Mathews lauds Sri Lanka's spirit
Angelo Mathews said his team's two-wicket win over Pakistan in Dubai was borne of spirit, after Sri Lanka chased down 286 with two balls and two wickets to spare. Sri Lanka's chase was the highest second-innings score at Dubai International Cricket Stadium, and the second-highest overall.
Mathews, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Dinesh Chandimal all crossed 40 in the chase, and Nuwan Kulasekara also contributed 32 from 26 balls at a key period.
"We had to fight really hard for that win," Mathews said. "Everyone contributed in bits and pieces It was a team effort. With these Powerplays if you have wickets in hand at the end, it helps. Against Pakistan, the game is never over - you have to fight till the last ball is bowled, and we did that. With the bowling attack that Pakistan have, we have to fight all the time and we have to stay positive. We can't give the chance, because they will knock us down."
"I thought the first couple of wickets were unfortunate incidents because they were run outs while Kusal Janith and Dilshan were batting well. They got us through to a good start, and the way Sangakkara and Chandimal got us back into the game. They set it up and we had to do the needful."
Mathews also lauded Sangakkara, whose top score of 58 had provided heft to the chase. Mathews revealed though, that Lahiru Thirimanne had been slated to come in at No.3 before he injured his right ankle in the pre-match warm-ups.
"We don't have Mahela Jayawardene in the team, so the experience of someone like Kumar Sangakkara becomes invaluable when you are dealing with high-quality spinners like Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi, and you want to control the middle overs. We didn't want to make big changes, but we thought it would have been good to play Kumar Sangakkara at No. 4.
"Thirimanne got injured a few minutes before the match, but we had been planning for him to bat at No. 3. We thought we needed a solid batsman at three, and Kumar would move down to four, and then we've got Dinesh Chandimal. The more you keep wickets in hand, the easier it is to chase later in the match."
Mathews also shed light on why Kulasekara had been left out for the first ODI in Sharjah, despite his enduring consistency. Kulasekara has taken his wickets at 25.33 with an economy rate of 4.64 in 2013, making him Sri Lanka's best seam bowler since January.
"Kulasekara is a very good player, but in Sharjah we thought an extra fast bowler would be good. Kulasekara, Thisara Perera and myself bowl roughly in the same style. The Sharjah field is very small and the pitch is also very good for batting. We thought there would be some reverse swing, so that's why we called up Suranga Lakmal."
Mathews predicted a tightly-contested series, after the opening two matches had featured tense finishes. The next three matches will be played in the space of seven days.
"It'll be a very exciting series. The first game was an exciting one, and so was the second. Hopefully it will stay the same and it will be an exciting one for all of us. When we walked into the game, we were very confident and our heads were high because even though we lost the last match, we almost chased the target."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here