught by the lithe Jarasuriya as he forced a ball from Vaas to cover in the second over.

Masterly though Tendulkar was, in the tense hour that followed it was clear from the struggles of Sanjay Manjrekar to make headway against an attack most astutely handled by Ranatunga that they might not make it. Their rapid decline from 98 for two in the 23rd over was bad enough. The reaction of the crowd was worse: spiteful, shameful and, simply, stupid.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk