Lasith Malinga the missing piece to Sri Lankan puzzle, says Corey Anderson

BIG MISS: Sri Lankan fast bowler Lasith Malinga watches his team-mates toil at Hagley Oval earlier this month.
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BIG MISS: Sri Lankan fast bowler Lasith Malinga watches his team-mates toil at Hagley Oval earlier this month.

Corey Anderson expects Sri Lanka to be a different team with Lasith Malinga back in their lineup for next month's Cricket World Cup opener in Christchurch.

The New Zealand allrounder timed his run well, imposing himself with bat and ball on the current series against Sri Lanka, which sits at 4-1 to the hosts with Thursday's final game in Wellington remaining.

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But the tourists badly missed Malinga's 177 one-day internationals of experience as New Zealand's batsmen, Anderson among them, took their bowling attack to the cleaners in the second half of the innings in two Dunedin matches.

The 31-year-old fast bowler with the deceptive slingy action was originally scheduled to reappear in Thursday's ODI at Westpac Stadium after a measured comeback from ankle surgery. Coach Marvan Atapattu last week confirmed a change of plan, that Malinga would return for their February 9 warmup match ahead of their February 14 opener against New Zealand in Christchurch.

"He's a massive part of their side and gives them a massive advantage, with someone who is quality at the death which they have maybe lacked a little bit. It's something we'll have to deal with when it comes along," Anderson said.

Malinga has 271 career wickets at an average of 27, and against the Black Caps it's 29 victims at 24. Last time he faced New Zealand in a big tournament, he nearly bowled them to victory with 4-34 in the Black Caps' one-wicket win in the Champions Trophy in Cardiff in 2013.

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Anderson felt confident New Zealand's batsmen could handle Malinga in a tournament opener that could get their campaign off to a flyer.

"It's hard to watch the footage and actually realise how he bowls. I'm lucky I've trained with him at Mumbai and faced him in the nets and I feel advantaged over a lot of guys with that.

"There's plenty of guys in our side who have faced him and it's just talking to them and once you've faced a couple of balls you feel like you're into it."

Anderson hit his straps with the ball in Sunday's 120-run win in Dunedin, taking 4-52 off his 10 overs after blasting 40 off 28 with the bat. His batting in Christchurch (81 off 96) and Nelson (47 off 44) helped guide home run chases.

"I feel like I'm in decent form and seeing the ball. My bowling hasn't been as up to scratch as I'd like it to be. The last game was a lot better. Rolling into it [World Cup] I've played a few games in a row now which is nice. It's just getting that momentum and carrying it on."

A pre-match session on death bowling with coach Shane Bond, and a commitment to stick to his bowling plans for longer, helped in Dunedin.

The fact all the Black Caps bowlers were given licence to attack by skipper Brendon McCullum helped, too, as they skittled Sri Lanka in the 44th over on Friday and 41st on Sunday.

"It rattles them a little bit and you can work your way through. The guys we've got with Trent and Mitch and Adam and Tim; they're all guys who are going to take wickets. Brendon is an aggressive captain and wickets are always better than dots."

 - Stuff.co.nz

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