South Africa v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Johannesburg January 11, 2017

Bat slow or fast, but concentrate - Mathews

'Whether you score 100 off 300 balls or whether you score 100 off 70 balls it doesn't matter, as long as you work your game out' - Angelo Mathews © AFP

Sure, batsmen have sped their way to doom, and of course, they have played too many loose shots, but switching to all-out defence is not necessarily the answer either, Angelo Mathews said ahead of the third Test.

Aside from opener Kaushal Silva, and perhaps Dimuth Karunaratne as well, each of the other batsmen in Sri Lanka's top order is of an attacking bent. Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva all strike at more than 60 in domestic cricket. And though Angelo Mathews and Upul Tharanga are capable of defending (Mathews in particular), they have generally fared better when they have attacked.

The Sri Lanka top order knows that they must pare back some of those attacking instincts, but Mathews is also wary that his men don't trim so much from their natural game that there is not much of it left.

"You've got to play on merit," Mathews said. "When the bowler is bowling well you've got to respect him, and whenever you get the loose ball, you try and capitalise on it. It's a bit of a balance of both. You can't go negative, you can't go over-positive. Cricket is a game where you have to score runs. Whether you score 100 off 300 balls or whether you score 100 off 70 balls it doesn't matter, as long as you work your game out. You just need to score runs.

"Yes, we have been repeating the same mistakes, which is frustrating. But we've got a set of players who are looking to score runs and I always encourage that. And yes, by looking to score runs in these conditions maybe you can get a good ball. Even if the ball is not good enough, you can still get out because of the conditions."

Sri Lanka's batsmen have employed varying approaches to this Test series, none of which have worked © Associated Press

The prescription that Mathews has repeated this series is increased concentration. All but two batsmen had starts in the second innings at Newlands, and yet, none could cross 50, and the team total fell short of 225.

"In these conditions, when you get a 20 and a 30 you suddenly feel that you're set, you can still get a good ball," Mathews said. "We need to try and push hard and concentrate hard. Whoever gets a start needs to convert that into a big innings."

Mathews suggested that Sri Lanka would retain the same XI from the Newlands Test, and also that Kusal Mendis and de Silva will remain at No. 3 and No. 4. Mendis has had more success at second drop, and de Silva has been good in the lower middle order, but a vacuum in the no. 3 position has forced both batsmen up.

"The selectors are looking long-term," Mathews said. "Yes, they are two of the best batsmen we have. They are young and fearless and they want to score runs. Dhananjaya is quite matured - he has played a lot of first-class games, but Kusal Mendis hasn't. These are extremely talented guys and they are still learning the game. As they play more Tests, they will definitely keep learning."

All Sri Lanka's batsmen will have to have done plenty of learning in the break between Tests. The Wanderers track is reputed to be one of the quickest and bounciest in the world, and though perhaps not as green for this Test as it has often been, still retains a covering of grass.

"It looks a lot greener than the previous two wickets, so obviously there will be swing seam and bounce right throughout the Test match, which we kind of expect," Mathews said. "We've always expected a greentop when we tour South Africa. We've got to play on whatever we get. We will not complain or make a fuss about it."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

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