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Was Sri Lanka’s 2014 squad the best T20 World Cup-winning team?

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Roar Guru
15th October, 2021
5

In the history of the men’s T20 World Cup, we have witnessed five different winners in six editions.

Having binge watched highlights while Sydney was in lockdown for 100-plus days, Sri Lanka’s 2014 T20 World Cup-winning team impressed me the most. Here is a recap on how each game went for the Sri Lankan’s and what made them stand out so much.

Sri Lanka versus South Africa, Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chattogram
Having spent the past few months in Bangladesh following a bilateral series versus Bangladesh and the 2014 Asia Cup, Sri Lanka were the best prepared team leading up to the tournament. However, Sri Lanka’s senior statesmen failed to fire with the bat.

Despite Kusal Perera (61 off 40) and Angelo Mathews (43 off 32) being among the runs, the Sri Lankans could only muster up 7-165; about 15 short of par for a day T20 game in Chattogram.

With a top four of Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy and AB de Villiers, South Africa were in the driver’s seat on a road. But none of the South African batsmen got the big score like Kusal Perera did as the Sri Lankan bowlers bowled tightly and were holding their nerve.

With two overs to go, the South Africans needed 19 runs with six wickets in hand. But some outstanding death bowling by Nuwan Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga ensured Sri Lanka won by five runs.

Lasith Malinga gets ready to bowl for Sri Lanka

(Michael Bradley/AFP/Getty Images)

On a flat wicket, Sri Lanka’s bowling quartet of Kulasekara, Malinga, Ajantha Mendis and Sachithra Senanayake did not try anything fancy and just chipped away with wickets to keep themselves in the game. Despite a shaky start with the bat, Sri Lanka were up and running.

Sri Lanka versus Netherlands, Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chattogram
There is not much to talk about this game apart from how ruthless Sri Lanka were with the ball. Bowling first, Sri Lanka gave the Dutch boys absolutely nothing. Tom Cooper (16 off 18) was the only Dutch batter to reach double figures as they were bowled out for 39.

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Sri Lanka faced no troubles in the run chase, losing a wicket en route to chasing 40 in five overs. The demolition by the bowlers ensured Sri Lanka’s net run rate went up highly and they were one win away from securing a semi-final berth.

Sri Lanka versus England, Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chattogram
Batting first, Sri Lanka reached a massive total of 4-189 thanks to 50s from Tillakaratne Dilshan (55 off 47) and Mahela Jayawardene (89* off 51). But with the dew set to come in the second innings, the game was far from over.

Despite losing two wickets in the first over, a blistering 116* off 64 by Alex Hales and 57 off 38 by Eoin Morgan saw England chase down 190 by six wickets and four balls to spare. Sri Lanka bowled well, but the freakish individual brilliance by Hales saw England chase down 190.

But there were massive questions on whether Ajantha Mendis would remain in the line-up following a hammering in the match. Skipper Dinesh Chandimal received a one-match suspension following a slow over rate fine, meaning Lasith Malinga would lead in the final game.

Could Sri Lanka overcome the sudden criticism and pressure they were facing before their final group game versus New Zealand?

Sri Lankan fans.

(Photo by Jono Searle – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Sri Lanka versus New Zealand, Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chattogram
The equation was simple for Sri Lanka. Win and face the West Indies in the semi-final. Lose and you are out of the competition.

As New Zealand won the toss and elected to field first, everything seemed to go right for the Black Caps. Sri Lanka’s batsmen struggled on a two-paced wicket, as they huffed and puffed their way to being bowled out for 119. Could Malinga rile up his boys to achieve the improbable considering they were at least 20 short?

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New Zealand started well, getting to 18 for no loss after three overs. But then Malinga introduced his trump card in Rangana Herath. Herath bowled two maidens in the power play while taking three wickets as New Zealand fell to 4-23 after six overs.

Despite a fighting 42 from Kane Williamson, New Zealand showed the world how not to play spin as they crashed to 60 all out with Herath taking 5-3 off 3.3 overs. As for Sri Lanka, they found a hint of assistance for the bowlers and exploited it en route to a semi-final against the West Indies.

Sri Lanka versus the West Indies, Shere Bangla National Stadium, Dhaka
In a rematch of the 2012 T20 World Cup final, there were many players from the Sri Lankan squad that would have still been reeling from losing the final in Colombo two years prior.

Batting first, Kusal Perera scored a quick-fire 26 before the West Indies brought the game back in their favour with a few quick wickets. As the wicket began to grip in the latter half of the Sri Lankan innings, 40s from Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne saw Sri Lanka post 6-160.

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Bar a 19-ball 30 from Dwayne Bravo, no one else from the West Indies’ batters got going, mostly due to highly disciplined bowling by the Sri Lankans. With the West Indies 4-80 in the 14th over, the heavens opened up as Sri Lanka won by 27 runs on D/L method.

While both sides would have wanted a full game to decide the winner, Sri Lanka would have most likely defended 160 considering the stranglehold they had put on the West Indies’ batters. Progressing to the final, they would face India, the side they lost the 2011 ICC World Cup final to.

Sri Lanka versus India, Shere Bangla National Stadium, Dhaka
In the final, Sri Lanka won the toss and elect to bowl. It was a huge surprise, considering the spinners India had in their line-up and a slow wicket.

Despite losing an early wicket, India were in the front seat after 16 overs with 2-111 on the board and Virat Kohli smoking it to all parts of Dhaka. What happened next was breathtaking for Sri Lanka.

Senanayake, Malinga and Kulasekara nailed their death-bowling skills, conceding only 19 runs and taking two wickets. There was nothing much India could do as it was perfect death-overs bowling by the Sri Lankans – especially not conceding a boundary for the last 27 deliveries.

Lasith Malinga celebrates a wicket.

(Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Chasing 131 for victory, Sri Lanka were in a spot of bother at 4-78 in the 13th over and a rampaging Indian spin attack. Despite Angelo Mathews being in good nick, Thisara Perera was promoted to number six to break open the small chase. And the move worked. Perera scored a 14-ball 23* and alongside Kumar Sangakkara (52* off 35), Sri Lanka won by six wickets with 15 balls to spare.

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After 1996, Sri Lanka had to wait 18 years to win another ICC trophy. The 2014 T20 World Cup ensured a generation of Sri Lankan legends in Dilshan, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Malinga, Kulasekara and Herath did not end their careers trophy-less.

And they did it in style. While none of their players were in the top five wicket takers or run scorers in the tournament, Sri Lanka had a collective bunch of players who hunted in packs to take down their opposition.

Bar some individual brilliance by Alex Hales, which led to an England victory, no other opposition came close to taking on Sri Lanka for the whole contest.

The batsmen stepped up when the situation arose, while the bowlers hardly had an off day. In the history of the men’s ICC T20 World Cup, there has not been a dominant champion team as good or better than Sri Lanka’s 2014 team.

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