SK Flashback: Inspired Asantha de Mel carries the day for Sri Lanka in a shattering Kiwi defeat in the 1983 World Cup
Medium-pacer Asantha de Mel often came up with fine spells for Sri Lanka, and on his day could trouble even the best batsmen. Here at Derby, de Mel was devastating and was primarily responsible for inflicting a morale-shattering three-wicket defeat on the Kiwis. The fallout of this was that New Zealand failed to make it to the semi-finals, as they further slumped to an eleven-run loss to Pakistan in an exciting last match two days later.
De Mel did not let the New Zealand batsmen settle down. In next to no time he sent back two of the best openers the Kiwis ever had. He had Glenn Turner caught in the covers by Roy Dias with only eight runs on the board. At the same score, he induced the left-handed John Wright to snick one, which was snapped up by Guy de Alwis behind the sticks. At 8 for two, New Zealand were reeling.
The One-day game is generally batsman-friendly, with the bowlers allowed only a limited number of overs. Consequently, often when a bowler is in the middle of a devastating spell, he has to be taken off and preserved for a later burst. So, de Mel too had to be removed from the attack. Even so, New Zealand spluttered as paceman Rumesh Ratnayake and experienced leg-spinner Somachandra de Silva made short work of a middle-order which, nevertheless, tried gamely to restore parity.
Then it was time for de Mel to return to the attack. At 91 for six, New Zealand were not happily placed. De Mel only compounded their misery. He removed wicketkeeper Warren Lees and then claimed Richard Hadlee and Lance Cairns, all caught. These were three useful batsmen who could have proved dangerous had they been allowed to settle in. De Mel had taken five wickets and New Zealand seemed doomed at 116 for nine.
The last-wicket pair of Martin Snedden and Ewan Chatfield battled on. They put on 65 runs before Snedden was run out for 40 with ten deliveries remaining. A target of 182 was not a challenging one, although Sri Lanka lost a steady stream of wickets once Brendon Kuruppu and Roy Dias had put on 80 for the third wicket. Dias eventually saw the Lankans to a three-wicket win off the penultimate delivery of the 53rd over.
But it was Asantha de Mel who won the day for his country. He first knocked off the top of the New Zealand batting, and later snuffed almost all life out of the innings. He finished with five for 32 off his 12 overs. His comrades-in-arms, Ratnayake and de Silva too bowled admirably. Ratnayake had figures of two for 18 off 11 overs, and de Silva took two for 11 off 12 overs.
This was de Mel's second five-wicket haul in succession, having taken five for 39 against Pakistan. On that day Sri Lanka lost narrowly. Here he ensured a memorable win. The Sri Lankans were beginning to strain at the leash, and it was players like de Mel who triggered their rise in international cricket.
New Zealand: 181 all out (58.2 overs), Sri Lanka: 184 for 7 wickets (52.5 overs) (CWC 1983)