So Sri Lanka got points for the first two games and went directly to the quarter-finals. This never happened before or since in the Cricket World Cup. All the games after that were played in Pakistan or India.
The Group A games between Australia and the West Indies were marvelous. All the players on the Australia team were very young. They did not have much World Cup level experience. Their captain, Mark Waugh, also was one of the best scorers of the tournament. They proved they were fighters. The Australians played their hardest against the West Indies veterans. Now the West Indies, as you know, is not one country, but a group of many islands in the Caribbean Sea. It was wonderful to watch how all these players put their skills together to make one terrific team. Brian McMillan and V. Chanderpaul were the team's star players.
In one of the semi-final games, the "Windies" as they were called, threw everything they had at the Aussies, but it was not enough. The Australians charged into the final game, defeating the Windies by a score of 207 for 8 in 50 overs.
All four of the Group A teams: West Indies, Australia, India and Sri Lanka advanced to the semi-finals. Sri Lanka and Australia played the final, and Sri Lanka was victorious in a dogged match over the Australians, 245 for 3 in 46.2 overs. The Sri Lankans captured the victory by seven wickets to take home the World Cup for 1996.
The skilled players from India fascinated me during this tournament. Even though they did not play in the final match, two of their best players took the top awards in the Wills World Cup. Sachin Tendulkar scored an amazing total of 523 runs in all the matches he played. His teammate, Anil Kumble, was the top wicket scorer with 15. I remember the announcer talking about Sachin Tendulkar during the India semi-final game. He told us that Tendulkar was very young, in his early 20s, and had just married before the start of the tournament. He suggested to young men everywhere, "See what a happy marriage can do for you," meaning that Tendulkar played so well because he was very happy and contented. I always wonder if many young cricket players watching the Wills World Cup soon asked their girlfriends to marry them because of this advice.
Very different from the India and Australia teams was the South African squad. Every player had played in at least one World Cup before. They were led by the legendary player Hansie Cronje (crow nyee). All of them were white. Apartheid had ended in South Africa, but there were no black players chosen for the team. Cronje was a tall, solidly built man. He had a strong-featured face, a beaky nose, piercing pale eyes and thin lips. He was very intimidating to his opponents. The South Africans fell to the hurricane speed pitches of the Windies, who beat them 264 for 8 in 50 overs. Hansie Cronje remained the permanent captain of the South Africa team for several more years. I was deeply saddened to hear of his death in a small plane crash in 2002.
Another thing I remember clearly from the Wills World Cup was the players' uniforms. We are all used to seeing cricket players dressed in snow-white from collar to shoes. But not at the World Cup. The players wore polo-style shirts, short sleeved with two buttons at the top, in vibrant colors. The colors were usually taken from those in the country's flag, except the Windies,