THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
HAMBANTOTA, Sri Lanka — Finger spinner Ajantha Mendis broke his own record for the best bowling figures in cricket’s shortest format Tuesday, taking 6-8 to lead Sri Lanka to an 82-run win over Zimbabwe in the World Twenty20 opening match.
Mendis surpassed his previous mark of 6-16 against Australia last year with his miserly four-over spell, helping bowl out Zimbabwe for 100 in 17.3 overs after Sri Lanka had totalled 182-4.
The performance by Mendis was particularly remarkable for being his first international after an eight-month layoff because of a back injury.
Namesake Jeevan Mendis claimed 3-24 to add to his 43 not out. Kumar Sangakkara top-scored for Sri Lanka with 44 while Tillakaratne Dilshan hit 39.
"It’s tough paying a team like Zimbabwe," Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene said. "You can’t take anything for granted (and) we had to make sure we played to our potential."
Zimbabwe batsmen looked like novices against the genius of Ajantha Mendis, who bowled two maidens.
Zimbabwe’s slide began in Mendis’ first over: Visu Sibanda played down the wrong line and was clean bowled and captain Brendan Taylor was smartly stumped by Sangakkara next ball.
In his next over, Mendis bowled Hamilton Masakadza for 20 before Jeevan Mendis made it 5-58 by removing Craig Ervine and Malcolm Waller cheaply from the other end.
Ajantha Mendis returned to clean up the tail by again claiming two wickets in one over. Lasith Malinga finished off Zimbabwe when Chris Mpofu became the fourth batsmen to be dismissed without scoring.
"It is a tough pill to swallow," Taylor said. "We are a far better side than what we showed, (but) credit goes to Sri Lanka. They showed why they are one of the favourites to win the tournament."
Earlier, Sangakkara put on 94 runs for the fourth wicket with Jeevan Mendis from 51 balls after Taylor won the toss and put Sri Lanka in to bat.
Dilshan and debutant Dilshan Munaweera (17) laid a solid platform of 54 for the opening wicket before Zimbabwe hit back with a couple of run outs and Dilshan was caught behind.
Sangakkara lifted the tempo with his aggressive running between the wickets with Mendis before he was run out in the last over.
Munaweera drove seamer Kyle Jarvis’ first ball of the innings through cover for a boundary to start the 12-team competition in this southern port city. Malcolm Waller then twice dropped the batsman in the deep.
Luck seemed to be on the hosts’ side when Jayawardene was judged leg before wicket on 12 but had to be recalled after television replays showed legspinner Graeme Cremer had bowled a back foot no-ball.
Although Jayawardene was run out shortly afterward, Mendis’ elevation as a pinch-hitter proved fruitful.
A week after winning the top three ICC awards, Sangakkara drove crisply into the big outfields on either side of the pitch at Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium. He also converted singles into twos with his brisk running between the wickets.
Mendis was equally destructive, lofting Elton Chigumbura for a six over midwicket and hitting four boundaries in his unbeaten knock.
Sangakkara hoisted Mpofu for a six in the last over, and Thisara Perera further ruined the medium-pace bowler’s figures of 0-49 by lifting him over the mid-wicket fence.
South Africa is the other team in Group D and will meet Zimbabwe on Thursday.
The top two teams from the group advance to the Super Eights in the 12-team competition.