ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2019 T20I bowling winner: blast from the past

Twelve years after he pulled off the impossible, Malinga did it again

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Who in the history of bowling was better built to take wickets in clumps than Lasith Malinga? He's a new batsman's nightmare.
There are some international batsmen who play him badly. There are others who play him very well. The one thing all these people can agree on is that it takes a while before you can get used to Malinga's point of delivery. One time, in New Zealand, batsmen asked umpires to drape their black trousers with white material, so that they could better spot the ball. Another time, Ross Taylor raised his bat as a joke when he managed to actually get bat to a Malinga ball, after he had played and missed repeatedly.
Even if you do sight a Malinga delivery from the hand, and even if you are expecting a yorker, it's still a huge challenge to play him. With the old ball, he uses reverse swing to magnificent effect, moving balls downwards to accentuate the dip, rather than swinging them sideways, which is what batsmen are used to. With the new ball, he gets late swing - his deliveries deciding to suddenly and dramatically cut through the air like a motorist who has been daydreaming and almost missed a turnoff. Malinga balls swerve through lanes that are otherwise decent and orderly.
This spell in Pallekele was in some ways typical. It was a match-winning performance that came in defence of a bad total - his team having only hit 125. Most of his wicket-taking deliveries were heading for the stumps. The batsmen knew that yorkers were coming, and yet were powerless against them.
But this familiarity did not take away from the joy. A packed house in Pallekele, in for a dead rubber against New Zealand, produced ear-splitting cheers for every wicket. Colin Munro was out when the ball whistled past his booming drive and into leg stump. Hamish Rutherford, who had flown in from the UK just for this match, was hit in front of the stumps first ball, and was given out lbw on review. Colin de Grandhomme had his stumps rattled by one of the most perfect yorkers imaginable. And then Taylor was caught so plumb by another full, swinging delivery, that he began walking back to the dressing room almost before the umpire had even given him out.

Key moment

Both de Grandhomme and Taylor had been in good form through the T20 series. When Malinga dismissed them - both with virtually unplayable balls - off successive deliveries, he raised Sri Lanka's chance of victory substantially.

The numbers

2 The number of times a bowler has taken four wickets in four balls in T20Is. The other man to achieve this feat was Rashid Khan, against Ireland, earlier in 2019.
5 The number of hat-tricks Malinga now has in international cricket, having taken one other hat-trick in T20Is, and three in ODIs.
100 The number of hat-tricks there have been in international cricket. Which means Malinga had personally taken 5% of all the hat-tricks ever effected when this feat was achieved.

What they said

"History maker."
- Jasprit Bumrah
"He's been a world-class bowler for a long time and he's shown his class tonight."
- Tim Southee

Close contenders

Deepak Chahar, 6 for 7 v Bangladesh, third T20I, Nagpur
Chahar also took a hat-trick during his outstanding spell to seal the series against Bangladesh, at home. Thanks to him, India easily defended a target of 175 in Nagpur. Having taken the wickets of Liton Das and Soumya Sarkar off successive deliveries to derail Bangladesh early in the chase, Chahar then wiped out the tail with his hat-trick.
Karim Janat, 5 for 11 v West Indies, second T20I, Lucknow
Janat, a right-arm seam bowler, only took his first wicket in the eighth over of the innings, but he was unstoppable after hat, removing Evin Lewis and  Kieron Pollard before he was done. He moved the ball in the air as well as off the seam during this spell. Thanks to Janat's frequent breakthroughs, West Indies didn't even get close to a modest target of 148.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf