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2003 World Cup in South Africa, Sri Lanka World Cup History


The 1975 World Cup saw Sri Lanka play their first official One-Day International. Although inexperienced and handicapped by their lack of training, they possessed rich batting resources with the likes of Anura Tennekoon, Michael Tissera, Bandula Warnapura and Duleep Mendis. Ranjit Fernando, Sri Lanka's leading television commentator, kept wicket and opened the batting. They begun the tour well with victories in their warm-up games but the balance of their bowling attack - two seamers and three spinners - was not suited to conditions. The tournament disastrously as they were bowled out for 86 by Clive Lloyd's West Indians on a cold, overcast day at Old Trafford, but they bounced back against the Australians, scoring 276 against Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson in a high-scoring encounter at the Oval, before being thrashed by 192 runs by Pakistan in their final game.


Sri Lanka were once again strong in the batting department in 1979, although the selectors controversially elected to leave out Michael Tissera and Ranjit Fernando. They won their first official One-Day International when they defeating India by 47 runs at Old Trafford with Sidath Wettimuny, Duleep Mendis and the stylish Roy Dias all scoring half centuries. They also beat Canada and if they had defeated New Zealand then they would have qualified for the next round. Unfortunately, they lost by nine wickets. Tennekoon, once again the captain, retired immediately after the tournament.


The 1983 tournament was Sri Lanka's first World Cup after becoming being given test status and the side went into the tournament with greater experience under their belt after series against England, Pakistan, India, New Zealand and Australia. Coached by Sir Garfield Sobers they possessed greater firepower in the bowling department. Asantha de Mel led the attack taking 17 wickets at 15.59, which included five-fors against Pakistan and New Zealand. Vinothen John - one of the early proponents of reverse swing - was also useful with a similar bowling action to Sarfraz Nawaz. Only win was against New Zealand. Ranjan Madugalle, the ICC's current chief match referee, batted in the middle order. Arjuna Ranatunga's first tournament.


Sri Lanka lost all six group games in the 1987 World Cup against West Indies, Pakistan and England. Led by experienced middle order batsman Duleep Mendis, they had strong batting line-up on paper with a youthful Aravinda de Silva batting at number seven, and nearly pulled off wins against Pakistan at Hyderabad and West Indies at Kanpur. But the bowling was weak and the batsmen were forced to chase mammoth scores, most notably when Viv Richards crashed 181 not out from 125 balls at Karachi to leave the West Indies with an incredible 360 for four after 50 overs.


By 1992 Sri Lanka were establishing the building blocks of their World Cup winning side. Led by Aravinda de Silva, they pulled off surprise victories against Zimbabwe, when they successfully chased 312, and South Africa in the first meeting between the two sides. Nevertheless, they finished the lowest of the Test nations. The batting was powered by Arjuna Ranatunga, who scored 262 runs at 52.40, which included match-winning half centuries against Zimbabwe (88*) and South Africa (64*), and Roshan Mahanama, who scored 246 runs at 35.14. Sanath Jayasuriya impressed with his lithe fielding in the covers but failed to feature with in the middle order.


Sri Lanka's 1996 World Cup triumph was as unexpected as it was spectacular. For most cricket fans the uninhibited strokeplay of Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwithrana in their role as "pinch-hitters" remains the abiding memory of a tournament otherwise marred by logistical problems, security concerns, crowd violence and a mass of irrelevant group games. Arjuna Ranatunga's side were deserving winners with victories against England, India and Australia in the knockout stages. A deep and powerful batting line-up was the key with middle order batsman Aravinda de Silva the star with four man of the match awards. Their fielding was brilliant and the bowling attack was ashamedly spin based, revolving around off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.


Sri Lanka retained the backbone of their 1996 side, but did play like world champions during the 1999 World Cup tournament in England. Indeed, it proved a deeply unhappy experience. Factionalism undermined any attempt to foster team spirit and they struggled to adapt to the damp and cold conditions experienced during the first round. Eventually, they limped out of the first round on a depressing, drizzling day at Southampton. Proved to be the end of the road for skipper Arjuna Ranatunga, who was axed from the one-day team immediately afterwards. Roshan Mahanama, Hashan Tillakaratne, Aravinda de Silva and Chandika Hathurasingha were also sacked as the selectors looked forward to building a side capable of winning the 2003 tournament.