Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Melbourne December 24, 2012

Mathews strives for bigger contributions with the bat


As Angelo Mathews departed in the second innings in Hobart, he was visibly frustrated by his own indiscipline. Having defied Australia for 60 deliveries, during which he wore a Mitchell Starc bouncer painfully on his elbow, Mathews wafted at a Peter Siddle delivery that was never threatening the stumps, and provided Matthew Wade with a simple nick. He had done the hard work to get himself in on a difficult pitch, but perished before the match was made safe. His dismissal soon after tea began the slide during which Sri Lanka lost five more batsmen, and lost the Test with only 10.4 overs more to go to have batted out.

Mathews' tendency to throw away a start has been a disappointing trend in his career, and despite repeatedly having shown skill and mettle to rescue his side from precarious positions, Mathews has been dismissed when an easier period of consolidation has beckoned. He has gone past fifty 12 times, but has only but converted one of those half-centuries into a ton.

His Test batting has become more consistent over the last two years, a period in which he has maintained an average of 46.09 at No.6, despite only having made one hundred, against Australia at home. The team management has indicated that the long-term plan for Mathews is for him bat higher up in the order, where he will need to produce triple-figure scores regularly to justify his position. As the Boxing Day Test approaches, Mathews said he was aware of his poor conversion rate, and was working to rectify the problems that produced it.

"I have worked really hard with our batting coach Marvan Atapattu and recently I have been getting those 70s and 80s and I am cross with myself that I have not been able to convert them into big ones. I don't think I am doing the team any good by scoring 70s and 80s and getting out. It's not doing much good for myself as well. I need to convert those 70s and 80s into big ones."

Mathews came into the Australia series as the form batsman in the side, having made 210 runs in the two-Test series against New Zealand. He had made 74 in the first innings at Galle, batting alongside Mahela Jayawardene, before edging an innocuous wide delivery from James Franklin when the bowlers seemed tired and a century was there for the taking. He also perished in the 70s in the first innings in Hobart, when he missed a modest inswinger from Peter Siddle to be trapped in front. He made 82 in the second innings in Colombo in his previous Test, but was batting with the tail on that occasion, and was the last man out.

"It could be the concentration. I'm not saying that I'm losing concentration, but when I get to the 70s I just need to get prepared mentally, specifically to go that final distance. I am pretty sure that I get a hundred I will start scoring more hundreds."

Mathews is the heir apparent to the Test and ODI captaincy after Jayawardene quits the post after the tour of Australia. Mathews, who is already Twenty20 captain, said he was prepared for leadership if it was given to him, and would draw on the strengths of his predecessors as he set out to create a distinctive captaincy style.

"As I have always said that it's up to the selectors. If they think that I am ready for it I will take it. We will have to wait and see how it goes. Mahela has done a wonderful job. Those are not easy boots to fill and do as well as Mahela has done. It's a tough challenge, let's see how it goes. I am prepared for the role and if they offer it to me, I will take it.

"Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela have played huge part in developing youngsters. When I got into the team they welcomed us and made us feel at home. They gave us lot of confidence. They tried to help us out and Sanga has been amazing."

No one in Sri Lanka's squad has played a Test at the MCG, and Mathews said his team deserved top billing in the Australian summer, having played well across all three formats in recent years. Sri Lanka were finalists in the World Twenty20 in October, and had also been runners-up in the 2011 and 2007 ODI World Cups, as well as the 2009 World Twenty20. Their Test form has been less impressive, however, with Sri Lanka only having won one series in the last three years.

"I think we have earned it. We have played some really good cricket. Test, ODI or T20s you name it. We have got into four ICC finals in the last five years. It's an honour playing at the MCG on the Boxing Day."

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Peter on December 26, 2012, 3:19 GMT

    After his impressive performances in Hobart, he played like a one dayer in the first innings, throwing his bat about with no thought about settling an. Come on Angelo, you are a much better player than that. Take a look at how Sanga plays. Sri Lanka needs you for their future.

  • Milroy on December 26, 2012, 1:35 GMT

    I am a fan of Matthews, BUT based on his current form he is not ready to lead a test team. Since Mahela is giving up the captaincy, I guess Sanga should take it over for more year. Samaraweera is an option too..Our younger generation has been corrupted by short format - T20, the test killer...

  • Dummy4 on December 25, 2012, 11:05 GMT

    I do not rate Mathews as a player and even as a supposed professional of the game. I always remember the ODI against England in England when Mathews blocked nearly every ball just so that Dinesh Chandimal could score a century. It was totally ridiculous. Even Dilshan Tillekerante the captain at that time looked erascible. Unfortunately this sort of attitude is very common to those in the sub continent. For example Indian crowds would much rather see SRT score a century than win a big match. It is very much a cultural thing. I am Sri Lankan but born in England and notice these behaviour traits from my relatives back in SL. Mathews in my opinion clearly puts personal triumphs over team ones. I do not think he is tactically very sharp either. I think Samaweera would be a good option short term. I also think Chamara Silva should be given another chance at test level.

  • Ty on December 25, 2012, 6:47 GMT

    I agree with @Ramansilva. Angelo is a big hype. Time will tell. I would consider Thilan for the captaincy until SLC find suitable younger one to step in. Mathew is big NO for me .. He is also linked with IPL and he will not be a good captain.

    Just Media created lot of Hype and way his got out in Hobart 2nd innings shows he is incapable. He may be a one day player.

  • Raman on December 25, 2012, 5:32 GMT

    I think Mathews is too over hyped. I don't think he can ever emulate Ranatunga, Sanath, Atapattu, Mahela, Sanga who had both splendid records in batting and captaining for SL. Mathews has not yet shown the skills that others mentioned in their early careers. The time will tell.

  • Jay on December 24, 2012, 17:28 GMT

    One bright spot in Srilankan cricket's future

  • Jay on December 24, 2012, 14:38 GMT

    I think him nor any of the coaching staff has realized his potential with the ball. He has the ability to swing the ball both ways and he should concentrate on his bowling as much as he does with batting. Please dont blame the injuries. If you want to become a great in cricket, you need to know how to treat your body so that it gives the optimum results.

  • kans on December 24, 2012, 14:28 GMT

    @Sinhaya: More? ya i want more from him in t20, had he done it then we would have won the final recently, hope he learns from mistakes and makes sure we win it in bangladesh next time,

  • Supun on December 24, 2012, 12:41 GMT

    If somebody compares his average with those who batting at No .6 it would seem to be a fairly healthy average. However No 6 position of test line could be given to a player who can play as an all rounder role with some wicket taking ability. However Matthews bowling average is no way near an occasional partnership breaker of a test line up. I need to reiterate that his inability to convert those fifties to big hundreds would not help to retain his position as a batsmen either, if somebody can challenge with big hundreds.Ten - Twenty ago Sr Lanka had a player calledHashan Thilakaratne played at No 6 with batting average over 42 with 11 hundreds & 20 fifties in 83 test matches. Unfortunately he could not convert his most fifties and stayed not out as he batted with the tail in most occasions. Sri Lanka need a player like him who deserve a promotion to bat at No 4.

  • trev on December 24, 2012, 12:10 GMT

    It may not be a bad idea to put Mathews in between Sangakkara and Mahela at test level and possibly ODI's as well. Like what they did with chandimal in ODI's, if he comes in after Sangakkara at No. 4, it adds stability to the line up, giving him a chance to achieve those bigger contributions with the bat. He often finds himself trying to revive Sri Lanka's innings rather than score with a bit of freedom at the top of the order. They may want to put this plan into action as soon as possible.

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