The bright and sunny afternoon turned overcast 10 minutes before the scheduled start. Once the Asia Cup final finally got going 40 minutes late, a capacity crowd at the R. Premadasa Stadium had one eye on the sky, with a thunderstorm predicted to hit the Lankan capital.
While the dark clouds stayed away, the Siraj storm blew Sri Lanka into smithereens. Riding on Mohammed Siraj’s sensational opening burst, Sri Lanka was bundled out for a meagre 50 runs in 89 minutes.
It took India just 37 balls to overhaul the lowest team total in the Asia Cup’s four-decade history to seal an emphatic win and lift the trophy in style.
Just before the toss, captain Rohit Sharma inspected the dry pitch and signalled for three spinners. It meant Washington Sundar, having been added to the squad in place of injured Axar Patel, was blooded in the XI. But Sundar virtually had no role to play.
The Papare band had little to cheer about for the home team as India’s pacers immediately took control of the game. Jasprit Bumrah struck off the third ball, thanks to K.L. Rahul stretching to his left to accept an edge off Kusal Perera’s willow. Siraj started off with a maiden to Kusal Mendis, but the Hyderabad hurricane was unstoppable in his second over.
The fourth over saw Siraj seal the fate of the game with four wickets. The pacer landed the ball in the right channel and bowled perfect outswingers to leave Sri Lankan batters dumbfounded.
Pathum Nissanka (caught by a lunging Ravindra Jadeja at point), Sadeera Samarawickrama (beaten on inside-edge to be adjudged lbw), Charith Asalanka (caught at covers by Ishan Kishan), and Dhananjaya de Silva (caught behind off an outswinger) all fell prey to Siraj’s masterclass.
De Silva, despite saving a hat-trick with a flick off the fifth ball, perished off the next. Siraj returned in the next over to uproot captain Dasun Shanaka’s off-stump and complete his maiden ODI five-wicket haul in 16 balls.
At 12 for six, the writing was on the wall. In his extended spell of seven overs, Siraj added Kusal Mendis’ wicket to his tally, with the batter missing a wild heave to be bowled. Hardik Pandya then wound up the tail. That Kuldeep Yadav could bowl a solitary over and only two Sri Lanka batters reached double-digit scores underlined Indian pace pack’s dominance.
Rohit preferred to let Ishan Kishan have a hit in the middle along with in-form Shubman Gill. And the duo hardly dropped guard, with Kishan tapping the first ball of the seventh over to long-off for a single to complete the formalities just 27 minutes into the innings.
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