Asanka Gurusinha (left), Arjuna Ranatunga (centre) and Romesh Kaluwitharana © Getty Images
On August 19, 1992, Asanka Gurusinha, Arjuna Ranatunga and Romesh Kaluwitharana slammed centuries on a single day of a Test between Sri Lanka and Australia at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) in Colombo. Prakash Govindasreenivasan recounts that monumental feat.
Allan Border’s Australia travelled to Sri Lanka for a three-match Test series for the first time in 1992. Their previous tour to the Asian island nation had been 10 years ago in 1982 when the two sides played just one Test which the visitors won.
On what seemed like a damp wicket and overcast conditions on Day One (Aug 17 1992), Sri Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga won the toss and put the visitors in. Medium pacer Chandika Hathurasingha picked up four important wickets to trigger Australia’s collapse on the first day of the tour. By the close of play, they had wound up for just 256. In what can be termed as ‘natural’ home advantage, the skies cleared up on the following day, allowing the Sri Lankan batsmen to dig in and lay the foundation for a huge lead.
Triple delight on Day Three
The third day began with Asanka Gurusinha and Ranatunga at the crease with the former on 87 and the latter on 69. The home side were already on the front foot, after having taken a lead of 11 runs at the end of second day’s play.
It appeared as if the new pair of contact lenses had spurred Gurusinha to see the ball much better than before and frustrate the Australian bowlers. He gave nothing away as Border’s men were made to toil. One hundred and two runs came in the first session, with the fourth-wicket partnership going up to 230 runs. In the process, both the batsmen brought up their centuries.
It was a great display of batting as two contrasting styles of play came together and put on a magnificent show. With 11 fours and three sixes, Ranatunga raced away to a stroke-filled century from 149 deliveries, while Gurusinha’s monk-like concentration helped him bring up his 265-ball ton. Australia might have thought they pulled it back when off-break bowler Greg Matthews struck twice in two deliveries to get rid of Ranatunga for 127 and Marvan Atapattu for a first-ball duck at the stroke of lunch.
When play resumed, Sri Lanka were on 367 for five. Gurusinha was still going strong on 119 and had 23-year-old debutant Romesh Kaluwitharana for company. The hosts took the honours in the next session as well, with the new man showing great confidence for a first-timer. He and Gurusinha added 93 runs before the latter’s innings was brought to an end by Mike Whitney.
Kaluwitharana, however, stayed on and continued his assault. His pacy knock of 132 came from just 158 deliveries. It was an innings laced with as many as 26 boundaries. The youngster saw no harm in taking the attack to two of Australia’s in-form bowlers — Craig McDermott and Shane Warne. Between the two, they gave away 16 fours to the pint-sized Sri Lankan who was in the side as a specialist wicketkeeper. Long before Adam Gilchrist could set a precedent as the counter-attacking batsman who came down the order to take on the tired bowlers, Kaluwitharana had already done it.
Sri Lanka declared on 547 for eight, having taken a massive lead of 291 runs. At this stage, most of the home fans would have gone to bed with the idea of seeing their side romp to an innings victory over a strong opposition on the following day.
Border had described the game as the “greatest heist since the Great Train robbery of 1963.” After the devastating blow via three centuries and a lead of 291, most would have expected a big-margin victory. A defeat, in such circumstances, was unfathomable. However, Australia pulled it off.
Border’s men responded well on the following day and scored 367 runs. When they were bowled out for 471 on the final day, a victory was still within the hosts’ reach. They needed 181 runs to take a Test match that belonged to them for major portions. Yet, a collapse was triggered. Aravinda de Silva’s reckless attempt to go over mid-on cost the hosts dearly. Until that point, he was on 37 from 32 deliveries and was paving the way for a Sri Lanka win. However, he ended up throwing his wicket away to leave the hosts at 127 for three.
Having dismissed de Silva, the prospect of spearheading a collapse spurred Craig McDermott on as he dismissed Ranatunga for a first-ball duck. Greg Matthews then got the ball to grip and turn sharply and that caused a few problems for the Sri Lankans. Before they could realise, he had sent back the next three batsmen with the score still at 147. Warne, who had gone wicketless in his 22 overs in the first innings, was brought back into the attack. He repaid the captain’s faith by cleaning up the Sri Lankan tail to help his side to narrow 16-run victory.
Australia 256 (Ian Healy 66*, Mark Taylor 42; Chandika Hathurasingha 4 for 66) and 471 (David Boon 68, Greg Matthews 64; Don Anurasiri 4 for 127) beat Sri Lanka 547 for 8 decl. (Asanka Gurusinha 137, Arjuna Ranatunga 127, Romesh Kaluwitharana 132; Greg Matthews 3 for 98) and 164 (Roshan Mahanama 39; Greg Matthews 4 for 76) by 16 runs.
(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is a reporter with CricketCountry. His Twitter handle is @PrakashG_89)