Sri Lanka in Australia 2012-13 December 3, 2012

In-form Angelo Mathews key in Australia

Angelo Mathews has succeeded in Australia, and he's been Sri Lanka's best batsmen in the New Zealand Tests. He will be a key player on the upcoming tour
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Two years ago at the MCG, Angelo Mathews was the architect of one of Sri Lanka's most memorable victories. Chasing 240 to win in an ODI, Sri Lanka were cruising with their two most experienced hands at the wheel at 73 for 2, before they quickly ran aground on Xavier Doherty's debutant spin.

It is a match almost every Sri Lankan supporter remembers vividly, and no retelling of that evening is incomplete without a confession of how close each supporter was to turning off the television at 107 for 8. Though they can sometimes be fickle, no Sri Lanka fan admits to having abandoned hope that night. They were rewarded with a nerveless 77 not out from Mathews, a heart-stopping 132-run ninth-wicket stand, and a one-wicket win so well esteemed it has since been tagged colloquially as the "Melbourne Miracle".

As Sri Lanka prepare for their biggest Test tour in years, which includes their first Boxing Day Test in 17 years, Mathews will hope to draw inspiration from his past successes in Australia.

In many ways, that innings was the making of Mathews. His promise had been plain almost since his debut, but he had not announced himself world class until then. In the 2009 World Twenty20, he stole hearts with his athleticism and presence of mind at the boundary rope, but in Melbourne he earned the world's respect. Though he has not always found consistency with the bat, he has since played several innings of similar stature from hopeless positions, forging renown for a cool head and even temperament.

Increasingly, Mathews has also allied his considerable self-belief with a burgeoning maturity that has seen his Test game grow. Not long ago, he played cricket with a boy's ambition. In December 2009, he neared a maiden Test ton against India, but wound himself so uncharacteristically tight that he ran himself out on 99. Last year, he copped criticism for delaying Sri Lanka's ODI victory at Lord's so that Dinesh Chandimal to get to a hundred, before attracting similar sentiments when he made his own first ton, having crawled towards the milestone when quick runs would have served the team better. The scope of his goals have seemingly widened in the year since, and his last innings against New Zealand suggests, he has realised the burden of leadership is not long from being upon him, and he must play accordingly.

After his stoic 84 at the P Sara Oval in a losing cause, present captain Mahela Jayawardene acclaimed Mathews' innings as exactly the sort required from a future captain. Three far more illustrious colleagues had been removed cheaply by the movement, bounce and pace of New Zealand's seam bowlers, but Mathews' innings was chanceless from the outset, and his mind resolute. Men with many more matches in their memory had wafted tentatively and aggressed nervously, but Mathews' beat was steady and his dance sure-footed. As each comrade fell, he farmed the strike and soaked up everything the opposition could throw at him, but when the second new ball arrived, the tailenders he was left with gave him no support at all.
No one who saw his defiance will think he deserved to be on the losing team that day, and he had fought with bat in hand throughout the series, finding himself mounting a rescue in each innings after the top order had failed. His return of 210 from No. 6 was by far Sri Lanka's highest for the series, and eclipses the tallies of Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, and Tillakaratne Dilshan combined.


"He batted really well in the entire series - not just in Colombo but in Galle as well, where he batted under pressure," Jayawardene said at the end of the series. "He came and adapted to the situation. No. 6 is not an easy position to bat but Angelo is a guy who seems to find that little bit of extra mental strength. That's why we've identified him as one of the future leaders. He's showing that quality, and as long as he enjoys those kinds of challenges, I think he'll be a really good captain."



As Sri Lanka begin acclimatising to Australian conditions, Mathews can take confidence in having already bucked the subcontinent trend and proved himself undaunted by fast bowling on quick, bouncy pitches. He is perhaps the most natural puller of the ball in the side and has used the shot to prosper both in Australia and against them. His Test average of 91.33 against Australia has been constructed at home, but in ODI cricket he averages 51.50 Down Under.

If Sri Lanka's top order cannot turn their poor run around in time for the Tests, it may fall to Mathews to provide the steel to the innings. His most memorable performance in his young career came at the MCG, but by entering into a tough series with runs behind him and a technique that flourishes in alien conditions, he has given himself a chance of scripting an innings that surpasses even the "Melbourne Miracle".

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • RuwanFer on December 6, 2012, 15:14 GMT

    @Sinhaya I have to disagree with you. In that hobart test Australia declared in both innings having a plenty of firepower to be used. SL bowling was toothless throughout the series. DRS or no-DRS, that's not the way I want to see us winning a test. In ODIs, although we have done really well in recent tours, it's going to be a whole new challenge with new ODI rules. I think this the 1st ODI series in Australia (or any bouncier wickets) that they going to use those new rules. And I hope you know what those new rules are.. ;)

    @Meety Lol it's not the real one. But, remember the Lahore terror attack? Samaraweera was the worst hit, and his injury kept him bed-ridden for six weeks after surgery to remove the bullet which struck just above the knee. "I've kept the bullet safe, The doctors gave it to my wife, and I've kept it with me. It's a very lucky bullet because it didn't injure me very badly. Doctors said it neither damaged a bone nor any of the nerves."

  • Meety on December 6, 2012, 5:21 GMT

    @RuwanFer on (December 04 2012, 17:35 PM GMT) - are you kidding - is that his REAL nickname? If that is so, I'd love to know who bestowed that on him as that is cool in a cringeworthy sort of way!

  • Sinhaya on December 6, 2012, 1:09 GMT

    @Meety, thanks a lot. My feeling is that it will be 2-0 Australia as our batting is good enough to prevent a whitewash. Looking at our recent ODI record in the CB series, we may win the ODIs, who knows! In the Aussie batting, the biggest headache will be the tail where we may have the Aussies struggling at 200 for 6 and the tail may make it 400 like what happened against the Windies in Barbados this year where Windies squandered a test match winning opportunity. Last year, it was Ryan Harris and Mike Hussey who prevented us from winning the tests in our backyard.

  • Sinhaya on December 6, 2012, 1:06 GMT

    @Lucian Rode', I fully agree with you. We were not mentally tough enough in our previous tests. But recall the last test Sanga played in Australia in 2007 where he scored 192 and got a bad decision? We may have won that test match if DRS was there. Thanks for your wishes, but Aussies will really come hard at us after losing in Perth and hope we cope. I am sure in the ODIs we will do well because in our last 10 ODIs against Australia in Australia. We have won 7 out of them.

  • RuwanFer on December 4, 2012, 17:35 GMT

    @priceless1 There is a middle order batsman in the SL team that we called Bullet Samare. While he doesn't look pretty with all kinds pads hanging around his body, the guy can bat. Not elegant but damn effective. Don't forget who scored two hundreds in South Africa. It's not Mathews.

  • on December 4, 2012, 11:03 GMT

    Yep, he is good batsman, but don't think he is a good all-rounder. Genuine all-rounders are a rare breed these days.

  • Sugath on December 4, 2012, 10:43 GMT

    two bowlers who could have made a difference, Ajantha Mendis and Dhananjaya are not in while Randiv who was ineffective against Black caps is in. Mendis could have made a big difference as opposed to some of the quicks who have not been consistant. You must use your strengths and not just copy the opposition

  • priceless1 on December 4, 2012, 8:44 GMT

    as usual once again Mahela and Dilshan will be big failures , its up to Sanga and Mathews to put up some decent fight to the Australians ( though i highly doubt even that would happen)

  • PhaniBhaskar24 on December 4, 2012, 8:21 GMT

    Kidding, right? Mathews in Australia...given that Aus has just played World no.1 team, they are really tested at their home conditions...very bad time to go Aus & Jaya saying " Mathews Key?".....let me be very clear..Jaya, Sanga --- two key players..if they retire, all & gone for Srilanka

  • on December 4, 2012, 8:08 GMT

    Can The Sri Lankan team go through a crash course in mental toughness please , they do have plenty of talented stroke players ,its a delight to watch the likes of mahela sanga dilshan and mathews when they are on song ,playing test cricket against the Aussies needs careful planning , nerves of steel and not falling into the trap of reacting to clever sledging, if the batsmen could overcome these ,we could look forword to some hard fought battles on the turf good luck to both teams

  • RuwanFer on December 6, 2012, 15:14 GMT

    @Sinhaya I have to disagree with you. In that hobart test Australia declared in both innings having a plenty of firepower to be used. SL bowling was toothless throughout the series. DRS or no-DRS, that's not the way I want to see us winning a test. In ODIs, although we have done really well in recent tours, it's going to be a whole new challenge with new ODI rules. I think this the 1st ODI series in Australia (or any bouncier wickets) that they going to use those new rules. And I hope you know what those new rules are.. ;)

    @Meety Lol it's not the real one. But, remember the Lahore terror attack? Samaraweera was the worst hit, and his injury kept him bed-ridden for six weeks after surgery to remove the bullet which struck just above the knee. "I've kept the bullet safe, The doctors gave it to my wife, and I've kept it with me. It's a very lucky bullet because it didn't injure me very badly. Doctors said it neither damaged a bone nor any of the nerves."

  • Meety on December 6, 2012, 5:21 GMT

    @RuwanFer on (December 04 2012, 17:35 PM GMT) - are you kidding - is that his REAL nickname? If that is so, I'd love to know who bestowed that on him as that is cool in a cringeworthy sort of way!

  • Sinhaya on December 6, 2012, 1:09 GMT

    @Meety, thanks a lot. My feeling is that it will be 2-0 Australia as our batting is good enough to prevent a whitewash. Looking at our recent ODI record in the CB series, we may win the ODIs, who knows! In the Aussie batting, the biggest headache will be the tail where we may have the Aussies struggling at 200 for 6 and the tail may make it 400 like what happened against the Windies in Barbados this year where Windies squandered a test match winning opportunity. Last year, it was Ryan Harris and Mike Hussey who prevented us from winning the tests in our backyard.

  • Sinhaya on December 6, 2012, 1:06 GMT

    @Lucian Rode', I fully agree with you. We were not mentally tough enough in our previous tests. But recall the last test Sanga played in Australia in 2007 where he scored 192 and got a bad decision? We may have won that test match if DRS was there. Thanks for your wishes, but Aussies will really come hard at us after losing in Perth and hope we cope. I am sure in the ODIs we will do well because in our last 10 ODIs against Australia in Australia. We have won 7 out of them.

  • RuwanFer on December 4, 2012, 17:35 GMT

    @priceless1 There is a middle order batsman in the SL team that we called Bullet Samare. While he doesn't look pretty with all kinds pads hanging around his body, the guy can bat. Not elegant but damn effective. Don't forget who scored two hundreds in South Africa. It's not Mathews.

  • on December 4, 2012, 11:03 GMT

    Yep, he is good batsman, but don't think he is a good all-rounder. Genuine all-rounders are a rare breed these days.

  • Sugath on December 4, 2012, 10:43 GMT

    two bowlers who could have made a difference, Ajantha Mendis and Dhananjaya are not in while Randiv who was ineffective against Black caps is in. Mendis could have made a big difference as opposed to some of the quicks who have not been consistant. You must use your strengths and not just copy the opposition

  • priceless1 on December 4, 2012, 8:44 GMT

    as usual once again Mahela and Dilshan will be big failures , its up to Sanga and Mathews to put up some decent fight to the Australians ( though i highly doubt even that would happen)

  • PhaniBhaskar24 on December 4, 2012, 8:21 GMT

    Kidding, right? Mathews in Australia...given that Aus has just played World no.1 team, they are really tested at their home conditions...very bad time to go Aus & Jaya saying " Mathews Key?".....let me be very clear..Jaya, Sanga --- two key players..if they retire, all & gone for Srilanka

  • on December 4, 2012, 8:08 GMT

    Can The Sri Lankan team go through a crash course in mental toughness please , they do have plenty of talented stroke players ,its a delight to watch the likes of mahela sanga dilshan and mathews when they are on song ,playing test cricket against the Aussies needs careful planning , nerves of steel and not falling into the trap of reacting to clever sledging, if the batsmen could overcome these ,we could look forword to some hard fought battles on the turf good luck to both teams

  • nilb on December 4, 2012, 6:48 GMT

    Anyone who doubts Matthews mental ability, batting ability on any tract, or talent, anyone who calls him overrated, obviously has never witnessed the Melbourne Miracle. That's one match to remember.

  • Mandernew on December 4, 2012, 5:40 GMT

    Please include Chandimal and Dimuth to the practice game. if they do fair at Canberra please include them in playng XI at Hobart instead of Paranavithana and Prasanna Jayawardena. Sri lanka will never win with only five proper batsmen. Chandimal is a good keeper. Even tough Prasanna better than him in keeping its a huge disadvantage keeping him in the XI if he is not batting well.Our poor run will continue. Look at South Africa.They are using De Villiers as the keeper to balance the side when they have slightly better keepers than him.even when there are seven batsmen in a side only two or three will perform in an innings.But when someone has five batsmen and two consistent failures in a team only one will perform at a time in most occasions. One who does well will run out of partners as what was happened to Mathews recently.So be flexible SLC. dont make us fed up.

  • Meety on December 4, 2012, 5:08 GMT

    This is a tricky series for Oz. On paper, Oz should be expected to smash Sri Lanka, but the reality is different for a number of reasons such as 1) Sri Lanka probably will field their strongest batting line up in a Test series in Oz, 2) Oz have just come off a battle-royale with Sth Africa, & ultimately lost, 3) Oz will be rotating their pace attack in the SL series, which will provide opportunity for SLs batsmen, 4) Oz will go into the series for basically the first time in 17yrs without any presence of Punter. 5) SL have tasted short form succes in Oz recently & have toured Oz often in recent times which SHOULD de-mystify Oz conditions somewhat. All these things add up to a potentially dangerous series for Pup & the boys! As an Ozzy - I would have to say Oz will not lose a Test to SL, but I WILL NOT be betting my house on it! Two of my favourite non-ozzy cricketers are Sri Lankans - Sanga & Matthews. I expect Sanga & Mahela will NOT have 2 bad series in a row!

  • Sugath on December 4, 2012, 4:56 GMT

    I do not believe that the technical side of the batters is at fault. What emerged in the last series with black caps was the mind set. It was flawed and the sphere of concern dominated from the first ball in each innings. That lead to casual approach from some senior batters. THe need is therefore there to talk at length with players on mindset, each of five kandas and how to condition the mind. More and more practice at nets is not the right way forward

  • Dambulla on December 4, 2012, 4:16 GMT

    Every time SLC selection team does some blunder selections. In this tour Randive has been selected. Even spinner friendly Galle & Sara pitches he managed to get 5 wickets. I wonder his performance in Aus. Again, Paranavitana, he didn't score in single 50 in last 10 test and again he has selected. Lot political interference in each and every SL tour selections. This political involvement has been highlighted recent r. Logart's report too. Last year SA test tour Thissara was selected for test matches and he scored 60 odd runs with some wickets. However, Thissara was not in final 15. The ODI/T20 matches, I think sure Kapugethara will come as he too another famous political favor. (He never score 100 in his 90 ODI's).

  • satish619chandar on December 4, 2012, 3:01 GMT

    Sanga and Mahela looks as fresh as they are. No worries with those two slots. Dilshan should play as he is always a gamble worth a try. He can get out soon but also can make it big on his day. Mathews and Thilan are sure slots. This leaves SL to fill the remaining two slots in their batting order. Can Chandimal take the risk of keeping and opening the batting in order to have extra all rounder in Thissera at 7? I think it would be a risk worth a try atleast for the first game. If it doesn't pay off, pick Karunaratne as opener and push Chandimal to 7. Chandimal may not be as good keeper as Prasanna but still, a more than decent choice and his batting will be a massive bonus to the team. He can add value both as a opener or at 7. Bowling wise, Eranga, Kulasekara, Herath and Welegedera/Prasad could do the job. If their batting gets their act together, they can surely give a good fight to Aussies.

  • on December 4, 2012, 2:52 GMT

    yes mathews is the in form player. why not chandimal, karunarathna,thirimanna like youngsters to be used ahead of big 4. any how we need some talents to taken to future. simply give chance at least to chandi. may be the best and better to mathews even .

  • Prema1948 on December 4, 2012, 2:12 GMT

    Mahela in his last 25 innings, out side the Country has gone pass the 50 run mark only once; there is no very big difference between the other 2 seniors as well. In contrast Chandimal was at his brilliant best just before the WC of 2011 having scored a double century (agaist SA 'A'),two 50s and a hundred against the Indians but he was not included in a single match in the series of matches played against Aussies that held just before the WC that had prejudice his welfare and to stop him performing (the batters I mentioned below are equally good players of same class of Chandimal), after having performed brilliantly in every opportunity given in Eng, SA, &Aus he was asked to sit out to accommodate aging seniors and other henchmen. The local media keeps a blind eye for all these blunders of J&Ps. Ajantha's position too isn't different from Chandimal having performed brilliantly throughout the WC 2011 was dropped for the Final (2011) to accommodate 2 henchmen(TO BE CNTD).

  • timmyw on December 4, 2012, 1:52 GMT

    Agreed, I would say they have to bring Chandimal especially. Looking forward to the Sri Lankans arriving for what should be a very evenly matched contest. If the Aussies can stay fit hehe.

  • on December 4, 2012, 1:23 GMT

    Chandimal and Dimuth or Lahiru should play...chandimal's records in fast tracks are really good

  • Sinhaya on December 4, 2012, 0:52 GMT

    Please play Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne. As for Mathews, his ODI record in batting is good against the Aussies as shown by the knock in Perth this year. He also scored superbly against the Aussies in the tests overhere last year. Angelo might be the main man who may bat on with the tail and frustrate the Aussie bowlers if at all.

  • ShehanJ on December 3, 2012, 22:50 GMT

    Sri Lanka will lose the test series without winning a single test. They might win one or two ODIs, but still lose the series. It's only in the two T20s do I think that SL may be able to make a clean sweep. The only bowler that will come even close to worrying the Aussie batsmen will be Rangana Herath. Sri Lanka's poor showing against a weak side like the NZ recently (in home conditions) where NZ drew the test series proves that SL will probably come good in the shorter versions of the game.

  • Warm_Coffee on December 3, 2012, 19:31 GMT

    He's a good all-rounder but not a star all-rounder his stats don't back that up in all forms but hope he does well, he's good to watch play.

  • TommytuckerSaffa on December 3, 2012, 19:29 GMT

    Come on Lions, lift yourselves for the Aussies.

  • Mafasmafm on December 3, 2012, 17:54 GMT

    MJ should give chance in the playing xi to players like chandimal and dimuth karunaratne ahead of paranavithana and p. jayawardene in the bouncy trach like australia. should MJ give chance to thease young players?

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  • Mafasmafm on December 3, 2012, 17:54 GMT

    MJ should give chance in the playing xi to players like chandimal and dimuth karunaratne ahead of paranavithana and p. jayawardene in the bouncy trach like australia. should MJ give chance to thease young players?

  • TommytuckerSaffa on December 3, 2012, 19:29 GMT

    Come on Lions, lift yourselves for the Aussies.

  • Warm_Coffee on December 3, 2012, 19:31 GMT

    He's a good all-rounder but not a star all-rounder his stats don't back that up in all forms but hope he does well, he's good to watch play.

  • ShehanJ on December 3, 2012, 22:50 GMT

    Sri Lanka will lose the test series without winning a single test. They might win one or two ODIs, but still lose the series. It's only in the two T20s do I think that SL may be able to make a clean sweep. The only bowler that will come even close to worrying the Aussie batsmen will be Rangana Herath. Sri Lanka's poor showing against a weak side like the NZ recently (in home conditions) where NZ drew the test series proves that SL will probably come good in the shorter versions of the game.

  • Sinhaya on December 4, 2012, 0:52 GMT

    Please play Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne. As for Mathews, his ODI record in batting is good against the Aussies as shown by the knock in Perth this year. He also scored superbly against the Aussies in the tests overhere last year. Angelo might be the main man who may bat on with the tail and frustrate the Aussie bowlers if at all.

  • on December 4, 2012, 1:23 GMT

    Chandimal and Dimuth or Lahiru should play...chandimal's records in fast tracks are really good

  • timmyw on December 4, 2012, 1:52 GMT

    Agreed, I would say they have to bring Chandimal especially. Looking forward to the Sri Lankans arriving for what should be a very evenly matched contest. If the Aussies can stay fit hehe.

  • Prema1948 on December 4, 2012, 2:12 GMT

    Mahela in his last 25 innings, out side the Country has gone pass the 50 run mark only once; there is no very big difference between the other 2 seniors as well. In contrast Chandimal was at his brilliant best just before the WC of 2011 having scored a double century (agaist SA 'A'),two 50s and a hundred against the Indians but he was not included in a single match in the series of matches played against Aussies that held just before the WC that had prejudice his welfare and to stop him performing (the batters I mentioned below are equally good players of same class of Chandimal), after having performed brilliantly in every opportunity given in Eng, SA, &Aus he was asked to sit out to accommodate aging seniors and other henchmen. The local media keeps a blind eye for all these blunders of J&Ps. Ajantha's position too isn't different from Chandimal having performed brilliantly throughout the WC 2011 was dropped for the Final (2011) to accommodate 2 henchmen(TO BE CNTD).

  • on December 4, 2012, 2:52 GMT

    yes mathews is the in form player. why not chandimal, karunarathna,thirimanna like youngsters to be used ahead of big 4. any how we need some talents to taken to future. simply give chance at least to chandi. may be the best and better to mathews even .

  • satish619chandar on December 4, 2012, 3:01 GMT

    Sanga and Mahela looks as fresh as they are. No worries with those two slots. Dilshan should play as he is always a gamble worth a try. He can get out soon but also can make it big on his day. Mathews and Thilan are sure slots. This leaves SL to fill the remaining two slots in their batting order. Can Chandimal take the risk of keeping and opening the batting in order to have extra all rounder in Thissera at 7? I think it would be a risk worth a try atleast for the first game. If it doesn't pay off, pick Karunaratne as opener and push Chandimal to 7. Chandimal may not be as good keeper as Prasanna but still, a more than decent choice and his batting will be a massive bonus to the team. He can add value both as a opener or at 7. Bowling wise, Eranga, Kulasekara, Herath and Welegedera/Prasad could do the job. If their batting gets their act together, they can surely give a good fight to Aussies.