Lasith Malinga’s 2019 — a journey through four yorkers

The veteran slinger of the cricket ball has gone through his fair share of fluctuating fortunes, but, of late, seems to have rediscovered himself and his yorking mojo of old.

Updated - September 11, 2019 08:49 pm IST

Published - September 11, 2019 08:33 pm IST

When you’ve been there and yorked this and that, you simply point to your jersey number and the crowd goes wild. | AP

When you’ve been there and yorked this and that, you simply point to your jersey number and the crowd goes wild. | AP

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With his pace on the wane, age not on his side, yorkers turning into full tosses, Malinga’s career in 2018 seemed to be going downhill on a bumpy road. He had gone unsold at the Indian Premier League despite being the highest wicket-taker and was unwanted by Sri Lanka. Rediscovering his magic seemed impossible. But reinvention, a different form of magic that has rescued several other legendary fast bowlers, was always an option and Malinga sought that out too.

He turned to slower balls and cutters. And despite no longer hurling down 140-kmph explosives at the toes of batsmen, Malinga outsmarted them with his guile. In the Global Canada T20 last year, Malinga used cutters to good effect, picking up 13 wickets at 11.64. It proved to be the spark that prompted his comeback for Sri Lanka and Mumbai Indians.

Up until the finals of IPL 2019, Malinga had taken 15 wickets, nearly half of them from his brand new weapon, the off-cutter. Even as he remained just behind Jasprit Bumrah in terms of wickets, the threat he posed appeared a whole lot less. He had picked up just one out of his 15 wickets with the yorker, a weapon that had made him the deadly pacer that he is known to be.

Then the IPL finals of 2019 happened.

Thrust into another pressure-cooker situation in the final over of a mind-bogglingly close run-chase, the veteran chose to ditch his new art and draw on his tried and tested (if temporarily shelved) skill. For the first five balls of the final over, where Chennai Super Kings needed nine runs to win, Malinga bowled nothing but yorkers. He came around the wicket to ensure that even if he missed the yorker, the batsmen would have little room to get it away. He missed them twice. But they still turned out to be low full tosses that were difficult to negotiate. The pace gun, which had remained in the 130s right through the season, went through the roof — 142.3 kph, 143 kph, 141.7 kph, 140.6 kph and 140.3 kph.



Chennai needed two from one ball when Malinga ran in over the wicket and sent down a slow, dipping yorker on middle-stump. Trapping Shardul Thakur in plumb in front of the wicket, he ensured that Chennai couldn't sneak in a bye or a leg-bye to win yet another IPL. Not on my watch, you don’t , Malinga seemed to say.

From bowling consultant in 2018 to the hero of the IPL final in 2019, Malinga's reinvention was complete. Or was it?


The World Cup came with its own set of challenges for the Sri Lankan veteran. He had lost his captaincy mid-way through the year after the team suffered a series of poor results. When Dimuth Karunaratne took over the reins, Malinga's sole task was to lead Sri Lanka's bowling attack at the World Cup, one that was made seemingly improbable by some bizarre selections.

Malinga, though, did better. He not only led Sri Lanka’s bowling attack by topping the wicket charts, but turned the World Cup on its head with a mind-blowing performance that helped them beat eventual World Cup champions, England.

A good ol’ yorker on leg stump

With 89 needed from 106 balls and Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes — the same duo that would go on to hustle the World Cup final with a brilliant partnership — the game seemed headed only one way, until Malinga showed up again.

He had sent Joe Root packing three balls into his second spell by strangling him down the leg-side. But the next over he did one better. England's famed lower-order received a massive jolt when Malinga produced a quick, old fashioned leg-stump yorker to trap Jos Buttler in front.



Giving England’s wild nightmares on slower wickets a proper nudge, Malinga sparked the improbable. A World Cup that seemed to be spiralling downwards in terms of interest took a dramatic turn. It would then go on to exhibit some utterly chaotic moments, culminating in the greatest final few hours ever.

Let’s not give it all to Malinga, but his yorker did set the fire for Sri Lanka’s win and created a ripple in the points table, which further resulted in reducing the number of dead rubbers in those final few league games.


The final bow that appeared to be coming at the end of the World Cup did not happen. He wanted to give his home crowd one final glimpse of his magic and announced his retirement after the first match he was set to play after the World Cup.

Against Bangladesh at Colombo, Malinga walked out of a format he had owned with his impeccable consistency in landing the ball near the batsmen’s crease. The stadium was jam-packed to give the veteran pace bowler a fitting send-off and it was on him to entertain and enchant them in one final magical spell.

From Muttiah Muralitharan and Mahela Jayawardene to Kumar Sangakkara and Chaminda Vaas, Sri Lankan legends rarely got the farewell game they deserved. Malinga was going out on his own terms and that meant putting on display his wide repertoire of skills to prove he still had it.



After mesmerising the crowd with his audacious performances with the old ball — those slow, dipping yorkers and fast reverse-swinging yorkers — Malinga decided to give them some entertainment early. The restless crowd that sat through Sri Lanka batting first only to watch Malinga, was pushed into a daze as Malinga swung the new cherry back into Bangladesh opener, Tamim Iqbal, off the fifth ball of the very first over of the innings.

A nasty yorker that swung back in late had Tamim completely baffled. The stand-in skipper, who had lavished praise on the Lankan legend a day before the game, took a casual stride forward only to watch the unplayable yorker land right near his foot and crash into the stumps.


A low-profile T20I series staged alongside the Ashes spectacle soared in viewership as Lasith Malinga snared four wickets in four balls to rekindle memories of his 2007 World Cup performance against the Proteas.

You couldn't be faulted if you missed the first three balls that produced the hat-trick. The Ashes was clearly the bigger draw and until Malinga decided to stamp his class on the game, this was just another dead rubber where the opposition struggled to put together eleven playing members owing to a series of injuries. They, in fact, had one flown in from the UK only for him to become Malinga's second of four victims in that double hat-trick.

Soften them up and go for the kill

The four in four 12 years previously at Guyana had come in front of empty stands. Forever the attention-seeking drama queen, Malinga decided to re-enact his epic performance in front of a packed crowd at Pallekele. Just like he did in his final ODI, he didn’t wait too long to give the home spectators, who had sat through Sri Lanka’s agonising batting display, some cause for celebration.



Taking Akila Dananjaya head on, Colin Munro had got to 12 in 9 balls when Malinga decided to mix things up. In the third over of the innings, he began with a slower off-cutter at 110 kmph. A 132-kmph bouncer followed, which Munro ducked under. Off his third ball, Malinga produced an inswinging yorker at 140 kmph that flattened Munro’s leg-stump.

The legend picked up his 100th T20I wicket, becoming the first man to achieve the feat, with this wicket but what followed was a spell-binding hat-trick where he swung the ball mercilessly to dismiss Hamish Rutherford, Colin de Grandhomme and Ross Taylor in quick succession.


Malinga remains Sri Lanka’s highest wicket-taker in both ODIs and T20Is this year. After a dodgy knee robbed him of game time in 2016, his performances in 2017 and 2018 raised quite a few eyebrows. Shunning the barrage of criticism thrown at him, Malinga has returned with a bang in 2019. From reinventing himself to recapturing his magic, the veteran fast bowler has once again endeared himself to the cricketing fraternity.

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