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Cricket news - Malinga - The death overs doyen

In the nine-year period between 2006 and 2013, no other bowler took more wickets than Malinga's 267

5.36: That's Lasith Malinga's economy rate in ODI cricket. Among the 37 bowlers with 200-plus wickets in ODIs, none of them have their economy rate as high as the aforementioned cricketer. India's Ajit Agarkar among them is the only one to have it above five runs per over. Bring the threshold down to 150 wickets and only three other players concede at a higher rate per over. The significance of the number bears testament to how often the pacer bowled the toughest overs in an innings - a phase of the game where he made an indelible mark for himself in the history of ODI cricket.

The first ODI against Bangladesh at Colombo RPS will be the 226th and final occasion that Malinga will be wearing Sri Lanka's ODI jersey. The maestro will draw curtains to a 16-year old career finishing tenth in the list of highest wicket-takers and third-most among his countrymen behind Muttiah Muralitharan (534) and Chaminda Vaas (400).

Most wickets in ODIs

Malinga's strike rate of 32.5 is the seventh best among the 37 bowlers in the 200-wicket club, and among the nine players to end with more career wickets than him, only Brett Lee (29.4) and Waqar Younis (30.5) take fewer deliveries for a wicket.

The uniqueness of his bowling action coupled with relentless accuracy at the prime of his career made him a tough proposition for batsmen across the world to negate his threat, especially when a batter is facing him for the first time. He was a genuine wicket-taker with the new ball, thanks to his ability to swing the ball away from the right handers, which was a byproduct of his side-on action.

But, it was the death overs where he made a name for himself - fast yorkers, slow dipping yorkers, change of pace, the slow bouncer - he was equipped with all the ammunition to succeed in this phase of an innings. No other bowler has taken as many wickets in the last ten overs of an innings in this decade as much as Malinga.

The peak (2006-2014)

Malinga made his debut in Sri Lanka's successful Asia Cup campaign in July 2004, but his ODI appearances were limited to eight games in the first two years of his career. His first break came in Sri Lanka's 5-0 whitewash of the hosts in England in 2006 when he finished on top of the wicket charts from either side with 13 scalps. He never looked back, and with Vaas in the twilight of his career, Malinga took over the reins of Sri Lanka's pace attack within the next couple of years and has been leading the attack to date.

In the nine-year period between 2006 and 2013, no other bowler took more wickets than Malinga's 267, this despite him missing 15 months of action between March 2008 and June 2009 due to a swollen bone in the knee.

Most wickets in ODIs between Jan 2006 & Dec 2014

Malinga was at his absolute best between the England tour in June 2006 and January 2012, where he picked an astounding 160 wickets from just 96 games, just five behind the top wicket-taker of that period - Mitchell Johnson (165). Among the 31 bowlers with at least 75 wickets in this six-year period, only Ajanta Mendis (28.7) bettered Malinga's strike rate of 29.1.

71 of these 165 wickets came in the death overs (41-50), which was the most by any bowler in this phase in the aforementioned period. Not only was Malinga a wicket-taking option in the death overs, but scoring runs off him remained a tough proposition as his economy rate of 6.08 in the death overs testify.

The next three years saw a bit of dip in Malinga's pace which in turn affected his overall effectiveness. Malinga picked up 116 wickets in 80 ODIs between February 2012 and the end of the World Cup in 2015, and was the highest wicket-taker in this period across teams. He remained a potent threat at the fag end of the innings, taking 42 wickets at 19.93 and an economy rate of 6.69 per over.

Malinga in death overs

The fall and the final comeback

Malinga's career began receding at a fast clip post the World Cup in 2015. He featured in 20 ODIs in the next two years and picked just 18 wickets at an average of 54.17, and he never picked more than two wickets in an ODI in this period. In 11 innings he bowled in the death, he picked just four wickets and his economy rate skyrocketed to 8.89. A poor home season in 2017 followed when Sri Lanka lost to Zimbabwe and were whitewashed 0-5 by India. Malinga's form plummeted as his seven wickets came at 63 apiece and he went at six runs per over.

Malinga spent a year in sidelines before making a comeback in the Asia Cup last year and in the 21 ODIs since then he has picked 34 wickets at 29.91, which includes two match-winning efforts in the World Cup of 2019 - 3/39 against Afghanistan and 4/43 against England. The game-changing show versus England, included the wickets of Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, and Jos Buttler, as Sri Lanka scripted arguably the biggest upset of the tournament.

A man for the big stages

Malinga featured in four editions of the World tournament and his tally of 56 wickets in the tournament is bettered only by Glenn McGrath (71) and Muralitharan (68). At the prime of his career, Malinga was Sri Lanka's major weapon in the World Cups - 2007 and 2011 - with the island nation finishing runners-up in both those events. His 31 wickets in these two World events were the second most for Sri Lanka behind Muralitharan's 38, and 18 more than any other pacer.

Most wickets in World Cups

In fact, Malinga finished as the leading Sri Lankan pacer in each of the four World Cups he featured in. He is also the only bowler to take two hat-tricks in the history of the tournament, including four off four balls against South Africa at the Providence stadium in 2007. His second hat-trick came against Kenya in the 2011 edition, in an innings where he registered his best figures in the format - six for 38.

Malinga ends his career as the second-highest wicket-taker in the Champions Trophy (25 wickets), behind only Kyle Mills (28). And the second highest in Asia Cup ODIs with 29 wickets, one behind Muralitharan's 30.

Similarity in numbers

Malinga has an eerily similar stats in both first and second innings of an ODI - 168 wickets at 29 and and a strike rate of 32 while bowling first to 167 wickets at 28 with a wicket every 33 deliveries. Of his eight five-wicket hauls, four have come bowling first and four while defending a target.

Similarly, his parameters are nearly symmetrical in both home and away ODIs - an average of 28.63 and strike rate of 32.7 in home ODIs, and an average of 29.25 and strike rate of 32.3 in away ODIs. He has taken four five-fers each in both home and away ODIs. The two tables underline Malinga's adaptability across conditions and to an extent the way he takes the pitch conditions out of the equation because of his unique bowling style.

A few notable numbers from his career...

3 Hat-tricks for Malinga in ODI cricket - the most for any bowler in ODI cricket. Outside the two in the World Cups, he has also taken one against Australia in Colombo in 2011.

8 Five-wicket hauls for Malinga in ODIs - the fifth-most for a bowler in ODIs after Waqar Younis (13), Muralitharan (10), Shahid Afridi (9) and Brett Lee (9).

48 Wickets taken by Malinga against each of England, Pakistan and Australia - the most for him against an opponent. India was the team against whom he struggled the most - 44 wickets in 40 games at an average of 45.50 and an economy rate of 6.07.

34 Instances of Malinga conceding 60+ runs in an ODI - most instances by any bowler. He has conceded 70+ runs in an ODI 20 times and 80+ runs ten times in ODIs, both of which are the most by a bowler.

6 Number of times Malinga has dismissed Shane Watson in 109 balls - the most he has ever dismissed a batsman in ODIs. The Indian duo of MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli has been the most successful against him - Dhoni scoring 233 runs at a strike rate of 114.78 (three dismissals) and Kohli accumulating 225 runs at 103.69 (two dismissals).

132 Malinga was involved in the highest ninth-wicket stand in ODIs - 132 with Angelo Mathews against Australia at the MCG in November 2010 as Sri Lanka chased down 240 after being eight down for 107. His score of 56 in that match remains his only 50+ score in the format.

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