Sri Lanka overcame the odds to win the final of the cricket World Cup in thrilling style yesterday, beating Australia by seven wickets at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
The man of the match was Aravinda de Silva, who took 3 wickets for 42 runs in the Australian innings and followed it up with a superb unbeaten century. The captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, had the honour of scoring the winning boundary.
For a country that until before the tournament was regarded as an international makeweight, victory completed a massive leap in status.
Although they co-hosted the tournament with India and Pakistan, the odds against Sri Lanka winning were as high as 33-1 a few months ago.
It was a victory for the attacking, imaginative cricket that marked Sri Lanka's performances at every stage of the tournament.
That it was Australia who were beaten in the final made the victory all the more satisfying: the Australians and the West Indies had refused to play their group match in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, following bombings by Tamil Tiger separatists a few days before the World Cup began.
The World Cup was a personal triumph for the Sri Lankan coach, Davenell Whatmore, who was born in Sri Lanka but brought up in Australia.
His appointment last June has been an important factor in transforming the Sri Lankans, a talented group of individuals, into a compact, world- beating team.
"Sri Lanka were the better side on the day and they deserve to be World Cup champions," said Mark Taylor, the Australian captain.
Ranatunga said: "It's a great day for us. We said we wanted to be a world force by the year 2000 and, in terms of one-day cricket, we've achieved that four years early."
Leading article, page 14
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