Mathews defends Chameera's late show
Despite playing on what stand-in captain Angelo Mathews described as "a brilliant wicket", Sri Lanka couldn't find boundaries for seven consecutive overs against Bangladesh during which the required run-rate ballooned to 15.33 from 8.20. But much before they ran into trouble dealing with some impressive bowling, they could have closed down the home side's batsmen for a significantly lower score than the 147 for 7 they got in 20 overs.
Mathews himself opened the bowling and removed Mohammad Mithun second ball before Nuwan Kulasekara forced Soumya Sarkar to loft to mid-off in the second over. Mathews then ran out Mushfiqur Rahim as Bangladesh reeled at 26 for 3 in the fifth over. Whether Mathews should have called upon his fastest bowler, Dushmantha Chameera, at that stage is a moot point but Bangladesh wouldn't have liked his pace when trying to rebuild the innings.
Chameera was eventually introduced in the 14th over, and bowled his four overs straight to finish with 3 for 30, removing Sabbir Rahman, Shakib Al Hasan and Nurul Hasan when each were poised for the final assault.
Mathews said that he had saved Chameera to perform the role of the injured Lasith Malinga in the final overs, and also because the spinners - Shehan Jayasuriya and Rangana Herath - had been keeping things tight in the middle overs.
"[Dushmantha] Chameera bowled brilliantly," Mathews said. "I thought we needed someone to do Malinga's job towards the end. The wicket was turning as well, and that's why I kept bowling the spinners. The batters were finding it hard to hit boundaries off the spinners which is why I delayed the fast bowlers."
If Malinga has been around he would have probably bowled himself two overs at the top and two at the death but because he wasn't there, Mathews thought of keeping Chameera's full allocation for the end overs. This is not the first time that Sri Lanka kept him in store; he wasn't used for more than 35 overs after he had taken three early New Zealand wickets in the Hamilton Test in December.
The talk around Chameera is that the team management feels he could get injured if used too much, but he is also considered one of the fittest players in the team and has been relatively injury-free.
Mathews may have to rethink the Chameera strategy as it is looking likely that he may have to captain Sri Lanka for the remaining matches due to the uncertainty surrounding Malinga's fitness. Mathews said that they were not sure whether Malinga would be available for the next two matches - against India and Pakistan.
"Lasith will always be a crucial bowler for us. Unfortunately we didn't have him today. I don't really know if he will be fit for the next two games, but it is what it is.
"We have got only those resources we have to use in the game. We have to do it the hard way. India have been playing good cricket, we have to play really good cricket to win," he said.
Mathews also admitted that Sri Lanka's long batting line up should have adequately chased down Bangladesh's 147 for 7 but made errors choosing their shots.
"The middle period made [the chase] a hell of a lot harder for us. especially after the start that we got. We have a tall batting order as well but the run-rate started creeping up once it hit the 10-12 run mark in an over.
"We couldn't really get the ball to the boundary which was the main reason for the collapse. Also the shot selection was not really up to the mark. Unfortunately we just kept taking wrong decisions."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84