Mohammed Siraj demolishes Sri Lanka with 6/21, India win Asia Cup: ‘Like a dream’ | Cricket News

    Mohammed Siraj demolishes Sri Lanka with 6/21, India win Asia Cup: ‘Like a dream’ | Cricket News

    AFTER INDIA shot Sri Lanka down for just 50 runs in the Asia Cup final, wrecker-in-chief Mohammed Siraj told the official broadcasters during the innings break that he felt everything was “like a dream”. His six-wicket burst for 21 runs, including four in an over where Sri Lanka literally lost the Asia Cup, felt indeed like a dream — and a nightmare for Sri Lanka’s batsmen and spectators, as even the usually lively papare steel band fell silent.

    India’s young openers Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan completed the chase in 6.1 overs for a 10-wicket win and the Asia Cup title.

    There is a dreamy arc running throughout Siraj’s cricketing journey. The son of an auto-rickshaw driver, from a congested locale of old Hyderabad, battling odds to climb up the rungs, sweating hard to seize every opportunity that came his way, cementing himself as an indispensable member across formats for his country, and showing remarkable mental toughness to produce a series-defining spell in Melbourne days after his father’s death, his is a script Tollywood would lap up with glee.

    Siraj’s rise has been meteoric in the last four years, so much so that he has superseded Mohammed Shami in the limited-over formats as Jasprit Bumrah’s new-ball accomplice.

    Siraj’s numbers across formats are staggering, especially in the 50-over version, where he has grabbed 53 wickets in just 29 games, at an average of 19.11. To put things in perspective, Bumrah averages 24.09. Among full-member teams, no pacer has taken more than the 29 wickets that Siraj has taken so far in 2023. He is averaging 12.86 in 13 ODIs this year, and not even fast bowlers from Pakistan and Australia can boast of such numbers.

    With Bumrah, he could form one of the most lethal bowling combos in the World Cup. Siraj would, with typical humility, call it destiny. But to deliver in crunch games, in so devastating a manner, you need more than destiny by your side. You need the craft and heart too. Siraj has both.

    He used the word destiny again in Colombo. “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,” said Siraj, who donated his man-of-the-match prize money to the groundsmen who worked overtime during the rain-affected tournament.

    But getting those six wickets was not as straightforward as just turning up and hitting the right spots.

    His first over of the day, after a delayed start due to rain, could go down as one of the unluckiest overs in the game. He repeatedly beat the outside edge of Kusal Mendis, Sri Lanka’s pillar and the man in form. As Siraj finished that over, the whole arena breathed a sigh of relief. Sri Lanka thought the storm was over. It only got worse in an over that would remain immortal in India’s cricket history.

    Sri Lanka’s batsmen might have come expecting the stock ball, the wobble-seaming nip-backer, one which seams in like a lethal Mamba. Instead, he, with a wry smile now and then, decided to unzip his away-goers, those that he used judiciously during the tour of Australia when he broke into the scene in 2021. He is such a rhythmic bowler, one who could wreak havoc in a single spell, where one wicket could lead to two and more, as he demonstrated on Sunday.

    The first ball of his second over, Ravindra Jadeja clung onto Pathum Nissanka’s uppish drive at point. Siraj has delivered eight out-swingers in a row that Sadeera Samarawickrama had forgotten about the venomous in-swinger, as he played all around the third delivery to be trapped leg before wicket the ball after. Off the next, Charith Asalanka, the hero for Sri Lanka in their last match against Pakistan, played a loose-drive straight up as Ishan Kishan pouched it safely at covers (SL 8/4). Even though Dhananjaya de Silva denied the hat-trick, Siraj snared him with his last ball. The elegant batsman could not resist hanging his bat outside the off-stump and managed a nick into the hands of wicket-keeper K L Rahul. In between he had the energy to chase a ball all the way to the long-on fence. That in a nutshell symbolised the grit and heart of Siraj.

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    The onslaught did not stop. Dasun Shanaka survived three more out-swingers from Siraj’s third over, before losing the off-stump to another one that angled in and moved away. With every ball, Siraj’s out-swingers became more and more unplayable.

    It is remarkable how well Siraj has developed his out-swingers. For a seamer who naturally bowls the incoming ones, getting the ball to shape away doesn’t come easy. But Siraj, with a simple action, has managed to ace it by altering his release points. For someone whose bowling arm used to be closer to the head at the time of release, he is delivering the out-swingers from a little away. Thus, he is able to get the ball to angle in before the ball, seam pointing to the third man, shapes away from the right-handers.

    Siraj would, of course, call it destiny, only that destiny is no longer guiding him, but he is guiding his own destiny.

    © The Indian Express (P) Ltd

    First published on: 17-09-2023 at 18:07 IST

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