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