Without diminishing Jayasuriya’s efforts however, it was Aravinda de Silva who was the real star of the tournament for Sri Lanka.
de Silva may have come third in the leading run-scorer list behind Sachin Tendulkar and Mark Waugh – having played a game less, but his 448 runs came at an average of 89.60 and at a blistering strike rate of 107.69
Impressive enough, but it was de Silva’s man of the match performances in the semi-final and final that raised his tournament to the heroic level.
In the semi-final against India, de Silva came to the crease with his side 1 for 2, but that didn’t stop him compiling a swashbuckling 66 from 47 balls to steal back the initiative and silence the Eden Gardens crowd.
This was a mere hors d’oeuvre to his performance in the final where his two catches and 3/42 restricted Australia to 241/7. Then came de Silva’s sumptious desert. Arriving at the wicket with Sri Lanka tottering at 23/2, de Silva proceeded to make an imperious 107 not out to make his side champions of the world.
de Silva is one of Sri Lanka’s greatest ever players with over 6,000 Test runs, in excess of 9,000 ODI runs and 31 international hundreds, but the 1996 World Cup was unquestionably his finest heroic hour.
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