TORONTO - Many batsmen would rather spend time in the relative safe confines of the dressing room than face Sri Lankaís human slingshot Lasith Malinga when he unleashes his devastating yorkers.
If his deliveries, hurled down at speeds touching 146 k.p.h., arenít scary enough, batsmen are also facing a 28-year-old with an eye-catching blond-streaked curly hairdo, ring in his eyebrow and tattooed biceps.
This speed merchant went on a one-man rampage against Kenya at the Cricket World Cup Tuesday, finishing with a career-best haul of six wickets for 38 runs, including four in six balls that included a hat trick as Kenya folded like the proverbial deck of cards for 147.
Sri Lanka hammered 23 boundaries and took just 18.4 overs to reach the target with Upul Tharanga (67 not out) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (44) putting on 72 for the first wicket and skipper Kumar Sangakkara carrying his bat for 27 at Colombo.
The victory vaulted Sri Lanka, coming off a surprise loss to Pakistan in its last encounter, to the top of Group B on a superior run rate over Australia and Pakistan.
Malinga the Slinga, as he is known because of his round-arm action, made his first appearance in this tournament an unforgettable experience after sitting out the first two matches with a back injury.
His performance should send Sri Lankaís hopes soaring again after that deflating blow dealt by Pakistan last weekend. On Saturday Sri Lanka takes on four-time World Cup champion Australia in what promises to be a mouth-watering clash and one can expect the island to come to a standstill.
Malinga becomes the only bowler to take two hat tricks in the competition. His first was against South Africa in 2007 and his feat comes on the heels of Kemar Roachís hat trick for the West Indies against the Netherlands the previous day.
What is interesting to note is that Malinga did not require any help from his teammates. He uprooted the stumps of four of his victims while the other two were trapped leg before. I canít remember another bowler taking all the credit for his own work.
While Sri Lanka remains on course to claim its second World Cup, spare a thought for Kenya. Renowned for its world-class long distance runners, not to mention its beautiful beaches and game parks, it showed it was ready to stamp its mark as a cricketing nation as well in 2003.
It reached the semi-finals of the World Cup that year, along the way stunning Sri Lanka and was on the verge of gaining Test status ahead of countries like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. It showed it could play against the best nations in the one-day game.
But the respect it once enjoyed has now been lost.
Like Canada, another team beset by problems with its governing body, Kenya is now an embarrassment at this level.
It was bundled out for 69 in its first match by New Zealand in Chennai and then for 112 by Pakistan. Kenya made its highest score yesterday, thanks to the work of brothers Collins and David Obuya, who both made half centuries. The third highest total for Kenya were 19 byes.
The brothers put on a painstaking stand of 94 for the third wicket to take the score to 102 for three before losing its last seven wickets for 40 runs.
It now appears nothing will stand in the way of Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand advancing from this group. And it will have taken roughly a month to separate the chaff ó Kenya, Canada and Zimbabwe ó from the wheat.