England v Sri Lanka, Twenty20, Bristol June 25, 2011

Sri Lanka's comeback stars prove the difference


For Sri Lanka the next three weeks is what their tour of England is really all about. They tried their best in the Tests, where the draws at Lord's and the Rose Bowl were commendable results, but were never going to have a serious chance of winning with such a threadbare bowling attack. Limited-overs cricket, of both the 20- and 50-over variety, is a very different story and the performance at Bristol showed what makes them such a dangerous team in coloured clothes.

In a match studded with players returning to the international scene, it was Sri Lanka's comeback stars who had, by far, the biggest influence on proceedings. Lasith Malinga, no longer a Test cricketer due to his dodgy knees, led the way with a frugal four overs that cost 15 with few of England's players able to lay a bat on him. Even those who could, such as the in-form Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan, only managed to take him for one boundary.

Malinga has lost the highlights from his hair since last appearing for Sri Lanka at the World Cup, but none of the sparkle from his bowling. It's a huge shame his body can't withstand the longer format - especially having seen some of those who are trying to replace him in the Test team - but, in a factor often overlooked by those who curse the Test verses Twenty20 debate, the short game ensures he can still dazzle on the world stage.

"With Lasith in your side it's very easy because he is a world-class bowler," Thilina Kandamby, the Sri Lanka captain, said. "I knew whenever he had a chance he would pick up wickets. He's the best in the world in that role."

It wasn't far off a perfect Twenty20 bowling display. Malinga's first over, the last of the six-over Powerplay, cost just three runs to ensure England collected a disappointing 33 for 2 from the fielding restrictions. The last ball of that over was clocked at 90mph and with the 'sling' imparted by his action was comfortably the fastest England have faced this season.

Stuart Broad knew Malinga's four overs had played a major role in changing the game. "They have some very good death bowlers," he said. "You only have to look at Malinga who is one of the best in the world and we didn't find the boundaries we needed."

Malinga isn't just about toe-crushing yorkers. He provided the key breakthrough by removing a rampant Morgan with a bouncer that was pulled to deep square-leg. Off his next 15 balls, a mixture of slower deliveries and others up at 90mph, just eight runs came from the bat and only one of those in the last over when Chris Woakes and Broad connected with nothing but fresh air. Nobody in the England side comes close to bowling yorkers so consistently.

However, it wasn't just Malinga who was important with the ball. Nuwan Kulasekara, not long ago the No. 1 bowler in one-day cricket, kept up early pressure and the subsequent stand of 83 in nine overs between Pietersen and Morgan was the only time Sri Lanka lost control. The man who helped restore their grip was their most controversial inclusion. Sanath Jayasuriya's left-arm darts have not lost any effectiveness in his two years away from the international scene and as a farewell to Twenty20 internationals his 2 for 18 was a handy return.

His skiddy angle defeated Pietersen's cut and also bowled Ravi Bopara the ball after he'd hit the only boundary in the final eight overs. His effectiveness makes it even odder that he wasn't willing to extend his international farewell for the duration of the one-day matches. As it is, the last England will see of Jayasuriya will be at The Oval on Tuesday. Malinga, though, will be around for longer and that is likely to give the home side more problems.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2011, 22:55 GMT

    so...i am wondering if the debacle in the first one day means anything or will the lankan fans find excuses like South Africa, Ireland and England contributed in beating Sri Lanka..not to mention Ravi Bopara as a substitute fielder. Overrated team and delusional fans.

  • Sampath on June 28, 2011, 9:29 GMT

    We r happy because we win.why indians so sad..he..he

  • Sampath on June 28, 2011, 9:26 GMT

    Why Indians sooo jelous??they afraid malinga or what?We always producing great world class bowlers.

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2011, 2:54 GMT

    Lot of people stress the fact that SL is a good ODI team but not for tests. If they are not a good test side they will not be ranked 4th. They are in transition in there test match cricket and it will take least 1 year for them to settle. Then you will comment on SL differently.

  • Sonam on June 27, 2011, 4:37 GMT

    For people to say that the test series result could have been different if Malinga had played is about as laughable as me saying the result of this T20 match would have been so different had Tremlett, Anderson, Trott and Prior played. Malinga has never been much more than a one day bowler. Bowling straight yorkers in test cricket for 4 overs will not get you very far when nobody needs to force the pace. Similarly, England's world-class test players are often shown up in one day cricket, as they don't have the luxury of settling in for 10 overs before showing what they're capable of. The two formats are totally different. As great player as Mahela is, he looked like a million dollars in the T20 and Rs 2.50 in the tests. That says something about the different demands in different formats.

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2011, 4:35 GMT

    @ donda, no credit to lankans until they win in da odi's? lol 136 for 1 in 20 overs, to me is a clear indication of how we will perform in da 50 over format. 9 wickets to bat for 30 overs, no credit to ipl at all, ppl like malinga make da ipl worth watching...

  • Martin on June 26, 2011, 20:33 GMT

    You know what - ? I still can't be bothered....

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2011, 18:22 GMT

    Swombats: Your comments are like fox and the sour grapes story. Mind you, this is a T20 game which requires totally different tactics. Full tosses were not the only tactic used by Sri Lankans. There were yokers slower balls and very good swing bowling upfront. The better team by a distance won the match.

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2011, 16:57 GMT

    After my dose of reality..I want to go on record to say that 3 players standout from the current crop...Mahela, Kumara and Malinga. Used to like the smiling assassin when he played as well...people tend to forget how BCCI supported the associate nations. the Lankans have obviously forgetten that once upon a time they could not even beat TAMIL NADU for the M J GOPALAN trophy..and it was INDIA who helped get Sri Lanka test status.

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2011, 15:57 GMT

    the lankan fans have a serious case of napolean complex, exaggerated egos and a pathetic team to root for...so even a T20 win makes them the best team in the world and have suddenly become world beaters. They could not survive 30 overs in a test match and have used everything from the IPL and BCCI to blame for their abject lack of game. My last comment about the lankans did not get published but it is time somebody broke the lankan fans out of their delusion.

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