x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Malinga is a masterclass

Bowler an inspiration for younger players and 'a fantastic guy', says captain Dilshan

Lasith Malinga practises yesterday ahead of the third one-dayer against Pakistan.
Lasith Malinga practises yesterday ahead of the third one-dayer against Pakistan.

After his man-of-the-match performance in Sri Lanka's series-levelling win in the second one-day international against Pakistan in Dubai on Monday, Lasith Malinga has been hailed by his captain for the example the paceman is setting the team's younger bowlers.

"His energy in the field, he runs around, he gives me advice, too," Tillakaratne Dilshan said ahead of the third ODI today at Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

"As a leader he's giving advice to youngsters, sometimes to us also during the game.. He shows energy and character and he was constantly asking me to give him a bowl and that he'd get me a wicket. He's that kind of character."

It is difficult to reconcile notions of seniority and leadership with Malinga, baby-faced as he is. At 28, he still has years ahead of him even if it is easy to forget he has been around international cricket for over seven years now.

But with a fresh batch of accompanying pacemen, such as Suranga Lakmal, Thisara Perera and Chanaka Welegedara, Malinga's experience makes him a natural leader, as Dilshan acknowledges.

Malinga picked up two wickets in his first over of the win on Monday and ended with three for 36.

That performance reversed a poor record against Pakistan. Before the game, he had taken only nine wickets in 11 ODIs against them, at an average of nearly 52.

"He's one of the leading bowlers in the world," Dilshan said. "As captain I am very happy he's in my team because he's trying to get a wicket every time he bowls."

The third game of a five-match series is always the crucial one, the one that can decide the mood and destination of the series.

Sri Lanka have been flat through much of this tour, but were at their perkiest on Monday night, slick in the field and with altogether more intent. The performance will, said Dilshan, hold them in good stead.

"We take a lot of positive things," he said. "We've prepared really well and it's a very important match, because if you win, you take a lead going to Sharjah."

Pakistan fought hard throughout but failed where they do so often: in the face of a tricky but not daunting run chase. It has not helped that they look so light on batting. Monday's line-up contained, in effect, only four specialist batsmen.

There is only one backup batsman in the squad - Asad Shafiq -but in any case they seem likelier to tweak the bowling. Sohail Tanvir and Junaid Khan are both in contention, possibly to replace Abdul Razzaq and Aizaz Cheema. Misbah-ul-Haq, the captain, was keener to point to the errors his side committed rather than the balance of the line-up.

"We have to learn from the mistakes we committed," he said. "We dropped an important catch early, gave away 17 extras and lost three very early wickets. We have to overcome these problems."

osamiuddin@thenational.ae