South Africa v Sri Lanka, Super Eights, Guyana

Full length, full reward

S Rajesh and HR Gopalakrishna

March 28, 2007

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Lasith Malinga proved once again that he is at his best when bowling with the old ball © AFP
Charl Langeveldt became only the third South African bowler - after Lance Klusener and Shaun Pollock - to take a five-for in the World Cup, but his feat was overshadowed by a dramatic late spell by Lasith Malinga, who became the fifth bowler to take a hat-trick in World Cups, but the first to take four wickets in four balls in all one-day internationals. His effort almost won Sri Lanka the match, but in the end South Africa managed to stagger past the finish line by one wicket, the third such margin of victory in an ODI.

In his first four overs, Malinga struggled to find any swing or seam movement and leaked 37 runs, including six fours. With the old ball in hand, though, Malinga was a completely transformed bowler. He bowled at more than 140 kmph and, crucially, got the ball to reverse-swing, ensuring that the length which had earlier been so easy to score off suddenly became almost unplayable. The result was an unprecedented four wickets in four balls - the closest any bowler has come to it is Saqlain Mushtaq, who took four wickets in five balls against Zimbabwe at Peshawar in 1996-97.

Malinga's length, in his first 4 and last 5.2 overs
Length First 4 overs - balls Runs Last 5.2 - balls Runs
Good length 22 25 23 16
Full length 3 10 8 0

Malinga's performance underscored, once again, the fact that he is at his most potent when bowling in the last few overs of an ODI innings. As the table below shows, the average runs he concedes per wicket in the last 25 is half the number in the first 25.

Malinga, in the first 25 and last 25 overs in ODIs
Balls Runs Wickets Average Economy rate
First 25 overs 950 638 22 29.00 4.02
Last 25 overs 509 404 28 14.42 4.76

There weren't any starting problems for Langeveldt, though, as he took over from a lacklustre Shaun Pollock - who has now gone for 129 off 18 wicketless overs in two games - and immediately staunched the flow of runs and nailed wickets. The Sri Lankan batsmen managed an in-control percent of 74 against him - much lesser than the corresponding stat against other bowlers - which suggests that Langeveldt fully deserved the five wickets he got.

Langeveldt has now taken both his ODI five-fors in the West Indies, where he averages 19.85 runs per wicket at a strike rate of 23 - both stats are much better than his career numbers.

Other highlights

  • Malinga's hat-trick is the 24th in ODIs.

  • The 97-run partnership between Tillakaratne Dilshan and Russel Arnold is the best for the sixth wicket for Sri Lanka in the World Cup, going past the earlier record of 84 between Arjuna Ranatunga and Romesh Kaluwitharana against England at Lord's in 1999.

  • Graeme Smith has become the fifth batsman to score four successive fifty-plus scores in a World Cup, the others being David Boon, Graeme Fowler, Navjot Sidhu and Sachin Tendulkar (twice). Smith is the first captain to achieve this feat, though.

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    S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.
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