The mystery spinner took 6 wickets for 8 runs to bowl Zimbabwe out for 100 and help Sri Lanka to an 82-run win in the World Twenty20 opener.
18th over: 100 all out. Sri Lanka beat Zimbabwe by 82 runs to win the ICC World Twenty20 2012 opener. Malinga performs the last rites to get among the wickets and help Sri Lanka complete a facile win.
The day in the end belonged to the comeback man Ajantha Mendis for his bamboozling spell of 6 for 8. Credit must also be give to Jeevan Mendis who followed up his 43 not out with 3 for 24.
Chris Mpofu c sub (Chandimal) b Malinga 0 (2)
17th over: 93 for 9. Nine down. Jeevan Mendis continues to torment Zimbabwe from the other end. His third wicket of the innings as he bowls Cremer, who made a fighting 17.
Graeme Cremer b Jeevan Mendis 17 (20)
16th over: 87 for 8. Six-for! Ajantha Mendis gets Utseya caught at slip to complete a five-for and makes it six with an lbw decision against Jarvis to complete a dream comeback with a spell of 6 for 8. Best bowling figures in ICC World Twenty20.
Kyle Jarvis lbw b Ajantha Mendis 0 (3)
Prosper Utseya c Jayawardene b Ajantha Mendis 1 (2)
15th over: 87 for 6. Utseya comes in to join fellow spinner Cremer in the middle. But the writing is on the wall now. Won't be easy for tailenders from this situation.
14th over: 80 for 6. Bowled! Ajantha gets his fourth wicket of the innings. What a comeback it's turning out to be for him. He castles Chigumbura for 19 after being swept for a four on the previous delivery. This match is as good as over now.
Elton Chigumbura b BAW Mendis 19 (19)
13th over: 75 for 5. Chigumbura starts the over well with a slog sweep that sailed over the mid-wicket fence for a six, but Jeevan came back well to not allow any more big hits in the over.
12th over: 66 for 5. An edged four for Cremer but that's not going to do the job for Zimbabwe. They need more than a few lusty blows to come anywhere near to challenging Sri Lanka's total.
11th over: 59 for 5. Fourth wicket down. Fifth wicket down. Two wickets in the over once again. Jeevan, not Ajantha Mendis, this time. Another stumping with the foot in the air. Jeevan beats Ervine in flight, drawing him out of his crease and follows it up with a perfect wrong'un to catch Waller in front. It's now turning into surrender on the expected lines.
Malcolm Waller lbw b BMAJ Mendis 0 (2)
Craig Ervine st Sangakkara b BMAJ Mendis 10 (13)
10th over: 57 for 3. Ervine has had enough of tip tap. He picks Perera from the off-stump for a huge six over the long-on boundary. Zimbabwe need lots of those. Clean hit.
9th over: 48 for 3. Another lucky escape in that over as Sri Lanka miss an easy run-out chance. Mathews fails to collect the throw, otherwise it would have been curtains for Zimbabwe.
8th over: 43 for 3. Gone! Mendis strikes again. This time he ends Masakadza's stay. The Zimbabwe opener played for the carom ball but it was a googly that came in and went through the gate. Mendis seems to have had another one as he strikes Ervine right in front but the umpire suggests the bowler's follow-through blocked his vision. Lucky escape for Ervine.
Hamilton Masakadza b BAW Mendis 20 (23)
7th over: 43 for 2. Angelo Mathews into the attack and he is bowling with that cushion of double strike in the previous over by Mendis. Just three runs off the over as Masakadza and Chigumbura buckle down for the repair work.
6th over: 39 for 2. Out! Double strike! Ajantha Mendis into the attack and strikes straight away. First he bowls Sibanda, who plays down the wrong line, and the next ball he gets Brendan Taylor stumped. Misses the hat-trick, though, but the damage has been done.
Vusi Sibanda b Ajantha Mendis 11 (16)
Brendan Taylor st Sangakkara b Ajantha Mendis 0 (1)
5th over: 36 for no loss. Sibanda gets going as well. He flashes hard to a widish delivery from Kulasekara that didn't swing much. He gets it over the off-side field for his first boundary.
4th over: 28 for no loss. Masakadza has had enough of watching Malinga. Moves to the on side to make room, Malinga follows him and he lifts the Sri Lankan over mid-wicket for a boundary. And off the last ball he hammers Malinga over mid-on for another boundary. 12 runs off that over. Zimbabwe move on.
3rd over: 16 for no loss. Masakadza trying to keep the bowler guessing by coming out of his crease, and he finally gets a boundary, through brute force though as he muscles a drive past mid-on.
2nd over: 8 for no loss. Okay then, the toe-crusher Malinga is here. By his own admission, he sees only the batsmen's shoes and aims for those. But he is making use of the movement as well here, a little too much may be as one goes off the pads for four leg-byes. Otherwise, the batsmen don't have a clue about what's happening.
1st over: 3 for no loss. Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza opening the batting against Nuwan Kulasekara, who is getting a fair bit of movement, more in-swing than out. Even keeping the wicketkeeper busy with that prodigious movement, both in the air and off the pitch.
Sri Lanka Innings
20th over: 182 for 4. A run-out in the last over, but more importantly two sixes - one by Sangakkara before he got out and the other by Thisara Perera to push Sri Lanka past 180. Mendis remained not out at 43 off 30 balls.
Steep ask for Zimbabwe but their fielding let them down badly today. Cremer was the pick of the bowlers with a four-over spell of 1 for 27, while Mpofu suffered the most and leaked 49 runs in his four overs without taking any wicket.
Kumar Sangakkara run out 44 (26)
19th over: 167 for 3. 17 runs off that penultimate over bowled by Jarvis. He ends with figures of 4-0-31-0. Sangakkara at his best with the four over the point boundary. Mendis keeps himself busy with a couple of twos.
18th over: 150 for 3. Zimbabwe fielding has been unusually untidy today. Misfields allowing Sri Lankans easy twos and threes. No boundary in this over but still 11 runs off it.
17th over: 139 for 3. Ten runs off that Jarvis over, including four byes as a perfect yorker goes through Mendis' legs to the fine-leg boundary. Sri Lanka moving on pretty quickly here.
16th over: 129 for 3. Sangakkara's last-ball four ends Mpofu's decent-looking over on a damaging note for Zimbabwe. Sangakkara backs away on the shortish delivery and with no third man in place, he just had to make contact with his upper cut to get Sri Lanka another boundary.
15th over: 120 for 3. First six of the innings. Mendis is a little man but he packs a real punch. He flicks Chigumbura for a six and two balls later helps one to the fine-leg boundary. Two more singles make it 13 runs off the over.
14th over: 107 for 3. Mendis is into the act right away. Creams Cremer for two boundaries to end the over for Sri Lanka. First a sweep and the next wide of long-off. Much needed.
13th over: 96 for 3. Mpofu comes back and after bowling decent five balls, a straight drive that should have earned Jeevan Mendis a couple at most turns into a boundary off a misfield.
12th over: 86 for 3. Another one goes down. Jayawardene run out risking a dodgy second run to deep point. No boundary since the last five overs. Zimbabwe are right back in it.
Mahela Jayawardene run out 13 (18)
11th over: 80 for 2. Good follow-up over by Utseya. Just four off, but Sri Lanka have their best pair on the crease now in the form of Jayawardene and Sangakkara. Consolidation phase?
10th over: 76 for 2. Gone! No, not out. Hang on! Cremer seems to have got the big fish Jayawardene lbw. Umpire stops Jayawardene to check on the no-ball, and Cremer has indeed cut the back line with his heel. Not out! Thee free hit is a dot ball, if that's a consolation!
But Cremer did get his man in the same over, albeit not Jayawardene but Dilshan, who tries to cut but only manages to edge it into Taylor's gloves.
Tillakaratne Dilshan c Taylor b Cremer 39 (28)
9th over: 70 for 1. Mahela brings out his reverse-sweep to dispatch Utseya for a boundary. Dilshan remains busy with a couple of twos to keep the scoreboard ticking. 'Milking the bowlers' as they say.
8th over: 59 for 1. Spin in tandem. Graeme Cremer bowling his legbreaks. He bowls a good first over with just four singles off it. Of course, the fall of wicket in the previous over helped.
7th over: 55 for 1. Out! Munaweera run out for 17. Munaweera lost his bat while running a cheeky single off a mis-sweep to short fine-leg. Dilshan sends him back, he slips and was found short of his ground as the Zima wicketkeeper removed the bails. Jayawardene walks in.
Dilshan Munaweera run out 17 (19)
6th over: 53 for no loss. Mpofu replaces Vitori and heartbreak for him straight away. Munaweera dropped! Badly misjudged by the deep square leg. A single gives Dilshan the strike for a Dilscoop and a conventional straight drive for back-to-back fours, followed by a single and a neat clip off the legs by Munaweera for the third boundary of the over.
5th over: 38 for no loss. First sign of spin in the form of Prosper Utseya. But Dilshan doesn't take long to size him up. Goes on the back foot and punches it between cover and extra-cover. Sri Lanka picking up the scoring rate.
4th over: 29 for no loss. Dilshan had his heart in his mouth there as the top edge flew over wicketkeeper Taylor to land safely. Got a four in the over with a touch of arrogance in that flash past extra cover. But Zimbabwe seem to have come out with a plan to keep the variation going. Working decently so far.
3rd over: 19 for no loss. Munaweera gets a life. Tough chance for Waller but it's pretty windy and that made it tougher. Munaweera isn't holding back, though. Smashed a four over the bowler's head before getting that life.
2nd over: 10 for no loss. Brian Vitori to Tillakaratne Dilshan, and he takes just two balls to settle. Third ball, Vitori allows Dilshan to free his arms and he smashes it through the covers for four. A wide bouncer, a single and two dots follow.
1st over: 4 for no loss Kyle Jarvis opening the bowling for Zimbabwe. Munaweera on strike, Dilshan at the non-striker's end. Juicy full toss to start things off. Munaweera guides it past point. Four. But Jarvis mixes it up nicely in the next five deliveries. Just four off the over.
7:10 p.m. The line-ups:
Sri Lanka: Dilshan Munaweera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene (c), Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Jeevan Mendis, Nuwan Kulasekara, Ajantha Mendis, Lasith Malinga
Zimbabwe: Hamilton Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda, Brendan Taylor (c/wk), Craig Ervine, Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura, Graeme Cremer, Prosper Utseya, Kyle Jarvis, Brian Vitori, Chris Mpofu
7 p.m. Brendan Taylor has won the toss and Zimbabwe are bowling.
Ajantha Mendis comes back for Sri Lanka, with Dilshan Munaweera making his debut. No Ray Price for Zimbabwe.
6:55 p.m. We are in Hambantota and it's pretty cool and windy here. Toss coming up in five minutes.
6:40 a.m. "Even bit of green on the wicket," says Sanjay Manjrekar. "Not a green top," he makes it even clearer for those who thought fast bowlers are in for a feast.
6:30 p.m. Hello & welcome to CricketNext's real-time updates from the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, with the hosts taking on the minnows Zimbabwe in the tournament opener.