When Dinesh Karthik
came to the crease, India required 34 off 12 balls. Mustafizur Rahman had just delivered perhaps the over of the tournament. A profoundly deflated Vijay Shankar was batting at the other end. What unravelled was a scarcely believable finish that saw Bangladesh fritter away their chance at the title, and Karthik - phenomenally cool at the crease - seized ruthlessly on their string of mistakes.
He punished Rubel Hossain in the penultimate over, as the bowler continually missed his yorkers. The first ball, a full toss, disappeared over Rubel's head. Later in the over, overpitched balls would be smashed over cow corner and blasted past square leg. Twenty-two runs were hit off that over, but Karthik's best moment came at the end of the next. India now needing five off the last ball, he drilled a wide half volley from Soumya Sarkar over the extra cover rope. An India-supporting Khettarama crowd, a phenomenon without precedence in the 21st century, was tipped into euphoria. His own team-mates flew out of the dressing room to greet him, engulfing him in a frenzied huddle.
Bangladesh, who had already triumphed in two thrillers, doing so much to prove they had rid themselves of the many hang-ups their 2016 World T20 defeat to India had spawned, were almost inconsolably distraught at the end of this match, now having collected a second haunting loss at the same opponent's hands. They had bowled so beautifully in defense of their 166 for 8 - a total that seemed perhaps 15 runs light. They had bowled four consecutive boundary-less overs in the middle, conceding only 16 during that spell, and consequently raising India's required rate from 7.81 at the end of the ninth over to 10 at the close of the 13th. Rohit Sharma
, who had helped set up the pursuit with 56 off 42, was dismissed soon after, and both Manish Pandey nor Shankar were chased into a corner by a proliferation of Bangladesh dot balls.
But all through this tournament, India have found special performers even from among this second string of players. After Mustafizur had bowled a wicket maiden in his final over the tournament, Karthik was India's human adrenaline shot, reviving an innings that had seemed doomed to a quiet death. His only stroke of fortune was that he had Sarkar to face in the last over, a result of Bangladesh's refusal to give Mehidy Hasan a second over after his first had been hit for 17 in the Powerplay.
Elsewhere in the game - though so much will be forgotten in that scintillating last-ball finish - there was a 77 off 50 balls from Sabbir Rahman that held the Bangladesh innings together, and outstanding spells from Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar, the former claiming 3 for 18, the latter 1 for 20.
In fact, the two India spinners had combined to deck the opposition top order as early as the fourth over of the game. The openers had been watchful in Sundar's first over, but the moment one attacked him a wicket resulted - Liton Das caught at square leg after having attempted a slog sweep. Next over, Chahal's first, provided two more wickets. Tamim Iqbal advanced, but although he sent the ball high into the Colombo night, he could not clear the field - Shardul Thakur plucking the ball above his head at long-on and expertly keeping his balance to avoid contact with the boundary. Four balls later, Sarkar swept Chahal straight to square leg, and Bangladesh were 33 for 3.
Sabbir was involved in rebuilding work with the seniors, putting on 35 in Mushifqur Rahim's company, then 36 in Mahmudullah's. Bangladesh would probably have got themselves to a better score had Sabbir not run Mahmudullah out in the 15th over - Mahmudullah marooned at the striker's end after Sabbir had sprinted to the keeper without taking note of his partner's reluctance. Sabbir then took it upon himself to club a few more leg-side boundaries, before being dismissed himself. Mehidy Hasan provided a final fillip, scoring 18 off the last over, bowled by Thakur.
India appeared to have the measure of this chase early, as after only 13 balls they had already struck 30. But then Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina fell in successive overs, and the innings slowed down. Rohit, who had made 39 in the Powerplay, scored only 13 runs in the six subsequent overs, When he holed out to Nazmul Islam - the original keeper of the Nagin dance - Pandey and Shankar were brought together. It was their dithering partnership, which was worth only 35 off 28 balls, that left India requiring the kind of furious finish that Karthik provided.