South Africa v Sri Lanka, 3rd ODI, Bloemfontein January 16, 2012

Sri Lanka looking to touch 250


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."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on January 17, 2012, 17:22 GMT

    Smith needs to get dropped his form is shocking uses up to many balls without scoring shocking player

  • Kavum on January 17, 2012, 10:54 GMT

    What's this nonsense about a 250 score being par post rule changes? Mathews is echoing some rubbish spouted by Mahela which has indubitably and comprehensively been proved a gross misjudgment by international sides. This is why he (AM) is nowhere near captaincy material. He does not seem to have an independent thought or an original bone in his body. SAf bat down to number 8 or 9 and will overhaul 250 runs 90-95% of the time on their pitches. Sri Lanka has a negative mindset and needs leadership similar to the calibre of an Arjuna or Aravinda (or even a Sanath or Marvan) to overcome this slump. Since Mahela and Sanga are apparently not supporting the captain - poor one-dimensional basher TM Dilshan - we should DROP THE LOT OF 'EM and build for the future with young 20-somethings. At least then, SL can compete by 2014/5. Geoff Marsh has the benefit of the doubt for now, but not for much longer. Be that as it may, go out there and compete not capitulate. Good luck SL!

  • kalins on January 17, 2012, 9:29 GMT

    Is Matthew an all-rounder? But we haven't seen him performing in any angle better in last 4-5 matches. Hope as he said he can either bowl well or bat well. Else SL again in trouble to find a replacement. 2 New balls in a match gives good advantage to bowlers as well as pinch hitters. Its better to use old method of playing cricket during 95-99 style .

  • satish619chandar on January 17, 2012, 9:20 GMT

    250 should be a decent score under recent rule changes and in these conditions.. SL should play out of skin to reach that..

  • Cricket_insider on January 17, 2012, 6:55 GMT

    mathews must be responsible for the last defeat.he had no intention to get some quick runs in last few overs.that is why we felt 20 30 short.he must be playing for his country.not for personal goals......

  • 9ST9 on January 17, 2012, 6:51 GMT

    High time SL thought about seperate captains for formats - Dilshan can remain as the T20 skipper, while Samaraweera should be captain of the Test team - I'm sure he can revive the team like Misbah did for Pakistan. It is a pity that Sangakkara had to retire that was the turning point of Sri Lankas down fall.

  • dummy4fb on January 17, 2012, 6:27 GMT

    S.L must consider continuation of Mahela ,Dilhara & Dilshan. They fail again & again.Why not ...selection commit y...

  • Lord.emsworth on January 17, 2012, 6:15 GMT

    Mathews is touted as a future captain but as Russel Arnold hinted he has been around for a real long time without making much of an impact. He is cameo king...always the brief cameo with a six and a few fours. Doesnt help either with crawling Sangakarra who bogs down the batting at nr.3 and the ever failing Mahela J. Dilshan is still a Talismanic opener & can force a SL win but its more likely that SA win again.

  • dummy4fb on January 17, 2012, 5:42 GMT

    The most selfish cricketer Sri lanka has produced!

  • dummy4fb on January 17, 2012, 4:43 GMT

    heads up guys this is about your country

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