Was Ajantha Mendis’ performance in Asia Cup 2008 the best?

There have been numerous mystery spinners in the past few years. But only a few have produced a performance similar to Ajantha Mendis in Asia Cup 2008.

Sri Lankan spinner, Ajantha Mendis debuted in ODIs in 2008. Mendis came from the same land that produced arguably the greatest spinner of all time, Muttiah Muralitharan. The art of mystery spin was first introduced by John Iverson in 1950-51. Mendis after almost 58 years, reintroduced the art of mystery spin. His leg-breaks that he bowled with the help of his finger-flicking action bamboozled a lot of the batters. Soon after his debut came the Asia Cup 2008. His performance at the 2008 Asia Cup is considered by many to be the best ever. But was it as great as it is said to be? Here is a look at his performance.

Vs Bangladesh

Ajantha Mendis was playing in his first Asia Cup match against Bangladesh. The match in Lahore was just his first match in Asian conditions, after playing all of his three matches in the West Indies. Mendis went wicketless in the match against Bangladesh. Despite, going wicketless, Mendis bowled with utmost control and gave away just 34 runs in his full quota of 10 overs.



On the very next day, Sri Lanka faced UAE. Muttiah was rested for this game which meant that Mendis was the lead spinner. He showed the perfect temperament of a lead spinner as he picked up his first five-wicket haul. This performance was not the true testament to his bowling as four of his wickets were of no.7, 8, 10 and 11. It was the googly to take the wicket of UAE’s skipper, Saqib Ali. Ali was trying to defend the ball as he misread the googly and was caught in front of the stump for an LBW.

Vs Pakistan

The match against Pakistan was possibly the biggest challenge of his rather short 5-match ODI career. Playing at home, Pakistan were a team that had a strong batting lineup consisting of then-skipper, Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi. Mendis was the star with the ball in hand even when Muttiah was playing as the lead spinner. Mendis took four wickets, this time around they were no ordinary wickets. Here are his wickets.

  • His first victim of the night was Mohammad Yousuf who tried to sweep a very full ball from Mendis. Yousuf was struck on his front pad and was given LBW. 
  • Skipper Malik was the next to be dismissed. Malik was outdone by his famous leg-break. Malik came out of his crease to play the ball but misread the delivery as the ball spun enough to beat his bat and Kumar Sangakkara did the rest as the Pakistani skipper after scoring a half-century was out, stumped.
  • Mansoor Amjad who played his first and only ODI was Mendis’ third dismissal. It was a quicker delivery which struck Mansoor low on the front pad and he was dismissed LBW.
  • Misbah‘s knock of 76 runs came to an end when he went for a big shot and was bowled by a straight-ish delivery from Mendis.

Vs Bangladesh

After going wicketless against Bangladesh earlier in the tournament, Mendis took two wickets in their second meeting. Mahmadullah was the first to be dismissed and Farhad Reza was Mendis’ second victim ending the Bangladeshi innings.

Vs India

Asia Cup 2008: Final

Then came the match against India. The final against India was the biggest match Mendis had played till now. In his 8 overs, Mendis picked up six wickets. If the wickets weren’t enough his economy of just 1.62 RPO meant that he only gave away 13 runs in his 8 overs. His figures of 6/13 are still considered to be one of the best performances by a spin bowler in ODIs. Here is a look at his dismissals.

  • One of the most feared openers of that time, Virender Sehwag was Mendis’ first wicket. Sehwag was playing his typical knock and was dismissed after scoring 60 runs in just 36 balls. Sehwag charged down the wicket to play an attacking shot but the carrom ball from Mendis spun away from Sehwag and he was stranded down the wicket. Sangakkara wasted no time in whipping the bails and dismissing the Indian opener.
  • Yuvraj Singh was next to be bamboozled by the young mystery spinner. Yuvraj played all around the finger-flicking leg spin from Mendis. 
  • Suresh Raina after playing the second fiddle to Sehwag was the next Indian batter to be dismissed. As much as the mystery from Mendis was confusing, the shot selection from Raina was no less. It was a straight delivery to which Raina was trying to pull and missed it completely to be bowled.
  • Rohit Sharma was trying to work the ball on the leg side. It was delivery pitched on the middle stump which straightened enough to hit Rohit on his back leg.
  • Irfan Pathan was dismissed as he misread the googly from Mendis. Pathan was trying to defend the ball but could manage to edge it to the first slip.
  • RP Singh was dismissed by the leg-spin. The ball was pitched on the middle stump but spun enough to make contact with the off-stump.

Ajantha Mendis in Asia Cup 2008

Ajantha Mendis’s journey in the world of cricket, particularly in the 2008 Asia Cup, was a tale of talent and intrigue. Although he faced a wicketless start against Bangladesh, his control and precision were apparent. Against UAE, he displayed his potential as a lead spinner, claiming a five-wicket haul. The first test of his skill came against Pakistan, where he outshone a formidable batting lineup with four crucial wickets. Mendis continued to shine, redeeming himself with two wickets against Bangladesh and a remarkable six-wicket haul against India in the final. His finger-flicking leg spin left an indelible mark in cricket history.