Sanath Jayasuriya (left) and Hashan Tillakaratne shared a 170-run stand for the second wicket © Getty Images
Sanath Jayasuriya (left) and Hashan Tillakaratne celebrate. Both men batted brilliantly, but were outdone later in the day by a Scott Styris assault © Getty Images

The ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 encounter between New Zealand and South Africa at Goodyear Park, Bloemfontein witnessed three outstanding batting performances on February 10, 2003. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at a day when two innings overpowered the value of one.

It is not every day that a Sanath Jayasuriya hundred gets overshadowed. Hashan Tillakaratne, too, played his hand with a perfectly paced innings. Unfortunately for them, though the Man of the Match award went for Jayasuriya, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 match is usually remembered for a valiant onslaught by Scott Styris.

The sides had contrasting attacks: while New Zealand dropped Daniel Vettori for Andre Adams (was it because the Sri Lankan line-up was full of left-handers?), Sri Lanka had Muttiah Muralitharan, backed up by Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva, and Russel Arnold.

The Jayasuriya show

Both sides were playing their first match of the World Cup. Stephen Fleming put New Zealand in, and Shane Bond removed Marvan Atapattu in the sixth over. Jayasuriya did not care: he took two fours and a three off the last three balls of an over from Daryl Tuffey, and hit Bond for four off the next ball.

Jacob Oram was greeted with a boundary; Adams, with three. With the experienced Tillakaratne playing perfect foil, Sri Lanka brought up their 100 in the 19th over, and Jayasuriya went on plundering runs. Fleming brought back Bond; Jayasuriya slashed him over third man to bring up his hundred. The next over, from Styris, went for 15.

Sri Lanka, on 189 for 1 from 34 overs, were looking good for 300. Fleming turned to Nathan Astle’s military-medium. It was a massive risk, for probability was high that he would be blasted away by the Matara Marauder.

Astle struck with his fifth ball: Jayasuriya was trapped LBW for a 125-ball 120, while Adams had Mahela Jayawardene leg-before at the other end. Sri Lanka’s progress was jolted by two wickets in six balls, but they still had a set Tillakaratne to guide a tall batting line-up.

They all went for their shots and lost wickets in a heap: Astle had both Aravinda and Kumar Sangakkara caught. Bond came back to run through Arnold’s defence, and Adams clean bowled Chaminda Vaas. Sri Lanka eventually finished on 272 for 7; Tillakaratne stood tall with an unbeaten 81 from 106 balls.

Scott Styris beefs his way to one of the greatest counterattacking innings in World Cup cricket history © Getty Images
Scott Styris beefs his way to one of the greatest counterattacking innings in World Cup cricket history © Getty Images

Styris stands amidst the ruins

New Zealand were in trouble before they could pronounce Vaas’ full name: Pulasthi Gunaratne had both Fleming and Craig McMillan caught-behind, while Vaas ran out Astle. The three men had scored four between them. The score read 15 for 3 in the sixth over.

However, all was not over: like Sri Lanka, New Zealand batted deep. Both Styris and Chris Cairns decided to target Dilhara Fernando: Cairns hit the fourth ball of Fernando’s first over for four, and Styris hit him over the ropes two balls later.

New Zealand raced to 91 for 3; Styris looked in control with a 57-ball 51; 172 from 168 balls was certainly achievable if they had wickets in hand.

Unfortunately, they could not manage to have wickets in hand as the spinners came on. Aravinda took out Cairns, Lou Vincent fell to Jayasuriya, and the chase received a blow. However, their lower order had enough firepower to throw a challenge.

The onus fell on Styris. He went after both spinners, and fours and sixes started flowing. Chris Harris held one end up, and though 128 from 96 balls was a bit steep (this was 2003), it was certainly not impossible.

Then Jayasuriya recalled his superstar, and he struck: Harris, one of the finest finishers New Zealand has seen, was cleaned up by Murali. Jacob Oram walked out, and gave Styris company as the latter brought up his 100 off 104 balls.

Jacob Oram was stumped off Murali, while Arnold removed Adams. They needed 91 from 50, but Styris had only Tuffey and Bond to accompany him. He decided to give it his all.

Scott Styris, with his broad shoulders, powerful forearms, substantial muscles, and a face resembling that of Michael Douglas, decided to give it his all. Murali was lofted for six; Tuffey fell to Arnold, but Styris did not care. He hit Murali for two more sixes off consecutive balls, ran two, and kept strike with a single. 56 from 30. If only there were wickets in hand…

On came Arnold, and Styris immediately cleared the boundary for another six. He ran two off the next ball. 48 from 28. Then Styris ran out of steam as he holed out to Vaas off Arnold. His 141 had come off 125 balls (Jayasuriya had played exactly the same number of balls for his 120).

New Zealand were bowled out for 225, which meant Styris had scored 62.67 per cent of the innings score. The ratio is the second-highest in history, next to only Andrew Jones’ 63.51 per cent (47 out of 74 all out against Pakistan at Sharjah, 1990). It also remained the highest score at Goodyear Park till Brendan Taylor scored a 135-ball 145 not out in 2010-11.

What followed?

- Both New Zealand and Sri Lanka made it to the Super Sixes.

- Though New Zealand could not make it to the semi-final, Sri Lanka did, but were knocked out by Australia.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 272 for 7 in 50 overs (Sanath Jayasuriya 120, Hashan Tillakaratne 81*; Nathan Astle 3 for 34) beat New Zealand 225 in 45.3 overs (Scott Styris 141; Russel Arnold 3 for 47) by 47 runs.

Man of the Match: Sanath Jayasuriya.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)