Colombo, March 1: On first glance, he may not have the physical presence or the stature to intimidate. His blond, highlighted locks of loose, curly hair may even evoke a giggle or two. But when he charges into the crease, the streaks in his hair resemble fire and it is with fire that he unleashes his ultra-quick, patented sling-shot deliveries.
In fact, legend has it that on Sri Lanka's 2005 tour of New Zealand, his unusual round-arm action resulted in the ball getting lost to the batsmen against the backdrop of the umpire's trousers. So the officials were promptly asked to change their attire!
But his fiery yorkers, discharged with incessant rapidity and to optimum effect, are no optical illusion. Coupled with his aggressive, never-say-die attitude, his prowess as a genuine fast bowler is a potent force, something which has enabled him to a ensnare an unprecedented two hat-tricks in World Cups.
The first came in oddly enough, a losing cause. In a 2007 World Cup game, South Africa had five wickets remaining and needed just 4 runs from 32 balls when Shaun Pollock lost his leg-stump to a slow yorker. Andrew Hall then mistimed another slow ball to be caught at cover.
In the next over, Jacques Kallis was caught behind, handing Malinga the hat-trick. Makhaya Ntini was then bowled by a screeching in-swinging yorker to make it four-in-four. The fifth ball blazed a millimetre past the off-stump of last-man Charl Langeveldt. But the Proteas survived the ordeal to win by one-wicket.
The second time he repeated the feat was against Kenya at the Premadasa Stadium on Tuesday, March 1, 2011. Batting first, thge Kenyans appeared set to post a total somewhere in the vicinity of 200. But at 137/6 in 41.6 overs, Malinga truncated their plans to bowl them out for 142.
Three fast, in-swinging, dipping yorkers took care of Tanmay Mishra courtesy an lbw for a duck, Peter Ongondo and Shem Ngoche who were both bowled, also for no-scores. A five-wide and a dot later, Elijah Otieno perished to another yorker, making it four wickets in five legitimate balls.
This paceman has thus sounded a warning that he is very much on the prowl for wickets and has the ability to polish off the tail of any opposition as soon as it is exposed. The Australians better take heed for come Saturday, they are the next in Malinga's firing line...