Lasith Malinga – slingy action, afro hairstyle, beaming smile; rarely have fast bowlers looked more relaxed on the ground. Rarely has someone seen him sledge or abuse fielders whose misfields have cost him runs.
Malinga always gave the impression of a man who enjoyed bowling and yet, somehow remained disconnected. For years, he was one of the four pillars of a Sri Lankan team that reached the finals of many a world tournament, along with Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
Malinga was Sri Lanka’s X-factor, a once in a generation talent. He cut his Test career short to prolong his ODI and T20 career and why not? It is in the shorter formats that he has such a fearsome reputation and is still feared, despite losing some zing.
Known for his deadly yorkers that dipped sharply to turn into toe-crushers, Malinga remains the only bowler to have taken four career hat tricks – three in ODIs and one in a recent T20I against Bangladesh. Here we revisit all four of those hat-tricks.
#1 Sri Lanka v Bangladesh T20, Colombo 2017
Malinga gave Sri Lanka a genuine opportunity to win the second T20I against Bangladesh at Colombo. The visitors were cruising at 169 for 5 in the 19th over batting first against Sri Lanka.
Malinga took three in three balls, getting the wickets of Mushfiqur Rahim, the Bangladesh wicket-keeper, Mashrafe Mortaza, the captain, and Mehedi Hasan Miraz. The first two were bowled and the third was LBW.
Bangladesh managed just 176, scoring seven runs in the last 10 deliveries. However, Malinga was let down by the Sri Lankan batsmen, who surrendered without a fight. Sri Lanka were all out for 131 and lost by 45 runs. The series was tied 1-1 and Malinga picked up the Player of the Series award.
#2 Sri Lanka v Australia ODI, Colombo 2011
At the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, a happy hunting ground for Malinga, the Australians were wrecked by some fine bowling by the Sri Lankans. Malinga cleaned up the lower order with a wonderful hat-trick.
Australia were 211 for 6 in the 45th over, looking to push towards a score of 250. However, Malinga picked up Mitchell Johnson, John Hastings and Xavier Doherty in the 46th over. Brad Haddin was out in the first ball of the 47th over and Australia were all out for 211, losing five wickets in the span of a run.
Sri Lanka chased down 212 with 18 balls to spare, winning the match by four wickets. Malinga returned figures of 3/35 in eight overs and won the Player of the Match award for his efforts.
#3 Sri Lanka v Kenya ODI, Colombo 2011
Kenya realised how hard dealing with Malinga could be in the 2011 ICC World Cup. They were already struggling at 137 for 6 when the 33-year-old picked up a wicket in his 7th over. But it was in his next over that he unleashed his fury.
Malinga was unplayable as far as the Kenyan tailenders were concerned. In the first three balls of his 44th over, he picked up the wickets of Ongondo, Ngoche and Otieno with all three losing their stumps.
Kenya capitulated from 128 for 5 to 142 all out. Sri Lanka chased the target down with 188 balls to spare, winning by nine wickets. The year 2011 was excellent for Malinga, given he picked up two hat-tricks that year. Once again, he was the Player of the Match.
#4 Sri Lanka v South Africa ODI, Guyana 2007
In the 2007 World Cup, where Sri Lanka made it to the final, Malinga made headlines by creating a bowling record that has stood the test of time. He became the first player in ODIs and therefore, at the World Cup, to pick four wickets in four balls.
The Sri Lankan showed how a good bowler can change things even in the last moment. Chasing just 210 set by Sri Lanka, South Africa were cruising at 206 for 5, requiring another five runs to clinch the game in the Super Eights.
However, Malinga picked up the wickets of Shaun Pollock and Andrew Hall in the last two balls of the 45th over. He came back in the 47th over and picked up the well-set Jacques Kallis in the first ball, thereby completing his hat-trick.
The next ball he got Makhaya Ntini and before they knew it, South Africa found themselves at 207 for 9 in the 47th over. Sri Lanka were baying for blood. Somehow the last two batsmen, Robin Peterson and Charles Langeveldt scampered for the remaining runs and South Africa won in the 49th over by just one wicket.
Malinga’s figures of 4/54 don’t tell the complete story of how impressive he was and how he made the match exciting with a stunning spell.