But he enhanced his burgeoning reputation as a rising star in this World Cup, by reviving a Super 8 match where South Africa were cruising to victory and writing his name in the history books.
Never before in an international match has a bowler taken four wickets with successive deliveries.
And it has not happened in first-class cricket since Fazl-e-Akbar achieved the feat in a Pakistan domestic match in 2001-02.
Malinga had endured a difficult opening spell as South Africa replied to Sri Lanka's under-par 209 all out, conceding 18 runs in two overs before being pulled out of the attack.
Jacques Kallis took charge and the game was heading for a dull finish when Malinga suddenly rediscovered his mojo in the 44th over.
And Makhaya Ntini did not stand a chance against a yorker that he played all around, seeing his middle stump uprooted.
He's an awkward bowler, especially when he gets reverse swing
South Africa's Graeme Smith
The excitement did not end there as both Charl Langeveldt, who wafted outside off stump, then Robin Petersen, who played, missed and saw the ball shave leg stump, desperately tried to score the three more runs needed.
After an agonisingly tense period, South Africa had gone from needing four runs, with 32 balls remaining, to searching for three from 11.
When Petersen edged Malinga for four to seal victory his relief was all too evident as he smashed the stumps with his bat in glee.
Malinga said his best ball of the spell was that of Pollock, with a slower ball, but he could not celebrate fully as his side conceded a game they had been favoured to win.
"It was a good opportunity to win the game - we needed only one more wicket," he said afterwards.
"I'm happy to take my first international hat-trick but I feel bad that the team lost the game."
Malinga cleans up South Africa batsman Jacques Kallis
Part of Malinga's threat is that he bowls with a side arm motion that leaves a batsman unsighted until late in his delivery slide and makes the ball skid on at around 90mph
South Africa captain Graeme Smith was full of admiration, saying: "It certainly made me age a bit. He bowled a superb spell.
"He's an awkward bowler, especially when he gets reverse swing and he bowled two good slower balls at batsmen who were new to the crease."
Malinga's skipper Mahela Jayawardene acknowledged his fast bowler is "something special" and said "he can be a big force".
He explained: "I told him we never had a chance to win so he should go and enjoy it, there was no pressure.
"We were thinking they would get it but four wickets in four balls changed all that."
The odds are Malinga will never repeat the feat, but he still has a massive part to play for Sri Lanka in this World Cup.