Angelo Mathews failed to create an impact as South Africa go two up in the ODI series…..
Sri Lanka went 0-2 down after losing the second ODI at Dambulla by 4 wickets and now have to win the remaining three ODIs against South Africa to win the series. With this loss, Sri Lanka have now lost 9 continuous ODIs at home and could be staring at their 10th defeat when they face South Africa in the third ODI at Pallekele on Sunday. Sri Lanka once again put in a below-par performance and were punished for some sloppy fielding and poor catching. Their captain Angelo Mathews top-scored with an unbeaten 111-ball 79. There is always a weight of expectations when Mathews comes out to bat, regardless of the format. However, despite scoring a valiant 77, he failed to shift gears in the latter stages of the innings, which could have made a difference of about 10 to 15 runs.
A score of 260-270 looked on. But Mathews could not find the boundaries in the final stage of the innings. The worst part was he refused a single into Prabath Jayasuriya in the final over of the innings. With Mathews not able to find the fence, it would not have been the worst of ideas to let the tailender have a slog. Coming in at 5 and batting through the innings, Mathews was at the crease for over 38 overs. Barring his partnership with Niroshan Dickewella, none of his partners offered Mathews much of support. Mathews played second fiddle in that partnership and rightly so. With Dickwella striking the ball well, Mathews decided to hand his partner as much strike as possible. However, once Dickwella was dismissed, Mathews should have taken on the responsibility to take Sri Lanka to a challenging total and he failed to do so.
Mathews hit his sixth and final boundary of the innings in the 42nd over. One can understand that the Sri Lankan captain wanted to lead from the front and stay at the crease till the end. Had he been dismissed earlier, Sri Lanka would have perhaps been bowled out well inside their 50 overs. Also, the South African bowlers would have been on their toes knowing that Mathews is at the crease.
Not sure if the wicket had eased up when South Africa were batting, but Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla had no trouble whatsoever in getting South Africa to a good start. Both batsmen were given multiple lives inside the first six overs, but they went on to make that count. Not to forget, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy who followed, also did not take much time to settle in and played their shots right from the beginning.
The stage was set for Sri Lanka for them to get about 270 on the board with Thisara Perera and Mathews set at the crease in the last 10 overs. Mathews was batting on 57 off 85 and Perera had 19 off 17 by then. Mathews would have counted on Perera to score the boundaries while he rotates strike. Less than two overs later Perera was caught behind and Mathews went into a shell after that. Had he fallen right after that, Sri Lanka would have perhaps been bundled out in no time. But he kept taking the ones and twos and would have been hopeful of getting an occasional boundary. Sadly for him, that strategy did not work out. Neither he nor the tailenders managed to hit the fence as regularly as they would have liked and Sri Lanka barely managed to put up a par score on the board.
If you thought Mathews was agile between the wickets, you are wrong. After a string of injuries, Mathews barely bowls these days and also cannot pinch a quick single or convert the ones into twos. When boundaries dry up, the batsmen usually resort to quick singles or doubles, but Mathews was unable to do that as well.
Mathews faced just 10 deliveries in the last five overs, when he should have been on strike for at least 20 out of those 30 deliveries. We often saw him take the single off the first ball or allow his partner to take a single of the final delivery of the over. When he really needed to take responsibility, he shied away from it and put the tailender in the firing line. As a result, Sri Lanka managed just 28 runs from the final five overs and just 51 runs from the final 10 overs. They hit just four boundaries in the final 10 overs. With one extra fielder allowed outside the ring in ODIs these days makes it difficult for the batsmen to score runs, just a tad. But what was disappointing to see is the lack of intent.
Credit must be given to South Africa for the way they bowled, but Sri Lanka once again failed to click as a unit, at least with the bat. Mathews stepped down after a series loss to Zimbabwe at home and now finds himself leading the team once again a year on. While he has shown that he has led well in the past, can he still continue to lead and perform his duties with the bat consistently? Let’s wait and watch.