Mathews laments day three collapse
Angelo Mathews has described the second-innings collapse on day three as a "mockery", after Sri Lanka went on to lose the Hamilton Test by five wickets. His team had a lead of 126 with all second-innings wickets intact, but lost 10 wickets for 62 inside a 14-over period either side of lunch on day three.
"We just had to bat well and dig deep, but we made a real mockery out of our second innings batting and we just couldn't give enough runs for the bowlers to get them out," Mathews said. "It is actually very disappointing the way the game unfolded towards the end. We had our chance, especially after getting them all out for 240-odd in the first innings. We had a healthy lead."
The first two batsmen to be dismissed had each been given out gloving bouncers behind the wicket, as they attempted to fend balls away. Mathews said the remaining batsmen had then sought to bat more aggressively, hoping to score quickly before the inevitable good ball got them out.
Of the five remaining batsmen, Mathews and Kusal Mendis were caught hooking, Milinda Siriwardana was out playing the pull shot, Dinesh Chandimal was caught flicking off his hips to leg gully, and Kithuruwan Vithanage carved a short and wide delivery to third man.
"Especially after the first couple of wickets they used the tactic of bumping us," Mathews said. "Dimuth [Karunaratne} and Udara [Jayasundera] were bumped out. They tried to negotiate it but they couldn't really. Sometimes the ball took off and sometimes it kept low. The bounce was not really consistent on that wicket.
"We thought the best way to handle it was to try and be positive and to score some runs off it - not recklessly. We wanted to try and score on the short side of the ground especially - to take the bowlers on from that side and leave some balls from the longer side.
"Both teams struggled to face the short ball. Both teams were applying that same tactic, and the batters from the both teams just couldn't handle it, apart from Kane Williamson. Looking back we could have negotiated it a bit better than we did."
Sri Lanka have lost all but one Test series this year - winning only against West Indies at home - but Mathews said the quality in the dressing room would eventually translate into victories.
"When it comes to the Test team, we are very inexperienced and I'm sort of happy in the way we competed," he said. "It's just a matter of time. We've got guys in the team who haven't played more than five Tests- a whole lot of them batsmen. We've got the quality. We've got the skills it's just a matter of time.
"The more they play, the sooner they will learn. We take a lot of confidence in the way we fought well in the first innings. I felt we kept them under constant pressure. They dug deep and they are the deserved winners."
Mathews said he was happy with his team's catching, "which was almost 100%", but reserved most praise for fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera. His match-figures of 9 for 115 were the best in the series, and the best for a Sri Lanka seamer overseas since Chaminda Vaas' 10-wicket haul at Napier in 1995.
"Chameera was absolutely brilliant," Mathews said. "He is just finding his way in Test cricket. He's played just a few games and he was able to shake the New Zealanders who have played on bouncing tracks which they're quite used to. He managed to upset their rhythm.
"He can bowl a good yorker as well, and if he can keep his pace up there to constantly trouble the batsmen - that's all I want. I just want him to bowl as quick as he can. We've got to be careful with him as well - he is an asset and you can't overuse him."
The Hamilton Test was also the third occasion this year, in which Sri Lanka slid to defeat despite having achieved a good position in the match. In January, Sri Lanka had New Zealand five down in the third innings at Wellington, with a lead of just 24, but wound up losing that game by 193 runs. Then in Pallekele in July, Sri Lanka set Pakistan 375 for victory and lost by seven wickets.
"We're definitely not being complacent," Mathews said. "It's just that we get to a good position and we do a couple of mistakes where the game turns around. It has been the case in the Basin Reserve match as well - we dropped Kane Williamson on 20 or something and he got a double-hundred. We've come close in a few games but we just did a couple of mistakes. From there we couldn't get back in the game."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando