Sri Lankan spinners leave Zimbabwe dazed

Sri Lankan bowler Ajantha Mendis (centre) celebrates after he dismissed Zimbabwe's Kyle Jarvis...

Sri Lankan bowler Ajantha Mendis (centre) celebrates after he dismissed Zimbabwe's Kyle Jarvis (left) during Tuesday's match.

Norman Da Costa, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:44 PM ET

Fireworks lit up the night skies in Sri Lanka after the host nation trampled Zimbabwe in the opener of the World Twenty20 Cup at Hambantota on Tuesday. It was a dream start for Sri Lanka as it strolled to an emphatic 82-run win and underscored its claims as one of the favourites for the title.

Zimbabwe’s batsmen were bamboozled by Sri Lanka’s spinners Ajantha Mendis and Jeevan Mendis, who between them claimed nine wickets. Ajantha Mendis was at his brilliant best with a sensational return of six wickets for eight runs and his partner Jeevan chipped in with two for 24. Mendis’ figures of 4-2-8-6 were the best in Twenty20 cricket and bettered his own six for 16 versus Australia in 2011.

The home team started off slowly but then picked up the pace to score a massive 182 for four with 100 runs coming off the last 50 balls. Zimbabwe could only manage 100 in 17.3 overs. Kumar Sangakkara top scored with 44 and Jeevan made 43 as the two left-handers starred in a 94-run partnership for the fourth wicket.

“It’s tough playing a team like Zimbabwe,” skipper Mahela Jayawardene said. “You can’t take anything for granted. We had to make sure we played to our potential.”

Zimbabwe skipper Brendan Taylor was disappointed with his team’s batting and under-par fielding. “It is a tough pill to swallow,” he said. “We are a far better side than what we showed. Credit goes to Sri Lanka. They showed why they are one of the favourites to win the tournament.’’

PLAYERS UNDER SCRUTINY

Sri Lanka has spared no expense in making sure this 12-team tournament goes off without a hitch. Bodyguards and commandos from the elite Special Task Force have been deployed to guard the teams.

The players themselves will be under additional scrutiny over match-fixing fears that have plagued the game for the past decade.

Tournament’s chief security officer Camillus Abeygunawardena told AFP that local and international detectives are posted at every hotel to make sure everything runs smoothly. He added some 1,200 security personnel will be on duty at matches, but more will be posted at matches “like the one between India and Pakistan.’’

PIETERSEN OUT IN THE COLD

England’s wayward star Kevin Pietersen continues to hold centre stage even though he isn’t playing in this tournament after being dropped for sending “provocative messages’’ about his teammates to the opposition South African players during a series last month. On Tuesday, England went a step further and left him out of the tour of India later this year. Pietersen, who is in Sri Lanka as a TV analyst, was disappointed with the decision as he had met and apologized to the England board and some players for his actions. But it is obvious that Pietersen did not do enough to convince coach Andy Flower and new skipper Alastair Cook.

Some of the England players have no time for Pietersen and the board realizes his inclusion could cause problems in the dressing room. Talks between the two parties, though, will continue and the board may eventually relent and include him for the tour of New Zealand in February ... Two new players included in England’s tour party to India include Joe Root and Nick Compton, who have starred with the bat for their counties this season. Compton is the grandson of former star David Compton.

KANGAROOS WORRIED

Ireland’s reputation for springing upsets in major tournaments has super-power Australia concerned. The teams meet in Colombo on Wednesday.

“I will only rest easy when that game’s (against Ireland) passed,” Australia’s coach Mickey Arthur said.

“That’s not through fear of failure. They have been a giant-killer and they’re playing with a quite nice bit of freedom. Any team in this competition can win if they have a good day,” he added.

In 2007, Ireland sent Pakistan home packing from the World Cup in the Caribbean and last year Kevin O’Brien hammered a century in a stunning win over England in the World Cup in Bangalore.

With Australia minus a top-class spinner it will depend on quickies Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins to strike the early blows. The Aussies are stacked with a solid batting lineup with Shane Watson, David Warner and Michael Hussey all capable of running up the score. Ireland, too, has big hitters in O’Brien, Paul Stirling and Neil O’Brien. Australia should open its campaign with a win, but Ireland’s left-arm spinner George Dockrell could well decide the outcome of this match.

THE COLOMBO BELLY

New Zealand’s Tim Southee and Rob Nicol may be sidelined for its opener against Bangladesh in Kandy on Friday. Both are grounded in Colombo after coming down with gastroenteritis. The duo remained in Colombo on Tuesday while their teammates flew to Kandy after falling foul of gastroenteritis. The good news is that Daniel Vettori has recovered from the same ailment.

 


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