Sri Lanka v England, 6th ODI, Pallekele December 12, 2014

'Opening spots are still open' - Mathews


Play 01:37
'I'm disappointed with the spinners' - Mathews

Kusal Perera and Ajantha Mendis have been dropped for the final two one-day internationals against England. Dimuth Karunaratne, the Test match left-handed opener with just six ODI caps, has been added to the squad.

With Sri Lanka having been expected to wrap up the series handily, Angelo Mathews and the selectors had hoped to don their white coats and put World Cup hopefuls under the microscope in low-pressure matches towards the back end of the tour. But now changes have been made with the series still alive and the fact the hosts could not win on the driest track of the series so far as raised a few alarms

Mathews has so far been a conservative scientist. "We don't need to panic," has been his motto of the tour. Aside from a drop here, and a tweak there, Sri Lanka' selectorial petrie dish has not seen a lot of change.

Still, there are questions that need answering before Sri Lanka ship out for the World Cup. The opening position, where Kusal has averaged less than 20 in the series so far, is the most pressing question - his replacement, Karunaratne, last played an ODI in December 2013 - but Mathews said there was also concern among the bowlers. Sri Lanka have two more ODIs in the series before they leave for New Zealand where they play two Tests and seven ODIs.

"The opening options are open," Mathews said. "The option of Mahela Jayawardene opening option is still there. We've given opportunities to Kusal. He's fared pretty well, I thought, in a couple of games. He could have done better. We expect a lot from him because he is a good player. We've got nine more games to try and experiment with the opening slot.

"The opening spots are still open. With the middle order, we are set. It's just that the spinners and fast bowlers we need to look at. Suranga Lakmal is in the squad, so he'll probably get a game. We'll see how it goes in the next game and see if we can do some experimenting in the last game."

Dhammika Prasad may make way for Lakmal in the upcoming matches, but Sri Lanka also have an uncapped wild card in their spin ranks in the form of chinaman bowler Lakshan Sandakan. Mathews backed his spinners to bounce back from a poor outing in the fifth ODI, as he likened Sandakan to the mystery spin of Ajantha Mendis.

"Lakshan Sandakan adds a bit of variety to our squad, and there's a chance we will play him - we haven't fully picked our squad for the last two ODIs though. Even if they were flat in the last match, we still bank on our spinners.

"We've played pretty good cricket in the past four games and we don't need to panic. We are batting well at the moment. The spinners have done pretty well apart from this game. We just need to get our attitude and approach right."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on December 12, 2014, 22:12 GMT

    Timeline of SL cricket currently nose-diving towards minnows den in WC:

    Early 2013- Kusal was planted firmly to operate the floodgates at the top.

    Mid 2013- established opener Tharanga was indefinitely caged outside the circus ring, sheltering from any odi exposure.

    Up to Nov 2014 - Kusal kept busy doing his flood-gate opening job to the max, bringing endless joy to the front-order batsmen with his 10 ball stunts. Especially Sanga, who was so happy to notice a tenfold growth in his own shoulders, by constantly pulling enormous weight to stop the flood, Taranga was subjected to a brief bout of psychotherapy & caged again!

    Nov 2014 - MJ almost going down on his knees asking to open, but Kusal wins!

    Everything seems to be in total disarray in SL cricket at the moment. Expecting to face a WC in less than 2 months, Jayasuriya seems to be playing his cards on individual players, according to the new game that he learnt recently. Sun has stated setting on cricket in our island Nation!

  • Rizwan on December 12, 2014, 20:31 GMT

    Where is Chamara KAPUGEDERA ? The Selectors should give Kapu one final opportunity before the Word cup to find out if he can re-discover the talent that made him hook Sixers off Brett Lee down under .

  • Sadman on December 12, 2014, 18:57 GMT

    Srilanka should try Chandimal as an opener.

  • Dummy4 on December 12, 2014, 18:09 GMT

    Angelo Mathews: Thisara Perera must be played as a batsman who can bowl a bit; he has the talent for it. Which means he must bat in the first six; either at 5 or even as an opener. Give him time to settle down and play a proper Innings. He now comes with a few overs to bat and flays around like a madman - not sure what he is supposed to do.

  • Dummy4 on December 12, 2014, 18:05 GMT

    Pasan Wijesinghe: Jaysuriya had other ways of contributing to the team in his early days. He was a very handy bowler, more than a part-timer, an excellent fielder. The early days of Sanath (1996) are different from now. That time we could afford to give license to openers to go out and blast. We had a very solid middle order and even late order batting strength. Now two new balls are used. The best of bowlers are bowling in mandatory power plays and they are all out to get wickets. Even if the opener is a blaster he needs to be able to keep out good balls. Kusal has a very poor defence against pace bowling. I totally agree with Piwithuru Sannasgala. Tharanga with 2 WC experience is much better option. He will fail in some matches but he will be much more consistent. Mahela opening batting should be kept as an option to be used as a surprise. If that will be the case we need a reliable middle order batsman in the squad to bat at No. 4. Experimenting with Kusal has totally backfired.

  • Dummy4 on December 12, 2014, 15:42 GMT

    No to Tharanga no to Kusal. Both got enough chances but proved nothing. So we should test Dilshan Munaweera or Kaushal Silva in next 5 ODIs. If they fail then Mahela should open last two matches as well as WC.

  • Dummy4 on December 12, 2014, 15:35 GMT

    Please don't compare Kusal Perera and Upul Tharanga coz they are two different type of players. Kusal has not perform well in last few matches. But he is a talented player and future of Sri Lankan cricket. Jayasuriya knows how much of failiures he underwent before coming to that status. That is why Kusal is given an extended run. He should be part of WC squad. I am sure Kusal will come back and perform like he did in T20 world cup.

  • Dummy4 on December 12, 2014, 15:23 GMT

    Tharanga is the only option and he has the ability to play aus&nz.. only problem is mathews and sj only mention other players, doesn't even give tharanga a proper chance...

  • ESPN on December 12, 2014, 13:46 GMT

    srilanka need a better head coach, I cant see any of the youngster who has improved his batting under his time period.

  • Dummy4 on December 12, 2014, 13:08 GMT

    Mathews is talking about experimenting with opening spot. I wonder how far this "Kusal ONLY experiment" had already gone since 2013 (ICC-CT-2013 in Eng: 4 odis - 14 runs - 3.5 Av -59.46 S/R ) ??

    Nov/Dec 2014:

    Indian series 3 Odis - 04 runs - 1.3 Av - 26.6 S/R - Lost the Series 5/0

    England series 5 Odis- 99 runs -19.8 Av- 48.9 S/R - up to now.!

    Wasting 8 odis to scratch just 103 runs ! How costly experiment is this ? Our tail has been contributing more runs than Kusal during the past 22 months.

    The following comparison says it all:

    Kusal's overall Record Vs Eng: 8 Odis - 143 runs - 17.87 Av - 76.88 S/R

    UT's overall Record Vs Eng: 11 Odis - 578 runs - 57.80 Av - 78.00 S/R

    After wasting 40 odis, still SL is forced to look at the gloomy sky .. to see the so called "fireworks", instead of a permanent firefly..! Now, the hype bubble busted & reality surfacing, even the most gullible SL fan beginning to comprehend the truth.

    Poor Mathews & Sanga, the agony prolongs!

  • No featured comments at the moment.