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Malinga takes a beating in injury comeback

February 14, 2015

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — The return of paceman Lasith Malinga to Sri Lanka’s attack did not pay off as hoped on Saturday when he produced one of his most-expensive spells in losing the World Cup opening match against New Zealand.

Malinga was playing his first official one-day international since August when he suffered a serious ankle injury. Sri Lanka has been anxiously awaiting his return, expecting his pace, experience and his vaunted ability to bowl at the death to add a key piece to its Cup campaign.

But the slingy right-armer went wicketless and conceded 84 runs from his 10 overs on Saturday, the fourth-worst return of his one-day career.

Malinga shared the new ball with Nuwan Kulasekara and conceded 42 runs from his first four over spell, including 23 from his fourth over from which Brendon McCullum hit four fours and a six.

He was much more on target when he returned at the death, finding his range with his trademark yorkers and bowling his last four overs for 24 runs when New Zealand’s Corey Anderson was in the middle of a blistering innings of 75 from 46 balls. Malinga was unlucky to be denied the wicket of Luke Ronchi (29) who he bowled in his ninth over but who was reprieved when television replays showed the bowler had minutely over-stepped.

Lahiru Thirimanne, who was Sri Lanka’s top-scorer on Saturday with 65, expected Malinga to benefit from the match.

“I don’t think it is Lasith’s best match but I am sure he will come back strongly in the next few matches,” Thirimanne said. “He bowled really well in the death overs so that’s a positive for us so hopefully he’ll be back with good performances.”

New Zealand’s batsmen have struggled to deal with Malinga’s slingy, round-arm action in the past and McCullum may have deliberately targeted him in the opening overs, realizing his confidence and match fitness might have suffered during his lengthy layoff.

While he has been bowling in the nets for some time, still suffering pain from his injury, his only overs in a match situation were in Sri Lanka’s informal warm-up matches against Zimbabwe and South Africa in the week leading up.

Man of the Match Corey Anderson, who made 75 and took 2-18 for New Zealand, said experience had enabled the Kiwi batsman to read Malinga with more confidence.

“I was lucky to have faced him at Mumbai quite a bit in the nets so it’s always a lot easier to read that type of bowling,” Anderson said. “It’s tough to read him when you face him for the first time.

“He’s only a couple of games back for ankle surgery as well and he’s going to be better for that run today so we’re probably lucky we faced him early on in the tournament. He could start tearing a few teams apart later on so it’s nice to get him out of the way for now.”

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