Ever­green Malinga still has mind­set and mas­tery of a bowl­ing ge­nius

At 35, the Sri Lanka fast bowler is draw­ing heav­ily on the in­tel­li­gence that makes him for­mi­da­ble foe

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Cricket - MICHAEL VAUGHAN

La­sith Malinga is a bowl­ing ge­nius. Even though he is 35 and not in the best of phys­i­cal shape these days, he can still pro­duce mag­i­cal per­for­mances like yes­ter­day’s be­cause he is such a smart, think­ing crick­eter. It is very hard to repli­cate fac­ing Malinga be­cause he is unique. You have to ex­pect the ball to come from out of the um­pire’s chest. In the nets you can place the bowl­ing ma­chine over the top of mid­dle stump from the far end to train the eyes for the an­gle, but that is about it.

How­ever, it is not the an­gle that causes most prob­lems; it is the fact that he is a very in­tel­li­gent bowler who knows when to use his yorker and slower balls. We have not given him enough credit for that down the years. When fac­ing his dip­ping slower ball you think it is knee or waist-height, but it dips be­cause he puts so much over-spin on the ball.

It is so hard to face when you start your in­nings, which is why he takes wick­ets in bursts. He is at his most threat­en­ing when the op­po­si­tion are look­ing to at­tack and hit him in the fi­nal overs. Bats­men are pre­med­i­tat­ing shots, so he asks him­self: “What is the bats­man try­ing to do?” He then bowls the ball they least ex­pect. That takes in­tel­li­gence.

The best time to face him is with the new ball. He swings the new ball away from the right-han­der and you feel that you can hit him for a few bound­aries. But when he comes back on later in the in­nings, that dip­ping slower ball is very hard to face.

His point of re­lease is about five feet off the ground. Most quick bowlers are more than 6ft tall and de­liver the ball from the top of their ac­tion. When the ball hits the pitch, they give you a chance to get un­der it: you have lever­age to play with. But Malinga does not do that. The slower ball that pitches up goes up, then dips down be­cause of the rev­o­lu­tions he gets on the ball, which makes it very hard to get un­der­neath it. He is great to watch, much less ap­petis­ing to face.

It has been an in­ter­est­ing week for cricket. Away from Sri Lanka, in the United Arab Emi­rates, Aus­tralia showed the first stir­rings of re­cov­ery af­ter the ball-tam­per­ing scan­dal.

Draw­ing a game they were dead set to lose af­ter the first in­nings against Pak­istan was a re­mark­able fight­back and will do won­ders for the captaincy of Tim Paine. The real test of a team is how they re­act in a dire sit­u­a­tion, and Paine will have learnt a lot about his play­ers this week. Such sit­u­a­tions test your in­ner strength, spirit and to­geth­er­ness. To sur­vive those dif­fi­cult mo­ments and come out the other side ma­tures your team.

Early in my captaincy we toured Sri Lanka and saved two Test matches. We bat­ted for 108 overs for a draw in Galle and then 140 to save the next match in Kandy, bat­ting on the fi­nal day against Mut­tiah Mu­ralitha­ran.

Those re­sults brought us to­gether and while you al­ways play to win, draw­ing games af­ter a poor start with lots of ques­tions about your tech­nique against the turn­ing ball can lift you more than an easy vic­tory.

It was a huge boost for Paine, who was al­ready fac­ing ques­tions about his lead­er­ship. Not many cap­tains have taken over in such dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances. Nor­mally they are groomed for the job for years. He was thrust into the po­si­tion, hav­ing only just re­gained his place af­ter years out of the side, al­most re­tir­ing from cricket.

It was also im­por­tant that Paine was out in the mid­dle at the end. When you are lead­ing a team it is all right say­ing the right things in the dress­ing room, giv­ing the team di­rec­tion, but some­times you have to do it your­self.

As a for­mer cap­tain look­ing at his team from the out­side, he ap­pears to be a de­cent guy and you want those sort of peo­ple to have suc­cess when tak­ing on such a big chal­lenge.

He made the right calls in se­lec­tion, bring­ing back Peter Sid­dle and open­ing with Us­man Khawaja, who bat­ted 524 min­utes to pro­duce a game-sav­ing cen­tury. Sid­dle was a sur­prise pick but he gives a cap­tain con­trol, which is what Paine needs at the mo­ment.

I have al­ways felt Khawaja could be an opener for Aus­tralia. You back him in Aus­tralian con­di­tions, but his prob­lem has al­ways been against spin in Asia. It played on his mind.

He used his bat a bit more, moved his front foot out of the way and it prob­a­bly helped that his coach, Justin Langer, was a left-han­der too, be­cause he went through sim­i­lar prob­lems. Khawaja gets crit­i­cised be­cause he is so laid back, a bit like David Gower. But Aus­tralia have to stick with him be­cause he has a great game that can go around the world. Langer has tough­ened him up and told him to trust him­self to make big scores open­ing the bat­ting.

If Aaron Finch can be a Test player as well, Steve Smith comes back into the mix and Shaun Marsh can find some con­sis­tency, then don’t rule the Aus­tralians out of the Ashes se­ries just yet. I said at the end of the last Ashes that Aus­tralia were a lot closer to win­ning in Eng­land than we are to win­ning in Aus­tralia, and I still stand by that state­ment.

‘It is hard to repli­cate fac­ing him be­cause he is unique. We’ve not given him enough credit’

On the ball: Eng­land’s one-day bats­men will have to learn fast against the unique style of La­sith Malinga

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.