Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 3rd ODI, Sharjah December 23, 2013

Hafeez drop was crucial, says Mathews

ESPNcricinfo staff

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said that the dropped catch off Mohammed Hafeez was just one instance of the side's poor fielding that played a big part in their 113-run loss to Pakistan in the third ODI.

Hafeez was dropped in the 19th over by Lasith Malinga at long-on off Seekkuge Prasanna's bowling. The batsman was on 26 at the time and went on to score 140 off 136 balls to guide Pakistan to 326 for 5. In reply, Sri Lanka could only muster 213.

"It [the dropped catch] was pretty crucial and Hafeez went on to get a big one. We let him go and he got them a big score and it was unfortunate," Mathews said. "We can't blame it on one man, to be honest. I thought our fielding was also a let-down. Chasing a total like 320-plus, we needed a good start but we kept losing wickets at regular intervals and we could not really get on from there."

Mathews also praised Pakistan fast bowler Umar Gul, who made a comeback to international cricket after nine months. Gul was picked in the playing XI for the third ODI in place of Sohail Tanvir and immediately had an impact, picking up three wickets for 19 runs in 5.4 overs, including the wickets of opener Kusal Perera and No. 3 Dimuth Karunaratne.

"We all know that Gul is a very good bowler," Mathews said. "He had been hit by injury but we know what kind of a bowler he is and we had to be a bit cautious. Unfortunately, we lost a couple of wickets to him and he got us on the back-foot early on."

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq also praised Gul saying the side had missed the bowler's experience in the death overs.

"We were missing his experience in the death overs and his return has certainly boosted our bowling," Misbah said, while praising the spinners for their contributions to the win.

Hafeez, who won the Man-of-the-Match award, credited Ahmed Shehzad, saying the opener allowed him to settle down early in the innings. The pair added 160 for the second wicket in nearly 28 overs, helping Pakistan recover from the early setback of Sharjeel Khan's wicket.

"I was trying to not get bogged down. I was trying to play technical shots. Ahmed played really well, he took the pressure on and the partnership gave us momentum. The bowlers did a great job on this sort of pitch," Hafeez said.