Sri Lanka news December 21, 2014

Malinga to return for New Zealand ODIs

Lasith Malinga has missed Sri Lanka's last two ODI series, against India and England © PA Photos

Sri Lanka's premier one-day bowler Lasith Malinga will return to international cricket towards the tail-end of the seven-match ODI series in New Zealand in January 2015. Malinga underwent surgery on a troubled left ankle in September and is currently recuperating. He missed Sri Lanka's last two ODI series played against India and England.

"Malinga is still recovering from surgery and everything is going well according to plan. He will return for the last two ODI games in New Zealand," assured Sri Lanka coach Marvan Atapattu.

Malinga, who has been named in Sri Lanka's provisional World Cup squad of 30, has 271 wickets from 177 ODIs. Without him Sri Lanka managed to beat England 5-2 at home after losing 0-5 to India.

Suranga Lakmal made up for Malinga's absence with two telling spells in the final two ODIs against England.

"The way he [Lakmal] bowled especially at Pallekele is what we all welcome. We all knew what he could bring into the side. In Malinga's absence we needed that tight bowler and he has come and delivered straightaway," Atapattu said.

On his return to international cricket from an ankle injury Lakmal took a career-best 4 for 30 in Pallekele and followed it up with figures of 2 for 25 in Colombo.

"It's nothing like you having your settled combination. If Malinga and [Nuwan] Kulasekera can come back and bowl the way they have done in the past it will be fantastic," Atapattu said.

Kulasekara remains in contention for a place in the World Cup squad, on the back of his domestic performances, Atapattu said. Kulasekara had been an integral cog in Sri Lanka's ODI attack since 2007, but had encountered an extended lean patch this year, during which he claimed only two wickets in his nine recent outings.

He has been active in Sri Lanka's Premier Limited Over tournament since, most recently taking 4 for 30 in the final against Sinhalese Sports Club. Kulasekara took 11 wickets in seven matches at an average of 22.45 all told, during that tournament.

"Kulasekera is going through the club season at the moment and he is working through his action [for] inswingers and outswingers with the coaches in the academy," Atapattu said. "We didn't want to rush him but give him plenty of confidence before he comes and plays.

"His greatest strength is to move the ball at the pace that he bowls at: 120-130. He lost a little of his natural swing in the latter part of the match he played against India lately. It was quickly identified by the bowler and he is doing some remedial work."

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