'We dominated for over four days but lost in half a session'

Sri Lanka were a home stretch away from their first Test win over Australia. And only a young legspinner with a bowling average of over 300 stood in their way

Interviews by Nagraj Gollapudi and Andrew Fernando |

Colombo 1992 was where Shane Warne's legend began

Colombo 1992 was where Shane Warne's legend began © Getty Images

1992. SSC, Colombo. The final day of the first Test of Australia's tour of Sri Lanka. The hosts were set a target of 181 in 58 overs. At 127 for 2, they were on the cusp of their first Test win against Australia. Allan Border, Australia's captain, had won only one Test in the subcontinent in his career. He threw the ball to rookie Shane Warne, playing his third Test - a match that proceeded to turn so comprehensively, Border called it the "greatest heist since the Great Train Robbery".

Arjuna Ranatunga won the toss and asked Border to bat. It was Sri Lanka's first home Test since New Zealand's 1987 tour was aborted after a bomb blast at the Pettah bus station in the heart of Colombo. Going into the first Test, Sri Lanka were positive, having won the first ODI two days before.

Asanka Gurusinha 1992-93 was a big season, with many international sides coming to Sri Lanka. Australia was a tough tour, so to win the first ODI was a shot in the arm for us. There was no pace in the wicket and it assisted seam movement.

Australia's first innings was underwhelming. Their batsmen fell to Sri Lanka's medium-pace bowlers. If not for Ian Healy's grit, patience and ability to bat with the tail, Australia would have ended up with far less than 256.

Chandika Hathurusingha It was my fourth Test match. A few overs before the lunch break, Arjuna asked me to bowl. I forced a nick off Mark Taylor but it was dropped in the slips. Once we were back in the dressing room, Ranjan Madugalle, one of the Sri Lankan selectors, jokingly said that perhaps something was wrong with the pitch, considering I had managed to get an edge off a top-order batsman. I said that if I got another opportunity, I will show what I can do.

We used Grays Cavalier balls in those days, which had a prominent seam, and I got some good movement. After the break Arjuna gave me the ball, which was a surprise. A bigger one was when I got four wickets immediately. David Boon tried to drive through the empty cover region but was caught by [Champaka] Ramanayake at wide mid-off. Dean Jones did not offer a shot and was lbw when the ball seamed back in. Mark Waugh was caught at the wicket when the ball moved the other way. It wasn't just the batsmen who were clueless. Even I was not sure which way the ball was moving.

Before the series we had studied videos of Kapil Dev getting Border bowled. Border had a peculiar grip and was predominantly a bottom-handed batsman. I got this ball to come back in and it bowled him. I still talk about that wicket.

Gurusinha Australia were not used to the ball coming at 120-125kph and seaming as well. Hathurusingha, Ramanayake were not really quick bowlers. They were really good seamers in Sri Lankan conditions. The Aussies thought it would be the slow, low track so prevalent in those times in the subcontinent. But the SSC had reasonable bounce, especially if you pitched it up.

Gurusinha, Ranatunga and Romesh Kaluwitharana made centuries - the first time three Sri Lankan batsmen had done so in the same innings - and Sri Lanka went past the 500-run mark for the first time in their 38 Tests.

Gurusinha I knew my strength was driving off the front foot in the "v". And if it was short, I could pull too. What the Australians tried was to hit the deck very hard. But that was not a good plan. It gave us time to settle down. My instructions were to bat throughout and support my partner. I had a good stand with Arjuna, and then Kalu came and smashed it around.

Ranatunga was especially severe on Warne, taking him for 29 runs from three overs. Gurusinha, who batted for nine hours, added 230 with Ranatunga in what was at the time Sri Lanka's second-highest partnership for any wicket.

"Deano ran over and said, "Well done, mate. You're only averaging 160 now." I tried to laugh but couldn't. I was too nervous" Shane Warne

Gurusinha Ranatunga was smart and told me he would go after Shane Warne, who was playing one of his first matches. We knew if we went after Warnie, Australia would be one bowler short.

I always enjoyed batting with Arjuna. We had had a 240-run partnership against Pakistan when Imran Khan was the captain, in the 1986 series.

Eventually Greg Matthews got the better of Ranatunga and a nervous Marvan Atapattu found himself on a hat-trick of ducks just before lunch on the third morning. Atapattu had been padded up for 266 minutes and was out first ball. The break for lunch played on the nerves of another youngster, Kaluwitharana, who was making his Test debut.

Romesh Kaluwitharana Immediately after those two wickets fell, they stopped the game for 45 minutes for lunch. Marvan was really upset because it was his third duck in a row and he hadn't yet scored a run in Tests. He was almost crying. I was sitting there for 45 minutes, waiting to go out to play my first Test innings. More than that, I also now had a hat-trick to avoid.

I thought: if the ball is straight, I'll play it, and if it's away from the stumps, I'll leave it. I was definitely nervous, but I ended up hitting 26 fours. I really enjoyed stepping out to the spinners to turn it into a full toss and hitting it in the gap. That's what I had done in a lot club matches. The spinners tossed the ball up to try to get more turn, so that made it easier for me.

Sri Lanka got a lead of 291. On the rest day, Border challenged his team to show "guts and determination". And they did. Every Australian batsman got to double figures in the second innings. Kaluwitharana dropped top scorer Boon when he was on 10, and Matthews battled to score a half-century.

Kaluwitharana It was a massive waste to have dropped that catch, because it came right at me. From the first time I played with Rama [Ramanayake] to the last time, he was someone that I found very difficult to keep to. He moves the ball in the air a lot - even after it passes the batsman, it can move metres to one side. Those days, I didn't watch the ball as well as I should have. You can't do that with Rama - you have to watch it until the last second.

It was not just the dropped catch. Sri Lanka had conceded 58 extras to go with the 32 in the first innings. But no one gave it much thought at the time. Sri Lanka's target was only 181.

Hathurusingha We were all excited. We had been on the field for close to one and a half days, because Australia had batted for a long time. An over before tea, Warne came to bowl. Gurusinha wanted me to take strike, so he said he would take a single. First ball against Warne, he drove to mid-on and started for a tight run. Tom Moody's throw beat me before I could make the crease and I was run out.

The match entered its final session. Sri Lanka were still favourites. Aravinda de Silva, known as Mad Max for his impromptu assaults with the bat, had hit seven boundaries in his 32-ball 37. But 54 runs short of the win, de Silva played a shot that proved fatal to Sri Lanka chances of creating history. Border tore off his hat, and his sunglassess and ran back some 20 yards to take a match-turning catch.

At 2 for 125, Tubby [Mark Taylor] at slip had whispered to me,

At 2 for 125, Tubby [Mark Taylor] at slip had whispered to me, "What can we do to turn this tour around?" © Shaun Botterill/Allsport

Gurusinha When Ari [de Silva] came in, I told him we had just another 50-odd runs to get in the final session, so let's play normally. We agreed we did not need to bat through the whole session, because we did not need to feel the pressure. Suddenly he hit [Craig] McDermott. Border ran back but dropped him as the ball hit his hand and bounced off. We ran two. The very next ball Aravinda played the same shot and was caught this time. Arjuna came in and drove straight to Border at mid-off, Marvan was bowled, and then Kalu got out. I was left to deal with the situation with the bowlers.

Dean Jones They were 127 for 2, chasing 181. Game over. Then Aravinda ran down the pitch and tried to hit McDermott over the top. Can you believe it he did in a Test match?

Ian Healy At 2 for 125, Tubby [Mark Taylor] at slip had whispered to me, "What can we do to turn this tour around?" Two runs later, AB took a stunning catch, running backward from mid-on, to dismiss Aravinda de Silva and the Test began to spin.

Border regrouped his men and asked his bowlers, especially Warne, to summon their best.

Gurusinha I don't think it was inexperience on our part. The pressure some of our batsmen were under was immense. Marvan was on the verge of another duck, so that was not a good time for him to walk in. I saw the pressure on Kalu's face when he played a half-hearted stroke. Those four wickets in quick succession made me realise I had to go for it. But the message coming from the dressing room was for me to hang around. I actually wanted to go after the bowling, especially when Warnie came around.

It was a remarkable comeback by Australia. Sri Lanka's last eight wickets fell for 37 runs. Matthews took four wickets, but it was Warne's three that clinched the win. It was a career-turning performance for Warne, who had taken only one wicket for 335 runs in Test cricket till then.

Shane Warne We needed four wickets and they needed less than 30 to win. I bowled a maiden first up. They were landing where I wanted them to land. Moie [Matthews] took a wicket next over and I started thinking we were in with a chance. Then next over I took a wicket - my first for the match. Deano ran over and said, "Well done, mate. You're only averaging 160 now." I tried to laugh, but couldn't. I was too nervous. Next up Moie bowled a good over and I took another wicket in my next. "Now you only average 80, Warnie," Deano said. By this stage we needed one wicket to win and they still needed 25 runs. Then came another two boundaries off Mo and things were very tight.

Sri Lanka needed 16 runs with one wicket in hand. Healy missed a crucial stumping. Gurusinha was still there and itching to have a go at Warne.

Healy At nine down, I missed a stumping chance when I came up too early and the ball scuffled away from me, but Warnie got the crucial final wicket in the following over, for which I will always be grateful.

Gurusinha I was facing Matthews, who I had hit for two consecutive fours, both sweeps. Next delivery, the last of the over, I wanted to take a single, but Ranjith Madurasinghe, the last man, was not keen. I wanted to face Warne and I was confident I could get the remaining runs on my own, so I asked Ranjith to get a single. But he pushed the ball straight into the hands of Matthews at mid-off.

"We heard them yelling their victory song, and each time they yelled and shouted in enjoyment, it was like I was being stabbed with a knife in the chest over and over again" Romesh Kaluwitharana

Allan Border The Sri Lankans had taken to Shane's new-look bowling. With them needing 30-odd to win, still four wickets in hand, I threw the ball to Warnie. It was a huge gamble. He looked a little shocked to get the ball but said he was ready for the job. We won a Test we shouldn't have and the Warne legend was born.

Jones AB kept telling every bowler what he had to do. "Billy [McDermott], you keep doing this. Moie, you are doing a great job. And you [Warne], you are going to win me the game." He kept pointing to Warnie - he was the man, while we were wondering what was he on.

Hathurusingha We panicked. Actually the word is "excited", because we wanted to beat Australia since we did not have any Test victory against them, and were in a hurry.

It was Border's first victory as captain and only his second as a player in 20 Tests since 1979 in the subcontinent. As Boon and the Australians belted out the "Southern Cross" victory song, metres away the dejected Sri Lankans were left contemplating what could have been.

Kaluwitharana It was like someone had died. We were that downcast in the dressing room. Out of 15 sessions, we dominated 14 and a half but lost the match in half a session. The rooms at the SSC are separated by a flimsy wall. We heard them yelling their victory song, and each time they yelled and shouted in enjoyment, it was like I was being stabbed with a knife in the chest over and over again. I cried.

Hathurusingha At the SSC you have to walk up the stairs to get to the dressing room, which is on the second floor. Marvan was so shattered he never came back. He was crying. Everyone was upset by the defeat but somebody like Marvan was worried about his Test future.

Gurusinha We learned a big lesson. Later that year, against New Zealand, when we faced a target of 70-odd, we got them in 11 overs [14.4] and won that Test. That defeat against Australia taught us to handle pressure.

Jones We went from dragging our heads to an unbelievable victory. It was the most emotions we witnessed in one day. We probably did not give Sri Lanka the respect they deserved.

Warne If that Test had been on television in Australia, it would be remembered as one of the great matches of all time. Those three wickets changed things for me.

Ian Healy's quotes from Hands and Heals (Ian Healy, HarperSports, 2001) and Shane Warne and Allan Border's quotes from Shane Warne: My Own Story (Shane Warne and Mark Ray, Bookman Projects, 1997)



  • POSTED BY Android on | September 28, 2013, 7:31 GMT

    kind of reminds one of the controversial Sydney test from 2010 between Australia and Pakistan. Pakistan dominant most of the test, Kamran Akmal's poor wicket keeping and a last day collapse ruined it for Pakistan.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | September 25, 2013, 18:28 GMT

    As much as they lost the match in that half an hour, they didnt domiate for 4 days - probably 2.5 days? I mean Aus did score 480 didnt they?

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | September 25, 2013, 16:58 GMT

    an unforgettable match.we all as kaluwitharana said shocked as we could not believed what has happened to us. i will never forget that match. i still remember how each batsman was dismissed in the second innings . but seven years later we had our second chance and aravinda that time in 1999 under sanath jayasooriya's captaincy did the job for us

  • POSTED BY Vinod on | September 25, 2013, 12:07 GMT

    Remember following this match then, was an absolute cracker - very under rated jus tlike another series Aus vs Sl in Sl- ithink in 2004 or 05 in which aus won 3-0 but the matches were high quality and closer than the score board suggests.....matches like these give the true meaning to the word 'test cricket'-the absolute, purest, superior and supreme form of the game, no cocka-mamie 20/20 league can ever equal this!

  • POSTED BY Balaji on | September 25, 2013, 7:04 GMT

    I remember this match. I only followed it in the newspaper, because cable was still young in India, and we did'nt have access. It was fascinating. Sri Lanka were a maturing team. Australia had not yet turned into the world beaters they became, the West Indies were clearly in decline, though not many fans would have agreed then.

  • POSTED BY Naveen on | September 25, 2013, 4:42 GMT

    @Arjun Ashok, Mahela started his test career in the memorable game in 1997 against India in Colombo where SL scored the highest ever test score by a team with Jayasuriya scoring 340 and Mahanama with 225, remember. This is Kaluwitharana in his debut 1992 game, by that time Mahela would be a 19-year old school boy watching the game as a spectator. Although the look of his stance resembles Mahela, please do not get confused.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | September 25, 2013, 2:13 GMT

    The batsman in the 2nd picture playing the pull is Mahela Jayawardene, not Kalu. Yes, I have read stories about this match. It really must have been a great match.

  • POSTED BY Leon on | September 24, 2013, 23:11 GMT

    @Nilesh Hiray - pathetic! You have seen or read about? This is a test match, not a ODI. This game sits alongside a small number of truely great games where one team has fought back from an impossible (or near to) position! Aus - 1961 - Benaud's spell Eng - 1981 - Botham's magic India - 2004(?) - Laxman and Dravid's sublime batting SA - 1994 - Farnie de Villiers' bowling just as a few examples.

  • POSTED BY Gregory on | September 24, 2013, 22:43 GMT

    Since the start of the 1981 Ashes series, out of the 20 tests in which they have played which have been decided by 1 or 2 wickets, or fewer than 30 runs, Aus have lost 15. Much as I sympathise with the agony SL and their fans must have felt at the end of this match, you'll have to understand that as an Aus fan, it was nice to enjoy a rare success in a tight finish to a test! Aus were just lucky to come up against a team even less adept at winning the close ones than they are!

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | September 24, 2013, 19:07 GMT

    one sided test that ended with a choke? i've seen much better tests than this :)

  • POSTED BY sanjeeva on | September 24, 2013, 18:00 GMT

    I remember watching the match on tv and rushed to ssc during the tea. Gates were open and i simply walked to the main stand along the corridor. At the end of the corridor i ran into Marvan(the match had commenced at this point) and instinctly i asked him "oh no did you were out again?". To which he replied "i am yet to bat". It was all surreal. While watching the match Aravinda played a mad stroke and Border who was fielding right in front of us dropped it. The crowd gave a loud boo and mocked him that his odd looking sunglasses cost a catch. The very next ball, same shot from Aravinda, Border had enough time to remove the glasses and his hat and take a comfortable catch, after which he made sure to look in our directionas he was having the last laugh! Rest is history, and i saw it first hand.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | September 24, 2013, 17:09 GMT

    I was four years old when this happened and was not watching cricket. I occasionally watched a Sri Lankan match from 94 onwards, not knowing too much about the game. During the 96 world cup, like so many of my fellow Sri Lankans, I became a cricket fan. In 98 I watched Murali bamboozle England to take 16 wickets, and became a cricket fanatic.

    I had heard about this match many times. But this article is so well written and researched that just reading it fills this cricket fanatic with a sickening, hopeless feeling..... :(

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | September 24, 2013, 16:28 GMT

    What a match and Literature involved. I heard the radio commentary of this match when I was a grade 6 student. Although it is a painful match as a Sri Lankan, it was a great match of cricket. Test cricket is like a quality literature book. Even After 21 years we can have a pleasure from that game. but, Anybody remember the T20 match played last week?

  • POSTED BY Hilal on | September 24, 2013, 15:13 GMT

    I remember this game, and have been talking about this game with fellow cricket fans from many different countries till this day. For me this is one of the greates matches. I was watching this match on tele with my cousin close to SSC. And we could hear the crowd from where we were. When it was around 120/2 we decided to go watch the match live, and when we reached SSC the gates were open. As we walked in to sit on the open stands- I was shocked by the shot Aravinda played. One by one wickets fell, and Guru was trying his best but to no avail. Greg Mathews was doing the Kandyan dance on the field as the Aussies were getting closer to victory. Funny enough I dont remember Warnie from that game.

  • POSTED BY Shashidhar on | September 24, 2013, 14:24 GMT

    I remember reading about this test match in Newspapers. I am sure it was heart breaking for Srilankan cricketers and followers. I think these matches made Srilankan cricket more strong. It is really nice to read about how each of the players from both sides felt. Later for many years, we enjoyed watching Ranathunga, Aravinda (Oh! What a player), Kaluwitharana, Atapattu (What a class player he was). Nice memories. I am sure Test cricket lovers love to read such articles. Thanks Nagaraj & Andrew.

  • POSTED BY Tanmay on | September 24, 2013, 12:22 GMT

    Indian fan here....great to hear names like Aravinda de Silva, Ranatunga, Kaluwitharana, Attapatu & Gurusinha....brought my childhood memories back....but hats off to legend Shane Warne & the Aussies...their never say die attitude have taken them to many highs in both ODIs & tests...this test is similar to 3rd Ind-Aus test at Madras in 2001 when India needing 155 to win the series were 100-2 & suddenly became 135-8 and then Mumbai cricket legend Sameer Dighe along with Bhajji won India the test and the series...

  • POSTED BY A on | September 24, 2013, 8:45 GMT

    Mr BG Prasad - read the article with more care. Deano halved the average from 335 to 160, a barely acceptable indication by your rather loose standards, at the fall of Warne's first wicket. At the next Warne wicket, he elected to half it again, not realising that the average would now be split by 3. Clearly Deano did not grasp the finer nuances of simple progressive division. There is no mention at all in the article, as your message alludes to, of the average after Warne's third wicket.

  • POSTED BY Prasanna on | September 24, 2013, 8:34 GMT

    @naveen1122, exactly . I dont think the limited-overs versions of the game would make us sit and cry like how Test cricket generally does for us. SL produced test Legends like Ranatunga, Aravinda, Dias, Mendis, Murali, Vaas, Gurusinghe and off-late Sanga, Jayasuriya and Mahela. Sad that there is hardly anyone who can join this list. Test cricket is the best !!

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | September 24, 2013, 7:35 GMT

    Prof. Deno's math was only an indicative and is acceptable . But Your math is not great ABG1............ Warny's Statistics read like this 335...167.5 .....122 ....and 86.5........at the end of each wicket subsequently.... LOL

  • POSTED BY Subramani on | September 24, 2013, 7:04 GMT

    This was the Test which told the world that the destiny of a great bowler was just unravelling. After a forgettable debut, not many had much hope in Shane Warne becoming a great bowler. Alan Border however was probably one of the few who believed that a Shane was a legend in the making. And that will explain why,when all seemed lost he turned to Shane Warne in this game.I have always believed that when someone is destined to be great he cannot remain in the ordinary and so it proved that day. He may have been clobbered by Shastri and Tendulkar at the SCG a few months earlier on his debut. As a leg spinner, I found his run up captivatingly slow. His delivery ensured a pace bowler like forward move of the upper trunk with a noticeable shoulder and a fighting spirit. He was not broken after a mauling. His spirit showed up more prominently as a batsman in the 2nd innings of that Test when he held at bay the Indian bowlers Shastri,Tendulkar and Kapil, who were poised to win India that game.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | September 24, 2013, 5:06 GMT

    yes, I was there too, as a young boy just into my teens. It was the first international match I watched at a ground. Still remember that blazing 100 by Kalu. The ground was packed with local spectators too, unlike nowadays.

  • POSTED BY A on | September 24, 2013, 4:56 GMT

    Deano's mathematics wasn't great - he would be averaging 107, not 80.