SL look to play Malinga card again
Bowling at the death is an art not everyone can master. Precision, consistency and the ability to handle nerves are qualities that can desert a bowler to force a horrible twist to the script.
It is an issue that has troubled India for months, and Shahid Afridi exploited it with his relentless blows. Bangladesh too lost control in the final overs to lose despite posting 326 against Pakistan. The only team to contain Pakistan, Shahid Afridi included, were Sri Lanka, or the bowling phenomenon called Lasith Malinga.
Chasing Sri Lanka's 296 in the Asia Cup opener, Pakistan were 53 adrift with 42 balls and five wickets in hand. Afridi joined a set Misbah-ul-Haq. In the era of T20 cricket, the equation was achievable, especially with bowling getting tough as dew had set in.
Chances of a win getting dim, Lanka captain Angelo Mathews called upon his specialist, Malinga, an over later. What followed was carnage. He took three overs to knock off Afridi, Misbah, Bilawal Bhatti, Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal to hand Sri Lanka a 12-run victory with an over to spare.
Malinga's impact scarred Pakistan, allowing Sri Lanka to go into Saturday's final with supreme confidence.
"Malinga is an exception in world cricket when it comes to bowling at the death," said Mathews. "We did beat Pakistan with Afridi in the team so we just have to play positive cricket."
It is the hard work Malinga puts in before a game that makes him stand out.
"He is consistent because he is working hard consistently. He wants to get things right consistently when he walks in for a game. All the hard work he puts in the gym, he is a different player now," he said.
It is Malinga's ability that allows Sri Lanka to go into the final believing they can defend any target.
"He has been our premier bowler for years so we just want him to continue to do the same thing that helps us win."