Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga with the World Cup trophy © AFP
Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga with the World Cup trophy © AFP

History: Five editions had passed, and the World Cup was yet to have a professional look. They were still organised by host nations and funded by corporate giants, and England still ruled proceedings. They had probably taken for granted that because the 1987 and 1992 World Cups were hosted by the subcontinent and Oceania, they would automatically get a right to host the 1996 edition.

A complacent England offered the Associates £60,000 each, and received a rude shock. India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka offered them £100,000, and England never stood a chance: the World Cup, to be sponsored by Wills, went back to the subcontinent, with Sri Lanka being added as a third host nation.

Money poured in: as Martin Williamson mentioned in ESPNCricinfo, television rights were sold at $14 million; UK rights alone cost Sky Sports £7.5 million; Wills had to pay $12 million to become the official sponsor; and Coca-Cola became the official soft-drinks (?) for $3.8 million. Pepsi rose to the occasion, handpicking a few cricketers (and Dickie Bird) to start a series of television commercials that ran in the subcontinent with the tagline “Pepsi: nothing official about it.”

By this time Zimbabwe had become the ninth team to get Test status, and the organisers took things to the next step by roping in three more teams — Netherlands, UAE, and Kenya. The teams were split into two groups, which were followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals, and the final, to be scheduled at Lahore. Despite there being three more teams, the number of scheduled matches was 37, two less than the 39 in 1992.

Australia and West Indies dropped bombshells before the tournament started, refusing to visit Sri Lanka citing security reasons. Wills sent a combined team of India and Pakistan to play against Sri Lanka at Premadasa. Led by Mohammad Azharuddin, the team featured giants like Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and Saeed Anwar; they triumphed over Sri Lanka under peaceful conditions, but that did not convince West Indies or Australia to tour Sri Lanka.

As expected, the eight major teams made their way to the quarter-final. Sri Lanka were awarded walkovers against Australia and West Indies, which made their job easy. Two of their three appearances witnessed massacres of India at Kotla (a match that forced Manoj Prabhakar to resort to off-breaks and give up his careers) and a One-Day International (ODI) record score of 398 for five against Kenya at Kandy.

Talking of Kenya, they caused probably the greatest upset of the tournament, defeating West Indies by 72 runs thanks to some inspired bowling from Rajab Ali and Maurice Odumbe. West Indies came back strongly, defeating Australia in the last match to qualify for the quarter-final. The other group was a relatively easy one for South Africa, who won all five matches easily.

Gary Kirsten plundered 188 not out against UAE at Rawalpindi — still the highest individual score in a World Cup. The match, however, is remembered more for Sultan Zarawani coming out to bat without a helmet and being smacked on the head almost immediately by Allan Donald. New Zealand created World Cup history by not conceding an extra against South Africa at Faisalabad in a total of 178.

The match between Zimbabwe and Kenya at Patna was washed off after Zimbabwe reached 45 for three in 15.5 overs. The first re-match in the history of the tournament was played the next day: Kenya, after being bowled out for 134, lost the match by five wickets.

Netherlands fielded Nolan Clarke, who remains the oldest to play a World Cup match (he was 47 years 257 days on his last match day, against South Africa at Rawalpindi; nobody else has played after 45). At Lahore, Netherlands and UAE also played the first World Cup match featuring two Associate nations.

A blistering 44-ball 81 from Sanath Jayasuriya sent England packing after the first quarter-final at Faisalabad; India prevailed over Pakistan in an adrenaline-soaked encounter at Chinnaswamy (Wasim missed the match; it was also Javed Miandad’s last international appearance); Brian Lara made South Africa pay the price of dropping Allan Donald at Karachi; and Australia chased down a steep 287 with 13 balls to spare against New Zealand at Chepauk. The last match also witnessed Mark Waugh become the first batsman to score three hundreds in a single edition of the tournament. Jayasuriya was named Man of the Series before the semi-finals started.

After Sri Lanka amassed 251 for eight in the semi-final at Eden Gardens, India were reeling at 120 for eight in 34.1 overs when crowd disruptions ended the match prematurely. Clive Lloyd, the match referee, ruled Sri Lanka the winner. Half an hour’s madness at Mohali saw West Indies go down to Australia: they lost their last eight wickets for 37 runs and lost by five runs.

Australia scored 241 for seven in the final at Lahore and had Sri Lanka under pressure at 23 for two, but Aravinda de Silva followed his three for 42 and two catches with a decisive 107 not out (he scored most runs and took most wickets and catches in the match) to help Sri Lanka clinch the Trophy. Aravinda became the second cricketer to be named Man of the Match in the semi-final and final of the same World Cup.

Classic matches

Michael Slater substitutes for two teams

Allan Donald hits Sultan Zarawani on the head after Gary Kirsten’s record

Kenya shock undercooked West Indies

UAE register maiden ODI victory

Sri Lanka butcher Kenya before Hashan Tillakaratne swaps hands mid-over

Quarter-final: Sanath Jayasuriya’s 44-ball 82 sends shell-shocked England packing

Quarter-final: India knocks out Pakistan following Ajay Jadeja’s sensational assault on Waqar Younis

Quarter-final: Brian Lara delivers knock-out punch to South Africa

Semi-final, India vs Sri Lanka: Eden Gardens brings shame to nation

Semi-final: West Indies choke royally against Australia

Final: Aravinda de Silva helps Sri Lanka to achieve their finest day in cricket

Trivia

– It was the first World Cup hosted by three countries — India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

– It was the first World Cup with 12 countries.

– It was the first World Cup with seven knock-out matches.

– It was the first World Cup where two Associate nations (UAE and Netherlands at Lahore) played against each other.

– New Zealand became the first team to bowl through a complete innings without conceding a single extra (against South Africa at Faisalabad).

– It was the first World Cup where two Associate nations (UAE and Kenya) won matches.

– The match between Zimbabwe and Kenya at Patna was the first World Cup match to be replayed.

– Nothing unique there, but Anil Kumble finished with the most catches in the tournament.

– Mark Waugh became the first person to score three hundreds in the same edition of the World Cup. He also became the first to score hundreds in consecutive innings in the tournament (against Kenya at Visakhapatnam and against India at Wankhede).

– Aravinda became the second person after Mohinder Amarnath (in 1983) to win Man of the Match in both the semi-final and final of the same World Cup.

– Not only did Aravinda score most runs (107 not out) and take most wickets (three) and most catches (two) in the final, he is also the only one to score a hundred, take three wickets, and claim two catches in a single ODI.

Statistics

Most runs: Sachin Tendulkar (523), Mark Waugh (484), Aravinda de Silva (448)

Most wickets: Anil Kumble (15), Waqar Younis (13), Paul Strang (12), Roger Harper (12), Damien Fleming (12), Shane Warne (12)

Highest team score: 398 for 5, Sri Lanka against Kenya, Kandy, March 6