Former Sri Lankan cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya was among the batsmen in 1990s who might’ve been perfect for the T20 format. On April 7, 1996, the opener who had already redefined the role in ODIs, gave a masterclass during the finals of the tri-nation Singer Cup in Singapore against Pakistan. It was a time when ODIs were still played in white uniforms and with the red ball despite coloured kits and the white ball being used in the 1992 World Cup.
Pakistan was up against Sri Lanka after beating India in the previous match. Batting first, Pakistan posted a fighting total of 215, aided by Ijaz Ahmed’s half-century. Pakistan needed early wickets and were banking on opening bowlers Waqar Younis and Aaqib Javed.
But Jayasuriya negated that plan. He showed absolutely no regard for the short ball or the deliveries swinging away, despite two fielders in the deep. He went after everything from ball one, taking even Younis by surprise.
The opener flashed his blade at everything outside the off-stump or carved the field with a cover drive. He pulled the short balls and fuller deliveries were hit over mid-on for sixes, or were worked through the gaps on the leg side.
Pakistan skipper Aamer Sohail found himself running out of the ideas. He introduced first-change bowler Ata-ur-Rahman, but it did not work. Then he introduced spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, but that also failed.
On the first ball of the fifth over, Jayasuriya broke the record for the then-fastest fifty in ODI cricket. He reached the mark off just 17 deliveries with a six of Mushtaq. The previous record was held by Simon O’Donnell, who scored 50 from just 18 deliveries against Sri Lanka in 1990.
While Jayasuriya’s assault continued, his opening partner Romesh Kaluwitharna was yet to get off the mark. He was bowled by Javed on the first ball of the sixth over for a duck, while the opening partnership was on 70.
In the end, it was Younis who got Jayasuriya’s wicket. By then, the Sri Lankan had scored 76 runs off just 28 deliveries, which included eight fours and five sixes, at a strike rate of 271.42. He scored more than 80 per cent of his runs in boundaries, making full use of the field restrictions.
However, in spite of Jayasuriya’s assault, Sri Lanka lost their way in the run chase. Asanka Gurusinha was dismissed trying to attack. Skipper Arjuna Ranatunga was dismissed for a duck. Hashan Tillakaratne scored 33 runs from 65 balls, but the lower order collapsed. Sri Lanka were all out for 172, and lost the final by 43 runs.
But Jayasuriya’s record from the day stood for the next 19 years. Eventually, South Africa’s AB de Villiers broke it by scoring 50 in just 16 balls, on his way to a destructive 149 against West Indies. Later that year, Kusal Perera and Martin Guptill equalled the Sri Lankan’s record.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines