The opening encounter of the WorldT20, between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe at Hambantota, turned out to be a disappointingly one-sided affair. Agreed, the home side were always expected to come up trumps, but the kind of thumping Zimbabwe received will sure act as a source of demotivation for the games to follow. The Zimbabweans were embarrassingly poor in all aspects of the game – their weak bowling fell apart in the midst of an onslaught, the fielding was surprisingly substandard throughout the innings, with many catches going down. When it came to putting up some fight with the bat, they had not answer to Ajantha Mendis’ mystery balls.
The game was nothing but a reassertion of the gulf that exists between Zimbabwe and the other top teams in the world. Mendis is a good bowler no doubt, but by no means is he as menacing as the hapless Zimbabwean batsman made him look. Remember most teams have worked around a way to deal with Mendis, which is one of the reasons he was out the national side for a significant amount of time. However, the Zimbabwean batsman played him as if he was Shane Warne, which he isn’t. Tentative pokes and unsure charges down the wicket demonstrated that they were completely clueless against Mendis.
The only positive, if any, for Zimbabwe from the match was that their bowlers kept things reasonably tight in the first 10 overs of theLankan innings. They were also successful in sending back the openers and Mahela Jayawardene just when the innings was beginning to blossom. However, their poor fielding efforts came back to haunt them as Kumar Sangakkara and an elevated Jeevan Mendis first rebuilt the innings and then went on to destroy the Zimbabwean attack and their confidence. In the last five overs, Sri Lanka scored plenty, and that took away any reasonable chance Zimbabwe had of competing.
For Sri Lanka, it was a near perfect start. They executed their plans perfectly but for a brief glitch at the start when a lost a few quick wickets to poor pieces of cricket. Debutant opener Dilshan Munaweera looked good during his stay at the crease. If anything, he will have to work on rotating the strike as opposed to just hunting for the boundaries. The other Dilshan, the more experienced Tillakaratne, also began well, but gave it away just when he seemed set. As for skipper Mahela Jayawardene, he would have been cross with himself for gifting his wicket away via a run-out that could have been averted.
All in all though, Lanka would be pleased with their opening effort. Jeevan Mendis’ success with the bat means they have another all-rounder in the making, who can do a similar job to what Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera have been performing in recent times. And even though Ajantha Mendis cannot be expected to recreate similar magic against bigger sides, the performance will give him plenty of confidence.
Lanka have kicked off the tournament exactly like they would have wanted to.
--By A Cricket Analyst