Mahela Jayawardene is one of the best batsman in the world. Image courtesy of News Limited.
Sri Lanka face Zimbabwe in the 2012 World Twenty20 opener at Hambantota on Tuesday, as they bid to win their first major ICC trophy since claiming the 1995 World Cup on the sub-continent. Despite having failed to win a major competition since that famous success, Mahela Jayawardene’s men have been beaten finalists in three of the past four World Cup and World Twenty20 events and go into this tournament as one of the favourites, while little is expected of Zimbabwe.
The tournament hosts boast a formidable lineup with Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene forming arguably the most dangerous opening partnership in the 20 over game. While Dilshan plays somewhat unconventionally, Jayawardene blends conventional cricket shots with a deft touch to accumulate his runs, making it difficult for opposition captains to set a field. He was the leading runscorer at the 2010 World Twenty20 and scored an unbeaten 57 from just 35 balls in his sides warm-up win over the West Indies.
Limited-overs specialist Lasith Malinga leads the Sri Lankan attack and his Twenty20 record is second to none. The 29 year old has collected 162 wickets from 119 matches in the shortest form of the game, the fifth most of any bowler in history. If Zimbabwe can see off Malinga, they will then likely have to face Ajantha Mendis , who has the best figures in Twenty20 International history with his 6/16 against Australia last year.
Zimbabwe lost both of its official Twenty20 Internationals against New Zealand in February, and also disappointed in losing a practice match against Bangladesh by 5 wickets on Saturday. Although they struggle to compete with the best sides in the world in wicketkeeper batsman Brendan Taylor is a world class player in his own right.
These two sides have met in two previous 20 over matches, with Sri Lanka recording a 5 wicket win in 2008 before triumphing by 14 runs in a rain affected match at the 2010 World Twenty20. Two Twenty20 Internationals have been played at this ground, with Sri Lanka and Pakistan splitting their series here with a win apiece in June.
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