‘Standout’ Siraj skittles Sri Lanka as India romp to Asia Cup glory
Right-arm fast bowler Mohammed Siraj gets career-best 6-21 as India thrash Sri Lanka by 10 wickets in Colombo.
Colombo, Sri Lanka – In the end, Sri Lanka’s Asia Cup final innings lasted a little longer than the rain delay that came beforehand – an hour and 20 minutes; 15 overs and all of 50 runs.
When Dasun Shanaka won the toss and elected to bat first, a roar went around the R Premadasa Stadium as home fans expected their batters to post India a challenging target and then let the spinners work their magic.
Instead, the magic came from India’s right-arm fast bowler Mohammed Siraj.
Playing his 29th one-day international (ODI), Siraj took his first five-wicket haul and sent Sri Lanka’s top-order batters back to the dressing room in his second over. He ended with match figures of 6-21 from seven overs – including four wickets from one over.
The other three were wrapped up by Jasprit Bumrah (one wicket) and Hardik Pandya (three wickets) as Sri Lanka slumped to their second-lowest ODI total ever. Only two batters got into double figures and five were dismissed without scoring a single run.
After the match, India captain Rohit Sharma said he was “surprised by the way the pitch behaved” but said it didn’t take anything away from Siraj’s spell.
“It always delights me when a bowler gives a standout performance as 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 up the order to open with Shubman Gill.
It took the young pair 30 minutes and 31 balls to get 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 counts – was in plain sight.
They had come prepared for another long night at the stadium following their last-ball win over Pakistan that went past midnight.
Instead, they left before the sun could set on a humid evening.
Children rubbed off the Sri Lanka flags they had painted on their faces just a few hours earlier. Older fans wore a look of familiar disappointment.
Not all of them were 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 cheery Sri Lankan fan, told Al Jazeera as the match wrapped up.
As India romped home to a 10-wicket win, fireworks lit up the Colombo sky.
The dejected fans who were trudging their way out of the stands looked up and took a few selfies with the illuminated background.
The fireworks continued well after the post-match press presentation ceremony and into the press conference.
When the booming sound drowned out India captain Sharma’s voice, he hinted at the wave of confidence his team was riding.
“You should crack these [fireworks] after we win the World Cup,” he shouted over the noise.
On his way back to the India dressing room to join in the team’s celebrations, Sharma tossed his cap to an elated member of the ground staff. The lucky recipient skipped his way to the boundary to show off.
The rain that had threatened to affect the match at multiple intervals finally arrived in the evening, about two hours after India won its record-extending eighth Asia Cup title.
For once, the tireless ground staff – dubbed the “Orange Army” – put their feet up and let the ground soak as the heavens opened up for an almighty shower.