Kulasekara, Mendis demolish Zimbabwe
Nuwan Kulasekara and Ajantha Mendis executed the perfect demolition job to not only complete the win against Zimbabwe in the second match of the Tri-Nation Tournament in Bangladesh, but also ensure a bonus point. In the process, Mendis became the fastest to 50 ODI wickets when he had Ray Price stumped by Kumar Sangakkara, as Zimbabwe surrendered tamely during their chase.
Kulasekara was on fire right from the start as Sri Lanka looked to defend the 210 they put up earlier in the day on a difficult pitch. The Zimbabwe openers lasted just six overs - Kulasekara castling Vusi Sibanda for 6 and then trapping Hamilton Masakadza leg before in the next over.
Tatenda Taibu may have been dropped by captain Mahela Jayawardene off Thilan Thushara, but his luck lasted only a little while more as he played on to a Kulasekara in-cutter the next over. Thushara was rewarded though, sneaking through Sean Williams' defences as Zimbabwe were left reeling at 47 for 4 in the 17th over.
Jayawardene then unleashed spin at one end and Mendis, predictably, struck in his first over bowling Stuart Matsikenyeri. Matsikenyeri's 15 was to be the highest score in a dismal-looking scorecard, as captain Prosper Utseya and Keith Dabengwa exited in a hurry as well. Dabengwa was caught by Jayawardene, who drew level with Mohammad Azharuddin for the most number catches as a fielder, with 156.
Price was completely outfoxed by Mendis when he charged out, as the bowler, in his 19th match, broke Ajit Agarkar's record of 50 ODI wickets in 23 games.
A fine display from Ed Rainsford and a disciplined performance from the spinners earlier in the day had helped Zimbabwe restrict Sri Lanka to 210. Rainsford struck thrice to cripple Sri Lanka's top order, while Utseya and Ray Price tightened the noose by checking the run-flow in the middle overs.
After being put in by Zimbabwe under hazy conditions, the Sri Lankan openers made a solid start. Sanath Jayasuriya signalled his intent with two fours off Rainsford in the first over.
The run-rate never dipped below five as the partnership neared fifty, but having lifted Elton Chigumbura for a six over long-on the previous ball, Jayasuriya fell chasing a wide delivery, caught by Masakadza at first slip.
Zimbabwe took their second Powerplay as Rainsford came back for a second spell and struck immediately, trapping Sangakkara leg before. Jayawardene's miserable run against Zimbabwe continued as he was dismissed in Rainsford's next over, caught behind for a duck by Taibu off a thickish outside edge. Rainsford continued strongly, and when Chamara Kapugedera was caught plumb in front, Sri Lanka had slipped to 89 for 4.
Tharanga moved steadily towards his half-century, but another bowling change in the 21st over, with Utseya bringing himself on, did the trick, as he trapped Tharanga lbw for 42.
Price was then brought on as Zimbabwe switched to spin at both ends, looking to make further inroads. However, Jehan Mubarak and Mathews battled bravely to get Sri Lanka back in the game. They were slow, aiming primarily to consolidate. Their fifty stand took 14 overs but was brought up in emphatic fashion, Mathews hitting Tawanda Mupariwa for a six straight down the ground.
But having taken the third Powerplay in the 42nd over, Mubarak took his chances against Price and ended up holing out to Williams at mid-on, bringing an end to the sixth-wicket partnership of 69. Thushara hit two sixes in a Dabengwa over but Sri Lanka could manage just 22 runs in the Powerplay. Mathews brought up his fifty in the 49th over, and his workmanlike innings ensured Sri Lanka at least had a reasonable total to defend.
Zimbabwe can still make the finals, unless Bangladesh manage a major upset against Sri Lanka in the final match of the tri-series on Wednesday.