Christchurch - The setting for Lasith Malinga's official comeback to international one-day cricket from ankle surgery last year could not have been any better.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews had won the toss at Hagley Oval and chosen to give his bowlers the first crack at New Zealand in the World Cup's opening match.
Standing at the other end was the explosive Brendon McCullum, bristling with assured swagger and with the eye and hand speed that has torn apart pace attacks all around the world, especially in the last 12 months.
Malinga, who had already conceded five runs in the first four balls in a wayward over, the second of the innings, charged in and then watched as McCullum scythed the delivery to the cover boundary for his second four of the day.
It was the first shot in a battle that went New Zealand's way from then on.
By the end of Malinga's fourth over, one in which McCullum took 22 runs from four boundaries and a six from a free hit, he had figures of 0-42 and was a beaten man.
Malinga ended the game with 0-84 from 10 overs, the third most expensive return in career and even his own team mates acknowledged he had not bowled well.
"I don't think it was Malinga's best bowling," batsman Lahiru Thirimanne told reporters. "(But) we believe he will come back strongly in the next few matches.
"I thought he bowled well in the death overs and that's a positive for us."
Malinga did not play at all during Sri Lanka's one-day series against the World Cup co-hosts in January and only played in the side's final two warmup games this week.
His return, however, was expected to have provided a point of difference to a Sri Lankan pace attack that had barely threatened New Zealand in January.
New Zealand rattled up 331 for six and then dismissed Sri Lanka for 233, a loss by 98 runs.
New Zealand all-rounder Corey Anderson, who belted 75 and took 2-18 to be named man of the match, said they had felt they would be able to get after Malinga given his late return to the game.
"He's only a couple of games back from ankle surgery. He will be better for that run he had today," Anderson said.
"We were probably lucky to be facing him this early because he will probably start tearing a few teams apart later on."