Sriram Veera, in ESPNcricinfo, June 2019, with this title “Great Moments. Sling quartet,” … When Malinga took four in four and South Africa tottered at the edge of the ultimate choke
The air was filled with sloth. The game seemed dead and buried; South Africa were chasing 210 and reached 95 for the lost of the openers. Jacques Kallis held one end up as they moved slowly towards the target. Kallis and Shaun Pollock were batting when Mahela Jayawardene threw the ball to Malinga in the 45th over. South Africa needed four to win with five wickets in hand.
After attempting four yorkers, Malinga surprised Pollock with a slower one that went past the waft to hit the leg stump. Even when Andrew Hall scooped the next delivery, a yorker, straight to cover fielder, there was no real sense of a collapse in the air. After all, Kallis was still in and they required just four more. However, the situation dramatically altered in the first delivery of Malinga’s next over. Kallis edged an intended square drive to the keeper – the hat-trick – and then Makhaya Ntini couldn’t put any wood behind a screaming yorker. All of a sudden, Malinga had four in four and had ten deliveries left. It was nearly over in the very next ball after Ntini’s exit: a thunderbolt yorker curved past Charl Langveldt’s defensive shot and shaved the off stump. The camera panned to the South African dressing room: they looked shell-shocked. Langeveldt survived eight tense deliveries that included a fine over from Chaminda Vaas, and it was Robin Petersen who faced up to Malinga in the 49th over. The ball flew past the outside edge off the first ball and then again off the second, but this time it cleared the slip fielder and ran away to the third-man boundary. Game over.
“Before Malinga’s feat, no bowler in one-day history had managed four in four … and in so doing threatened to produce the greatest one-day turnaround,” Tony Greig said. “South Africa tried to laugh off the tag of chokers, but they were within a hair’s breadth, on that day, of doing what even they have never done before.” South Africa’s Daryl Cullinan was amazed: “What was great about Malinga’s performance was – there is no doubt in his talent – that in an age where technical analysis of the game is so important, he has come along with pace and an unusual action.”
What happened next
Sri Lanka might have lost that game but Malinga’s inspired performance brought their campaign alive. South Africa sank in the semi-final while Sri Lanka marched on to the final where they were taken down by a brutal knock from Adam Gilchrist.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo