"I think they didn't understand," a furious Malinga said at the post-match presentation. "I feel this is not a gift. They have talent. That's why they're playing for the national team. They have to understand that. They have to understand their own value."
Sri Lanka had fought back with the ball after a breezy 91-run opening stand between Reeza Hendricks and Quinton de Kock, sharing the wickets around to spark a lower order collapse of 6 for 31 and bowl South Africa out for 251 in the 46th over.
"First 10-15 overs we did not bowl well," Malinga said. "But we corrected ourselves and restricted them to 250. (It was a) very good effort from the bowlers."
Sri Lanka squandered their position of relative dominance, however, with the top order folding tamely and their chase coming to an abrupt end when they were bowled out for 138 in the 33rd over. While there was a little more life in the pitch than had been the case at the Wanderers, with Kagiso Rabada collecting 3 for 43 and Lungi Ngidi 2 for 14, a series of soft dismissals were the catalyst for the Sri Lankan collapse.
"We have done enough talking," Malinga insisted. "Players have to realise they have to value these opportunities. They don't come around every day. They have to grab it."
Sri Lanka now head for Durban, the setting for their remarkable Kusal Perera-inspired win in the first Test, for the third ODI 2-0 down with the series on the line. It is a must-win game for them, both in terms of the five-match series and with regards to their poor results in one-day cricket recently.
Sri Lanka have now lost five ODIs on the trot, and in the last year, they have lost 13 of the 17 ODIs they have played. With the World Cup less than three months away, time is running out for them to arrest their slide. Heeding Malinga's warning might be a good place to start.
Lasith Malinga pulled no punches in his assessment of his team's performance in the defeat in the second ODI against South Africa in Centurion, warning his team-mates that they needed to value and respect the fact that they were playing international cricket for Sri Lanka.