Mathews at loss to explain collapse
In his relatively young career as an international cricketer, Angelo Mathews has witnessed several appalling batting collapses. Perhaps the most traumatic was Sri Lanka's second-innings capitulation in the Cardiff Test in 2011, when on a flat pitch, needing to survive less than two sessions for a draw, the team succumbed to 82 all out. Eight months later, Sri Lanka suffered their worst ODI ignominy, crashing to 43 after South Africa had made 301 at Paarl.
Yet, Wednesday's defeat, Mathews said, was "one of the worst games I've ever played". Almost that exact phrase was delivered by Eoin Morgan after the previous match, in a series that is proving nearly as unpredictable as a double-pendulum. Sri Lanka had appeared confident and well-acclimatised in the approach to this match, but then served up a performance that undermined all their gains in England.
Mathews said complacency was not at the root of the collapse, but was otherwise at something of a loss to explain the debacle. On Twitter, fans who were similarly dumbfounded joked the team's trip to Manchester United's Old Trafford days before had facilitated the osmosis of mediocrity. But even ardent United fan Mahela Jayawardene will find it hard to blame his strange lbw dismissal on David Moyes.
"We're in the same situation as England after Durham," Mathews said. "Poor shot selection was the main reason why we got so few runs. It was never a 67 wicket. There were no demons in the wicket. It swung a little bit in the first seven to ten overs, but after that it wasn't doing much."
Several Sri Lanka batsmen had been undone by the short ball in the first match of the series and, although more were out to fuller deliveries in Manchester, England's bowlers had clearly drawn up plans to bounce out some individuals. Dinesh Chandimal was conspicuously targeted and though he survived the barrage early in his innings, he was out driving a wide delivery, having been kept pinned to the crease for some time.
"We expected the short ball," Mathews said. "We didn't really deal with it properly. It's hard to explain why we were all out for 67. We knew England were going to come back hard at us, and we just couldn't cope up with it."
Chris Jordan took home his second Man-of-the-Match award of the series, for his career-best 5 for 29, but it had been James Anderson who made the initial incisions, in a pinpoint seven-over new-ball spell that claimed both openers and conceded only 10 runs. There was no prodigious swing for any of the bowlers but Sri Lanka's batsmen lacked the concentration to move past difficult periods, and the intent to reverse pressure.
"There was no intention of hanging in there and toughing it out," Mathews said. "In overcast conditions James bowls really well on any wicket. He bowled some really good deliveries together with Harry Gurney and Jordan. You can't really moan about the weather or the wicket. It's just us to blame. If we want to stay alive in the series, we've got to win against them in the next game."
Sri Lanka have used Lahiru Thirimanne to open alongside Tillakaratne Dilshan in this series, despite Kusal Perera's presence in the squad, and Mathews suggested that strategy was down to the expectation Thirimanne had a tighter technique for the moving ball. Changes in the top order may be forthcoming, however, after two major batting failures in three matches.
"I thought even though he didn't get enough runs in the Durham game, Lahiru played the part of getting through those vital six overs of Anderson. We've got to get through that spell to try and build up to have batters at the end. I thought he played his part but today, unfortunately, he played a poor shot. The first ten overs at Lord's and Birmingham are going to be vital. With this weather around, we're really going to need solid openers. Thiri is one of them. Unfortunately he hasn't got enough runs yet."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando