HAMBANTOTA, Sri Lanka (AFP) - Spinner Ajantha Mendis took a record six wickets for just eight runs as hosts Sri Lanka humbled Zimbabwe in the opening match of the World Twenty20 yesterday.
Mendis, 27, marked his international return after an eight-month injury lay-off with the devastating haul to wreck Zimbabwe for 100 in 17.3 overs in the Group C match in Hambantota.
Zimbabwe could never cope with Mendis's unreadable deliveries and they collapsed like a pack of cards in pursuit of the daunting target of 183 set by Sri Lanka at Mahinda Rajapaksa Stadium.
Sri Lanka, who lost the toss and were sent into bat, owed their total of 182-4 to Kumar Sangakkara (44) and Jeevan Mendis (43 not out), who shared a 94-run stand for the fourth wicket.
"It's tough paying a team like Zimbabwe," said Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene. "You can't take anything for granted. We had to make sure we played to our potential.
"It's a good wicket, just needed to get used to it a little bit. Our guys batted really well, and the bowlers then did a super job."
Ajantha Mendis struck two blows in his first over, removing Vusi Sibanda (11) and Zimbabwe skipper Brendan Taylor (0) off successive deliveries. He next had Zimbabwe's top-scorer Hamilton Masakadza (20).
He returned for his second spell and took four more wickets to end any lingering Zimbabwean hopes - and improve his own international Twenty20 record figures of 6-16, set against Australia at Pallekele last year.
Jeevan Mendis took 3-24 to cap a great all-round performance.
"We are a better side than what we showed," said Zimbabwe's captain Taylor.
"Credit goes to Sri Lanka. They showed why they are one of the favourites to win the tournament. We have played enough cricket to go back from today, rethink and come back a better side."
Sangakkara, the newly crowned ICC Player of the Year, hit a 26-ball 44, studded with a six and two boundaries, while Jeevan Mendis smashed four boundaries and a six during his unbeaten 43 off 30 balls.
Both the left-handers lifted Sri Lanka from 82-3 after they were put into bat.
Tillakaratne Dilshan hit five boundaries during his rapid 39 before he fell caught behind by Taylor off leg-spinner Graeme Cremer. Jayawardene was run out for 13 while debutant Dilshan Munaweera made 17.
Twelve teams competing in the event are divided in four groups, with the top two teams advancing to the Super Eight stage, which will decide the four semi-finalists.
On Wednesday, Australia take on Ireland in Group B while former champions India face Afghanistan in Group A. Both matches are in Colombo.
Sri Lanka are bidding to end their 16-year wait for a second major title after winning the 50-over World Cup in 1996.