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

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