Right-arm fast bowler Mohammed Siraj scores career-best 6-21 as India beat Sri Lanka by 10 wickets in Colombo.
Colombia, Sri Lanka – In the end, Sri Lanka’s Asia Cup final innings lasted a little longer than the rain delay – an hour and 20 minutes; 15 overs and the 50 runs.
When Dasun Shanaka won the toss and elected to bat first, a roar went around the R Premadasa Stadium as the home fans expected their batters to send India a tough target and leave then the spinners work their magic.
Instead, the magic came from Indian right-arm fast bowler Mohammed Siraj.
Playing his 29th one-day international (ODI) match, Siraj took his maiden five-wicket haul and sent Sri Lanka’s top-order batters back to the dressing room in his second over. He finished with match figures of 6-21 from seven overs – including four wickets from one over.
The other three were completed by Jasprit Bumrah (one wicket) and Hardik Pandya (three wickets) as Sri Lanka collapsed to their second lowest ever ODI total. Only two batters reached doubles and five were thrown out without scoring a single run.
After the match, Indian captain Rohit Sharma said he was “surprised by the way the pitch behaved”, but said it took nothing away from Siraj’s plight.
“It always delights me when a bowler gives an exceptional performance like Siraj did today,” Sharma said.
When it was time for India to chase, they made full use of the luxury of a small target and sent Ishan Kishan in the order to open with Shubman Gill.
It took 30 minutes and 31 balls for the young duo to bring India home on what was suddenly a batter-friendly wicket.
In the end, the match was over in just over two hours and the shock on the faces of the largely Sri Lankan crowd – 80 percent of the total attendance by some calculations – was clearly visible.
They had braced themselves for another long night at the stadium after their last-ball victory against Pakistan which took place after midnight.
Instead, they left before the sun set on a humid evening.
Children erased the Sri Lankan flags they had painted on their faces hours earlier. The older fans wore a familiar look of disappointment.
Not everyone was heartbroken.
“We had bought tickets for the final thinking it would be India versus Pakistan, so when Sri Lanka qualified we were pleasantly surprised,” Ruchira Mahadev, a happy Sri Lankan fan, told Al Jazeera. Lankan, at the end of the match.
As India cruised to a 10-wicket victory, fireworks lit up the Colombo sky.
Dejected fans trudging out of the stands looked up and took a few selfies with the backdrop lit up.
The fireworks continued well after the post-match presentation ceremony and into the press conference.
When the booming sound drowned out Indian captain Sharma’s voice, he hinted at the wave of confidence his team was riding.
“You should set off these (fireworks) after we win the World Cup,” he shouted to drown out the noise.
On his way back to the Indian dressing room to join the team’s celebrations, Sharma tossed his cap to a delighted member of the ground staff. The lucky recipient went all the way to show off.
The rain that had threatened to disrupt the match on several occasions finally arrived in the evening, about two hours after India won their record eighth Asia Cup title.
For once, the tireless ground staff – nicknamed the “Orange Army” – put their feet up and let the ground soak as the skies opened for an almighty downpour.