Subscribe Now! Get features like
Mohammed Siraj snared four wickets in an over in a sensational match haul of 6/21 that scuttled Sri Lanka’s innings for just 50 — the lowest ever in an ODI final — at the Asia Cup final in Colombo on Sunday. Chasing the target in only 6.1 overs without losing a wicket, India pulled off one of the most one-sided multi-team tournament finals in history to win their eighth Asia Cup title and round up a near-perfect World Cup build-up.
Statistically, it will be remembered as one of the shortest games ever — third shortest ODI by balls bowled (129), India’s biggest ODI win by deliveries remaining (263) and the fewest overs (15.2) in which a team was bowled out in an ODI final. This was also the second time in Asia Cup history that all 10 wickets were taken by pacers, as Hardik Pandya chimed in as the third seamer to take three wickets to knock the wind out of Sri Lanka’s innings.
Pitched around the middle, edged and gone — it all started with Jasprit Bumrah setting the tone of the final by removing opener Kusal Perera in the first over. But the follow-up act had to be worth it. There is a catch here. This, in many ways, was the final rite of passage in the evolution of Mohammad Siraj the white-ball bowler. An indispensable Test bowler, Mohammed Shami was in and out of the white-ball side but not ruled out completely of the World Cup equation because no one cranks up the pace or exploits the older ball like him. But to complement the genius of Bumrah it needed a defining display of fast bowling to rubber stamp that distinction. Siraj achieved that on Sunday.
There was a maiden over which didn’t fetch any wicket but nevertheless alerted the mind to the possibility of this silent coup. A length ball off a wobbly seam was shouldered by Kusal Mendis but by ball six, he had been worked into a frenzy — beaten on the cover drive, the punch and even the innocuous full face of the bat presentation that was almost asking to be skimmed. Punches rained the next over that broke Sri Lanka.
Pathum Nissanka fell first ball, slicing an outswinger to Ravindra Jadeja at point. Two balls later, Sadeera Samarawickrama was trapped leg-before by a lovely delivery shaping into him. Next ball, Charith Asalanka was early into his drive and chipped a full ball to Ishan Kishan at cover. Dhananjaya de Silva played out the hattrick ball but was lured into nicking a wide outswinger. Getting quicker every stride, wrist aligned to the wickets at the time of release, shaping away the ball, holding its line, pushing up and down the lengths — so relentless was Siraj in his pursuit of excellence that the entire over seemed like a stand-alone event.
Only, stand-alone events don’t happen just like that. Ambition, as Siraj later pointed out, is a driving factor. “Last time, against Sri Lanka, in Trivandrum, I had taken the first four wickets but couldn’t get the fifth,” he said after Sri Lanka’s innings. “Then I realised that you only get what is in your destiny, not more, however hard you try. So the plan was to keep it simple and execute my line and length, and I kept getting wickets.” This is where perseverance comes and thereby the discipline that pushed Siraj to bowl regularly the dream delivery — pitching middle, angled towards leg but swinging away to square up the batter. In 2023 so far, he already has 29 wickets in 13 ODIs.
“My only thing when I play white-ball cricket is that I would try to swing the new ball at the start,” he said. “But here, there wasn’t a lot of swing on offer in the initial matches. Today it swung, so I tried to make the batsman play as much as possible. It’s nice when it catches the edge. I have not picked up a lot of wickets with my outswing. Today I got a lot of wickets with my outswing, so that felt very good.”
Not just bowling and dismissing batters, Siraj’s hunger for success could be gauged from the way he sprinted all the way to the boundary off his own bowling trying to stop Dhananjaya de Silva’s checked drive. It’s also important to point out the pace with which Siraj bowled. Colombo was overcast and all it probably required was to hit that unplayable length. But Siraj didn’t hold back his pace as well, averaging above 140km/hour most balls. That energy was funnelled to a stage where the script couldn’t have gone any way other than Siraj taking two more wickets and finishing with his career-best haul. He remained modest though. “I didn’t run after wickets,” said Siraj. “But the conditions did a lot of work for me. If you keep hitting the wickets with one line, you will keep getting wickets.”
Subscribe Now! Get features like