Mendis and McCullum scale new heights
Sri Lanka's two Mendises - Ajantha and Jeevan - forged a menacing spin partnership that fired up the team's World Twenty20 campaign with a rousing 82-run win over Zimbabwe, and stole the pre-match limelight from Sri Lanka's other stars - Lasith Malinga, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.
Ajantha, touted as the next Murali when he made his debut three years ago, made an electrifying entrance after being out of the team for the past few months. Chasing Sri Lanka's sizable total of 182, Zimbabwe were not expected to put up much resistance, but they did, as they made smooth progress in the first five overs through the obstacle course called Malinga & Kulasekara. But then came Ajantha in the sixth with his bag of tricks and hit the stumps with his third ball that held its line. Next ball, he had Brendan Taylor stumped off a carrom-ball. He hit the stumps again in the next over, this time with a googly.
Seeing Zimbabwe struggle against spin, Jeevan, the legspinner, was introduced into the attack and the batsmen played him like the other Mendis - with eyes closed. Jeevan got two with his googly in his first over, and then added one later with his conventional away-going delivery. Meanwhile, Ajantha picked three more to record the best ever T20 match figures, beating his own record, and was named Man of the Match. Jeevan was a strong contender for the award too, after scoring an unbeaten 30-ball 41 that had fuelled Sri Lanka's to a strong total.
Brendon McCullum, New Zealand v Bangladesh
Brendon McCullum, the leading run-scorer in T20 internationals, used his experience in the format to bring up a well-paced century that helped New Zealand raze Bangladesh by 59 runs in Pallekele. 'Well-paced' has mostly been reserved for innings played in ODIs, but McCullum, who plays T20s in leagues all over the world, showed what it means in this context. McCullum attributes it to his understanding of patterns within T20 games better.
Against Bangladesh, McCullum made an entry in the third over after the fall of Martin Guptill's wicket and had one run from his first four balls before finding a non-violent boundary off his fifth. He continued in the same vein for a while, boundary hits interspersed with singles. The feature of his innings was not the big hits though; he often produces those. It was the defensive shots he played through the innings to good balls. McCullum got to his fifty off 29 balls in the thirteenth over with five fours and two sixes, and he shifted gears soon after. Off the remaining 40 balls in the innings, he took strike for 28, and scored 71 runs with six fours and five sixes.
He was out off the last ball of the innings, but along the way, he became the holder of the top individual score and the only player to notch-up two centuries in T20 internationals.
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo