The form book had gone awry in this tournament. The South Africans were striving to make their mark after their long hiatus from the international stage. They ran into the overcast, bitterly cold and blustery conditions at the Basin Reserve. Aravinda de Silva put them in to bat. Kepler Wessels took along the hard-hitting Adrian Kuiper to open with him. Kuiper hit 18 in a stand of 27. Peter Kirsten helped Wessels carry the score to 114. But they had taken 35.5 overs to reach there. They were both dismissed at that total. Wessels faced 94 balls for his 40 runs with no boundary.
Clearly, South Africa needed to step on the gas. Instead, they collapsed. The last nine wickets went down for 81 runs in 85 balls. Jonty Rhodes’ belligerent innings was cut short by a superb catch at short extra cover by Sanath Jayasuriya. They were all out for 195 off the final ball of the innings. Left-arm spinner Don Anurasiri and the right-arm slow-medium Arjuna Ranatunga did most of the damage, aided by brilliant fielding. Sri Lanka had a none-too-formidable target to attain, but the conditions were still hostile. Worse, the fiery Allan Donald was waiting to be unleashed.
Sure enough, they ran headlong into trouble. Donald reduced their innings to shambles. Chandika Hathurusinghe fished at the ball and Wessels snapped it up. Asanka Gurusinha was too late in bringing down his bat and was leg-before. Skipper de Silva’s stumps went cartwheeling. None of them reached double figures. Sri Lanka reeling at 35 for three in the ninth over. Donald had grabbed all the wickets.were
In-form Roshan Mahanama and Hashan Tillekeratne retrieved the situation somewhat with a half-century stand. It was only when left-hander Ranatunga started working the ball around that the Sri Lankan innings gained momentum. Mahanama reached his third fifty in as many innings in the tournament. The two put on 67 for the fifth wicket. Mahanama departed for 68 off 121 deliveries with 6 fours. They had taken the score to 154 for five but the overs were running out.
Jayasuriya and Ruwan Kalpage left in the hurry to increase the tempo. Ranatunga held firm but the match was getting extremely tense. Naturally, Donald was entrusted with the ball in the last over. Donald’s aggression was pitted against Ranatunga’s forbearance. The resolute batsman was, however, a battle-hardened and seasoned campaigner who had seen Sri Lanka struggle to try and carve out a niche for themselves in international cricket over the past decade. Having reached the threshold, he was not one to let slip a hard-earned win. He guided the team to a thrilling victory off the penultimate delivery of the innings.
Ranatunga’s unbeaten 64 off 73 balls with six boundaries was an innings of great character. He displayed nerves of steel as well as great skill with the willow.
South Africa: 195 all out (50 overs), Sri Lanka: 198 for 7 wickets (49.5 overs) (CWC 1992)
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