Pakistan opener Salman Butt unravelled the mystery of Ajantha Mendis to score a flawless unbeaten century (100) and guide his side to a convincing eight-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the first one-day international in Karachi on Tuesday.
Playing their first international match at home since last June,Pakistan produced a clinical performance to outclass the Lankans who suffered a batting collapse and failed to post a competitive total on a good batting track.
The pitch was so true that even Mendis,who has been in the spotlight even before this series due to his unusual bowling grip and the variations,ended the day wicketless.
Electing to bat,Sri Lanka were bowled out for 219 in 45.2 overs as home pacers Rao Iftikhar — who came up with career-bast haul of 4/42 — and Umar Gul (3/30) ripped through the visiting batting line-up with some incisive bowling.
Butt and Khurram Manzoor (83),who racked up his third half century in only his fifth match,made the victory chase look very easy as they put on 168 runs.
Butt scored his eighth hundred from 116 balls with 13 fours in front of a good crowd at the National Stadium.
Interestingly,all his centuries have come against Asian opposition including five against India and two against Bangladesh.
Manzoor was dismissed caught and bowled by veteran Murali Muralitharan after a 128-ball 83 while Younis Khan made 20 before being caught off Farveez Maharoof.
The visitors,who off late have been struggling with their batting,suffered a collapse after a rapid start of 71 from 53 balls by their openers Tillakaratne Dilshan (42) and Sanath Jayasuriya (38).
And this was mainly due to the penetrative and sensible bowling by Iftikhar and Gul who returned afresh after a Twenty20 tournament stint with Western Australia.
The two starred in what was supposed to be a comeback match for fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar who played his first ODI since his last appearance against India at Gwalior on November 14 in 2007.
Akhtar,however,failed to impress and looked understandably rusty as his speed never went above 140kph and lacked penetration.
He was hit around for 30 runs in his first four overs and left arm pacer,Sohail Tanvir suffered a similar fate going for 28 in three overs.
It was left up to Iftikhar and Gul to come through and the duo delivered vindicating the decision of their captain Shoaib Malik to play four fast bowlers,the first time Pakistan has done this in an ODI since 1993 against Zimbabwe.
The second of the three-match series will be played at the same venue in Karachi on Wednesday while the final tie is on January 24 in Lahore.