Twenty-one years after Sri Lanka had played their first ODI, they were competing for the format's biggest prize against the daunting Australia. Their captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, had said after Australia refused to play their match in Colombo due to security concerns after a terrorist attack in the lead-up to the 1996 World Cup, "We want the Australians in the final." Ranatunga got what he wanted, and in cool conditions in Lahore, in the first day-night game played in Pakistan, he chose to bowl hoping the conditions helped his seamers early on, and keeping in mind his side's success chasing in the tournament.
His plan did not quite work out, with Chaminda Vaas pitching short too often and Australia cruising to 137 for 1 by the 27th over. Step in Aravinda de Silva, Sri Lanka's all-round hero on the day. He began by having Mark Taylor caught while sweeping to end a century second-wicket stand, before bowling the set Ricky Ponting - he cut and missed. That first five-over spell of de Silva's cost Sri Lanka just 19 runs. He came back to get Ian Healy as well, and also snaffled catches from Steve Waugh and Stuart Law as Australia were kept to 241 for 7.
Sri Lanka lost their openers, Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana early, but then Australia began to lose the plot as the dew, and Asanka Gurusinha and de Silva, settled in. Law grassed Gurusinha on 53 at deep midwicket, three tougher chances were not grabbed, and spinners Shane Warne and Mark Waugh just could not get a grip on the damp ball. And Gurusinha and de Silva took full advantage. Gurusinha flat-batted Warne for four to long-on and for six over long-off off consecutive balls, and proved to be the ideal partner to de Silva, who classily drove his first ball towards long-on for three - he never let up that momentum, even while putting together a smart innings. In the middle overs, he just pushed the spinners around and dispatched only the bad deliveries.
De Silva found another able partner in Ranatunga, and eventually Sri Lanka needed 51 off the last ten overs. Victory was sealed by the pair in the 47th over - only the first time in six attempts till then that the side batting second had won the World Cup final. De Silva hundred's, a knock which was a lesson in application, was the third ton in a World Cup final, after Clive Lloyd's in 1975 and Viv Richards' in 1979.