Cometh the hour, cometh the man – Arjuna Ranatunga gallant knock helped Sri Lanka to script a great victory against South Africa…..
The Sri Lanka vs South Africa game in the 1992 World Cup is still being remembered for the heroics of Arjuna Ranatunga. At Basin Reserve in Wellington, the left-hander stood up against the mighty Protea pace attack and saw his team through to a famous win with an unbeaten 64 during a stiff run-chase.
On March 2, 1992 these two teams met for the first time in international cricket. Both these sides came to that World Cup, aiming to make their presence felt. South Africa, after being omitted from the international circuit for 22 long years, were desperate to show what they are capable of at the world stage. Whereas Sri Lanka, despite being a Test team, was still not a force to reckon with. Hence, the Islanders were looking to enhance their reputation as a cricketing nation.
Before taking on each other in the 14th encounter of the 1992 World Cup, both teams had played two games at the league stages and had mixed fortunes.
The Proteas beat Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in their first game but lost to New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland. On the other hand, at New Plymouth Sri Lanka chased down 313 against Zimbabwe in their opening match and then went on to lose to the Kiwis in Hamilton.
Under these circumstances, South Africa and Sri Lanka locked horns with other in their third match of the competition. Aravinda de Silva won the toss and decided to field first as after the Zimbabwe fixture, he felt comfortable in chasing. Also, the wicket was expected to do a bit in the morning and batting second seemed the right way forward.
The Sri Lankan medium pacers bowled well on that sluggish wicket. Initially, the South African batsmen were allowed any free passage and their progress was considerably slow. It took more than 33 overs for them to cross the 100-run mark. Only and Peter Kirsten (47) and Kepler Wessels (40) managed to cross the 40-run mark.
However, towards the backend of the innings, the Proteas lost the plot completely. From 114 for 2, they were bowled out for 195. And on a track which is ideal for medium-pace, Ranatunga with his medium pace, took 2 for 26.
During the run chase, Brian McMillan and Allan Donald made early inroads. And at 87 for 4 in the 29th over, the Sri Lanka innings was tottering when Ranatunga came to the crease to join Roshan Mahanama.
Right from the start of his innings, Ranatunga stamped his authority on the proceedings. He drove Donald for a couple of boundaries and that provided early momentum in his innings.
The Mahanama-Ranatunga partnership added 67 runs before the latter lost his wicket, caught behind off McMillan. That was the kind of start South Africa were looking for as they were going for an all-out attack. At that point, the Sri Lankans were left with no option but to attack the mainstream bowlers. But in that process, Sanath Jayasuriya lost his wicket. Sri Lanka were 168 for 6, still requiring 27 runs.
From that point, Ranatunga took over. He was taking those quick doubles to keep the strike. When he reached his well-composed half-century, Sri Lanka needed 22 off 20.
In the next over Ranatunga hit Donald for a boundary and pendulum swung towards Sri Lanka. But soon he lost the strike.
There were 7 runs were required off the last over which to be bowled by Donald.
The first ball was outside the off-stump, and Ranatunga missed it. But at the non-striker’s end Ruwan Kalpage was run-out. With 7 to win, 5 balls to go, Champaka Ramanayake joined Ranatunga, who lofted the next ball for boundary through the mid-wicket region. But in the very next ball he lost the strike.
With 2 to score and 3 balls to go, tail-ender on strike, the field came in and Ramanayake played a dot ball.
The ball was full and straight, probably an attempted yorker. Ramanayake somehow connected and the ball went between point and cover and ran away into the outfield. The third-man was getting around the boundary, but there was enough time for the duo to complete a couple. The ball rolled into the fence and the Sri Lankan contingent of the crowd at the stands was exhilarated with joy.