Mathews praise for Herath, Mendis
Sri Lanka captain, Angelo Mathews, said Kusal Mendis' batting and Rangana Herath's "all-round" performances constituted the positives from the 2-0 Test series defeat against England. He was, however, non-committal on the struggling Lahiru Thirimanne's continued place in the Test XI.
Herath claimed seven wickets at an average of 43.28, and also hit 109 runs from No. 8 in the series. "Herath was superb," Mathews said. "He is 38 and he has backed the team with his all-round ability. He is even throwing himself all over the field. It was good to see the oldest man diving around and stopping boundaries."
Mendis made the team's lone half-century at Headingley, and hit 156 runs at an average of 31.20, with a strike rate of 65.27, through the series. Mathews said Mendis had earned a long run in the No. 3 position.
"If we pick someone, we need to give him a fair opportunity and be patient with him. We don't want to chop and change people. We need to find the best possible combination. When you identify a guy with skill and talent you need to persevere with him."
Thirimanne, meanwhile, had only hit one fifty in his previous 12 innings before the tour, but played all three Tests in England - perhaps on the strength of domestic performances, which have been consistently excellent. However, he mustered a highest score of 22 in five innings in England, and now averages 24.00 after 50 Test innings overall.
Mathews had described him as the "best batsman" in the team before the tour, but said "we haven't decided on certain positions" when asked about Thirimanne's performance in the series.
"This is a challenging tour for all the batsmen," he said. "I don't want to mention one particular player. We all have to take responsibility. Apart from Chandimal, no one was able to score a hundred here, and I don't want to let anyone down. We have to be a close unit and we have to keep working hard. We haven't made a decision on the No. 4 position."
Having folded for 91, 119 and 101 in the first three innings of the series, Mathews lauded the top order's relative return to runs in the second innings at Chester-le-Street, and then at Lord's. Sri Lanka's highest score of the series was the 475 in the second innings of the second Test, and though they lost five wickets for 43 runs on the third day at Lord's, managed totals of 288 and 78 for 1.
"This was a good learning experience for all of us," he said. "We are a young team and we don't have much experience. The way the guys fought facing Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad in challenging conditions was good to see. The way they batted and they showed lot of guts - it was brilliant. If we play together as a unit we can improve further. We played pretty well in the second innings in Durham. At Lord's, too, we were sitting pretty and then lost a heap of wickets on day three."
Mathews also echoed coach Graham Ford's words on day four, and said Sri Lanka would have attempted to chase down the target of 362, had the weather allowed a full day's play on Monday.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando