In what had been a disappointing World Cup campaign for India, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid put on a batting show to remember, one that featured both – an unmatched elegance and some outrageous strokeplay – against Sri Lanka in Taunton.
Arjuna Ranatunga’s decision to bowl first on one of the most batsman-friendly grounds in England was surprising, but after Chaminda Vaas’ first over it looked like he might get away with the most audacious of calls. After being hit to the fence by Sadagoppan Ramesh, Vaas got a ball to cut back sharply into the left-hander to take his off stump out. Alas, it would be 269 balls till their next wicket.
It could be put down to undisciplined bowling; Vaas seemingly retreated at the first sign of attack and began bowling by numbers, while fellow opener Eric Upashantha looked like he’d rather be elsewhere. And who could blame him, given the battery of shots that Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly were unloading on the defending champions. The pair seemed to have switched personalities – where Ganguly was elegant and classy, Dravid was barbaric, with a hint of a sneer.
Nine runs were taken off the fourth over, 15 off the sixth; at the end of the 10th over, India had raced to 71/1. The introduction of Muralitharan stemmed the flow of runs from one end, but even he wasn’t safe, going for 60 in his 10 overs, despite his first five only conceding 12.
Dravid led the way, treating any width with contempt, slapping shots through the point region – at times the fielder – and setting the pace. A second successive hundred came at a run-a-ball. Ganguly’s was slower, taking 119 deliveries, but he made up for his relative sluggishness with shots down the ground that were hit so cleanly you could eat off of them.
When Dravid fell, the partnership had reached 318 – the highest in any limited-overs international at the time, and one that still sits second in the all-time list. Ganguly kept going before he departed on 183 (the second highest score in World Cup history at the time), with his last 83 runs coming in only 39 balls. India closed on 373/6, the second highest total in limited-overs internationals at the time, as Sri Lanka embarked on a chase they were never going to finish.
In an attempt to elicit the spirit of the 1996 World Cup, Romesh Kaluwitharana was moved back up the order to partner Sanath Jayasuriya. But when they were both seen off inside five overs, Sri Lanka could only muster 216 – 102 runs short of Rahul and Sourav alone.
First published in August 2013