Sri Lanka 130 for 4 (Sangakkara 46*) beat Zimbabwe 127 (Murali 4-14, Mendis 3-26) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Zimbabwe's captain, Prosper Utseya, may have suggested that Muttiah Muralitharan was "not as effective" as he once was, but that assertion came back to haunt his team during the first ODI against Sri Lanka in Harare. Ripping the ball with all the mystery and venom of old, Murali claimed figures of 4 for 14 in four overs, as Zimbabwe lost their last seven wickets for three runs in four overs. They tumbled from 124 for 3 to 127 in the blink of an eye, leaving Sri Lanka to coast to their target with six wickets and more than 16 overs in hand.
The scorecard tells a sorry tale of Zimbabwe's bamboozlement. Each of their last six batsmen made ducks, with no-one surviving more than four deliveries, as Murali and his new spinning sidekick, Ajantha Mendis, made swift work of a wafer-thin lower-order. Mendis, the ICC's Emerging Player of the Year, was almost as effective as his senior colleague, finishing with 3 for 26 in six overs, and though Upul Tharanga, in reply, made it seven ducks in a row by running himself out in the first over of Sri Lanka's innings, a leisurely 46 not out from Kumar Sangakkara meant the result was never in doubt.
Zimbabwe were always going to be up against it in this series. Although the selectors decided, in the end, to ignore the claims of their talented but temperamental opener, Sean Williams, who announced his availability earlier in the week, they were at least bolstered by the return of Tatenda Taibu, who had threatened to miss the match after a dispute with the board. Even so, Sri Lanka were not threatened by their opponents, as Mahela Jayawardene showed by asking Zimbabwe to bat first after winning the toss.
Though Vusi Sibanda fell early to Nuwan Kulasekara for 9, the rest of Zimbabwe's top five all made starts. Hamilton Masakadza struck three fours in his 15 before being run out by Tharanga; Chamu Chibhabha accumulated steadily for his 25 from 35 balls, while Stuart Matsikenyeri clobbered Mendis back over his head for six as he raced along to 21 from 20 balls. But two balls after that blow, Matsikenyeri fell, bowled off the inside-edge by Murali as he attempted a cramped cut shot, and - with Taibu parked at the non-striker's end - the innings swiftly fell apart.
With his next delivery, Murali struck again, as Elton Chigumbura fumbled forward to the quicker delivery and was pinned lbw in front of the stumps. Though he missed out on the hat-trick, Murali claimed his third wicket with the final ball of the same over, as Timycen Maruma gormlessly turned a big ripper from around the wicket into the hands of backward short leg.
Taibu had been progressing serenely up until that point, unbeaten on 33 from 52 balls, but he then contributed to the collapse by taking a single from the first ball of the next over, bowled by Mendis. Utseya, eager to impose himself, drove hard-handedly at a flighted delivery, missed, and was adjudged lbw for a golden duck. The veteran, Ray Price, survived three balls, but was then comprehensively suckered by one of Mendis's many variations, as he was dragged down the pitch and stumped for yet another duck.
Five wickets had fallen in the space of 12 balls, but yet again Taibu chose to take a single from the first ball of an over. Murali needed no second invitation to give the new batsman, Tawanda Mupariwa, a thorough working-over. After three tangled defensive prods, Mupariwa attempted a clumsy sweep, inside-edged onto his pads, and Tharanga claimed a dolly at silly point. That left Mendis to apply the coup de grace. Taibu blocked the first three balls of his next over and took a single from the fourth, but two deliveries was more than enough to clean up the No. 11, Christopher Mpofu, who was bowled through the gate to lose his off stump.
Sri Lanka's response with the bat was hardly emphatic, but it didn't need to be. Tharanga tried to steal a non-existent run to short midwicket and was beaten by a sharp shy from Mpofu, but Mahela Udawatte provided some measured aggression in the 10 overs available before lunch with 28 from 34 balls, including two fours and a swatted six over backward point. He eventually holed out to cover ten runs later, and Price marked his comeback with the prize wicket of Jayawardene, bowled for 15.
But the end was already nigh. Kapugedera slammed two sixes in a 15-ball cameo before picking out long-off as he sized up a third, but it was left to Sangakkara - barely noticed throughout his 93-ball stay - to pick off the winning runs and seal a comprehensive victory.