Skipper Daniel Vettori was left ruing another batting collapse as Sri Lanka swept New Zealand out of the Twenty20 cricket World Cup semifinals with a 48-run win at Trent Bridge this morning (NZT).
Off-spinner Ajantha Mendis claimed three for nine including two crucial wickets in his second over as Sri Lanka defended their total of 158 for five by dismissing the Kiwis for 110 with three overs remaining.
"That's what a quality bowler can do," Vettori said.
Vettori was "comfortable" with the run chase required but blamed another batting failure for his team's exit.
"One-sixty was a gettable target, we got off to a decent start but the capitulation in the middle left us with no chance."
Sri Lanka are in the last four with South Africa, Pakistan and West Indies.
New Zealand threatened to overhaul Sri Lanka when opener Aaron Redmond biffed 23 from 13 balls and Martin Guptill hit 43 off 34 but the introduction of Mendis, who has bamboozled batsmen throughout the tournament, began a gradual demise.
In the ninth over, the mystery spinner had Ross Taylor stumped sharply by Kumar Sangakkara and three balls later, he bowled Scott Styris with a delivery that did not spin but drifted away and knocked over his off stump.
Mendis added the wicket of Peter McGlashan to a catch at point after Redmond had struck Sanath Jayasuriya for three fours and a six in consecutive deliveries as he raced to 20.
"I think we played the first six overs pretty well and I was fairly happy with our position," Vettori said.
Mendis has been bamboozling batsmen with his repertoire since his international debut in the West Indies last year.
"The guys picked him, I don't think he's a mystery bowler just a very good bowler," Vettori said.
"We can sit here and blame our players - and we will work hard on our reviews - but you still have to admire the quality of bowling on display."
Vettori admitted the Black Caps batting had struggled badly with the highest score against a major team being their 127 at Lord's, when they lost to South Africa by one run.
Only against Scotland, when they knocked off 90 in six overs, and against Ireland where they racked up 198 has the order come close to its potential.
"It has been difficult, but we have been lucky with a fortunate draw which meant we could win just two games before today against associate teams and still have a chance of making the semifinals. In a lot of a ways that probably wasn't right.
"We were at full strength (today) apart from Jesse Ryder and, we still had the opportunity today to turn up and win the game so we are devastated.
"For a group of guys who had such high expectations, especially of our batting order, our highest score was about 120 and that's just not good enough."
Realising he had to separate Sri Lanka's explosive openers early Vettori opened the bowling with offspinner Nathan McCullum.
The ploy worked immediately when Sanath Jayasuriya top-edged an attempted sweep to short fine leg, leaving Sri Lanka on three for one and was quickly followed by Chamara Silva, leaving them 25 for two.
But a 62-run stand between Kumar Sangakarra and Tillekaratne Dilshan provided the platform for a strong finish to their innings.
T. Dilshan c B. McCullum b Vettori 48
S. Jayasuriya c Taylor b N. McCullum 0
C. Silva c Oram b Mills 13
K. Sangakkara c Styris b Vettori 35
M. Jayawardene not out 41
J. Mubarak lbw b Butler 8
A. Mathews not out 6
Extras: (b1, lb1, w4, nb1) 7
Total (for 5 wkts, 20 overs) 158
Fall of wickets: 1-3 (Jayasuriya), 2-25 (Silva), 3-87 (Dilhan), 4-137 (Sangakkara), 5-147 (Mubarak).
Bowling: N. McCullum 4-0-22-1, Mills 4-0-41-1 (w1), Oram 4-0-23-0, Butler 3-0-29-1, Vettori 4-0-32-2 (w3, nb1), Styris 1-0-9-0
B. McCullum c Mubarak b Udana 10
A. Redmond c Muralitharan b Malinga 23
M. Guptill c Mathews b Jayasuriya 43
R. Taylor st Sangakkara b Mendis 8
S. Styris b Mendis 2
J. Oram b Udana 7
P. McGlashan c Mubarak b Mendis 2
N. McCullum run out 2
D. Vettori c Malinga b Muralitharan 3
K. Mills not out 4
I. Butler run out 2
Extras: (lb1, w3) 4
Total (all out, 17 overs) 110
Fall of wickets: 1-30 (B. McCullum), 2-39 (Redmond), 3-64 (Taylor), 4-66 (Styris), 5-93 (Oram), 6-95 (Guptill), 7-98 (McGlashan), 8-100 (N. McCullum), 9-102 (Vettori), 10-110 (Butler).
Bowling: Udana 3-0-17-2, Jayasuriya 3-0-28-1, Muralitharan 4-0-18-1, Malinga 3-0-26-1 (w2), Mendis 3-0-9-3, Dilshan 1-0-11-0 (w1).
Result: Sri Lanka won by 48 runs