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Firdose Moonda in Bloemfontein
January 16, 2012
Sri Lanka have one important target in their minds ahead of what could be a series-decider in Bloemfontein: to put at least 250 runs on the board. After being shot out for 43 in the first ODI, they recovered admirably to post 236 in the second, but still fell short and face defeat in the five-match series sooner than they would have expected.
Vice-captain Angelo Mathews said if they can just get over the five-runs-per-over mark, they could be in with a chance. "With two new balls, 250 plus is a very good score," he said. "We need to try and put up a 250-plus score to give the bowlers a chance."
Sri Lanka lost two early wickets in the last match and scored at a run-rate that hovered around three for the first half of their innings. Still, Mathews believes they did well to avoid a collapse and reach a respectable score. "After the setback from the first one-dayer we were trying to build partnerships, so that's why we were a bit slow at the start," Mathews explained. "We tried to catch up but we were about 20 or 30 runs short."
The defeat has left Sri Lanka staring a fourth consecutive series loss. The fact that nine months ago this team played in the World Cup final shows how far they have fallen. Despite their troubles, Mathews said they have worked hard to remain upbeat, something that was evident at the East London airport on Sunday. The players appeared jovial, several of them cooed at Lasith Malinga's baby and others chatted casually in small groups. Mathews said the mood in the camp has not fallen, but admitted that defeat in Bloemfontein could change that.
"We've had a very tough past few months, but we always talk positive. We want to flush the negatives out off the team," he said. "It is still there, in all of the players, that we want to do well all the time. We need to try and avoid the situation where we lose the series [on Tuesday]."
Like many of his team-mates, Mathews cannot pin-point the exact reason for Sri Lanka's free-fall. "We haven't had a good series since the World Cup," he said. "And we haven't played good cricket since [the second Test in] Durban. We need to play positive cricket. We know it is going to be tough, the conditions will be tough and playing South Africa in South Africa will be very hard. But we also know we are a good team and we can beat any team at any given opportunity."
Some have argued that a leadership vacuum has been one of the causes for Sri Lanka's poor showing, with none of their senior players standing out in the current series. The same also applies to the two men in charge, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mathews.
Mathews has not had the best tour, scoring a solitary half-century, which came in the third Test, and bowling to a minimum. His recovery process - from a back and quadricep injury - has been lengthy and Mathews said he has not had the time he needs to get bowling fit.
"I've just started bowling again and it's going to take a while for me to bowl 10 overs in a match," he said. "I'm going to bowl in short spells, because in between games we haven't got enough time to allow me to train myself to bowl more overs. I will bowl six or seven overs per match, maximum, to give my body a chance to cope with the pressure and the workload."
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