Move beyond the 10-wicket thrashing, the four-wicket over, the stunned silence in the stadium as Sri Lanka were dealt one blow after the other or Rohit Sharma and his Indian team collecting the Asia Cup Trophy to end a five-year multi-nation trophy drought. The most defining sight from the final unfolded in the fourth over – the hat-trick ball from Mohammed Siraj. With a packed slip cordon waiting for an edge, the mid-on fielder was taken off. The man facing the fire, Dhananjaya de Silva pushed a full delivery through the vacant region. Ishan Kishan, stationed at mid-wicket, initiated the chase but was soon outrun by Siraj himself, who decided to pursue the ball himself.
Siraj was in the middle of a second over, bowling at over 140 clicks with a big run-up. Yet, it did not matter. He had already dismissed Pathum Nissanka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Charith Asalanka and rocked Sri Lanka at 8/4, before sprinting all the way to the long-on boundary. It was clear that the ball would ultimately reach the rope, but Siraj persisted until it did. Virat Kohli and Shubman Gill could not stop crackling at slips. Two minutes later, Siraj came steaming in with the same intensity and induced de Silva to drive, resulting in a faint edge that KL Rahul comfortably held onto. Sri Lanka found themselves at 12/5. It was pandemonium. Sri Lanka didn’t know what hit them.
It was in August of 2021, that the hashtag ‘Miya Magic’ hit Twitter. Oh sorry, X. Affectionally called ‘Miya’ by his teammates, Siraj picked 4/32 and finished England for 120 in a 270-run chase to guide India to a memorable win at Lord’s. Roughly two years later, the same magic was in full swing – quite literally – and although it was against a team not as strong as England in a Test match on their home turf, Sri Lanka knocked India out of last year’s Asia Cup. Not part of India’s T20I set-up with the team management relying on Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami, Siraj slowly climbed the ODI rungs, becoming the world No. 1 earlier this year. And even though he has now slipped down to nine, these six overs of madness against Sri Lanka suggest he is poised to reclaim the top spot.
The third shortest ODI in history, Sri Lanka’s second-lowest ODI total, lowest total in an ODI final, shortest completed ODI innings… Siraj was at the forefront of it. Partnering the ever-so-impeccable Jasprit Bumrah, Siraj stole the show from his senior pro. The excitement generated by Bumrah’s comeback was so overwhelming that Siraj’s contribution, comprising four wickets from three matches, was somewhat overshadowed. However, yesterday’s remarkable new-ball burst brought Siraj into the spotlight with a resounding impact. It had taken Bumrah just two deliveries to inflict the first damage on Sri Lanka, two perfect outswingers to Thisara Perera and he was DONE. How do you beat it? With an over that broke Sri Lanka’s back.
Dasun Shanaka’s reading of the conditions could not have been more off the mark. Or maybe it did. He chose to bat first on a ‘dry pitch’, banking on his spinners to replicate the success of the Super Four game on Wednesday, but unfortunately, things did not pan out that way. Before Sri Lanka could come out to bat, a 40-minute interval because of rain changed everything. With overcast conditions prevailing, the most ideal yet equally rare for fast bowlers, Siraj made the ball nip, nip and thud. He started off with a maiden, beating Kusal Mendis outside off stump four balls in a row. In the next, he snuffed out four of Sri Lanka’s batters. “Although spinners will get purchase later on, mind you… there will be swing in the first 7 overs,” said Ravi Shastri on air. By then, Sri Lanka were tottering at 17 for 6.
If there were any doubts that Siraj could not be more menacing after the record-breaking over, wait till he came wide of the crease with the perfect disguise. The seam movement, the accuracy, the hit-the-deck-hard approach, Sri Lanka just sank and sank. Shortly after the game ended, Colombo witnessed a downpour of sorts, but so good was Siraj that if he were to bowl then, the rain would have made way to see some ‘Miya Magic’. It was his day all through. The dash towards the boundary wasn’t just adrenaline kicking in. It was Siraj’s way of telling Sri Lanka they were about to get hit by India’s own Titanic-sized glacier.
Siraj’s fire-breathing spell could not have come at a more opportune moment – they have a three-ODI series against Australia next followed by the World Cup. With this Sri Lankan annihilation, Siraj could well have shoved Mohammed Shami down in the pecking order. The prospect of having Bumrah, Shami, and Siraj playing together in the World Cup will necessitate some bold decision-making from the team management, especially with Hardik already serving as the fourth seamer. But if it comes down to India going in with two front-line pacers, Siraj will, in all likelihood, trump Shami in the race to the Playing XI.
Wrapping up the perfect evening, Siraj graciously gave away his Player of the Match Award, valued at USD 30,000, as a token of appreciation for the exceptional work put in by the groundsmen in their battle against the rain. This is what separates players form role models and at 29 years old, Siraj may already be making significant strides in his journey towards becoming one.