Ajantha bamboozles Zimbabwe
Ajantha Mendis claimed a format-best 6-8 as Sri Lanka got their World Twenty20 campaign on home soil off to a perfect start by virtue of a resounding victory over Zimbabwe.
After winning the toss, the hosts eased to a formidable score of 182 for four, with Jeevan Mendis’ 43 not out being the outstanding innings.
Jeevan, who took three wickets, and namesake Ajantha - with the best figures in T20 internationals - then ensured Zimbabwe were never in with a chance as they were dismissed for just 100.
If Zimbabwe are to spark an upset in the competition, they will have to significantly improve upon a display of extreme sloppiness in the field.
The hosts profited from a series of dropped catches and overthrows, while Graeme Cremer was guilty of delivering a back-foot no-ball that had trapped Mahela Jayawardene plumb in front.
Yet that should not detract from the impressive displays delivered by Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Jeevan.
The former, opening the innings, quickly got into his stride in typical fashion, driving off the back foot to a good-length delivery through cover.
Similar shots brought about three of his other four boundaries, while he also unfurled a trademark ‘Dilscoop’, much to the delight of the home support.
The onus was put on the senior partner to get the runs in the opening stand, with international newcomer Dilshan Munaweera struggling to get the ball away despite hitting his first ball - a Kyle Jarvis full toss - for four.
He would eventually be run out for 17, after which his partner at the top of the order, Dilshan, was caught behind off a Cremer quicker ball.
Jayawardene failed to profit from his let off; he, too, was run out, yet Sangakkara and Jeevan duly responded by mixing good running with the odd boundary.
Their 94-run stand spanned 8.1 overs, with the highlights being two almost identical flicked sixes over square-leg, one from either batsman.
Sangakkara, on 44, would eventually depart - also from a run-out - in the final over, yet Thisara Perera added some further impetus with a similar maximum, albeit more agricultural, off the penultimate delivery of the innings.
Ajantha quickly undermined the reply, castling Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza either side of having Brendan Taylor stumped first ball.
Jeevan then followed up his efforts with the bat via two quick strikes; he got rid of Craig Ervine stumped before trapping Malcolm Waller in front to leave Zimbabwe 58 for five.
A procession of wickets followed, with Ajantha adding the scalps of Prosper Utseya, Jarvis and Elton Chigumbura, while Jeevan and Lasith Malinga grabbed the other two dismissals.