Mahela Jaywardene's breezy 81 went in vain as New Zealand made a winning start to their Twenty20 World Cup campaign, beating Sri Lanka by two wickets in the thrilling inaugural match of the tournament, in Guyana, on Friday.
Sri Lanka rode on Jayawardene's career-best Twenty20 score, that came off just 51 balls, to post 135 for six. But Jesse Ryder's 27-ball 42 at the top and Nathan McCullum's (16 not out) last over heroics sealed the match for New Zealand in 19.5 overs.
With the equation out of their favour after losing all their top-order batsmen, the younger McCullum came up with a four and a six off Lasith Malinga in the final over to finish off the Kiwi run chase in style.
Earlier, opening the attack, Nathan McCullum bowled cleverly to return with figures off one for 17 from his three overs.
Contrary to the result, New Zealand started their run chase on a disastrous note as Angelo Mathews bowled a brilliant wicket maiden first over.
Brendon McCullum's poor run with the bat continued as he mistimed one straight to Lasith Malinga off Mathews in the fourth ball of opening over.
Ryder, however, went about his business in style, hitting three fours and two sixes en route his 27-ball innings. He shared 62 runs with Martin Guptil (19) before two quick wickets brought Sri Lanka right back into the match.
Spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan broke the dangerous second-wicket partnership as he went through Ryder's defence.
Sanath Jayasuriya then made it double celebration for the Lankans in the next over with a beautiful yorker that Guptil had no answer to.
Muralitharan added another to his kitty when Ross Taylor's (9) slog-sweep landed in the palms of Mathews. However, it was the eventful 17th over from Mendis that threatened to change the course of the match.
Mendis started on a perfect note, cleaning up Scott Styris (17) with the second ball, but with the wicket came in Jacob Oram (15), who clobbered the mystery spinner for consecutive sixes to pick up 15 runs off the over.
There was more drama, as, needing 20 runs off the last two overs, Walegedera clean bowled Oram and then a desperate Gareth Hopkins was run out.
With 10 required off the last over, Nathan pulled off two magical strikes -- first a boundary and then a six -- from his armour to pocket the nail-bitting match in his the Kiwis' favour.
Earlier, Jayawardene steered Sri Lanka to the modest score with a breezy 81.
While his team-mates struggled to score runs on the slow Providence Stadium wicket, Jayawardene's innings was a classic example of effortless sensible hitting.
He shared a crucial 59-run fourth-wicket stand with debutant Dinesh Chandimal (29) to lay the foundation for Sri Lanka's score.
Shane Bond turned out to be the pick of the Kiwi bowlers as he accounted for two Lankan batsmen, giving away 35 runs.
Opting to bat on the sluggish pitch, the Lankan openers found runs hard to score initially.
Out-of-form Tillakaratne Dilshan's (3) stay at the crease was a struggle, which finally ended with Jacob Oram castling the opener's stumps in his first and innings sixth over.
Skipper Kumar Sangakkara too found runs hard to come by in the slow wicket as he took 11 deliveries to score his four runs before Scott Styris castled his stumps.
Jayawardene, however, showed his team-mates how to build an innings on the wicket and in the effort brought up his third Twenty20 half century in just 33 balls.
Young Chandimal also blossomed in Jayawardene's company as he hit a four and a six during his 23-ball innings before he was brilliantly caught at the boundary by Ross Taylor off Nathan McCullum.
Jayawardene single-handedly shouldered the Sri Lankan innings and hit as many as eight boundaries and two sixes before he was holed up at deep mid-wicket by Nathan McCullum off Tim Southee.
Bond picked up his two wickets in identical fashion in the final over of the Lankan innings.
The Kiwi pacer had both Chamara Kapugedera (11) and Angelo Mathews caught by Nathan McCullum at long off boundary in a span of three balls as the batsmen went for big shots.