Batsmen respected NZ a lot more than expected - Mathews
Loose bowling on day one, and cautious batting on days two and three paved Sri Lanka's path to defeat, said Angelo Mathews, after the Test in Dunedin. Sri Lanka had let New Zealand advance at 4.48 runs and over in the first innings, before batting at 2.50 themselves. Overall, Sri Lanka batted for 50.4 overs more than New Zealand, yet lost by 122 runs.
All three frontline seamers had gone at more than four runs an over in the first innings, where only Rangana Herath maintained an economy rate of less than three. "I was really disappointed the way we bowled and batted in the first innings," Mathews said. "On that wicket, if there was anything it, it in was in the first couple of sessions. After winning the toss on a green wicket, I expected a lot more from the bowlers.
"We bowled a lot of loose stuff. To a batting line up like New Zealand, you can't really bowl loose stuff because they are going to capitalise. We lost our way in the first couple of sessions and we let them off the hook. We had to bowl really well to get them on the back foot. We had to take a few wickets early, which we didn't."
While each of New Zealand's batsmen who crossed 25 batted at a strike rate of at least 66, Sri Lanka's half-centurions struck at less than 45. New Zealand hit 64 boundaries in the 96.1 overs they faced. Sri Lanka struck half that amount from 117.1 overs.
"We were also way to cautious in our first-innings batting," Mathews said. "We couldn't really do much batting in the second innings, but in the first innings we respected them a lot more than expected, which was very disappointing from the batters. As I always say - and not to take away from the New Zealand - but the bowlers they are also human, and we have to capitalise."
Sri Lanka batted through until the second new ball in both innings, but scored fewer than 300 on either occasion. Three half centuries were hit from them in all - two of those coming from Dinesh Chandimal.
"We definitely could have done better as a batting unit," Mathews said. "We need to score runs to give our bowlers a chance. Scoring 290-300 is not enough on these tracks. Once the seam movement goes off in the first couple of sessions it gets really good for batting. The batters have to score big to keep us in the game."
Mathews and Chandimal had been together overnight, with Sri Lanka resuming at three wickets down on the final morning. Both batsmen were dismissed offering no shot, after a 56-run stand.
"Last evening, I thought me and Dinesh had to dig in deep to save or win the game," Mathews said. "Either way we had to stay on the wicket till lunch. Unfortunately we lost both our wickets within two or three overs of each other. That really had a big impact on the game."
Mathews said the tailenders' defiance was among the positives Sri Lanka will take out of the match, and also lauded the bowling of Dushmantha Chameera. Playing his first overseas Test, Chameera was comfortably the quickest bowler across both teams in Dunedin, but having had an economy rate of 5.6 in the first innings and 4.35 in the second, he was also the most expensive.
"He's very raw but he runs in on any deck and he bowls fast," Mathews said. "That's all he knows, and what we expect from him. That's what I told him to do as well. Not think about line and length too much - just try and bowl fast. He's a tremendous weapon in the bowling line-up because he can upset the rhythm of a batsman. We are trying to use him in a wise way. He's very young still, he'll definitely learn more as time goes by."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando