Memories of 1996

March 28, 2011

It was almost like a deja-vu. Almost, but not quite. The discrepancies could be explained away by the fact that one match happened 15 years before the second. The similarities were startling though.

Almost exactly fifteen years ago – give or take a couple of weeks – England and Sri Lanka met in the quarter-finals of a World Cup being hosted in the sub-continent. Sri Lanka were the clear favourites going into the match, but it was still not expected that they would hand out a thumping like the one they eventually did to England.

England made 235/8 – having won the toss and elected to bat – and even in 1996, it looked inadequate. Sri Lanka romped to victory in 40.4 overs with their flamboyant opener playing the starring role with a couple of wickets and a power-packed knock. What Sanath Jayasuriya did in the match in 1996 [Link], Tillakaratne Dilshan did in 2011.

In many ways, this win by Sri Lanka was much more impressive than the 1996 one. Then, England as a limited-overs side were almost negligible. Now they are the World T20 champions and a serious force to reckon with. England’s best bowler then was Darren Gough – and as good as he was, he wasn’t ranked amongst the world’s top 2-3 bowlers the way Graeme Swann is now in both Tests and ODIs.

In 1996, Sri Lanka made an inept England look like novices. In this match, Sri Lanka did that to a rather stronger England. If it wasn’t for the innumerable (and uncharacteristic) dropped catches, it would have been even more of a rout. There was a clear plan, and it was stuck to, reaping rich dividends. After losing the toss, Sri Lanka’s spinners strangled England’s batsmen and only a stand between Eoin Morgan and Jonathan Trott pushed the run-rate along. It was vital for Sri Lanka to rein in the run-rate given the Premadasa’s poor chasing history, and Sri Lanka did that beautifully.

When the time came to chase, Dilshan and Tharanga showed England exactly how spin bowling ought to be played. As far as outplaying opponents goes – this win was some notches above the 1996 one.

Given Sri Lanka’s dismantling of England, they must be overwhelming favourites to get past New Zealand in the semi-final reach the Wankhede on 2nd April 2011. And of course, everyone knows what happened in the finals in 1996 after Sri Lanka had annihilated England in the quarter-finals.

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