Finally the crowds responded and so much so that with the Premadasa Stadium already packed, there were long queues of people waiting to get inside till almost half-way into the match. This is what T20 has been doing to the young and the outgoing since the inaugural Indian Premier League last year.
Ripples of this had been felt in this island state across the Palk Strait and even with the likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis not playing there was no let off in the enthusiasm. They saw the Pathan brothers steal a match Sri Lanka were poised to win, embrace each other in the middle and then run celebrating towards the dugout giving India a three-wicket win.
Close to 350 runs scored in 40 overs with 32 fours and 11 sixes hit, people hardly got the time to sit. With disbelief in their eyes but not missing a beat they savoured the atmosphere as the Pathan brothers changed the course of the match with some murderous shots from both ends. A Bollywood blockbuster that ends in tragedy, perhaps, but it was brimming with entertainment value for the 40,000 inside.
Sanath Jayasuriya lit up the evening with two brilliant sixes in his 17-ball 33 and then skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan, having been given a lease of life by Irfan even before he began scoring, got the act together with a 47-ball 61. Pathan was the pick of the Indian bowlers and ran through his quota with two for 23 when Ishant Sharma was getting some rough treatment.
Ishant however came back conceding just three runs in the final over of the innings. The target of 172 looked very much attainable till Mahendra Singh Dhoni was sent back, bowled by Malinga Bandara. It was after two more wickets --- that of Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja --- that Yusuf and Irfan stepped in and took charge at No 8 and 9.
A brilliant piece of fielding resulting in the run out of Virender Sehwag off a direct hit and Gautam Gambhir top-edging a pull had pushed India on the backfoot early. Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh got India back on course with some handsome hitting but with the wicket getting slower and slower stroke making was getting difficult and India kept losing wickets, only for a twist in the tail.
The action in the middle was money's worth. Relentless fireworks when the hosts batted, traditional dancers performing at the end of each over and after fours and sixes Sri Lanka hit and the sprightly yet monotonous beats in the stands, it was better than a night out on the dance floor.