Ajantha Mendis produced extraordinary bowling figures of six for eight to lead Sri Lanka to a crushing 82-run win over Zimbabwe in the opening Twenty20 World Cup match on Tuesday.
Mendis, returning to the side following nine months out due to a back injury, bowled with his usual control and tantalizing length to surpass his own Twenty20 record figures of six for 16 against Australia last year.
Ajantha Mendis’ namesake, Jeevan, took three for 24 as Zimbabwe were skittled out for just 100 in the Group C match.
“Ajantha Mendis has always been a knife in our side, and he’s a world class performer and he showed that tonight,” Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor told reporters. “He gives you very little to score, and when you are chasing nine an over it’s always going to be difficult and you gotta go after some bowler, and he was on top of his game tonight and caught us off guard a bit.”
“Sri Lanka are just a lot better after tonight and they showed why they are one of the favorites to win,” he added.
Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene was delighted with the hosts’ start to the tournament.
“It was a tough game for us, although on paper it would seem it’s easier, but a team like Zimbabwe can be a surprise element,” Jayawardene said. “This is a performance with which we wanted to kick-start the tournament. As a unit, we come into this tournament to go all the way and make sure we focus on one game at a time.”
Sri Lanka, put into bat, were powered to their total of 182 for four by a 94-run fourth-wicket stand off 51 balls between Kumar Sangakkara and Jeevan Mendis.
Sangakkara scored 44 off 26 balls with two fours and a six, before being run out, while Mendis finished on 43 not out, including four fours and a six.
An opening partnership of 37 between Hamilton Mazakadza and Vusi Sibanda was Zimbabwe’s only real resistance against such class bowling.
Although Zimbabwe managed three run outs, they paid a heavy price for their poor catching and ground-fielding, along with a lack of discipline by their bowlers.
Debutant Dilshan Munaweera and Tillakaratne Dilshan gave Sri Lanka a solid start, sharing a stand of 54 off 39 balls.
Munaweera, dropped on 8 and 12 by Malcolm Waller, was eventually run out for 17.
Waller later made amends when he ran out Jayawardene for 13 and Sangakkara.
South Africa are the other team in the group, with the top two sides progressing to the Super Eights.
South Africa play Zimbabwe today.