Finals can often become turgid one-sided affairs. The final of the Coca Cola Champions Trophy at the CBFS Stadium in Sharjah could not have been more one-sided. However, what it lacked in competitiveness it made up for in sheer, undulated drama. Seldom can Sharjah have seen such scenes.
Sri Lanka defeated India by 245 in one of their most intimidating performances in the history of Sri Lankan cricket. The architect was, Sanath Jayasuriya, who rescued an innings that was dipping into the doldrums, with a breathtaking 189 from just 161 balls, the second equal highest score in the history of one-day international cricket.
Then, with India needing to score a mammoth 300 runs to win, the Sri Lanka bowlers ripped through the top order. Within 24 balls, both Tendulkar (5) and Ganguly (3) were left brooding in the dressing room. India's chances of winning had been squashed and any self-belief that had previously lingered had now vanished.
The Indian middle order capitulated. The only batsman to reach double figures was Robin Singh (11) and India were bowled out for just 54 runs. This was the lowest total ever in the history of one-day cricket in Sharjah and the third lowest in the world.
Chaminda Vaas finished with a career best 5 for 14 from his 9.3 overs. Both he and Zoysa bowled aggressively, perhaps fuelled by the inspirational batting of their captain. Everything they did appeared to bring dividends.
Ganguly, Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh (3) all played too early and were caught in front of the wicket. Vinod Kambli (3) was brilliantly caught at slip by Jayasuriya, and Zoysa picked up his first wicket when Badani (9) top edged a pull shot straight to Russel Arnold. India were 5 wickets down for 30 and Mutiah Muralitharan had not even marked out his run.
When he did, it brought instantaneous success. His third ball, a fizzing, dipping off spinner clean bowled Dahiya (4). Then, in his next over, an arm ball deceived Robin Singh and he too was bowled. To add insult to injury Sunil Joshi was run out in school boyish fashion before Muralitharan and Vaas wrapped up the innings.
The batting was piteous, of that there can be no doubt. However, it was the innings of Sanath Jayasuriya that sapped the self-belief of the Indians, and, ultimately was responsible for Sri Lanka winning their fifth match in succession and securing their second triangular tournament title in five months.
Sri Lanka were on the ropes. After a brisk start the Indian fast bowlers had fought back and the run-rate had slowed. When Kumar Sangkkara flayed nonchalantly at Tendulkar and dragged the ball onto to his stumps, Sri Lanka were 116 for 4 in the 28th over. The batting became subdued and the running nervy.
However, crucially, Sanath Jayasuriya, was still at he crease and he was joined by Russel Arnold, who exerted a calming influence upon his leader. The pair rescued the innings. Arnold was content to nurdle the ball into the gaps to give Jayasuriya the strike.
From the very first delivery he faced, which was dispatched to the cover fence, he missed no opportunity offered. His iron wrists and bulging forearms created immense power in his shots and he hit four sixes and 21 boundaries in total.
When he reached his century he ran amok, scoring 89 runs from 43 balls and took the game away from India. Ganguly admitted as much afterwards: "We are really disappointed. We had reduced them to 116 for 4 but, then, Sanath batted brilliantly and batted us out of the game. All credit should go to him."
During the carnage, somewhere in the outfield lurked a distraught Sunil Joshi. He had committed the cardinal sin of dropping Jayasuriya when he had made just 93. The left arm spinner had just been recalled into the attack after a miserly first spell of seven overs for 21 runs. Jayasuriya shimmied up the wicket and offered the bowler a relatively simple catch. So confident was Joshi off catching it that his arms flew, prematurely, into the air in celebration. Alas, the ball remained on the turf and with it disappeared India's chance of winning the match.
Unsurprisingly, Jayasuriya dominated the awards ceremony and made a small fortune for his troubles. He won the best batsman, best fielder, fastest fifty, most sixes, the man of the man match and, finally, the man of the series.
When interviewed afterwards, he was his normal modest self, albeit with a brighter twinkle in the eye: "We have played as a team throughout the tournament and that is why we have won all fours games. It has been fantastic and I would like to thank all the players for being so supportive."
Murali too, paid tribute to the team ethic: "I am of course happy to have broken the world record, but I have to thank the team because without them it not have been done. I feel that I am bowling the best that I ever have and am really enjoying it."
They are right of course. The key to this Sri Lankan team has been the togetherness. The team play together, live together and enjoy each others company. They consider themselves, not individuals, but part of a whole. It is a state that Ganguly would dearly love to re-create.