Before the dust could settle from the enthrallment of the 12th edition of the IPL, the cricket fans from all over the world are geared up for the 50-over ICC World Cup which is set to commence in England and Wales in a week’s time.
After a break of two weeks, the fans are in for a roller-coaster ride yet again featuring sleepless nights, triumphs and ecstasy, followed by turmoils and heartbreaks. Though the 50-over matches are not as exciting as T20 matches, it is after all the World Cup which comes only once in four years. As a lot of pride is attached to a World Cup win, even the infrequent fans start following the World Cup meticulously.
In a World Cup, for any team, the semi-finals would be the most crucial match. For the favourites, it is like achieving the first and foremost goal of reaching the semi-finals. For the dark horses, it is achieving the unexpected. For the rest, it is time to return home empty-handed.
The teams who have managed to reach the semi-finals shall put their best foot forward to stay alive in the tournament and to proceed to the all-important final. That kind of challenging situation often produces the best out of some of the class players.
As a result, one would always find the semi-finals going down to the wire as compared to the finals. After reaching the final, some teams become self-contented with their efforts and might not possess the final fling to the goal. It happened with Pakistan in 1999, India in 2003 and New Zealand in 2015.
In this article, let us revisit four of the best cameo knocks played in the different editions of the World Cup. Again, some of these knocks cannot be strictly defined as cameos in terms of the number of runs scored. But they are still cameos in terms of the pace of the innings and the very little time the batsmen had to react to an adverse situation.
#4 Aravinda De Silva – Sri Lanka vs India, 1996
India met Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata, in the semi-finals of World Cup 1996. After their fabulous win against the then-defending champions Pakistan in the quarter-finals, Indians were a spent lot by the time they reached Kolkata.
To make matters worse, Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin at the toss decided to play to the weaknesses of the opponent rather than to the strengths of his own team. To nullify Sri Lanka’s strength in chasing, Azhar put Sri Lanka in to bat on a tricky wicket.
For a moment, it looked like Azhar’s decision was going to work in India’s favour as Javagal Srinath dismissed both the big-hitting openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana in the very first over. That brought Aravinda de Silva to the wicket with Sri Lanka reeling at 1 for 2.
De Silva was in sublime form on that day, executing perfect cricket strokes. Not even a single shot was hit in the air as he showed his class that day. Before anyone could realize, he reached his 50 off 32 balls with 11 fours.
By the time he got out to Anil Kumble, De Silva made 66 off 47 balls with 14 fours at a strike rate of 140. He scored 66 in his team’s total of 85 for 4. A truly remarkable innings under pressure which enabled Sri Lanka to reach the final where De Silva scored a hundred while chasing to enable Sri Lanka to win the World Cup for the first time.