Opinion Cricket

Who is to be blamed for age fudging in cricket?

CT Contributors Updated: 22 June, 2019, 2:05 PM IST


Age fudging in sports especially cricket in India is a long tale that has deeper roots. In a span of weeks, two promising cricketers that are touted to be in the mix of greatness, fell into the prey of this shambolic age fudging trap.

Firstly, it was former Indian U-19 cricketer, Manjot Kalra, who saw a charge-sheet being filed by the special investigation unit of the Delhi Police crime branch. Secondly, Jammu and Kashmir's teenage cricketer Rasikh Salam, who debuted for Mumbai Indians in IPL 2019, was banned by the BCCI for age fudging for a period of two years.

The similarity between the two is that both cricketers submitted wrong birth certificates to the cricket board which didn't match with their respective record books kept in the school from where they studied.

In Kalra's case, his parents have been named in the chargesheet along with parents of 11 other players who like Kalra obtained false birth certificates from municipal authorities. This was purely done to be eligible for lower-age groups.

In Salam's case, The Jammu and Kashmir State Board of School Education had earlier informed the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) that the promising pacer had fudged his age.

The documents Rasikh provided to the cricket association didn't match the board's (school) record. He has been withdrawn from India U-19 squad that is set to play a one-day tri-series in England starting July 21.

This is a massive blockage for these two cricketers trying to fool others and robbing them of opportunities. For Salam, not being able to play cricket for two years will hurt his progression. He is set to lose his IPL contract as well. The BCCI has done the right thing here by being stern and not entertaining such nuisance. Salam has dug a grave for himself. Several people in J&K, who were looking up to him playing in the IPL, will now be extremely grieved.

Former Delhi Capitals players Kalra, will also face immense scrutiny and could be banned from cricket after the Police found him guilty. This is a toxic environment in relation to these activities.

Back in 2015, former Indian cricketer Rahul Dravid had highlighted the root cause of this problem facing Indian cricket. He had said, "If a child sees his parents and coaches cheating and creating a fake birth certificate, will he not be encouraged to become a cheat?"

This is absolutely true. Here the parents, coaches and the system is at fault. They endanger the lives of their children and pupils by doing such things. This is pure cheating and we need to stop this.

Parents and coaches need to understand the basis of merit in a highly competitive field. Taking shortcuts won't help them and their children on the long road.

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News Cricket

15 of us can lift the team which not even our family members can do – Wahab Riaz

AP Updated: 22 June, 2019, 4:03 PM IST


Pakistan have failed to ignite the ongoing World Cup and with defeat against India, their chances of reaching last four stage is all-time low. Apart from fans and critics, the players are also not happy with their individual performances.

Wahab Riaz, the pacer, has urged his teammates to stick together in these testing times. Pakistan have won just one match so far and if they want to qualify for the semis, they need to win their remaining matches.

Pakistan fast bowler wants players to play as a cohesive unit against South Africa.

"We have to lift ourselves. We are each other's strength. We are all good friends and know that only 15 of us can lift the team which not even our family members can do," Wahab told the reporters.

The 33-year old bowler further added that his teammates have realized their mistakes and are ready to make their performance count in the upcoming matches.

“Good teams are the ones who realises their mistakes, so we have discussed all those mistakes and a two day break has refreshed us," he added.

News Cricket

 "It's not about the six pack, it's about the skill Malinga showed against England – Jayawardene

Staff Writer Updated: 22 June, 2019, 3:58 PM IST


Angelo Mathews posted a defiant 85 and Lasith Malinga took four wickets in vintage fashion as the veterans combined to guide Sri Lanka to an upset 20-run victory over England that could change the momentum of the Cricket World Cup.

England had been aiming to retake the lead in the standings with a win at Headingley on Friday and was on track after Jofra Archer and Mark Wood took three wickets apiece to restrict Sri Lanka to 232-9.

But when Malinga removed Jonny Bairstow on the second ball and dismissed opener James Vince (14) in the seventh over, England was suddenly wobbling at 26-2. The massive win over Afghanistan earlier in the week suddenly seemed like an age ago.

Malinga returned to take 2-12 in his second spell, claiming his 50th World Cup wicket when he had Joe Root (57) caught behind edging down the leg side. He made it 51 when he trapped Jos Buttler (10) lbw with a full ball that crashed into the batsman's boot.

The paceman became just the fourth bowler to take more than 50 World Cup wickets, joining retired greats Glenn McGrath (71), Muttiah Muralitharan (68) and Wasim Akram (55).

He almost bagged a five-wicket haul, but Ben Stokes was dropped by Kusal Mendis at deep midwicket on his penultimate delivery. Malinga finished with man-of-the-match figures of 4-43 off 10 overs.

Stokes responded by going on the attack, with nine wickets down, stroking two sixes and two boundaries. He tried to retain the strike as much as possible, declining singles, but was left stranded on 82 when No. 11 batsman Wood was caught behind at the end of the 47th over.

Offspinner Dhananjaya de Silva's 3-3 in nine balls triggered the late collapse, starting when Moeen Ali (16) was caught on the long-on boundary in the 39th over immediately after lofting him for six.

"I hope this game will give Sri Lanka a lot of confidence in this ICC Men's Cricket World Cup. They have beaten one of the best teams in the world, and they need to believe in themselves," Jayawardene wrote in his column for the ICC.

"At times it feels like they have played with a little bit of fear and have not been able to really express themselves. This win should change that."

He praised Lasith Malinga for his match winning spell.

"It's not about the six pack, it's about the skill and Lasith Malinga showed that in spades in Sri Lanka's win over England.

"He has done it so many times for Sri Lanka over the years but it was great to see him at his best."

News Cricket

Pakistan need win more than South Africa at Lord's

AP Updated: 22 June, 2019, 3:55 PM IST


Pakistan ought to be far more inspired than South Africa when they meet on Sunday at Lord's in the Cricket World Cup.

Pakistan still have a chance to climb the standings to the semifinal positions, even though it's a long shot. After South Africa, the Pakistanis play New Zealand, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Of all four opponents, only Afghanistan is below them.

"Pakistan plays better under pressure," fast bowler Wahab Riaz says.

To soothe critical fans at home after the demoralizing defeat to India last Sunday, he adds, "We will qualify for the semifinals."

Despite the promise, Riaz says the team can't afford to think beyond this Sunday. The next game against New Zealand won't mean as much if they don't beat South Africa.

He says Pakistan has talked openly about its problems: Poor fielding, lack of penetration by the bowlers with the new ball, the lack of big scores by the batsmen.

"Good teams are those that discuss and talk about their mistakes openly to each other and we've done that. We will make up for our mistakes," he promises again.

"We have to lift ourselves. We are each other's strength. We are all good friends and know that only 15 of us can lift the team which not even our family members can do."

He says, apart from the win against England, they have let themselves down in not playing up to standard in the last two matches, defeats to India and Australia.

"Execution of skills is everything," he adds. "They (South Africa) have failed in that aspect like us. In this match, it depends on who handles pressure better and plays better."

Unlike Pakistan, South Africa is all but out. It was telling that after losing to New Zealand on Wednesday and told by a journalist his side was still in semifinals contention, captain Faf du Plessis said, "Are we?"

Yes, mathematically.

South Africa would have to win its three remaining games against Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and defending champion Australia and hope a lot of other teams don't win a bunch of games, including top-four sides New Zealand, England and India.

Knowing this, and in the emotional aftermath of throwing everything at New Zealand and coming up excruciatingly short, it would be understandable if South Africa is feeling flat.

South Africa has beaten only Afghanistan among five matches and a washout. Injuries have handicapped the bowling attack but it's been the batsmen who haven't performed. Only once has South Africa passed 300, nobody has a century, and there's been only six half-centuries.

Even du Plessis, who is averaging 32 in six innings, blames himself.

"I need to be the leading run-scorer in our batting unit with Quinny (de Kock) probably. That's been happening the last two seasons," du Plessis said.

He isn't though. De Kock leads with 191 at this World Cup, Rassie van der Dussen has 180, then du Plessis with 128. Meanwhile, Australia, England, India, New Zealand and Bangladesh all have players with more than 200 runs.

"I am feeling good, just a case of making those starts, turning them into scores. I know my big score is around the corner. I'm feeling good, hitting the ball nicely. But, yeah, I'm part of the guys not putting enough runs on the board," du Plessis said.

"If you look at our batting unit, we've got some future talent and some promising players, but if you put our top six and you put the other top sixes around the world, purely on a numbers point of view, we won't be in the top three. We're not as experienced perhaps as other teams when it comes to that. We're just not producing scores or innings that can win you games."

Feature Cricket

Holding Raises an Old Grouse

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 22 June, 2019, 3:53 PM IST


Lost in the din of the Indo-Pakistan high profile clash and the subsequent trashing on and off the field of the Pakistan cricket team was the story doing the rounds about yet another attempt to curtail the independent voice of commentators as the spat between former West Indies fast bowler, Michael Holding, and the International Cricket Council (ICC) has revealed.

It would be easy to dismiss the matter was settled as both parties to the conflict agreed to resolve their dispute. But what cannot be ignored is the dangerous notion that the ICC would think it is easy to either buy or bury the independent voice. What must be investigated is if a precedent has already been set.

Over the years cricket commentary has undergone a sea of change. The days of Richie Benaud and the neutral, impartial voice are now virtually redundant. As the qualification criteria for who can be a cricket commentator has come down, so has also the quality and also, subsequently, the susceptibility of these voices to then toe the line of the powers that be, whether it is the broadcasters or more dangerously, the cricket boards.

One of the contentious issues that came out of the Indian Premier League was the slant that the commentary took with the commentators essentially yelling to inject tempo rather than educate and entertain the listening audiences. Impartiality had already been beaten down with more cricket boards hiring their own and even encouraging them to present a biased version. But the idea of propagation took on a whole new meaning with the advent of the IPL.

That commentators on the payroll of the BCCI could be bought out was a stunning revelation, even for revered voices who had stayed on for decades as the impartial voice of reason. While it should come as nothing short of a surprise that the ICC would issue a diktat to some of the younger generation of former cricketers turned commentators, that they would even think to silence the voice of a powerful opinion holder as Michael Holding borders on foolish.

Not one to take it lying down, Holding’s email exposed the efficacy of the ICC in thinking it could curtail negative stories coming out of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. Had the cricket audiences not been so focused on the much hyped and a bit of a letdown match that was the India versus Pakistan match, more would have paid attention to the fact that the West Indies had indeed been the team to come within touching distance to dent the Australia’s resurgent streak.

That they would potentially undone by some rather obviously glaring umpiring errors should have reminded of the ICC to stay alert when it comes to crucial appointments and take immediate corrective measures rather than blame the messenger for merely pointing out what was in plain sight.

News Cricket

Someone's tweet can't decide what we do on field: Hafeez on Imran Khan's tweet

Harshit Anand Updated: 22 June, 2019, 3:47 PM IST



Pakistani skipper, Sarfaraz Ahmed has been facing chin music for not electing to bat first against India at Old Trafford. Even Pakistan PM, who is also a former cricket and World-Cup winning captain, Imran Khan had tweeted on the morning of the Indo-Pak World Cup game that the Men in Green should bat first if they win the toss. 

Pakistan's record in chasing in World Cup against India has been poor. But senior batsman, Mohammad Hafeez is of the opinion that the team doesn't take decisions on the basis of tweets by anyone.

“Team’s decision can’t be made on what someone has tweeted. It was the team’s decision. We didn’t bowl well and that’s why we lost that game,” Hafeez was quoted as saying by geo.tv.

Sarfaraz Ahmed has been under tremendous scrutiny for the failure of Pakistan in the World Cup so far. But Hafeez feels the whole team have failed and that's why Pakistan are losing. "We failed collectively as a team. We could not produce a team effort and individual brilliance did not help us either. In cricket these days, you need team performance... inputs from everyone," said Hafeez. 

"We can't blame any single person, everyone is responsible for failing to deliver. All is not finished for us. We are focused on our next game and we are eager to win that match. We got ample time after the India game to regroup for a new beginning," added Hafeez.

News Cricket

After WC axe, became more focussed, kept practicing: Rishabh Pant

Harshit Anand Updated: 22 June, 2019, 3:04 PM IST


Rishabh Pant is finally part of India's 15-man World Cup squad. He was close to getting selected in India's original 15-man squad as well but it was not meant to be for the youngster. But, someone's pain is someone's gain. The unfortunate injury to Shikhar Dhawan ruled him out of the World Cup and opened the door for selection of Pant in India's side.

But what did Pant do after he didn't make it to India's original World Cup squad? In a freewheeling chat with Yuzvendra Chahal, he bared it all.

"When I didn't get selected, I thought may be I didn't do something right, so I became more positive and focused on how to improve myself. Then I did well in IPL. I kept practising. Everyone has one dream of making India win the World Cup. When I got to know that I have been called to England as a back-up for Shiki bhai (Shikhar Dhawan), my mother was with me, so I told her first. She went straight to the temple," the 21 years old told Yuzvendra Chahal in a video posted by BCCI.

"It is one dream for all to make India win. When I came to know that I have been called to England as a back-up, my mother was with me. So I told her, she went to temple and paid her offerings.

"As a cricketer, from very young, I always thought of playing in at least one World Cup no matter what and performing for India. And now that I have got the call up, I am very happy," he added.

News Cricket

Fans unite to defend Pakistan skipper after he was harassed by rowdy fan

Staff Writer Updated: 22 June, 2019, 2:17 PM IST


Pakistani cricketers are at the receiving end following the team’s defeat against India in the ongoing World Cup. A video has gone viral where one of the supporters can be seen hurling abuses at Sarfaraz Ahmed. Fans from across the globe have defended Sarfaraz.

Ahmed, who went to a mall with his son, was stopped by one of his fans in order to take a photograph with him. However, he started abusing him after a while.

Cricket fanatics have lauded him for remaining calm and walking away instead of confronting that rowdy person.

"What an awful man. Sarfaraz is with his kid and that still doesn't deter the piece of 💩 from making awful comments. One thing to criticize the game but beyond that no one has the right to hound anyone," wrote one user on Twitter.

The man, who fat shamed Sarfaraz, has apologized for his action.

Feature Cricket

Just the kind of result the World Cup wanted

Partab Ramchand Updated: 22 June, 2019, 2:15 PM IST


It was just the kind of result that this World Cup wanted. Things were moving along too predictably, the fancied teams were lording it over the underdogs and the semifinalists had virtually been spotted halfway through the competition. Just one upset victory and everyone is agog with excitement. Now one is not sure anymore of the semifinalists for the door has been opened ajar for a couple of teams thought to be out of the reckoning. Oh yes, the enthusiasm associated with the mega event is back and suddenly people are talking more excitedly about the World Cup.

All this because England considered favourites before the tournament and flying high during the competition so that they became prohibitive favourites have gone down to an uninspiring Sri Lanka who suddenly played inspiring cricket. Now Sri Lanka are in with a chance to make the semifinals, as also Bangladesh and West Indies while England are suddenly under tremendous pressure. The point to note is that they have three matches in hand and all of them are against heavyweights India, Australia and New Zealand. With eight points from six games they would probably have to win two of these games to qualify for the semifinals.

It was reasonably reckoned when the tournament started that no team was going to win all their nine matches and in such a competitive field even an 8-1 win loss record would be almost impossible. A 7-2 win loss record was more likely and the team with such a scoreline would certainly make the semifinals while those with a 6-3 record stood a chance depending upon NRR and other permutations and combinations. Four no-results have become an additional factor which is why the World Cup has suddenly become more open. A couple of more unexpected results and it could be thrown really wide open.

Hitherto there had been only one real upset with Pakistan ranked No 6 getting the better of top ranked England. But Sri Lanka ranked ninth prevailing over England is a much bigger shock given the fact that they looked out of sorts during the campaign winning just one match out of five and that against Afghanistan. Certainly England who were riding high would roll over them was the almost unanimous opinion. But raising their game to a level hardly anyone would have expected them to saw Sri Lanka pulling off the stunner of the competition making the World Cup that much more potentially pulsating.

News Cricket

‘On pitch he lasts, off pitch is another story’: Rohit's ex Sofia Hayat blasts fan’s tweet on him

Staff Writer Updated: 22 June, 2019, 2:11 PM IST


Rohit Sharma is one of the top performers in the ongoing World Cup in England and Wales. The right hand batsman is the leading run scorer as far as Men in Blue are concerned. His ex-girlfriend Sofia Hayat, who is renowned for mocking her former flame, is back in the limelight.

She has slammed a fan for his tweet on their relationship. The two were dating in 2012 but broke up because differences had crept up with no point of return.

The fan highlighted Rohit Sharma’s achievement and wrote why should he be with Sofia.

“2nd richest indian celebrity according to Forbes 7th popular athlete according to espn Ab rohit ki aukat @sofiahayat ko date krne hi he to hm kya karen?” posted a random fan.

This was enough to attract her wrath. “Nahin! I don’t value a person by what he has. His achievements are with balls on a field..not off! To me what matters most in truth..he doesn’t have that..on pitch he lasts..off pitch is another story,” she wrote.

News Cricket

Fans have something positive to say for Lasith Malinga's big belly

Staff Writer Updated: 22 June, 2019, 2:08 PM IST


The 35-year-old paceman produced a four-wicket burst that rocked England's batsmen and helped his team to an upset 20-run win over the pre-tournament favorite.

In the process he became just the fourth bowler to take 50 or more wickets in the World Cup, and revived Sri Lanka's hopes.

Malinga tried to play down his contribution as his team celebrated and a small group of Sri Lankan fans waved their flags to the tunes of trumpets and drums.

"We stuck to our basic plan, line and length," he said, keeping a lid on the euphoria. "We want to carry on the momentum and confidence into the other matches."

Buttler said England had no real answer for Malinga's old-school spells.

"He is just different. As much as you do face him he is different," Buttler said. "The stumps are always in play with him. We didn't counter him as well as we could have, but credit to a fantastic bowler."

However, it was Malinga's big belly which stole the limelight. A picture of his tummy has gone viral but fans are not abusing him.

Angelo Mathews posted a defiant 85 and Lasith Malinga took four wickets in vintage fashion as the veterans combined to guide Sri Lanka to an upset 20-run victory over England that could change the momentum of the Cricket World Cup.

News Cricket

Rashid Khan hits back at critics after England drubbing  

Harshit Anand Updated: 22 June, 2019, 12:37 PM IST


Rashid Khan is having a poor campaign in the ongoing Cricket World Cup. There were a lot of expectations pinned on him but he has failed to make an impact. No wonder why Afghanistan are also having a dreadful time in the ICC's mega event. But the game against England was all more disappointing for Afghanistan's leggie, Rashid Khan.

He conceded 110 runs in nine overs to get the unwanted record of having bowled the most expensive spell in the history of the World Cup. After the England drubbing, he was slammed by people, with many terming the fastest bowler to 100 ODI wickets as overhyped. 

Rashid Khan has now hit back at critics and said, “I am not thinking too much about that match. People forget 10 good days and conveniently remember that one particular bad day. They don’t like to remember what Rashid did on previous 10 days,” India Today cited reports quoting Rashid in an exclusive interview.

“I would focus on the mistakes I committed in that match and rectify those in the coming matches. No point thinking about the criticism. I need to keep things simple,” he added.

News Cricket

 Pakistan fan calls Sarfaraz Ahmed "S*#r jaisa Mota"

Harshit Anand Updated: 22 June, 2019, 10:39 AM IST


Cricket is just a game. But this is something which is hard to understand for the fanatics of cricket nations of both India and Pakistan, especially when they play against each other. Ever since Pakistan lost to India by 89 runs in Manchester on June 16, Pakistan pundits and fans have been too harsh on national players and unleashed their fury on them.

It all began with former Pakistan cricketers going personal against Sarfaraz and the team. And, now the fans are also doing similar things. In a recent video that went viral, a Pakistani fan was seen saying shameful things to Pakistan skipper, Sarfaraz Ahmed when he was with his kid in some unknown mall.

Here is the video:

Such things are utterly disgraceful and show lack of basic decency in all these people, who call themselves fans of the game. If succeeding at the highest level was as easy as some people preach it to be then everyone would have been playing cricket for their country.

News Cricket

Lloyd tells West Indies to study New Zealand at World Cup

AP Updated: 22 June, 2019, 10:10 AM IST


The West Indies players walked off dejected after an upset loss that left them really only a mathematical chance of reaching the Cricket World Cup semifinals.

Two days later, the New Zealanders left elated when skipper Kane Williamson paced a century to precision and iced it with a six and a four to guide his team to a tense victory over South Africa with three balls to spare. It extended New Zealand's unbeaten run at the tournament, and all but ended South Africa's chances of making the playoffs.

If the West Indies were looking for a kind or reassuring word ahead of Saturday's match against New Zealand, it wasn't forthcoming from two-time World Cup-winning captain Clive Lloyd.

The West Indies great criticized the approach Jason Holder's team took against Bangladesh, which chased down 322 with eight overs to spare in Taunton on Monday.

"It would appear that they only have one way to play with no variation to their game plan," Lloyd said in a column for the International Cricket Council. "They are trying to blast people out and I don't think they understand the English conditions ... it is poor cricket by the West Indies."

The way the Windies bounced out Pakistan for 105 and had Australia reeling at 87-5 in their first two games excited cricket lovers, raising expectations a big pace quartet could emulate the domination of the Caribbean fast bowlers from Lloyd's era.

But since letting defending champion Australia off the hook at Trent Bridge on June 6, the West Indies have had a wash out against South Africa, and losses to host England and Bangladesh.

New Zealand won games against Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, and split the points with No. 2-ranked India after a washout, before the close encounter with South Africa.

New Zealand went into the last over at 234-6 after losing a key wicket and chasing 242 for victory. Andile Phehlukwayo's first ball was sent for a single by Mitchell Santner, sensibly giving Williamson the strike, and the New Zealand captain did the rest with a powerful six to reach his hundred and level the scores followed by a boundary to seal it.

He finished 106 not out off 138 balls.

"There's a huge amount to learn from this performance," Williamson said, "The experiences that you have by being put under pressure on a number of different occasions, whether it's with the bat or the ball, having close games in tournaments like the World Cup are great to be a part of, especially when you come out on the right side of things."

Lloyd said the West Indies could "benefit from learning a thing or two from Williamson."

"They have themselves to blame if they miss the semifinals," Lloyd said. "They should have beaten Australia and they definitely should have seen off Bangladesh as well. But the Bangladesh side did their homework and deserved their victory."

New Zealand, which lost the final to Australia in 2015, has a well-balanced lineup but has only been pushed to the limit once so far in the tournament. Matt Henry and Trent Boult take the new ball, backed up by paceman Lockie Ferguson and Colin de Grandhomme, Jimmy Neesham or Santner. The batting lineup has been stable, with Martin Guptill and Colin Munro at the top, followed by Williams, ex-captain Ross Taylor and Tom Latham.

West Indies has been relying on pace but opposing teams have adjusted to the tendency to over-use the short ball.

All-rounder Andre Russell has been struggling with knee injuries, leaving more overs to share between Sheldon Cottrell, Holder, Oshane Thomas and Shannon Gabriel, and Chris Gayle to chime in with his spin.

The 39-year-old Gayle is due for a big innings, having opened the tournament with a half century against Pakistan but failed with a duck against Bangladesh. This is Gayle's last World Cup, and the self-described "Universe-Boss" won't want it to be effectively all over at Old Trafford.

News Cricket

Malinga's milestone 50th World Cup wicket helps in big upset

AP Updated: 22 June, 2019, 10:07 AM IST


A distinctive, slinging bowling action and tint in his shock of hair have made Lasith Malinga a recognizable fixture of Sri Lanka's squads at four Cricket World Cups.

When his teammates needed something special on Friday to keep in contention, they knew where to look for inspiration. The 35-year-old paceman produced a four-wicket burst that rocked England's batsmen and helped his team to an upset 20-run win over the pre-tournament favorite.

In the process he became just the fourth bowler to take 50 or more wickets in the World Cup, and revived Sri Lanka's hopes.

Malinga tried to play down his contribution as his team celebrated and a small group of Sri Lankan fans waved their flags to the tunes of trumpets and drums.

"We stuck to our basic plan, line and length," he said, keeping a lid on the euphoria. "We want to carry on the momentum and confidence into the other matches."

Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne was more effusive in his assessment.

"Lasith is a legend," Karunaratne said. "He keeps doing what he knows, that's the main thing, the basic things. Those things set an example for the youngsters. He did a really good job."

Most critics had written off Sri Lanka's chances of making the semifinals after losses to Australia and New Zealand, two washed-out games, and only a win over lowly ranked Afghanistan.

Sri Lanka had won only two of its previous 14 completed one-day internationals, compared with England losing just two of its previous 14.

And after 14 balls against England at Headingly, Sri Lanka was two wickets down for three runs. Angelo Mathews propped up the innings with an unbeaten 85, guiding Sri Lanka to 232-9.

It didn't seem enough at first, with England supremely confident of making it five wins from six at the World Cup and retaking the lead in the standings from Australia.

Enter Malinga. He has taken time out of Sri Lanka's camp because of the recent death of his mother-in-law, and had taken only four wickets in the tournament.

But he has done amazing things on the World Cup stage before — consider his four wickets with four consecutive deliveries against South Africa in 2007. And now he's done more.

Malinga conceded a single on the first delivery of England's innings and took his first wicket with the second ball, trapping local Yorkshire favorite Jonny Bairstow lbw for a duck. In the seventh over he had James Vince caught at slip, and England was 26-2. And wobbling.

Joe Root led England's recovery and had passed 50 for the fourth time in the tournament when Malinga returned for his second spell and struck to collect a rare half century of his own. Having Root caught behind for 57 gave Malinga his 50th World Cup wicket, joining a list of retired greats including Glenn McGrath (71), Muttiah Muralitharan (68) and Wasim Akram (55).

A yorker in Yorkshire hit Jos Buttler on the boot, which the England vice-captain unsuccessfully reviewed.

For a split second, Malinga almost had the perfect ending. England had no wickets in hand when Ben Stokes lofted Malinga toward the deep midwicket boundary, where Kusal Mendis got two hands to the ball but dropped it as he tumbled to the ground. A wicket on the penultimate ball of his allotted 10 overs would have given Malinga a five-wicket haul to underline his man-of-the-match performance, but instead had to settle for figures of 4-43.

Stokes responded by stroking sixes on consecutive balls to start the next over, and then two boundaries to move to 82 before he was stranded when No. 11 batsman Mark Wood was caught behind.

Buttler said England had no real answer for Malinga's old-school spells.

"He is just different. As much as you do face him he is different," Buttler said. "The stumps are always in play with him. We didn't counter him as well as we could have, but credit to a fantastic bowler."