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May 4, 2014
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews believes that adapting to English conditions as quickly as possible will be his team's biggest challenge in their upcoming tour of England and Ireland. Sri Lanka will kick-start their campaign with two ODIs in Dublin against Ireland, before moving to England for a one-off Twenty20 international, five ODIs, and two Tests.
"As a player the main thing is to adapt to the conditions," Mathews said. "We have been playing a lot of cricket in the subcontinent and playing in England will be a great challenge for all us especially adapting to the conditions early. In the early summer, conditions can be wet and the ball can seam and swing a little bit. If we can adjust to the conditions as soon as possible and play our brand of cricket we can beat any team.
"Playing against Ireland will be good for us. They are a very good team and we can't be complacent against them. They know their conditions well and adapting to their conditions will be our biggest challenge. Whatever team that plays there knows that Ireland is very good at home. We look forward to a really good challenge from them and I am sure the boys are ready for it."
Mathews also said that he expected England to come hard at his team following a disappointing Ashes campaign in Australia, where they were trounced 5-0. Even history is against Sri Lanka, who haven't won a Test in England since 2006, when they emerged victorious from the Nottingham Test by 134 runs to tie the three-match series 1-1. The team last toured England for a Test series in 2011, where a batting collapse in the second innings of the first Test in Cardiff handed the hosts a 1-0 victory.
"England as a team are very hard to beat at home," he said. "They know their conditions and they play their best cricket at home. It's going to be a very big challenge for all of us and we are looking forward to it."
For Mathews who has been on three previous tours to England but only played in ODIs, this will be his first Test tour to the country. Sri Lanka will be playing Tests at Lord's and in Leeds. Sri Lanka have not won a bilateral ODI series outside the subcontinent since November 2010 when they beat Australia 2-1.On their last tour to England, in 2011, they lost the five-match ODI series 2-3.
"Playing at Lord's will be a special moment for me as well as the team. If we can win the series it will be a great effort by the whole team," he said. "But we are not looking too far ahead, but taking it one game at a time. We are playing against Ireland and then hoping to take that momentum to the England series and try and win against them in the ODIs and in the Tests."
Mathews has been captain of Sri Lanka for seven Tests and the added responsibility only brought out the best in his batting. He averages 80 in those Tests, which include three fifties and a career-best 157 not out. In ODIs too he has an impressive record as captain, scoring 794 runs at 44.11 from 32 matches with a strike-rate of 83. Mathews, however, credited only his team-mates for his good form.
"I am slowly getting comfortable because the team is responding really well. They are giving me their 100 percent and we are like a family. We help each other and we enjoy each other's success. That's the main thing.
"It's a team effort and we done pretty well in the recent past. I talk to all the senior guys and get their advice but I do it in my own style with the help of so many people.
Winning the Asia Cup was a key moment for Mathews as captain, particularly because of the burden of expectations thrust on Sri Lanka's shoulders. Prior to their World T20 triumph in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka had finished runners-up in four of the last six world events.
"It was one of the highlights of my career. That's a major trophy that I won with the help of the team," Mathews said. "We got pretty close in the past but we didn't win a major title before the Asia Cup. I am very happy the way we went about it. Winning the World T20 was also great achievement by the entire team."
To help Mathews achieve his goals, he has a new vice-captain, a new coach as well as a special consultant. Lahiru Thirimanne has taken over the role as Mathews' deputy from Dinesh Chandimal, and Marvan Atapattu has filled the void created by coach Paul Farbrace, who returned to England. Chris Adams, the former Surrey coach has been appointed to act as a consultant for the tour.
"Thiri is a great player and he has shown that in the past. He is one of those players who hasn't got the opportunity to bat at a permanent position for a long time and he has batted in various positions. If you take his record he has scored almost in every position. That shows the character of the player. He is a very cool and calm headed guy. I really look forward to him being my deputy and taking the team to attain greater heights.
"Marvan has played enough cricket and captained the country on so many occasions. He has sufficient experience as a coach. He was our batting coach and now he is turning up as head coach. He's shared his experience throughout and he's been great. I am pretty sure he will do a good job. It's about players responding to the challenge.
"We also hope to get the maximum out of Chris Adams. The thinking behind getting him was that he knows the English conditions and about the English team as well. We've done a little bit of analysing of the English team. We sort of know their players, but it's more about the conditions and how we use it properly. That was the main thinking behind appointing him."
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