|Slinging it at Lord's|
You think of Shane Warne and his refusal to venerate the baggy green, wearing that wide-brimmed sun-hat at all times. It’s a sign of the individual, the maverick.
It also signifies a lost future for Malinga, the Test match hat worn in the limited overs game, by one of the great limited overs bowlers. But what could he have been in Tests? Thirty of them, the last in 2010, showed potential beyond most Sri Lankan seamers.
A knee injury put paid to that, and now the man with the biggest hair in cricket is over thirty, the t20 and ODI grind is the limit of his cricket.
After five overs, the sun-hat comes over, and is passed to the umpire, and Malinga starts his spell with a 65mph slower ball. Two balls later, he swings one away, Bell pokes and Thirimanne drops the dolly. It’s almost a Test match dismissal, to a Test match batsman, but not on the highest stage of all.
Another two balls later and Bell skies one to Kusal Perera, a much more limited overs dismissal, a spiralling ball caught at cover.
For anyone else, the little kiss Malinga gives the ball at the top of his mark would seem gauche and deliberately eccentric. If Dernbach did it, you’d assume he was kissing it goodbye before it sailed into the stands. But Malinga comes across as so uncomplicated, you just peg it as a good luck charm.
It didn’t bring him much luck early on, as he bamboozled England players over and again with his slower balls, only for their baffled lobs into the air to land nowhere near fielders. As an stone cold LBW appeal is turned down, he smiles at the umpire and shakes his head ruefully.
It all comes down as it often does, to his two overs at the death. A slower ball deceives Hales, then Bopara waits for one to run down to third m
an, and Hales belts one for four. Three slower balls in a row, the third going for four. What does Malinga do? He bowls a fourth, and Hales swings past it. Clean bowled.
Two more, and Malinga has bowled an entire over of slower balls. Is a slower ball a slower ball if he doesn’t bowl anything faster? Has Malinga just bowled an over of medium pace? Is that the most gutsy over of death bowling ever? Perhaps.
The next over starts with, predictably or not, another slower ball. All Malinga needs then is a two card trick against Chris Jordan, a rare quicker one then a slower cutter for the lower order basher to inside edge into his stumps.
Chris Woakes, never having faced a ball against Malinga, gets two pads in front of the stumps and somehow manages to chip a slower full-toss to mid-wicket for one, and after four singles off the nineteenth over of a T20 game, the captain rests.
Sri Lanka win. Of course they do. But 4-0-28-3 doesn’t even begin to tell the story of Lasith Malinga, his wide-brimmed sun-hat, and his over of slower balls.