ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Sri Lanka v Kenya, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo

Malinga's freakery wasted on Kenya

Kenya were such miserably unequal opponents, Lasith Malinga's hat-trick was too underwhelming

Osman Samiuddin in Colombo

March 1, 2011

Comments: 19 | Text size: A | A

Peter Ongondo fails to keep out Lasith Malinga's yorker, Sri Lanka v Kenya, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo, March 1, 2011
An unequal fight. Lasith Malinga bowled fast and straight, and that was that © AFP
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Players/Officials: Lasith Malinga
Series/Tournaments: ICC Cricket World Cup
Teams: Sri Lanka

To begin with some brutal honesty, Lasith Malinga's hat-trick and bowling generally were wasted on this encounter. It was watched by a surprisingly large number of people gamely creating an atmosphere and it was, as feats of statistics go, worthy of celebration. But Kenya were such miserably unequal opponents that it was too underwhelming.

The press conference afterwards confirmed this. About as much time was spent on what will most likely be an entirely pointless handbag scuffle between two players and Sri Lanka's state TV channel, even though this was Malinga's second hat-trick, both taken at World Cups. And even thousands of miles away, four years ago on TV, Malinga's four in four against South Africa in Guyana was felt so much more than this as an act of freakery. Despite losing that game, Malinga rated that spell higher. This game had drifted along so casually, a few didn't realise that he had taken a hat-trick immediately, broken as it was over two overs.

Malinga is actually so compelling a sight you don't need to take into account any opponent at the other end. Watching him bowl pre-game at some stumps was enough. The double-take at his action has worn off. He doesn't run as much as scurry in. In fact, the angry blonde curls dominating his appearance are more distracting; this scribe, though, was always partial to his cornrows phase. He is at least as cool as Chris Gayle though half his size, so that there could also be something cartoonish about the whole picture. Few really fast bowlers have been this small.

He has lately relied on more than just yorkers but there cannot be many around who bowl it with more purpose and greater control than he does: he has them available on tap. Today his 7.4 overs seemed to consist wholly of yorkers, with a couple of short ones and leg-side wides thrown in, perhaps out of boredom. There wasn't a huge amount of late swing, more late dip and curve, but he was getting it early. Kenya had no chance, jerking their bats down late and down the wrong line.

Later, as he sat looking more like a man who had completed the worst spell of his career and answering questions, he name-checked Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis as influences. Like that duo, he takes wickets in short and sharp clusters. Akram had four international hat-tricks to his name but he was on a hat-trick countless times. Once, against the West Indies in 1990-91, Akram took four Test wickets in five balls and the only ball he didn't take a wicket on, the middle one, was a catch dropped by Imran Khan. If you were to predict one bowler in international cricket today to be a serial hat-trick taker, it would have to be Malinga and if we're lucky they might come on grander occasions than this.

He is back in time for Sri Lanka, having missed the first two games with a back injury. That has been and probably will be a recurring theme. He doesn't know how long he'll keep playing for, though it has already been seven years since he weirded out Stephen Fleming and New Zealand. Sri Lanka's attack has variety without him, but with him it becomes a different beast, more teeth and hair. On Saturday, Australia and their fast boys are in town and for one match at least, this World Cup will be all about pace.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 19 
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Posted by Lakmal on (March 3, 2011, 7:24 GMT)

@indianzen -- "It is already a controversy on his bowling action.".oh..sour grapes.Isn't it mate? who told that Malinga's action is controversial? He has an unorthodox , slinging action. But it 's not illegal. your indian fast bowlers are good for nothing.(Apart from Zak).They cannot defend a momoth total of 338.go and tell BCCI to produce a good ,fast pace squad.

Posted by Roshan on (March 3, 2011, 3:54 GMT)

@indianzen - Seems like you want to create an controversy here. No umpire, no reffery has any issues with his bowling action. You must be a very jelous person or a very scared of the fate of a certain overated batting line up. According to the tests only Sarvan has a clean action. Without going further we stop at here. @KaiserKesar - If it's so difficult for you to watch good bowler bowl, always you can read the news or donate your eyes to a needy.

Posted by Ted on (March 2, 2011, 15:28 GMT)

I agree, Malinga should have rubbed his so called "freakery" on Pakistan. Can you imagine what would have been the result, if he was allowed to play against Pakistan? BTW he didn't have any back injury as such, according to the coach he just had a slight strain couple of weeks ago while picking a cricket ball and nothing to do with his recovered knee injury. He was fit to play that day although not selected (according to Malinga's own comments in Sinhala at the award ceremony). I think he missed first two games due to unfortunate selection "ambiguity" prevailing in SL, rather than anything else. Mr. Samiuddin when we consider the height, I think Waqar is not much taller than Lasith and height maybe advantageous if depending on bounce. Probably Malinga's height suits his type of bowling. I think it is better to think of individual effectiveness rather than compassion.

Posted by Deleepa on (March 2, 2011, 10:33 GMT)

What's the point destroying Kenya?? If you cannot perform against a better team! Let's see how they o against Aussies this Saturday.

Posted by ashok on (March 2, 2011, 9:11 GMT)

oh well.. the Article seem to be a little over praising Malinga. It is already a controversy on his bowling action. I don't agree to all what osman says, if this was achieved by Kulasekara or perera then i would accept it. I am a fan of Glenn Mcgrath, a true and champion bowler of all age...

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 2, 2011, 9:08 GMT)

As the article says: a feat wasted on Kenya. I personally felt that it was a show off after the exploits of K Roach the previous day. We knew obviously that SL wanted Kenya crushed into dust but I really think that SL felt that they had something to prove to themselves. They were actually gifted one really. It wouldn't have mattered in the end. Hopefullywe'll see tons of toe crushers againt stronger opposition.

Posted by Nalin on (March 2, 2011, 6:43 GMT)

He is freakish and sat with him few years back at a party, very nice chap just like on tv. Its a arm speed and looking forward to see him ball at the Aussi Boys.

Posted by Aussies on (March 2, 2011, 6:42 GMT)

Why comparisons between Waqar/Wasim with Malinga??? Luved this comment I read on another page "You still have a long way to go, young disciple, to match the kung fu of the master Waqar. For you to best him, you first must conquer your own fitness issues and then conquer the 36 chambers of the Shaolin..."

Posted by Hassan on (March 2, 2011, 5:49 GMT)

It is totally unfair to label Malinga's performance as "wasted". I am a fan of you Osman, but this article oozes of -vety and there's already too much of that in this world. What Malinga did yesterday was truly special and rather than calling it "underwhelming" it should be appreciated as one of the best bowling performances in recent times (this of course after the era of two Ws).

Posted by Vijay on (March 2, 2011, 5:33 GMT)

Aus-SL should be a spectacular duel to watch. I personally feel Aus can play his pace better as they have Tait and Lee for practice and they are marginally (if not more) quicker than Malinga. Playing him in SL should be a good battle though.

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Osman SamiuddinClose
Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.

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