1st T20I: Mendis quickfire fifty powers Sri Lanka to 174/4
Kusal Mendis (left) recorded his fifth T20I half-century (AFP Photo)

Opening batsman Kusal Mendis hit a quickfire 79 to help Sri Lanka post 174 for four in the first Twenty20 international against New Zealand in Pallekele on Sunday.

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Mendis took charge after the hosts elected to bat first, building crucial partnerships including a 63-run third-wicket stand with Niroshan Dickwella, who made 33.

Opener Kusal Perera made 11 before falling to Kiwi skipper Tim Southee and number-three batsman Avishka Fernando was out for 10 as Sri Lanka slipped to 68 for two.

Mendis held firm to complete his fifth T20 fifty with a boundary off Colin de Grandhomme and went on to register his career-best score in the shortest format. His previous-best was 70.

He survived a reprieve on 55 when Ish Sodhi dropped a tough catch at short fine leg to add crucial runs in his 53-ball stay that was laced with eight fours and two sixes.

Mendis was finally holed out at deep mid-wicket off Southee, who returned figures of 2-20 from his four overs of pace.

The tourists suffered a blow when paceman Lockie Ferguson broke his thumb in training on Saturday to be ruled out of the series.

The hosts have handed leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga his first T20 cap at the start of the three-match series.