Ind v SL, Champions Trophy, 2nd semi-final, Cardiff June 19, 2013

'We had to do it the hard way' - Mathews


Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews has underscored the spunk in Sri Lanka's Champions Trophy campaign, and marked their spirit a vital asset as they attempt to topple India, who have been the form team of the competition. Sri Lanka did not arrive in England as one of the favourites, but are now set to play their sixth semi-final in the last eight global tournaments. 

Their two victories, over England and Australia, have ultimately been comfortable, but there were tense moments in both matches, where things might have easily gone awry for Sri Lanka. England set Sri Lanka 294 at The Oval, thanks in part to a 28-run final over. Sri Lanka rode down their target in the 48th over, thanks largely to an unbeaten 134 from Kumar Sangakkara, but also to Nuwan Kulasekara's 58 from 38, which made light work of a challenging required run rate.

The victory against Australia was no less dramatic. Mahela Jayawardene's 81-ball 84 first saw the side overcome the loss of two wickets inside the first four overs, and later, it took a stunning Tillakaratne Dilshan return take to end a 41-run last wicket stand that had brought substantial anxiety in a must-win match. The closest game of the lot was the one-wicket loss against New Zealand, which might have turned Sri Lanka's way if all the umpiring decisions late in the match had been correct.

"Especially after the New Zealand game, we had to do it the hard way," Mathews said. "We had to beat England in English conditions and also the Australians, who have played well recently. All three games went down to the wire, and we had to fight really hard to win. The team confidence is very high. We know that we are a fighting team, and we fight to the last moment. Hopefully we can once again have a good performance."

Sri Lanka have relied on their three experienced batsmen so far in the tournament, with Sangakkara, Dilshan and Jayawardene topping the run-scoring lists for the side. Only Lahiru Thirimanne among the other batsmen has a half-century to his name, but Mathews was confident Sri Lanka's batting order was not top-heavy.

"I would say Mahela and Sanga are the backbone of the batting line-up, but we've got a few youngsters in Dinesh Chandimal, Thirimanne who can take the bowling apart," he said. "We are not just depending on certain people in the team because all seven are good batters. Whoever gets set on that day has to continue for a long spell and try and get the team into a good total."

Sri Lanka have faced India regularly in ODIs in the last three years, but have not fared well in comparison to their exploits against other teams. Since 2010, Sri Lanka have lost 12 matches and won only eight, with one game having ended in a tie. Part of the reason for that record has been spearhead Lasith Malinga's poor form against India, which some Indian batsmen have credited to their familiarity with his bowling in the IPL. Malinga has not trained with the team on days immediately preceding matches during the tournament, but ahead of the semi-final, he sent down several overs in the nets as well as doing specialised work with bowling coach Chaminda Vaas. Mathews said the extra effort was due to desire on Malinga's part to overcome an average of 40.88 - his worst against any team. 

"Lasith takes every game seriously, but it's just that he wants to do a little bit more for tomorrow," Mathews said. "We play against India a lot, as well, not only in the IPL. Whoever is playing against anyone all the time gets used to them. Lasith is a very good bowler and he's an experienced bowler and I'm sure he will come into those situations and have a few different ideas for tomorrow."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • love on June 20, 2013, 7:52 GMT

    @THOR12155 :- Yes ofcourse India have been doing well in this series so far but don't be an arrogant fan.Today is the ne day,new match....SL has quality team which can defeat any team at any ground.So have some patience and hope for the India win being an Indian.

  • Aswin on June 20, 2013, 7:46 GMT

    What does angelo mean by saying ' australia have been playing well recently'?

  • Sivaprasad on June 20, 2013, 7:45 GMT

    India is a strong team to beat, India had good openers, who can pull the ball comfortably, India has to take wickets of sanga and mahela, India win the match.

    Looking for a all round performance from India, Come on India......

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2013, 7:02 GMT

    @TZ9383: This Indian batting lineup is largely comfortable against short pitched bowling bar Suresh Raina. WI and SA tried their best to bowl the short stuff and got taken for runs by the top order. The biggest chance SL have is to bat first, put up a large total since India's bowlers aren't that great and put pressure on this young Indian side. They have yet to be under pressure so the experience of SL might just get them the victory in those circumstances but I'm backing India to continue their magic streak and reach the final in a 5 wicket win with Dhoni playing a big part.

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2013, 6:55 GMT

    Save some space!!!! It may rain and we may never have a game today :(

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2013, 5:33 GMT

    All the best Srilanka and India , May the best team win. Hope rain does not play a spoilsport

  • Ian on June 20, 2013, 5:18 GMT

    "we've got a few youngsters in Dinesh Chandimal, Thirimanne who can take the bowling apart,"

    Hilarious. Forget smashing the bowlers, they can't even rotate the strike.

  • Thimira on June 20, 2013, 4:50 GMT

    If Lions play aggressive cricket and fast bowlers bowl cross seam bowls to Indians then they all over India go home

  • Vikram on June 20, 2013, 4:49 GMT

    Let us not lose perspective. The game against Australia was not won by Sri Lanka, but lost by an uninterested and uninspired Australian lineup. The game against NZ was much better. SL's major issue is their reliance on Sangakkara and Mahela for batting. It might help them in this series, but they got to get their priorities right for the 2015 WC.

  • ESPN on June 20, 2013, 4:34 GMT

    Need young guns also to fire cannot always depend on old guns Hw abt TP in for eranga