Sri Lanka were the team to beat in the 1996 edition of the cricket World Cup which was co-hosted by them along with India and Pakistan. They went on to lift the coveted trophy without suffering a defeat and it was India whom they had defeated twice in that tournament. The Lankans had beaten India in the group stages and had to get past them once again in the semi-finals in front of a packed Eden Gardens in order to rewrite history. Meanwhile, India, on the other hand, had come into the contest by knocking out arch-rivals and then defending champions Pakistan in the quarterfinals.
In the first semi-final that was played on March 13, 1996, India got off to a perfect start after winning the toss and electing to bowl first when Javagal Srinath had removed their in-form openers Sananth Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana and the scorecard read 1/2. The partisan fans could not control their emotions and they felt like India had sealed a final berth. However, Aravinda de Silva had other plans as he played counter-attacking innings of a quickfire 47-ball 66 which included 14 boundaries at a strike rate of over 140.
After de Silva's dismissal, the Sri Lankan middle-order showed a lot of grit and determination as the island nation posted 251/8 in their 50 overs.
Chasing a stiff target of 252 runs for a place in the World Cup final, India were off to a cautious start. Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar and Sanjay Manjrekar added 90 runs for the second wicket stand. It seemed like Tendulkar was batting on a different planet with his neat and delightful strokes. Just when it seemed like the Little Master would carry India into the finals single-handedly, he was stumped by Romesh Kaluwitharana off Sanath Jayasuriya which dealt a huge blow for India. Sachin's wicket was the turning point of the match. After his dismissal, the Indian batting suffered a dramatic collapse. The Lankan spinners made merry on the Eden Gardens wicket which was turning and very soon, India who were 98/2 were reduced to 120/8.
The local crowd then started throwing bottles on the outfield and a section of the stand was set on fire. Match referee Clive Lloyd interfered and the teams were taken off the field for some time. However, when the crowd trouble continued, the match was awarded to Sri Lanka by default as Vinod Kambli walked off the field in tears.