Mohammed Siraj conjured a magical spell of seam and swing bowling with magnificent figures of 6 for 21 as India crushed Sri Lanka by 10 wickets to lift the Asia Cup title after a gap of five years.
This was India’s eighth Asia Cup title and also their biggest victory (263 balls) in ODIs in terms of balls remaining.
Siraj’s astonishing effort saw defending champions Sri Lanka getting bundled out for 50. India did not bat an eyelid in the chase, as Shubman Gill (27) and Ishan Kishan (23) did the job in just 6.1 overs.
This was India’s first title in a multi-nation event after their triumph in the Asia Cup 2018, and in a way, it also exorcised the ghost of India’s 54 all out against Lanka in the Coca Cola Champions Trophy at Sharjah in 2000.
It all started with Lanka electing to bat first after winning the toss, despite heavily overcast conditions.
The match started 40 minutes after the scheduled 3 PM beginning, but a storm of a different kind was awaiting Sri Lanka — a peak Siraj.
His spell ensured that Lanka batted just 15.2 overs, and this was also their lowest ODI total against India.
The pacer became only the fourth bowler in ODI history to take four wickets in an over, and he matched former Lankan pacer Chaminda Vaas as the fastest to a five-wicket haul in one-dayers — in just 16 deliveries.
Siraj also obliterated the best ODI figures against Sri Lanka, previously held by Pakistan pace legend Waqar Younis — 6 for 26 at Sharjah in 1990.
However, the beauty of Siraj’s bowling was beyond mere numbers.
He got into action after Jasprit Bumrah jettisoned Kusal Perera in the third ball of the first over — a regulation caught behind.
In conditions that resembled more London than Colombo, Siraj just had to pitch the ball in the right areas.
Siraj made his dance of destruction in the 4th over — 3.1, 3.3, 3.4 and 3.6 balls.
The victims were Pathum Nissanka, Sadeera Samaraiwickrama, Charith Asalanka and Dhananjaya De Silva.
Nissanka tried to place the ball around Ravindra Jadeja at point, but the placement went awry as the fielder completed a fine tumbling catch.
Samarawickrama could not deal with a delivery that came in that little bit after pitching on a length, and the umpire did not have to think even for a moment to uphold Siraj’s appeal for leg-before.
In the very next ball, the left-handed Asalanka pushed at a fuller delivery from Siraj with zero footwork, and the uppish shot ended in the hands of Ishan Kishan at covers.
De Silva managed to avert the hat-trick, but he lasted only for another ball, a push away from body resulted in an easy collection for Rahul behind the stumps.
But Siraj was not done yet. He castled Lankan captain Dasun Shanaka and Kusal Mendis with peaches to complete their destruction.
Shanaka could not even cover a beautiful outswinger, a delivery that he used to optimum effect on this day, that uprooted his off-stump.
At 33 for 6, someone needed to try and break the shackles and Mendis tried to do it. But this time, Siraj nipped one back in to beat the Lankan batter’s booming drive, and rearranged his timber.
It was a magnificent effort by a fast bowler on top of his trade — complete mayhem, but yet so beautifully dipped in the art of quick bowling.
He did not use his deadly wobble seam delivery even once in his unbroken seven-over spell, but destroyed Lanka with a combination of outswingers and the occasional in-dipper.
Once Siraj finished his spell, there was nothing left in the Lankan innings.
Hardik Pandya picked up the remaining crumbs of Lankan innings with a three-wicket haul (3/3).
Sri Lanka needed someone to bowl a Siraj-esque spell, but they did not have anyone, as India completed a comprehensive victory in just 116 minutes.