Right before the Sri Lankan openers were due to walk out on to the field, the rain gods intervened and the covers came on. But unlike many of India’s other fixtures in the 2023 Asia Cup, Colombo was able to see the start of the highly-anticipated final between India and hosts Sri Lanka on Sunday. What followed though, was nothing short of incredible.

India’s ever-reliable fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj were back in the side and had been asked to bowl first.

Bumrah’s first over was relatively expensive – seven runs, including a boundary. But he did pick up the wicket of Kusal Perera, inducing the opener to edge to KL Rahul behind the stumps.

Siraj conceded no runs in his first over, constantly troubling Kusal Mendis by bowling length deliveries and always trying to find that outside edge. That over from Siraj, was a sign of things to come.

Three overs in, Sri Lanka were looking very tentative and shaky on the crease – Mendis and Pathum Nissanka were not able to negotiate the Indian bowlers. Then came over No 4, where Siraj became the first Indian to pick up four wickets in an over.

It was a fiery spell that set India on course to beat Sri Lanka and win the Asia Cup for the eighth time.

Sri Lanka were bowled out for 50, the lowest total in ODIs in 2023, and India chased down the total in 31 deliveries.

Mohammed Siraj's bowling graph against Sri Lanka in the 2023 Asia Cup final |Screenshot via Disney+ Hotstar

Ball 1 – Siraj bowls with a little swing, but the length entices Nissanka to push at it. The contact is poor and Ravindra Jadeja takes a brilliant low catch at point. Wicket no 1

Ball 2 – Sadeera Samarawickrama leaves a length ball outside off well alone.

Ball 3 – Siraj pitches it at a good length again but this time gets it to swing in. Samarawickrama misses the ball completely and is struck on his pads. He reviews the decision in vain. A roar from Siraj and Sri Lanka are three down inside four overs. Wicket no 2

Ball 4 – New batter Charith Asalanka’s footwork is all over the place as he slices a ball, that he could have left alone, to Ishan Kishan at cover. Wicket no 3

Ball 5 – Siraj on a hat-trick and Dhanajaya de Silva, the new batter in, punches it through mid-on for a boundary. The Indian bowler, with adrenaline pumping, ends up chasing it till the boundary.

Ball 6 – de Silva tries to play a ball that didn’t have to be played and gets a feather touch to it. Rahul takes it calmly and Siraj roars again. Wicket no 4

In six balls, Sri Lanka went from 8/1 to 12/5 – half their batters back in the hutch, all because of the bowler from Hyderabad.

It was a blistering over that left the Sri Lankan fans in shock as they tried to make sense of what had just happened.

Siraj would go on to get two more wickets in his third over, he knocked over Sri Lankan captain Dasun Shanaka’s off-stump and finally, in his sixth over, out-foxing Mendis to dismantle his stumps as well.

The 29-year-old would finish with figures of 7-1-21-6, his first five-wicket haul in One-Day Internationals and the joint-fastest ODI five-for alongside former Sri Lanka pacer Chaminda Vaas.

Hardik Pandya would chip in with three wickets to wrap up Sri Lanka’s innings in the 16th over.

During the innings break, speaking to Star Sports, Siraj said, “Last time I did the same against Sri Lanka at Trivandrum. [I] got four wickets early [but] couldn’t get the five-for. [I] realised you get what’s in your destiny. I have always looked for swing in white-ball cricket. But today it was swinging, and I got more wickets with the outswinger.”

It has been a good year so far for Siraj – in the eleven matches he’s played in 2023 (including the fixture on Sunday), he’s picked up 29 wickets at an average of 12.86 and a strike rate of 16.6. He has managed to establish himself as an integral cog in the Indian pace batter alongside Bumrah.

Throughout the Asia Cup, India has displayed their strengths in different areas – the batters going big against Pakistan, Kuldeep Yadav’s effort against Sri Lanka in the Super Four stage, and Shubman Gill’s one-man effort in the previous match against Bangladesh.

But Siraj’s dominant spell of swing bowling on a sub-continental pitch, supported by Bumrah and Pandya, will inject much-needed belief into a side that has struggled to bowl teams out.

In terms of teams using this tournament as a warm-up to the competitive environment they will face at the ICC Men’s World Cup next month, it was pretty much perfect for India.

But for now, Siraj will soak in the feeling of living the dream – orchestrating India’s eight Asia Cup title. And importantly, getting that much-coveted first five-for, a confidence booster heading with the premier ODI world tournament less than a month away.