Specials – ODI cricket in Singapore, Part 1

  In the first of this three-part series, we look back at the first ever One-Day International (ODI) tournament to be hosted by Singapore. The subcontinental trio of India, Pakistan and newly-crowned World Cup champions Sri Lanka came together to contest the Singer Cup, a week-long round-robin competition played on the Singapore Cricket Club ground at The Padang from April 1-7, 1996.

Pakistan v Sri Lanka

  Sri Lanka had reduced Pakistan to 50/3 in the opening match after Arjuna Ranatunga elected to field, when rain stopped play for good. A fresh game began the next day, which ended up being a run-filled encounter with plenty of records. Pakistan, under Aamer Sohail, won the toss this time and invited Sri Lanka to bat. What ensued was mayhem, as the marauding Sanath Jayasuriya took centre stage.

  Jayasuriya, player of the tournament at the 1996 World Cup, pulverised the Pakistani bowlers with a record-breaking century from just 48 balls. He galloped from 50 to 100 in a mere 16 balls to surpass India’s Mohammad Azharuddin, who hit a 62-ball ton against New Zealand at Vadodara in 1988-89. The belligerent left-handed opener shared in a second-wicket stand of 156 with Asanka Gurusinha.

Sanath Jayasuriya

             Sanath Jayasuriya was in top form at the Singer Cup in Singapore, and was rightly named the player of the tournament (source – Getty Images)

  Jayasuriya smashed 134 in 65 balls, with 11 fours and a record 11 sixes, and took a record 30 (29 plus a wide) off an over from Sohail. Sri Lanka slid to 245/6, before Kumar Dharmasena (51) lifted the total to 349/9. Pakistan made a bold reply through Saleem Malik (68) and Inzamam-ul-Haq (67), but it was a tall ask. The innings ended at 315 in 49.4 overs, leading to an aggregate of 664 – another record.

India v Sri Lanka

  This game marked the international debut of Rahul Dravid, who would go on to become one of India’s finest cricketers. India were bowled out for 199 in the 46th over after Azharuddin opted to bat, and that they could reach a respectable total owed a lot to an eighth-wicket stand worth 55 between opener Navjot Sidhu (94) and Javagal Srinath (28*). Sidhu held the fort, even as wickets tumbled around him.

  Srinath (4/35) rattled Sri Lanka in his opening spell, reducing the score to 23/4, which later became 53/5. Roshan Mahanama (59) and Hashan Tillekaratne (42) put the innings back on track by adding 92 for the sixth wicket, but left-arm spinner Venkatapathy Raju (3/26) removed both the batsmen to put Sri Lanka on the back foot again. India held their nerve, edging a 12-run win with 11 balls to spare.

India v Pakistan

  A seventh ODI century from Sachin Tendulkar (100 in 111 balls, with nine fours and a six) seemed set to guide India to a substantial total after they were put into bat by Sohail, but off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq (3/38) spearheaded a disciplined Pakistani display with the ball in the closing overs. Rain intervened after 47.1 overs, thus bringing a premature end to the Indian innings with the score reading 226/8.

  Pakistan’s rain-revised target was 187 from 33 overs. Openers Sohail and Saeed Anwar rose to the occasion, belting a stand of 144 in 20 overs, until the latter fell for a blitzing 49-ball 74. Sohail stayed till the end, remaining unbeaten on 76 to see Pakistan home by eight wickets with a good five overs left. All three teams finished with one win each, but India failed to reach the final on the basis of net run rate.

The Final

  Pakistan prevailed in an extraordinary summit clash to win the title. Ranatunga’s decision to field first looked justified at the halfway stage, as Pakistan were dismissed for a modest 215 in 48.3 overs. Ijaz Ahmed top-scored with 51, but apart from that, there was little of note. Jayasuriya then played an even more devastating innings than the one in the league game, getting the chase off to a red-hot start.

  Five days after scoring what was then the fastest ODI hundred, Jayasuriya creamed the fastest ODI fifty off 17 balls, one ball less than what Australia’s Simon O’Donnell took against Sri Lanka at Sharjah in 1989-90. Astonishingly, when Pakistan got their first wicket, that of Romesh Kaluwitharana for a 11-ball duck, the score was 70 in the sixth over, with Jayasuriya cruising at 66 and eyeing another record hundred.

  To Pakistan’s relief, Jayasuriya was dismissed for 76 from 28 balls, with eight fours and five sixes. At this point, Sri Lanka were 96/2 in the ninth over. However, Saqlain (3/46) induced a stunning  collapse to put Sri Lanka under pressure. A few umpiring errors did not aid the islanders’ cause either. Pacer Ata-ur-Rehman (3/26) finished it off by snaring three wickets in five balls, condemning Sri Lanka to 172 in 32.5 overs.

Player of the Tournament: Sanath Jayasuriya (217 runs at an average of 72.33 and a strike rate of 212.74)

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