Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 5th ODI, Colombo

Calm Mathews proves his worth again

Angelo Mathews' temperament in high-pressure situations is a promising sign for Sri Lanka's future

Kanishkaa Balachandran at the Premadasa Stadium

June 18, 2012

Comments: 34 | Text size: A | A

Angelo Mathews pulls during his half-century, Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 5th ODI, Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, June 18, 2012
Angelo Mathews was unfazed by the task in front of him © AFP

The ability to handle pressure is intangible. A cursory glance at Angelo Mathews' ODI career record shows an average close to 35, from 62 innings with ten fifties - decent returns for somebody who's in the side as a batting allrounder, but not usually at the top of the order. Those numbers don't indicate the number of occasions Mathews has had to bat with the lower order and tail, shepherding them around with a common-sense approach.

His captain Mahela Jayawardene summed it up after Mathews pulled off a heist of sorts with an unbeaten 80 at No.6 to guide Sri Lanka to a 3-1 series win against Pakistan at the R Premadasa Stadium. "He handles pressure better than anybody else I've seen," Jayawardene said.

It was a fitting compliment from someone whose task as captain is not just to lead the team on the field but also mentor the next generation, including his second-in-command Mathews. When the vice-captaincy was handed to Mathews after the World Cup, it could have been seen as a brave move, considering his injury record. Nevertheless, his big-match temperament must have impressed the management enough to start grooming him for the top job early.

Mathews ended up doing a lot more than was expected of him. A line-up that bats down to No.9 shouldn't have huffed and puffed to a target of 248. The seniors, including Jayawardene himself, were part of the reason the pressure piled on Mathews. Tillakaratne Dilshan couldn't produce the opening expected of him, Kumar Sangakkara made a start but took off for a single which didn't exist and Jayawardene fell to the softest of return catches. It was a test to see if the less experienced players could compensate for those failures.

Mathews walked in with Sri Lanka at 97 for 4, still needing just more than a run a ball. His task was not just to see to it that Sri Lanka kept pace, but also ease the pressure off Dinesh Chandimal, trying to work his way back to form. Mathews was unfazed when Umar Gul dished out bouncers, preferring to wait for the delivery that sat up to be hit.

The batting Powerplay was a turning point in the chase where Sri Lanka lost Chandimal, trying to clear the rope, and Thisara Perera as the result of a communication breakdown. Sri Lanka were starting to combust due to their own mistakes, and that threatened to overshadow Pakistan's numerous schoolboy blunders in the field.

Mathews preferred to maintain his wait-and-watch approach, milking the singles and trusting his partner Lahiru Thirimanne, batting in an unfamiliar position down the order. Mathews chose audacity over safety when he reverse-swiped Mohammad Hafeez over point and then scooped Mohammad Sami over fine leg, using the pace of the ball to clear the rope.

Jeevan Mendis' cameo of 19 gave Sri Lanka a marginal chance, but with 36 needed off 22 and no specialist batsmen to come, it was touch and go. Mathews had pulled it off before, in more trying circumstances in Melbourne in November 2010, when he had Lasith Malinga joining him at 107 for 8, chasing 240. The pair marauded runs in the batting Powerplay to entertain thoughts of an upset. Malinga tonked his way to 56, while Mathews remained unbeaten on 77 in the most astonishing of finishes between Sri Lanka and Australia.

In Perth in the CB Series this year, Mathews took the fight to the end with his 64, but Sri Lanka left a bit too much to achieve, finishing five runs short. At the Premadasa, Mathews had better support, but the stress levels couldn't have been very different. A sign of his maturity at the crease was his choice of bowlers to attack. Having given due respect to Gul and Tanvir, Mathews picked the weak link in the seam attack and exposed Pakistan's selection blunder. Sami, chosen ahead of the "rested" Saeed Ajmal, was carted over the sightscreen by Mathews, which gave Sri Lanka the psychological lift in the final over, after which there was no turning back.

Mathews' temperament in high-pressure situations and batting with the tail was honed in his school days, as his coach at St Joseph's College, Harsha de Silva, testifies. "Angelo can adapt himself to any situation, work the ball around," de Silva said. "There was a time when he used to throw his wicket away. He then realised that as a middle-order batsman he had to bat with the tail and he had adapted his game accordingly. He seems to take more responsibility now."

Jayawardene said he knew the lower order was in safe hands with Mathews. "When Kumar and I got out there was a bit of a hiccup but we knew we were batting deep today," Jayawardene said. "It was down to who could take responsibility and Angelo showed that. A lot of people question his role in the side and I don't know why it keeps coming up. He's a quality allrounder."

In a sense it wasn't a terrible thing at all that the seniors fell short, for it revealed Sri Lanka's template for the future. Chandimal botched it after getting to a fifty, but Mathews covered the slack, not for the first time.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (June 21, 2012, 11:26 GMT)


Posted by   on (June 20, 2012, 12:15 GMT)

well done...... test series is up!!! wish ya all the best 4 dat tooo

Posted by ashangamage on (June 19, 2012, 17:08 GMT)

i believe lahiru thirimanna can become a vice captain while Mathew as captain.

Posted by Lord.emsworth on (June 19, 2012, 16:06 GMT)

Everyone who keep saying he has to prove his worth is talking poppycock. Harding119 hit the nail on the head with his astute and very correct comment.

Posted by   on (June 19, 2012, 15:55 GMT)

Calm as a cucumber, so cool, even playing with fans temperament. times is just right. Will become the best finisher in odi's

Posted by iknowsports on (June 19, 2012, 15:48 GMT)

way 2 go angi!!! just yesterday i commented anji wasn't playing and now ....... Keep i up mathews!!!! great job.............

Posted by surathvictor on (June 19, 2012, 15:40 GMT)

He proved that he is a good pressure handler. Mahela too appreciated that..Way to go anji...

Posted by   on (June 19, 2012, 14:20 GMT)

i was telling u all after mahela and jayasuriya mathews iz the best cricketer ever in sl hpoe he bats up the order

Posted by WPDDESILVA on (June 19, 2012, 12:41 GMT)

Lot of people question why Chamara Kapugedara still get's into the squad - Not Mathews role. Angelo is the best thing that happen to SL after Sanga, Mahela.

Posted by   on (June 19, 2012, 10:57 GMT)

Angelo played a superb knock in the end and finished off in style.But I am not that impressed with his approach in the middle. Yesterday we had 10 batters.And thumping good ones at that.But in the middle part the lack of intention to take the single by Mathews put a bit of pressure on the partners.Not to mention the two run outs.Not to take anything away from a great performance,but I guess a little bit of enthusiasm in the middle by Angelo would have made sure that we would not have to win the game by scoring 15 in the last over.It all looks great when it pays off,but I did not think that it was a risk needed to be taken with 10 batters in the side.The real art in middle order batsmen (like Arjuna and Russel) is in the ability to control the game and nurture the guy in the other end. May be Angie will learn with time, because no one can question his talent.May be needs a bit more experience to truly stamp his authority.

Posted by nitharsh on (June 19, 2012, 9:55 GMT)

You are indcredible Angi.Your bowing,batting improve a lot.Your electrifying fielding is always a asset.Go mathews.You are a future of Srilanka.

Posted by   on (June 19, 2012, 8:40 GMT)


Posted by   on (June 19, 2012, 8:38 GMT)

Mathews played brilliantly, but with this batting line up 250 should not have been a problem. Especially since Ajmal was rested. SL made a tactical error by promoting Thisara, they should have sent Thirimanne or Jeevan with lots of overs. Thirimanne has a lot of potential and he also could be a very good leader in future. Jeevan helped ease the pressure on Mathews, great that number 9 and 10 can clear the boundary when required, this would have helped Mathews. I doubt he would have been as calm if our line up had 2 more tail enders like Dilhara and Herath instead of Thirimanne and Jeevan.

Those who say Chandimal will never be as good as Mathews am afraid we have to wait and see. He is talented for sure, he just needs to gain some experience and I think he will be as good as Mahela. There was a time early on during Mahela's career also that he use to throw his wicket away. Hopefully, sooner rather than later Chandimal will learn to put a price on his wicket.

Posted by   on (June 19, 2012, 7:41 GMT)

Pakistan need an all rounder, and who better than Abdul Razzaq. Look how the Aussies have used Shane Watson, who is similarly talented to Razzaq. They open with him and he's their fourth seam bowler as well. Yesterday, we could have done with another bowler when Sami failed. All five bowlers can't always be on top of their game, just like all batsmen can't succeed in every match. That's why an all rounder can be priceless, he can plug the gap in either department. I would open with Razaaq and play him as the fourth seamer. And also find a batting wicketkeeper, there must be one in whole of Pakistan. Every other top nation has one, and the two all rounders can give so much more depth and flexibility to the team. But then, what good is my opinion? There are people at the top who are masters of the game, and know so so much more. Pity they can't figure out the obvious. A great pity indeed.

Posted by   on (June 19, 2012, 7:24 GMT)

Outstanding batting performance by Mathews, I agreed Dr. Lakson. Angie Keep rock man.

Posted by priceless1 on (June 19, 2012, 7:18 GMT)

" A line-up that bats down to No.9 shouldn't have huffed and puffed to a target of 248"- true it was not a stiff task specially when Ajmal was not around ,PAK didnt pose any great threat with the ball ....but it was Sanga's selfish innings which created all the pressure at the top ...i hope SL sellectors are watching

Posted by Harding119 on (June 19, 2012, 7:16 GMT)

Mathews is quality. The only reason people keep questioning his place in the side has nothing to do with his cricketing ability but other matters. Just a look at the past five captains (and their background and beliefs) will give you and indication who can captain SL. Mathews sure did prolong his injury due to him taking up the T20 before he was completely healed. That criticism is correct. Not to take chances. But his cricketing ability after having captained the Under19's etc is proof enough that his TOP QUALITY. Philip Harding, Surrey

Posted by yorkslanka on (June 19, 2012, 6:28 GMT)

@shamil Mohamed- well said, a lot of his critics look purely at his scores but dont understand how difficult it is to be the finisher of a team - and to do it successfully..he will be our future captain and he needs to be given the time to grow into that role..

Posted by Ultra_Sl_Cricket on (June 19, 2012, 6:00 GMT)

Good Job Matthews..hope you continue this form

Posted by   on (June 19, 2012, 5:13 GMT)

Yes there are a lot of people over here in Sri Lanka that for some reason have it in for Mathews, but Chandimal on the other hand can do not wrong. As Mahela says, it hard to understand why? Mathews is a shinning star in the SL lineup and future superstar. To me he is an automatic selection and the key guy to take over reigns from Mahela and Sanga. Chandimal will no doubt be another great star for SL but I doubt he will be the big impact superstar the Mathews is destined to become.

Posted by Mr.Khb on (June 19, 2012, 4:52 GMT)

I may be correct if I say he is the best batsman who can handle the pressure very well. He kept his nerve till the end. His shot selection was good. He picked the loose deliveries & made them count. Awsome work Mathews.

Posted by Shanthiwije on (June 19, 2012, 4:38 GMT)

Well done Sri Lanka, you have made us proud. Mathews proved his potential and silenced his arm chair critics. Administrators, politicians, please don't interfere. Let the boys and the coach do what they know best.

Posted by Hate.ME on (June 19, 2012, 4:37 GMT)

Shakib-Al-Hasan might be No. 1 all-rounder as per rankings but I say Matthews is the best Asian all-rounder right now as Shakib is just Flat Track Player whereas Matthews is more effective on Fast Pitches too.

Posted by   on (June 19, 2012, 4:05 GMT)

A match to remember. A superb 80 under immense pressure. No words to explain yesterday's match. Pure class and brilliance. Angelo Mathews, may god bless you bro.

Posted by YogifromNY on (June 19, 2012, 3:54 GMT)

Astonishing innings under pressure from Matthews! Even as an Indian supporter, I am glad SL is finding its feet with a good, solid, overall team again. Happy for them!

Posted by Dr.Lakson on (June 19, 2012, 3:47 GMT)

"Last Man Standing" :- LMS, definitely yes!. He has proved that his convictions are correct more often..... but unfortunately fans/media only remember the few occasions when he failed including the CB series this year..... Yesterday around the 47th over RR commented and said that if SL failed LMS should take the blame for the loss ! I would like to see a statistical analysis of this fact if possible. I do remember how he allowed Dinesh Chandimal to get his century in Eng while making the dressing room very nervous..... But I completely salute his belief in himself and his ability to read the situations. From the current bunch of international cricketers Dhoni is the only comparison that comes to my mind!.... Too bad SL did not have him for the WC final!. I sure hope that SLC will nurture this talent!

Posted by BeCalmAndSupportEngland on (June 19, 2012, 3:44 GMT)

I can see a bit of aravinda de silva from the eyes of angelo. Aravinda also never giveup kind of a player and if he was batting always fans had a hope even to chase 400 runs.Well played angeloo, go on and make a oneday 100.we want a 100 from ur bat in a odi match

Posted by Udendra on (June 19, 2012, 3:41 GMT)

@Shamil Mohamed: very true!

Posted by balajik1968 on (June 19, 2012, 3:37 GMT)

Poor bowling by Sami. I wonder why Ajmal did'nt play. It was a brilliant innings by Matthews, but two of his partners were run out. Suggests poor judgement. This could hurt Sri Lanka. Angelo Matthews had better review things. He seems to enjoy being the "Last Man Standing", but this sort of machismo could bite back.

Posted by   on (June 19, 2012, 3:31 GMT)

Highly commendable effort from Angelo Mathews...brilliant from the youngster...Hope he has a bright and prosperous future..He is Sri Lanka's future...

Posted by hideva on (June 19, 2012, 3:09 GMT)

What a great innings by Mathews!!! May you grow from strength to strength. Top order should take more responsibility to reduce the stress on us oldies who are cheering our side in the middle of the night. Have some heart for us so that our will not stop! Sri Lanka has great potential. Why do we throw that out recklessly so often. Don't we have the strength of character and conviction in our strength?

Posted by denwarlo70 on (June 19, 2012, 3:00 GMT)

This is what we had in the 90's, a good middle order and I am happy we have it once again. I hope this continues without some joker of an authority trying to act as a "Mr. know it all" and destroy the set up. Congratulations team SRI LANKA, we are proud of our cricketers and now, llok forward to the 2-test series.

Posted by Nadeem1976 on (June 19, 2012, 2:40 GMT)

Great play by Mathew today, he played really well. He is extremely good player under pressure. Job well done.

Posted by   on (June 19, 2012, 1:18 GMT)

Lets nick name the guy as "Last Man Standing", i hope the selectors will not drop him when he is in poor form coz our selectors drop young players easily and they find it difficult to return.

what matters is not the 50s or 100s the impact on the outcome and he has done it too often.

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