It’s Mendis & Mendis at work

AFP

Riding on the performances of Ajantha and Jeevan, Sri Lanka get off to a winning start. K. C. Vijaya Kumar goes over the first week of action at the World Twenty20 Championship.

The port city that offered anchor and rest to sea-faring travellers in the past also gifted a rainbow start to Sri Lanka. As the ICC World Twenty20 Championship commenced in Hambantota on September 18 with a Group ‘C’ match between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, the host had lots to cheer as the Mendis duo — Ajantha and Jeevan — combined to crush the opponent by 82 runs. Making a comeback, Ajantha’s medley of mystery balls unhinged Zimbabwe’s chase. His analysis of six for eight is the finest in Twenty20 history and with leg-spinner Jeevan striking with the bat (43 not out) and ball (three for 24), Sri Lanka had a perfect start.

Rankings, anyone?

The ironic sub-text of Australia being ranked below Ireland in the ICC’s benchmark for Twenty20 teams was a distinct prelude as the teams clashed in a Group B match in Colombo on September 19. And once the dust settled, Australia emphatically proved that hierarchy can often be lopsided. All-rounder Shane Watson played the lead-act (three for 26 and 51) and powered Australia to a seven-wicket victory.

Watson scalped Ireland captain William Porterfield off the game’s very first ball and later said, “We made a statement.”

An African affair

“Oh, he is a legend, and when he finally stops playing, he will be considered if not the greatest cricketer ever, at least in the top couple,” said Shane Watson on a rainy night in Colombo when asked to compare himself with Jacques Kallis. Only a few days before, Kallis proved that the combative fires are still raging in him. In a Group ‘C’ clash between the African neighbours in Hambantota on September 20, South Africa defeated Zimbabwe by 10 wickets in a verdict that was largely influenced by the great Kallis.

The all-rounder grabbed four wickets that snuffed out Zimbabwe and with openers Richard Levi and Hashim Amla remaining firm, South Africa coasted home. And Zimbabwe became the first team to crash out of the tournament.

The dispenser of batting mayhems

On song… Australia’s Shane Watson in full flow during his unbeaten 41 against West Indies at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.-K.R. DEEPAK

Brendon McCullum has always been a sudden impact player. That has been the case with him since his unbeaten 158 helped Kolkata Knight Riders pummel Royal Challengers Bangalore in the inaugural Indian Premier League match in Bangalore in 2008. His latest — a blistering 123 (58b, 11x4, 7x6) — became the highest individual score in Twenty20 internationals, eclipsing Richard Levi’s 117, and helped New Zealand pound Bangladesh by 59 runs in a Group ‘D’ match in Pallekele on September 21. Right from the time he slapped Shafiul Islam through covers, McCullum’s mood for monstrous hits took a multi-hued texture that bled the bowlers and the game’s one-sided conclusion was never in doubt.

The failed rebellion

Afghanistan evoked romance and walked in with the empathy that trails teams emerging from rough terrains. And in competing reasonably well with India, the squad had sounded out a few warning bells, just that the resilience vanished when it squared up against England in a Group ‘A’ match in Colombo on September 21. England won by 116 runs and ‘Man of the Match’ Luke Wright, who remained unbeaten on 99, said: “I was desperate for a chance to get to the form of my life and I am glad that I got there.”

Rains and runs

The weather cut short a big face-off, and in a truncated seven-overs-a-side Group ‘C’ tussle in Hambantota on September 22, South Africa defeated Sri Lanka by 32 runs. AB de Villiers’s pulsating 30 set up South Africa nicely at the break, while Dale Steyn completed the task with two wickets.

Watson and weather prevail

It was a contest that finally filled up Colombo’s R. Premadasa Stadium. The match was building along nicely on the premise of its regal status before the skies opened up and added a twist. The elements and Shane Watson allied in tandem to help Australia defeat the West Indies by 17 runs in a Group ‘B’ match on September 22. After Chris Gayle (54) and Marlon Samuels (50) set a nice launch-pad for the West Indies, the takeoff did not happen as Watson’s unbeaten 41 ensured that Australia was well ahead of the Duckworth Lewis method’s par score of 83 for one in 9.1 overs.

THE SCORES SEPTEMBER 18

Group ‘C’ (in Hambantota): Sri Lanka 182 for four in 20 overs (K. Sangakkara 44, J. Mendis 43 n.o., T. Dilshan 39) beat Zimbabwe 100 in 17.3 overs (H. Masakadza 20, Ajantha Mendis six for eight, Jeevan Mendis three for 24).

SEPTEMBER 19

Group ‘B’ (in Colombo): Ireland 123 for seven in 20 overs (Kevin O’Brien 35, Niall O’Brien 20, Watson three for 26, Starc two for 20) lost to Australia 125 for three in 15.1 overs (S. Watson 51, D. Warner 26, C. White 22 n.o.).

SEPTEMBER 20

Group ‘C’ (in Hambantota): Zimbabwe 93 for eight in 20 overs (C. R. Ervine 37, Kallis four for 15, Morne Morkel two for 16) lost to South Africa 94 for no loss in 12.4 overs (R. Levi 50 n.o., H. Amla 32 n.o.).

SEPTEMBER 21

Group ‘D’ (in Pallekele): New Zealand 191 for three in 20 overs (B. McCullum 123, J. Franklin 35) beat Bangladesh 132 for eight in 20 overs (N. Hossain 50, M. Ashraful 21, Southee three for 16, Mills three for 33).

Group ‘A’ (in Colombo): England 196 for five in 20 overs (L. Wright 99 n.o., A. Hales 31, E. Morgan 27, Dawlatzai two for 56) beat Afghanistan 80 in 17.2 overs (G. Naib 44, Patel two for six, Broad two for 10, Dernbach two for 16, Swann two for 22).

SEPTEMBER 22

Group ‘C’ (in Hambantota): South Africa 78 for four in seven overs (AB de Villiers 30) beat Sri Lanka 46 for five in seven overs (Steyn two for 10).

Group ‘A’ (in Colombo): West Indies 191 for eight in 20 overs (C. Gayle 54, M. Samuels 50, Dwayne Bravo 27, Starc three for 35, Watson two for 29) lost to Australia 100 for one in 9.1 overs (S. Watson 41 n.o., M. Hussey 28 n.o., D. Warner 28). Australia won by the Duckworth Lewis method.