Wills World Cup, semi-final


Sri Lanka won by default after a crowd riot. Toss: India.

Sri Lanka played brilliantly after a disastrous first over to achieve an unbeatable advantage. But the headlines were devoted to the riot which ended the match. Enraged by an Indian collapse of seven wickets for 22, some home supporters threw bottles on to the outfield and set fire to the seating. Referee Clive Lloyd took the teams off for 15 minutes, attempted a restart and then awarded Sri Lanka the game by default. Nobody questioned the result; India needed a near-impossible 132 from 15.5 overs, with only two wickets standing. But the Indian board smarted at the word default and asked for Sri Lanka to be declared winners on run-rate.

The authorities - and many home fans - were intensely embarrassed by the trouble. Even as the match was abandoned, one Indian raised a banner reading "Congratulation [sic] Sri Lanka - we are sorry". Some took out apologetic advertisements in the Sri Lankan press. But, like the Pakistani fans four days before, others raged against their unsuccessful players and a guard was put on captain Azharuddin's house.

Azharuddin took much criticism for fielding first. He knew Sri Lanka preferred to chase, as they did to beat India in Delhi, but critics argued that he should play to his team's strengths, not his opponents' weaknesses. There were few objections, however, when Kaluwitharana and Jayasuriya, Sri Lanka's celebrated pinch-hitters, both hit straight to third man in the first four balls of the game. Gurusinha soon followed, but De Silva determinedly stuck to the strategy of scoring as heavily as possible early on: he hit 22 off Prasad's first two overs. Though he was bowled in the 15th over, De Silva had scored 66, with 14 fours, off 47 balls, and Sri Lanka already had 85. Ranatunga and Mahanama (who eventually succumbed to cramp) kept up a steady five an over.

A target of 252 was not necessarily beyond India's batting heroes, however. Tendulkar was stumped and, seven balls later, Azharuddin gave Dharmasena a return catch, the 100,000 crowd was stunned into silence. That did not last, as the collapse fuelled their fury, and no play was possible after the loss of Kapoor to De Silva's running catch in the deep.

Yet the presentation ceremony went ahead as if nothing untoward had occurred, and, against the smoking backdrop, Tony Greig conducted post-match interviews so normal they were bizarre. A day later, Jayasuriya was named Most Valued Player of the Tournament, an award clinched by his three for 12 in seven overs, in addition to two catches and a run-out.

Man of the Match: P. A. De Silva.

© John Wisden & Co