Lasith Malinga is a “legend” and his four-wicket masterclass in Sri Lanka’s shock victory against England has set an example for his teammates, captain Dimuth Karunaratne said on Friday.
The 35-year-old pacer with coloured curls and a sling-shot action derailed England’s chase after Angelo Mathews’ unbeaten 85 had powered the 1996 champions to what appeared a below-par 232-9.
Malinga flew home twice during the tournament after his mother-in-law’s death and Karunaratne was impressed by the bowler’s professionalism.
“I think he’s a legend. He knows what he has to do,” Karunaratne said after his team’s victory by 20 runs against the world number one side.
“Whatever he does, we know he is giving his best. So that is why I said to him ‘if you want to go home and come back that is fine’. He came back and set a good example for the rest of the guys.”
Off-spinner Dhananjaya de Silva (3-32) and seamer Isuru Udana (2-41) offered good support but England could never really recover after Malinga had wrecked their top order.
“He just keeps doing what he does best, that is the main thing,” Karunaratne said of his pace spearhead.
“We want him to set an example for the youngsters and he did a really good job.
“So too did Dhananjaya, they both did a really good job and turned the game, those are the sort of performances that turn games.”
He also praised former captain Mathews, who rescued Sri Lanka after they had slumped to 133-5 in the 30th over.
“It looked like a good flat wicket that played nicely but when we played on it, you could see it got slower and slower,” Karunaratne said.
“Angelo told us it was getting slower and slower, we couldn’t get to 280-300 but we could get to 240 and that would be a good total.
“He is a good finisher and he did a really good job. And he read the game very well on this track. The middle order was important once the openers got out and he did a good job.”