Mathews looks to make most of second home SCG
Flags billowing, papare music blaring, Sri Lankan chants in the stands: Australia's expatriate Sri Lankan population has turned out in numbers to support their team during the World Cup, and Angelo Mathews expects another friendly crowd at the SCG on Wednesday. Sri Lanka fans did not quite outnumber Australia supporters in the match between the two teams on March 8, but it had been a close-run thing, and the crowd had been in good voice when Sri Lanka's chase began to heat up.
"If you play at MCG or SCG it's like playing at home," Mathews said. "Most of the Sri Lankans across Australia or across the world - they fly into Sydney and give immense support for us. So we really enjoy playing in Sydney. It's such a wonderful atmosphere and we invite all the Sri Lankans across Australia to come to Sydney and fill up those stands."
Mathews said Rangana Herath was "fifty-fifty" to play against South Africa, and suggested he would be unlikely to be in contention if he did not bowl at training on Tuesday. As it would turn out, Herath delivered only a few balls in the nets, suggesting he was not yet at full fitness. However, Sri Lanka are likely to give him until Wednesday morning before ruling him out.
"Still in our squad we have Sachithra Senanayake and Seekkuge Prasanna," Mathews said. "Sachithra is a very experienced bowler, so we can use him at anytime. But we will wait on Rangana and give it another day to see if he heals well enough."
Herath's absence would open the door for another bowler. On a pitch that is not expected to be particularly slow, Sri Lanka may retain the three-pronged seam attack that played against Scotland, which means rookie quick Dushmantha Chameera is in the hunt for a spot, though he will have to out-compete Suranga Lakmal in order to play, Mathews said.
"Suranga and Dushmantha are different sorts of bowlers. Suranga swings it, while Dushmantha bowls bowls quite fast and he hits that 147 mark which is extraordinary for a Sri Lankan. I think he's played only two games, but he's matured. All we want him to do is go out there and bowl fast. That's all we want. We don't want him to overreact to the batsmen or anything. So we have the confidence that if he plays tomorrow he'll be up for it."
South Africa are yet to win a World Cup knockout match, but Mathews said his team were not focused on their opposition's mental state. Sri Lanka have largely been a steadier side on big occasions, but that does not necessarily give them an advantage, he said.
"Both teams will be nervous for sure, we all know that South Africans are a very hard team to beat, especially in this tournament. They've come out really hard and they have a good, balanced team. History is history. You can't really take anything from it. You've got to move on and look forward to the games that you play. Statistics, I don't really bother about. We have to go out there and perform well to beat the South Africans."
Mathews praised Kumar Sangakkara, ahead of what will be at worst, his final ODI, or at best, his third-to-last game, focusing particularly on Sangakkara's commitment to improvement. He was however, wary of AB de Villiers - South Africa's most prolific batsman in the tournament.
"AB is such a destructive player. We need to try to get rid of him as early as we can or else we'll be in trouble. When he gets going, it's really hard to stop him."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando