When Aravinda de Silva powered Sri Lanka to a near 400 total in World Cup

Aravinda de Silva © Getty Images

On March 6, 1996, Sri Lanka battered a hapless Kenyan side, amassing 398 runs in 50 overs, the highest in limited-overs cricket at the time. Quite a few records were broken during the course of the game, mostly through the stylish Aravinda de Silva, who scored a staggering 145. Karthik Parimal looks back at the eventful World Cup fixture.

It was not a keenly-anticipated contest; in sporting terms, a dead-rubber. The Sri Lankans were already through to the quarter-finals of the 1996 Wills World Cup, whereas the Kenyans were still on a high following their stunning victory over West Indies in the previous game. They bowled West Indies out for 93 while defending a modest total of 166. Yet, when Maurice Odumbe won the toss against Sri Lanka in the next fixture, he surprisingly elected to field first. Perhaps a reinvigorated faith in his bowlers led to this decision, but what followed was absolute carnage from the blades of the Sri Lankan batsmen.

The Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana show

Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana’s modus operandi throughout that World Cup was to dent the opening bowlers’ morale by taking maximum advantage of the field restrictions in the first 15 overs — a concept that wasn’t new but which was widely used after the duo had shown the impact it could have on the outcome of a limited-overs game. It was known that a frail Kenyan attack would be severely tested, their performance against West Indies a few days earlier notwithstanding, but the disdain with which Martin Suji, and Rajab Ali —  hero of the previous match — were treated was incredible. Reduced boundaries didn’t help their cause either.

Jayasuriya and Kaluwaitharana scored 83 in just 6.4 overs, a blitzkrieg that left both seamers dumbfounded, plundering nine boundaries and five sixes, making it the quickest start in a World Cup fixture.

Enter Aravinda de Silva

After the fireworks, the openers fell in quick succession, and at 88 for two, Aravinda de Silva and Asanka Gurusinha occupied the crease. While the latter dropped anchor at one end, Aravinda provided no respite to the bowlers. Any joy that followed the fall of first two wickets was quickly doused.

He cut and drove at ease, and the subtle changes of pace by the Kenyan bowlers were also easily dealt with. Misfields in the field contributed too. Although the scoring rate was pulled back a little, Arvinda went berserk post the half way stage of the innings. He reached his hundred in 92 balls, and in the process became the first person to score a century in the World Cup for Sri Lanka. Gurusinha, meanwhile, played a hushed innings of 84. When he finally fell, the partnership was worth 184 runs — highest for Sri Lanka for any wicket in One-Day Internationals (ODI). In hindsight, the Kenyans would have hoped they didn’t dismiss him, since what followed next was ominous.

A captain’s knock

Walking in to bat at 271 for three, Arjuna Ranatunga would have relished the prospect of setting a big total. With 12 overs and seven wickets in hand, there was little that could go wrong. He pummelled the Kenyan bowlers, sparing none. His reached fifty in just 29 deliveries, yet another World Cup record, and, understandably, seldom indulged in running between the wickets. He carved the seamers all around the ground and deftly swept the spinners too. When the innings ended, he remained unbeaten on 75 off 40 deliveries, and 58 of those runs were scored in boundaries.

Aravinda, meanwhile, was on course to break one more record, and when he was dismissed on 145, he had surpassed Jayasuriya as the highest ever scorer for Sri Lanka in ODIs. His innings comprised 14 boundaries and five sixes. During the innings, both Aravinda and Ranatunga became the first Sri Lankans to cross the 5,000-run mark in the limited-overs format. Sri Lanka finished on 398 for five; the highest-ever score by a team in the One-Day arena at the time, previous best being 363 by England, in 55 overs though, against Pakistan in 1992.

The Kenyans were flabbergasted, and even though their total of 254 in reply was decent, it was miles off the target. Only Steve Tikolo could offer resistance with the bat, scoring 96 before being bamboozled by off-spinner Kumar Dharmasena. This was to be their last game in the World Cup, and although they would have left with fond memories of victory over a formidable West Indian unit, this defeat to the home side at Kandy would have somewhat dampened their spirits.

Brief scores: Sri Lanka 398 for 5 (Asanka Gurusinha 84, Aravinda de Silva 145, Arjuna Ranatunga 75*; Tito Odumbe 2 for 34) beat Kenya 254 for 7 (Steve Tikolo 96, Hitesh Modi 41; Arjuna Ranatunga 2 for 31) by 144 runs.

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)