Sri Lanka waited until it was all over, until the fireworks shot into the sky and until the golden confetti sparkled in their hair. A victory was ensured off the second ball of the last over, practically even before, at the fall of Mohammad Rizwan, but they waited until the last ball was bowled, stifling their excitement and joy.
At that moment, the exact moment when Sri Lanka beat Pakistan by 23 runs to lift their sixth Asia Cup, half a dozen players clambered into the stands to take flags from the crowd, sprinted around the stadium, waving them in glee. Up high, the coaching staff were cutting loose — leaping to their feet, punching the air.
The players released all their emotions, came rushing out in waves and danced and ran in circles, pulsing with adrenaline. They ran like children — arms stretched wide, faces lit up with joy — running with nowhere in mind. There was a glorious mayhem, a feeling that all of this was just a dream and not a slice of reality.
Only a fortnight ago had they landed here as outsiders. After the first match, a shuddering defeat at the hands of Afghanistan, they were written off. They scraped and sneaked past opponents, clawed to stay in contention with the intensity of a team that knew this chance would not come again. So arduous has been their path. But they gathered an unstoppable momentum towards the backend. Handing out successive thrashings to Pakistan, before passing every test they were made to pass through.