Records by Sri Lankans at Cricket World Cups

Kumar Sangakkara batting against Chris Woakes (England) in Wellington, New Zealand, during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup (© Ranjan Mellawa)

Kumar Sangakkara batting against Chris Woakes (England) in Wellington, New Zealand, during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup (© Ranjan Mellawa).


Ranjan Mellawa hopes Sri Lanka will be inspired by their past performances in world tournaments and achieve something special at the next World Cup.

As the Cricket World Cup draws nearer, let’s revisit some record-breaking Sri Lankan individual and team performances in previous tournaments.

Sri Lanka was the first Associate team to defeat a Full Member at the World Cup when they beat India by 47 runs in 1979.

When Sri Lanka confronted New Zealand in 1983, an aggregate 29 maiden overs were bowled by both sides, the most in a single World Cup match. In the quiet that ensued, Sri Lanka bowlers delivered 17 of those and helped their team win the 60-over match by 3 wickets, with 43 balls to spare, in a ‘battle of the maidens’ as it were!

In 1992, Sri Lanka chased down a target of over 300 runs against Zimbabwe, thereby becoming the first team to do so in an ODI.

The first team to bat second and win a World Cup final was when Sri Lanka beat Australia in 1996.

He scored a masterful, unbeaten 107 runs, took 3 wickets for 49 and held 2 catches; making Aravinda de Silva’s display in 1996, the greatest all-round performance in a World Cup final, to date.

Bowlers Chaminda Vaas and Eric Upashantha were in a generous mood, as they conceded 84 and 80 runs respectively against India in Sri Lanka’s disastrous 1999 edition. It was the first instance that two bowlers went for 80+ in a One Day International (ODI).

However, Vaas redeemed some of the lost prestige in the next World Cup in 2003 taking four wickets in five balls against Bangladesh. His haul included wickets with the first three balls of the match, the first time in a ODI.

Also in 2003, Sri Lanka dismissed Canada for 36 runs, which was the lowest innings score in a World Cup. It also resulted in the lowest match aggregate of 73, for the fall of 11 wickets, arguably the narrowest margin between runs and wickets, in World Cups.

In the 2007 World Cup, South Africa seemed cruising to victory, needing just 4 runs at 206-5, before ‘Slinga’ Malinga set a new World Cup and a ODI record with 4 wickets from 4 balls. South Africa, on a knife-edge, held their nerve and won by one wicket. Malinga was the first to take 2 hat-tricks in World Cups, with another against Kenya in 2011. At 23.8, he also has the best strike rate for a bowler with a minimum of 1,000 balls in World Cup matches.

Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralidaran have taken 23 wickets each in 2003 and 2007 respectively, the most for an Asian bowler in a single World Cup. Muralidaran’s aggregate of 68 wickets in World Cups is the highest for a spinner and also for an Asian bowler.

In 2011 against Zimbabwe, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga put on 282 runs to record the highest opening stand in World Cups. Also, Dilshan’s 144 and Tharanga’s 133, was the first instance in World Cup history in which both openers scored centuries in an innings.

In the same tournament, the same pair enabled Sri Lanka to score 231 for no loss, chasing England’s 229 for 6 in 50 overs. It was the highest successful chase without the loss of a single wicket in a World Cup match.

Dilshan and Tharanga thus became the only pair to score two 200-plus runs in opening partnerships at World Cups. In fact no other batting pair has shared more than one 200-plus partnership in the same World Cup tournament.

Tillakaratne Dilshan’s 144 and 4 for 4 against Zimbabwe in 2011 was the best all-round performance in a World Cup game.

Mahela Jayawardena is the only batsman to have scored centuries in a semi-final and a final of a World Cup. In 2007 he scored a match winning, unbeaten 115 against New Zealand in the semi-final and 103* against India in the final of the 2011 World Cup.

A record 38 centuries were scored in the 2015 tournament, making it the highest in a single tournament, with Sri Lanka batsmen scoring the most – 8.

As of 2015, six centuries have been scored in the finals, of which five resulted in victories. Only Mahela Jayawardena’s unconquered, serene 103 in 2011 wasn’t good enough to lift the trophy for his team; nevertheless, maybe class is determined by a different benchmark?

Adam Gilchrist holds the record for the highest score in a final, 149 against Sri Lanka at the 2007 World Cup. His ‘half-a–squash ball in the glove’ aided century off 72 balls, is the fastest and the most controversial in a World Cup final.

The highest match aggregate of 688 runs for 18 wickets was scored down under in the Australia v Sri Lanka game, World Cup 2015.

With four consecutive centuries in 2015, Kumar Sangakkara has the distinction of scoring the most centuries in a single World Cup. Behind the sticks, his aggregate of 54 dismissals, which includes the most stumpings (13), are the highest in World Cups, awesome individual records to hold and behold!

Though Sri Lanka has lost 35 matches in all, the most for a team that has won a World Cup, they have a history of punching above their weight in major cricket tournaments. Can they achieve something special in 2019? The weather and Sri Lanka’s performances go hand-in-hand when it comes to predictions; your guess is as good as mine or your neighbour’s!

A summary:


This is a revised version of an article that Ranjan wrote for the March 2019 issue of the LIVING magazine.

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