KARACHI: Sri Lanka may have not enjoyed the best of times in recent years but they still can draw inspiration from past few World Cup exploits against England. They have emerged victorious in four of the last five fixtures they played with England in the mega event.
In the early World Cup years England were always too professional for the amateur Sri Lanka by chalking up five successive wins in encounters between them. However, the very first time these teams played in the double-league 1983 tournament, Sri Lanka put up a gallant fight at the County Ground in Taunton. After a lissome David Gower century (130 off 120 balls) had propelled England to 333-9 in 60 overs, Sri Lanka batted spiritedly to reach 286 all out in 58 overs with the wickets being shared by the pace of Graham Dilley (4-45) and off-spinner Vic Marks (5-39 in 12 overs).
England won the return game at Headingley convincing by nine wickets after the islanders folded up for 136.
In the similar format competition played in the subcontinent in the autumn of 1987, England continued their dominance with comfortable victories at Peshawar (138 runs) and Pune (eight wickets).
The story was repeated during the 1992 World Cup in the only One-day International to be played at the Eastern Oval in Ballarat — a city in the Australian state of Victoria — where Graham Gooch’s men won by 106 runs.
Sri Lanka finally broke England’s winning sequence during their triumphant title-winning campaign in 1996. In the first quarter-final at Faisalabad’s Iqbal Stadium, England made 235-8 in 50 overs. But Sri Lanka made light meal of that score by sealing a five-wicket success with 56 deliveries to spare thanks mainly to a spanking 44-ball knock of 82 from explosive opener Sanath Jayasuriya while ending England’s run of five straight World Cup semi-finals.
England extracted sweet revenge three years later when they crushed the then defending world champions by eight wickets in the opening match of the 1999 event at Lord’s.
After an eight-year gap since England failed to qualify for the Super Six stage of the 2003 World Cup in southern Africa, came a thrilling Super Eights game at the Sri Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium in North Sound (Antigua). Sri Lanka, who went onto make that 2007 final, defended a modest total of 235-8 when paceman Dilhara Fernando delivered a brilliant last over, conceding only nine runs, as England lost by a hair-rising margin two runs.
England were simply horrible in the next two World Cup editions. In the 2011 last-eight clash a crowd of 32,000 at the R. Premadasa Stadium witnessed a mindboggling Sri Lanka victory by 10 wickets after Andrew Strauss-led team had posted 229-6. Upul Tharanga (102 off 122 balls) and man-of-the-match Tillakaratne Dilshan (108 off 115) collected 231 in just 39.3 overs.
Another pair of Sri Lankan batsmen demolished England bowling once again during the 2015 World Cup pool match at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington. Joe Root as at his elegant best with a 108-ball knock of 121 as England managed a competitive 309-6 from 59 overs.
Sri Lanka then romped home by reaching 312-1 in 47.2 overs on the back of classy knocks from opener Lahiru Thirimanne (139 off 143 balls) and the redoubtable Kumar Sangakkara (117 off only 86 deliveries) as they shared an unbroken partnership of 212 in 28.2 overs after Dilshan (44) had added 100 for the first wicket with Thirimanne.
June 11, 1983 — Taunton, England won by 47 runs
June 20, 1983 — Headingley, England won by nine wickets
Oct 17, 1987 — Peshawar, England won by 138 runs
Oct 30, 1987 — Pune, England won by eight wickets
March 9, 1992 — Ballarat, England won by 106 runs
March 9, 1996 — Faisalabad, Sri Lanka won by five wickets
May 14, 1999 — Lord’s, England won by eight wickets
April 4, 2007 — North Sound, Sri Lanka won by two runs
March 26, 2011 — Colombo, Sri Lanka won by 10 wickets
March 1, 2015 — Wellington (Westpac), Sri Lanka won by nine wickets.
Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2019