Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sharjah, 5th day January 20, 2014

Mathews denies SL were too negative


Sri Lanka's captain, Angelo Mathews, has denied that negative tactics led to his team's dramatic downfall in Sharjah and said his batsmen should have been "a bit more cautious" in the second innings, which he believes cost Sri Lanka the match.

Sri Lanka had achieved an 87-run first innings lead, but scored at 1.87 runs an over on the fourth afternoon and evening, seemingly in an attempt to stall the game and preserve their 1-0 lead. Pakistan took Sri Lanka's last five wickets for 81 on the fifth morning and completed a record chase to level the series. Their run rate of 5.25 on the last day was the highest for any successful chase over 300.

"Last evening, five of our wickets had fallen for 100 and from there onwards, we had to take some time," Mathews said. "Rather than going for runs and losing wickets, we defended at that stage, because we knew we were leading the series and we don't need to take a big risk. On the fifth day there wasn't much turn for the spinners. It's still a very good wicket.

"When we were batting we actually kept losing wickets and we never got a good lead. Prasanna Jayawardene responded to pressure and batted brilliantly, but I thought we should have been a bit more cautious because we've already won the series and we didn't need to give them a sniff. That's what happened in the morning today, when we let our guards down for a couple of hours. We just couldn't bat for another hour. That's all we needed.

"Our batters were not very patient in the second innings and that brought our downfall."

Sri Lanka were also quick to spread their fields in the fourth innings, as Pakistan gathered three quarters of their 302 runs through singles, twos and threes. A slip was occasionally employed but there was no tight infield for much of the innings.

"[Negative tactics] weren't really to blame," Mathews said. "We knew that the Pakistanis have to make a move, and they were desperate to win the game. And you know when you are desperate, you tend to make more mistakes than the others. We were actually not going overboard with attacking but we just wanted to make it harder and harder for them to win the game."

Pakistan required only 53 runs from the final 60 balls of the match and had six wickets in hand. Sri Lanka routinely placed at least seven - but up to nine - fielders on the fence during those overs, with Pakistan hitting 41 runs via singles, twos and threes in that time.

"We wanted to get a wicket in that period," Mathews said. "The ball was a bit old and also reversing a little bit. We actually knew in the last ten overs that they would go for the big shots. Even when we had our nine fielders down at the boundary, they still went for it. We wanted to get a wicket and when the newcomer comes in, to sort of bring in the field and put pressure [on]. They were going to go for it and it was getting dark. That's why we had the fielders out."

Rangana Herath bowled well outside leg stump, with a packed leg-side field, throughout the match. The ploy backfired on the fifth evening, as Misbah-ul-Haq, in particular, used the reverse-sweep to good effect. But, like Kumar Sangakkara on day three, Mathews said the tactic was intended to bring wickets.

"We bowled on leg stump because there was rough outside the leg stump," he said. "We thought that something would happen for the spinners, and they'd get some help. We were trying to get wickets that way, but they batted really well."

Mathews directed blame entirely at the batting in the second innings, suggesting the bowling was hampered by the docility of the surface and could not have done much better. "We played really well in the last three-and-a-half days, but our batting messed it up for us today. It was never a 214 wicket to get all out, especially on a day four or five, when you could still hit through the line. We gifted them wickets and that was not good enough."

Sri Lanka's run rate for the whole match was 2.34 - their lowest for any game in which they have batted at least 100 overs since 2000. "We scored 400 in the first innings and we had to work hard for that because Pakistan were not giving any loose balls. We had to wait for the loose balls and they did the same in the second innings. They bowled very disciplined lines and lengths."

Mathews found solace in individual gains and a drawn series, despite the dispiriting final result. "The way Kaushal Silva and the openers batted in the series was quite brilliant. Rangana Herath was good as always, and the two fast bowlers were also brilliant. It was a collective performance. Mahela batted well in Dubai and then again here, so we want to take all these positives and move forward."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sajitha on January 23, 2014, 15:22 GMT

    Simply one word, ARROGANCE...What kind of leader try to put the blame on team mates when the fault is in his hand?... What has Mathews learn from Mahela and Sanga which always protected their team members in and out of the field?...This is a good example which shows that every good player can't be a good captain... So far Mathews hasn't shown any good leadership skills (except for his contribution as batsman to the team, it has remarkably grown ) as a cricketer or as a person ... With this kind of arrogance, I don't think he has a good future as a captain neither does the team... Hope he wouldn't break the aptitude of the other players..

  • Dummy4 on January 22, 2014, 9:59 GMT

    Part 2: As per the match situation, if there is anybody to be blamed for the defeat, it is the bowlers and fielding tactics. But SL had a great chance of even winning the match if they approached the second innings positively. How can you criticize your batters when your top six batters strike rate is far below average in the 2nd innings. I am not going to say that Sri Lanka should have been played aggressively. But they should have approached the game positively and played their natural game. When you have 87 runs lead in the first innings and six more session to play, you still can go for a win instead of trying for a draw. When you try to defend all deliveries coming to you and not go for runs, it is not guarantee that you will never get out. You may get out at any point of time. End of the day you don't have enough runs on the board. This is what happened in the match. It is clear that negative approach of the game was the main reason for the lost.

  • Dummy4 on January 22, 2014, 9:58 GMT

    Part 1: First of all I congratulate Pakistan for this amazing win. As a Sri Lanka fan, I always praise Mathews for his talent and game reading ability. But as a Captain this was a poor decision by Mathews. It is unfair to criticize your batters for the defeat. Because Pakistan chased the target at 5.25 economy rate, Pakistan's best ever in the fourth innings. Also the highest run rate by any team for a fourth-innings total of more than 205. More over Azhar Ali with 38.5 as career strike rate played match innings with strike rate of 75.18. Whatever happened in your second innings batting, 302 runs in just 59 overs is well enough to defend the opposition as far as test matches concerned. More over you have freedom of delivering 3 bouncers per over and you can still bowl in the leg side and offside bit wider than ODI.

  • siddhartha on January 22, 2014, 8:58 GMT

    run rate 1.87 and they should have been more cautious???Clarke would have wanted to score his his team 300-330 in 70 overs to bowl Pakistan out in a whole day.Matthews can never win you a match in seaming condition with this attitude

  • Chandima on January 22, 2014, 8:49 GMT

    I'm a SL fan and I do believe our approach was bit too negative and lacking in purpose in this 3rd test. In saying that, we also have to consider the fact that Pakistan didn't allow us to be 'positive' buy playing brilliantly. I'm not referring to the chase but more the way their bowling was able to restrict SL to a snail phase and a manageable score in the 2nd innings. However, SL should have at least tried. It is much more noble to have played for a win and lose rather than to play for a draw and lose!

  • dark A on January 22, 2014, 7:21 GMT

    @ warden05.. you said it right mate! If the Aussie captain was in Matthews position in the third test, He would have directly gone to grind Pakistan. Matthews hasn't learned anything out of this defeat. I think lot more defeats will come SLs way if he still thinks he did the right thing! Worst captain SL had alongside Hashan Thilekerathne.

  • Sage on January 22, 2014, 6:59 GMT

    Part 2...What I gathered was you were playing for a draw, which is hideous...instead why couldn't you go for a kill and may be you could have won or even lose. But the game would have played in the right spirit and I'm sure people would have endorsed you character. We can only talk and yes it's a different ball game at the middle. If Mahela or you played a rash shot on the 4th day before close of play, people would have said they just threw their wicket. So many can talk and will be many ideas many suggestions but now it is done. The game is is all about attitudes and what you believe counts the most. I keep saying there is no room for complacency in any pro sport. I guess the team lack of trying to know what is complacency and perseverance. I believe that SL is a good cricket team and they will do better. I can count on one thing...that is SL is the only team can give any team in the world run for their money. All the very best for future tours.

  • Sage on January 22, 2014, 6:44 GMT

    Part 1...Angelo...let me tell you is all about experience and learning from it. You can stumble many times but important thing is how high you rise. The entire SL cricket camp would say you guys did not play negative tactics but the whole country and the most will agree with me that you guys were very negative from day one. Your first innings took almost 2 day but you still lost the match. Who is pouring negativity in to your camp? Do you know why Ian Chappell was the most challenging captain in the world? It's because he believed in himself and the team. People of SL have spoken so much negative about your captaincy just losing one game. But I won't it's because you guys played so well in the 1st test and won the second test. That showed character in the team. But what went wrong in the 3rd?

  • Aditya on January 22, 2014, 6:31 GMT

    Haa... Mathews is a good player but as a captain he is giving competition to MS Dhoni in dishing out bizarre excuses....initially I thought of supporting SL but after watching Sarfarz play the way he did.... I started cheering for Pak.... Good for Misbah and his boys.... take a bow.....

  • David on January 22, 2014, 5:50 GMT

    Sri Lankan batters should have been more cautious? Angelo, are you out of your mind?

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