“As he has done on numerous occasions in the past, Mathews remained the backbone of this innings too. He needed some big runs under his belt to infuse confidence since this was his comeback series”
Angelo Mathews made his comeback series a memorable one by garnering crucial runs under the pump and help Sri Lanka end the series with some pride. After three back-to-back defeats, Sri Lanka made a magnificent comeback and won the last two games of the five-match series. Sri Lanka did extremely well to avoid a whitewash and bid adieu to the series on a winning note. A collective effort by Sri Lankan batsmen and bowlers helped them give South Africa a taste of their medicine in the final game.
Skipper Angelo Mathews starred with the bat to help his side post a challenging total. This was also his comeback ODI series after playing the last ODI against Zimbabwe earlier this year in January. Since then, he has missed four ODI series and this one was always going to be a crucial one for Mathews. He didn’t have a great run in the first ODI, but looked solid in the second, scoring an unbeaten 79. In the next two games, he got emphatic starts but failed to convert it into substantial scores. The final encounter was crucial for Sri Lanka and Mathews to gain momentum.
Sri Lankan needed their skipper to step up and deliver, to lead the side from the front. They won the toss and opted to bat first. After a decent start, Sri Lanka found themselves in a delicate situation at 114 for 3 in 19 overs. Mathews walked in and took control of the proceedings. It was a tricky situation for Sri Lanka, a wicket here would have steered them to all sorts of trouble and needed a quiet partnership.
Mathews stitched small partnerships and stood his ground as Sri Lankan batsmen floundered after good starts at the other end. He brought up his fifty off 66 deliveries and needed to bat throughout the innings. At 195, Sri Lanka lost their fifth wicket in the form of De Silva, which made Mathews presence pivotal at the crease. If Sri Lanka had to reach anywhere close to 300, it was mandatory for Mathews to play out the rest of the overs.
Sri Lanka managed 93 runs off the final 10 overs as Mathews remained unbeaten on 97. He deserved a century, but was unfortunate to not get one. Nevertheless, he got the job done for Sri Lanka as they posted 299 in 50 overs. No team had ever chased down such a massive target at this venue and the record stood still as South Africa crumbled for 121. As he has done on numerous occasions in the past, Mathews remained the backbone of this innings too. He needed some big runs under his belt to infuse confidence since this was his comeback series.
Mathews has always been one of the pillars of strength for Sri Lanka and easily one of the best all-rounders in contemporary cricket. His success has been crucial for Sri Lanka and with the World Cup being around the corner, his presence in the Sri Lankan side is very important. His captaincy has been to the mark and is easily Sri Lanka’s best batsman. He provides some serious solidity to Sri Lanka’s middle-order.
Quinton de Kock spoke about Sri Lanka’s batting improvement and how impactful Akila Dananjaya was in the match. He was quoted in a report from ESPNCricinfo saying, “In the first two games we didn’t have the biggest targets to chase. In the last two matches, the Sri Lankan batting lineup batted with a lot of freedom. They put a lot of pressure on us. They set us big, challenging totals. In the fourth ODI, we batted really well but didn’t manage to finish it. Tonight, Akila just bowled really well.”
Sri Lanka have not fared well in the recent times, they are rebuilding. They did well to win the Tri-Nations series and the comeback against South Africa was inspiring. Hopefully, they carry this momentum against England, which will be their next assignment. England will certainly be a tough nut to crack as they are one of the strongest ODI sides and a red-hot favourite for the World Cup. It will be a true test of their character and skills and needless to say, Mathews will be the man to watch out in this series. His captaincy, as well as his all-round skills, will be tested against the best in the business.