Sri Lanka prepared to throw the country’s biggest party since the end of its bloody civil war after beating India by six wickets to win the ICC World Twenty20 final, officials said yesterday.
Cricket officials said arrangements were being made for a ticker-tape parade in central Colombo today after the victory sparked an outpouring of jubilation in a nation that has been at war for much of its post-independence history.
The triumph on Sunday night in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka came 18 years after Sri Lanka won the 50-over World Cup, which was followed by a series of defeats in the finals of major tournaments.
An official source said Sri Lankan authorities tried to fly the national team home yesterday, but logistical issues prevented an early celebration.
“We arranged two charter flights to take fans to Dhaka for the finals and there are no seats on board those aircraft for the team to return,” a cricket official said.
Sri Lanka Cricket, the country’s governing body for cricket, said it planned to hold a press conference today before driving the team in an open top bus to downtown Colombo where tens of thousands of fans are to give them a heroes’ welcome.
The team are also due to call on Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, officials said.
Newspapers hailed the victory as a “fitting farewell” to a golden generation of Sri Lanka cricketers, including former skippers Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, who have already announced their retirement from T20 cricket.
Pundits also joked that the win was only made possible by Rajapakse’s decision to stay away from the final after apparently “jinxing” the team in previous tournaments.
Sangakkara was the top-scorer in Sunday’s final with a quickfire 52, while Jayawardene weighed in with a run-a-ball 24.
For India, who posted a below-par 130-4, despite Virat Kohli’s breezy 77, the defeat in Dhaka denied the reigning 50-over World Cup and Champions Trophy winners a record limited-over treble.
Put into bat in the final at Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, India lost opener Ajinkya Rahane in the second over, before Kohli added 60 runs with Rohit Sharma (29) to lay the foundations for a late assault that failed to materialize.
Yuvraj Singh struggled to find the middle of the bat, using up 21 balls to score just 11, which coupled with Sri Lanka’s brilliant death bowling restricted India to a total that left their bowlers little margin for error.
Kohli, the tournament’s top scorer and set in the crease by then, faced just eight balls in the last four overs before running himself out in the final delivery of the innings after a 58-ball knock that included four sixes and five boundaries.
Sri Lanka restricted India to just 19 runs off the last four overs, despite having eight wickets in hand.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said his side lost the plot in those final overs and Sangakkara said he could not recall watching a better death bowling display.
“That really set up the win. To restrict a side like that, we needed something special and our bowlers produced it,” he said.