Mohammed Siraj demolishes Sri Lanka with 6/21, India win Asia Cup: ‘All Like a dream’
After India beat Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup final with only 50 runs, chief wrecker Mohammed Siraj told the official broadcasters that everything felt "like a dream." His six-wicket burst for 21 runs, including four in an over where Sri Lanka literally lost the Asia Cup, felt like a dream—and a nightmare for Sri Lanka's batsmen and fans, as even the usually loud papare steel band went quiet.
Young openers Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan led India to a 10-wicket win and the Asia Cup title. They did this in just 6.1 overs.
Throughout Siraj's cricket career, there is a dreamy arc. Son of an auto-rickshaw driver, grew up in a crowded part of old Hyderabad, worked hard to take every chance that came his way, made himself an important part of his country's team in all formats, and produced a series-defining spell in Melbourne just days after his father died—this is the kind of story that Tollywood would love to tell.
Also, read: Mohammed Siraj wrecks the Asia Cup final by taking five wickets in ten balls.
Siraj's rise has been so fast in the last four years that he has replaced Mohammed Shami as Jasprit Bumrah's partner with the new ball in limited-overs games.
Siraj's numbers are crazy, especially in the 50-over version, where he has taken 53 wickets at an average of 19.11 in just 29 games.
To give you an idea, Bumrah's average is 24.09. So far in 2023, no bowler on a full-member team has taken more wickets than Siraj's 29. This year, he has played in 13 ODIs and has an average of 12.86. Not even fast bowlers from Pakistan and Australia can say that.
He and Bumrah could be one of the most dangerous bowling teams at the World Cup. Siraj, being the humble person he is, would call it fate. But you need more than fate on your side to win crunch games in such a crushing way. You also need skill and a good heart. Both are his.
In Colombo, he used the word fate once more. "No matter how hard you try, you can't get more than your fate. So the plan was to keep things easy and hit my line and length', said Siraj, who gave the money from his man-of-the-match prize to the groundsmen who had to work extra hours because of the rain.
But it wasn't as easy as just showing up and hitting the right spots to get those six wickets.
After rain made the game start late, his first over of the day might go down in history as one of the worst. He hit Kusal Mendis, the man-shaped rock of Sri Lanka, on the outside edge many times. As soon as Siraj was done, everyone in the audience took a deep breath. Sri Lanka thought the storm had passed. It only got worse in an over that India's cricket fans will never forget.
Sri Lanka's batsmen might have been ready for the stock ball, which is a nip-backer that seams in like a deadly Mamba and has a seam that wobbles. Instead, he chose, sometimes with a wry smile, to unzip his away-goers, which he had used sparingly during his tour of Australia in 2021, when he first came to public attention.
He bowls in such a steady way that he could cause a lot of damage in a single spell, where one wicket could lead to two or more, as he showed on Sunday.
Ravindra Jadeja caught Pathum Nissanka's high drive at point with the first ball of his second over. Siraj has thrown eight outswingers in a row. Sadeera Samarawickrama had forgotten about Siraj's poisonous inswingers, so he played all around the third delivery and was caught leg before wicket the next ball.
Charith Asalanka, who saved Sri Lanka's last game against Pakistan, hit a loose straight drive that Ishan Kishan caught easily at covers (SL 8/4). Siraj caught Dhananjaya de Silva with his last ball, even though Dhananjaya de Silva tried to stop the hat-trick. The elegant batter couldn't help but hang his bat outside the off-stump, which gave wicket-keeper K.L. Rahul a chance to catch it.
He had enough energy in between to chase a ball all the way to the long-on fence. In a word, that showed how tough and brave Siraj was.
The attack never stopped. Dasun Shanaka dodged three more outswinging balls from Siraj's third over before losing his off-stump to a ball that went in and away from him. Siraj's outswingers got harder and harder to play with every ball.
It's amazing how well Siraj's outswingers have come along. For a seamer, who normally bowls the balls that are coming in, it's not easy to get the ball to shape away. But Siraj got it right by changing his release points, which was an easy thing to do.
His bowling arm used to be closer to his head when he threw, but now he throws outswingers from a little farther away. So, he can get the ball to turn in towards the third man before the seam of the ball turns away from the right-handers.