x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

New Zealand bow to might of Mendis

Ajantha Mendis, the mystery spinner, is blazing a trail through Twenty20 after sending Sri Lanka through to the semi-finals.

Ajantha Mendis, the mystery spinner who has blazed a trail through Test and one-day cricket over the past year, is now doing the same in Twenty20 after sending Sri Lanka through to the semi-finals. The slow-bowler, who played second division cricket for Sri Lanka's army side before being spotted by the national coaches bowling in the nets, picked up three wickets for nine runs against New Zealand.

His spell hastily brought about a 48-run defeat for New Zealand at Trent Bridge, after Martin Guptill (43) had threatened to bring about an upset. It was a meeting of minds between two of the most studious captains in the game, and they both seemed to be trying to outdo each other with the wackiest idea. Daniel Vettori, the New Zeraland skipper, borrowed a ploy from one of his predecessors, by granting the first over to his off-break bowler, Nathan McCullum.

New Zealand enjoyed much success in the 1992 50-over World Cup when Martin Crowe employed the off-spinner Dipak Patel to open the bowling. McCullum was rewarded with the prized wicket of Sanath Jayasuriya for a golden duck, and conceded just 22 from his four overs. Vettori then re-inforced the importance of slow bowling in this version by claiming two wickets. After Sri Lanka had made 158-5, the captain Kumar Sangakkara imitated what had gone before when he handed the new-ball to Jayasuriya for him to try out his left-arm spin early in the piece.

His experiment was less successful. By the time his first over was done, Aaron Redmond, the New Zealand opener, was already on 20, having helped himself to three fours and a six. However, it was the storm before the calm in the New Zealand camp as Mendis emerged to destroy their hopes of victory.