Lasith Malinga insisted he had done nothing new despite being hailed as a “legend” after starring in Sri Lanka’s stunning World Cup win over England on Friday.
The veteran paceman took four for 43 as Sri Lanka, defending a seemingly modest total of 232-9, beat England by 20 runs to open up the race for a semi-final spot.
England, bidding to win the World Cup for the first time, would have gone top of the 10-team round-robin table with a victory at Headingley.
But instead they suffered their second defeat of the group phase following an equally surprising 14-run loss to Pakistan.
Malinga’s haul saw him become just the fourth bowler to take 50 wickets at the World Cup after Glenn McGrath, Muttiah Muralitharan and Wasim Akram.
And just as importantly for Sri Lanka on Friday, the 35-year-old, renowned for his unorthodox ‘slingshot’ action, struck telling blows.
Malinga, who briefly returned home earlier in the tournament following the death of his mother-in-law, rocked England at the start of their chase when he had Jonny Bairstow lbw for a golden duck.
England then saw Malinga have stand-in opener James Vince caught at slip.
Malinga had the in-form Joe Root caught behind down the legside for 57 on review and Jos Buttler fell lbw for 10 to a trademark yorker.
Ben Stokes tried to take the game away from Sri Lanka — now just two points behind third-placed England — with a blistering unbeaten 82, only for wickets to keep falling at the other end.
“We know how hard Ben Stokes hits it, he got two or three boundaries but we just kept bowling our stock ball,” said Malinga.
“We stuck to our basic plan – line and length, no loose balls and add in some variations and bouncers.”
Meanwhile, Buttler said Malinga remained as awkward to face as ever.
“He is just different – as much as you do face him he is different,” Buttler insisted.
“The stumps are always in play with him, with his release point if it hits you in line it’s generally close (to the batsman being out).
“We didn’t counter him as well as we could have today but credit to a fantastic bowler.”
– ‘Legend’ –
Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne praised Malinga and fellow veteran Angelo Mathews, whose painstaking 85 not out helped them recover from a collapse to three for two.
“Lasith is a legend,” said Karunaratne. “He keeps doing what he knows, that’s the main thing, the basic things. He did a really good job.
“It looked like a 300 wicket, we thought it was a good, flat wicket. But when we played it seamed in the first few overs then it got slower and slower.”
As for Mathews, the skipper said: “Angelo, in-form, he knows how to play his role. He’s a good finisher and did a good job.”
Sri Lanka — who have now beaten England in four successive World Cups — next play South Africa in Durham a week on Friday and Malinga said: “We want to carry on the momentum and confidence into the other matches.”
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