There was never any question in Sri Lanka captain's mind that Lasith Malinga would bowl the Super Over
For all the thousands of hours Ross Taylor has spent in practice fine tuning his batting and improving his catching and throwing, it was an errant right foot that helped him effect a run out, force a tie and take the game into a Super Over against Sri Lanka. The game, which seemed harmless enough for the best part, ended up being a nerve shredder.
The third umpire, Steve Davis, took his time adjudicating what was tight call, but you would grant him that given that the fate of the match literally rode on that decision. By the time Davis ruled Lahiru Thirimanne out, and the scores level on 174, the West Indies players, who were playing England in the second game of the day, were already on the field doing their warm-ups.
Taylor recounts what those vital moments were like. “James Franklin threw the ball hard, not sure he needed to throw it that hard. I knew I didn’t catch it,” explained Taylor. “It was fairly close to hitting the stumps and I looked down and the bails were off. The boys were celebrating, so I thought I must’ve flicked off the bails without realising. I went and shook their hands. Well done, but disappointing. Went up and had a look and the coach was saying ‘it’s out, it’s out’. The rest is history. It came off my knee. It wasn’t deliberate but I’ll take it. I never was much of a soccer player.”
If the freak run out brought New Zealand back from the brink, it temporarily robbed Sri Lanka of the elation and relief of victory. “We were looking at Ross’s reaction. He wasn’t that enthusiastic about the run out so we thought we had scraped through. I haven’t seen the footage or replays or anything, at the time it was chaos down there,” said Mahela Jayawardena. “To be in a situation where you think you’ve won the game and then to have to go back out and play was tough. We kept our composure and made sure that we played some smart cricket.”
What the run out did, however, was set up a Super Over, and Sri Lanka unleashed a man who makes a living bowling yorkers in pressure situations. As Jayawardena said, after only a moment’s thought, there wasn’t another bowler in the world he’d rather have bowling a Super Over than Lasith Malinga. “He’s got the experience. He knows what he’s doing. From the beginning he said this is what I’m going to do and this is the field I want. That makes it easier for a captain,” said Jayawardena. “When you have a bowler with that confidence, though you know he may go for runs, you back your ace bowler. Lasith delivered today. It’s good to have someone who has mental control over the situation so he can go and execute his skills.”
The fact is, though, that only a combination of some hesitant cricket from Sri Lanka and a never-say-die attitude from New Zealand took the game so deep after Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Man of the Match, gave his team the perfect start. “Even when they were going well I backed us to win the game. They went with a bowling heavy line-up. They played probably only five specialist batsmen, with a few all-rounders there,” said Taylor. “We thought if we could get the big guns, the Mahelas, Dilshans, Sangakkaras, we could put pressure on the youngsters. We did that. I’m proud of the way we never gave up and fought to the bitter end.”