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England-Sri Lanka Cricket World Cup legends XI – who makes the cut?

by Wisden Staff 5 minute read


Two sides currently on inverse trajectories both have several legendary performers in World Cup cricket. Who makes the cut?

Sri Lanka dominate this side, the key players in the 1996 World Cup win and the golden generation of the late noughties all securing places. For England the pickings are somewhat slimmer, something which may well change as the current tournament continues.

Find out who makes our final selection below.

1. Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka)

The Player of the Tournament for Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup-winning campaign, Jayasuriya redefined a one-day opener’s role. He blasted 221 runs in that edition at the then-avant-garde strike rate of 131.54, the highlight a brutal 82 from 44 balls which sent England packing at the quarter-final stage. The all-rounder went on to claim three wickets against India in the semi-final, including that of Sachin Tendulkar.

1,165 CWC runs @34.26, 3 centuries; 27 CWC wickets @39.25

Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya bats during the 2007 World Cup

2. Graham Gooch (England)

England’s captain for their 1992 run to the final and a member of squads who were runners-up in 1979 and 1987, Gooch is arguably England’s greatest one-day batsman. The ’87 tournament was the Essex opener’s strongest, with 471 runs at 58.87 including a semi-final hundred against India in Mumbai.

897 CWC runs @44.85, 1 century

England captain Graham Gooch addresses the crowd after the World Cup Final loss to Pakistan in 1992

3. Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka)

Jayawardene bounced back from a ropey start to his World Cup career – the 2003 tournament yielding just 21 runs in seven innings. The elegant batsman returned to captain the side to the final in 2007, scoring a semi-final 115* against New Zealand, and to play a key role in 2011, becoming the only centurion in a World Cup final to end up on the losing side.

1,100 CWC runs @35.48, 4 centuries

Jayawardene bats during a World Cup match against South Africa in 2015

4. Kevin Pietersen (England)

A young, carefree Pietersen, not yet jaded by the strained relationships which tarnished his later career, was at his domineering best during the 2007 tournament. In a competition where England were predictably disappointing, KP’s tons against eventual winners Australia and hosts West Indies were two bright spots.

575 CWC runs @47.91, 2 centuries

Kevin Pietersen bats during a 2011 World Cup match against Ireland

5. Aravinda de Silva (Sri Lanka)

With a score of 107* and 3 wickets in the ‘96 final, de Silva is peerless in terms of all-round performances in World Cup deciders. It was, however, in the ’96 semi-final against India that he played his most iconic knock. In a Kolkata cauldron chock-full of partisan Indian fans and with both openers back in the hutch, the diminutive batsman cracked a counterpunching 66 from 44 balls.

1,064 CWC runs @36.68, 2 centuries; 16 CWC wickets @41.93

Aravinda de Silva in action on his way to a World Cup hundred against Australia

6. Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka) (WK)

The record-holder for the most centuries in a single tournament, the most consecutive World Cup centuries and the most World Cup dismissals, Sangakkara is a true legend of the competition. During the 2015 edition he achieved batting nirvana, reeling off those consecutive tons against Bangladesh, England, Australia and Scotland.

1,532 CWC runs @56.74, 5 centuries

Sangakkara bats during a 2015 World Cup match against South Africa

7. Arjuna Ranatunga (Sri Lanka) (C)

Sri Lanka’s former skipper makes this side on the back of a batting average that jumps over 10 runs in World Cup cricket, coupled with his role as the visionary behind Sri Lanka’s innovative 1996 tactics. Deploying pinch-hitters at the top of the order to take advantage of early fielding restrictions, Ranatunga’s team scored at over seven runs-per-over with the field up while other sides could scarcely manage a rate exceeding four.

969 CWC runs @46.14

Sri Lanka’s Arjuna Ranatunga batting in the World Cup Final in 1996

8. Ian Botham (England)

Botham’s strongest World Cup showing came late in his career in 1992. Used as an opener he never quite captured his attacking best, scoring at a strike rate of 58.35, but with the ball an ageing Beefy had a superb tournament with 16 wickets at 19.12. Unsurprisingly he saved his best for Australia, taking 4-31 and hitting 53 as England won by 8 wickets.

297 CWC runs @18.56; 30 CWC wickets @25.40

Botham bowling during the World Cup match against Australia in 1992

9. Phillip DeFreitas (England)

Another member of England’s class of 1992, DeFreitas was a canny one-day bowler who invariably performed well in tournament cricket. A haul of 11 wickets in the ’92 edition followed 10 in 1987, a tournament where DeFreitas suffered the ignominy of vomiting in the middle of his run-up due to heat stroke.

29 CWC wickets @25.58

DeFreitas bowls South Africa’s Peter Kirsten in the World Cup semi-final in 1992

10. Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka)

A mop of unruly hair and the most idiosyncratic of actions, ‘Slinger’ Malinga is the type of player only Sri Lanka produce. The 2007 World Cup secured his cult status, four wickets in four balls against South Africa the highlight –  wanging down dipping yorkers to bring Sri Lanka within a whisker of an impossible win. Malinga is the only holder of two World Cup hat-tricks, the other coming in 2011 against Kenya.

46 CWC wickets @21.95, 1 five-for

Malinga bowls during the World Cup group-stage match against Australia in 2019

11. Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka)

A member of the successful ‘96 squad, Murali was the key weapon in subsequent Sri Lankan trophy challenges. The mystery spinner was central to both the 2007 and 2011 runs to the final, taking 23 and 15 wickets respectively. He has the most wickets of any spinner in the competition’s history and the second-most overall.

68 CWC wickets @19.63

Muralitharan waves to spectators following Sri Lanka’s victory in the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand in 2011



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