The whole of India was buzzing with anticipation as India had shown a ruthless streak to dismiss Pakistan at Bangalore in the quarter-finals. Now, it was time for the semi-finals, the first of which would be between India and the tournament favourites at this stage Sri Lanka. It was Sri Lanka’s first semi-final at the Cricket World Cup while this was India’s third.
India’s win over Pakistan by 39 runs at Bangalore had come thanks to Navjot Singh Sidhu’s 93 while Sri Lanka continued their unbeaten run in the tournament by beating England in the quarter-finals by five wickets thanks to Sanath Jayasuriya’s 44-ball knock of 82.
However, this wouldn’t be the first time the two teams locked horns in the tournament as both teams met in the group stage at Delhi with Sri Lanka winning the match by six wickets. The venue for the first semi-final was the Eden Gardens and even though Sri Lanka looked strong, nobody could have written off India, especially after their victory over Pakistan who had a relatively more successful group stage campaign than the Indians.
Arvinda De Silva and Roshan Mahanama to the rescue
A crowd of around 110,000 people had gathered to witness this monumental clash on this very day 21 years back. Sri Lanka were sent into bat by Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin after winning the toss.
The Islanders were off to the worst possible start after Javagal Srinath dismissed openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana in the very first over before dismissing Asanka Gurusinha to put Sri Lanka in a delicate position at 35/3.
At this point, Sri Lanka’s middle order cannon Aravinda de Silva began to play aggressively while his partner on the other end Roshan Mahanama was defending his wicket. The duo added 50 runs for the fourth wicket before De Silva was bowled by Kumble for 66 off just 47 deliveries.
Then, Mahanama along with captain Arjuna Ranatunga built an innings-rescuing partnership of 83 for the fifth wicket before Ranatunga got dismissed by Sachin Tendulkar shortly after which, Mahanama left the field injured. Some crucial chippings from Hashan Tillakaratne and Chaminda Vaas who scored 32 and 23 respectively, took Sri Lanka to a challenging total of 251/8 in their 50 overs.
Tendulkar’s innings and the drastic downfall
In reply, India lost their quarter-final hero Sidhu early to Chaminda Vaas. Then, Sachin Tendulkar and Sanjay Manjrekar gave some momentum to the Indian innings with Tendulkar hitting one boundary after another as he scored his third fifty of the tournament. The duo added 90 for the second wicket before disaster struck.
Tendulkar was stumped by Romesh Kaluwitharana off Sanath Jayasuriya for 65 off 88 deliveries and his wicket triggered a massive downfall in the Indian batting as Manjrekar and Mohammad Azharuddin soon followed suit and India were reduced to 101/4. Javagal Srinath was sent in at number 6 to increase the scoring rate and he began well by scoring a boundary but was run out soon after scoring only 6.
Ajay Jadeja and Nayan Mongia both got dismissed cheaply and India were struggling at 120/7 when Ashish Kapoor came in to bat. The crowd in the meantime, were hugely disappointed in the way the Indian batsmen were biting the dust after playing so well in the quarter-finals and once Ashish Kapoor got dismissed off his very first delivery, the crowd started to get frustrated.
All hell breaks lose from the stands
Anil Kumble had just joined Vinod Kambli on the field when the crowd began to throw different objects onto the field including cans, bottles, plastic bags, whatever they could get hold of.
Arjuna Ranatunga told the umpires about this and the Sri Lankans refused to take the field until and unless the crowd would settle down. The match was halted but the drama persisted even when match referee and two-time World Cup winning captain Clive Lloyd entered the field. After a few minutes, seeing that the situation was getting out of hand, Lloyd awarded the match to the Sri Lankans by default and India were knocked out of the tournament.
Tears began to roll down the eyes of Vinod Kambli as he left the field along with Kumble because he believed he could have inspired India to the final. Aravinda de Silva was adjudged the man of the match for his 47-ball 66 and was also adjudged the man of the match in the final for his brilliant century which helped Sri Lanka to their first World Cup win.
Since their semi-final, India have gone on to reach the World Cup final twice, winning once and losing once and have beaten Sri Lanka in three out of four meetings at the World Cup but their semi-final defeat to Sri Lanka 21 years back will always be remembered by the Indian fans for all the wrong reasons.