Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 2nd ODI, Hambantota November 13, 2013

Mathews' weather gamble backfires


Angelo Mathews has admitted Sri Lanka did not consider the likelihood of rain when they chose their XI for the second ODI against New Zealand, nor did they vouch on weather hampering the team bowling second, at the toss.

New Zealand have hoped to bowl first in both matches in Hambantota, reasoning that Duckworth-Lewis recalculations favour chasing sides. Despite the potency of Sri Lanka's ongoing monsoon, though, Mathews has wished to bat first on both occasions, focusing on the inclination of the venue's surface instead. The first match had been washed out after 54.2 overs, and last November's ODI series against New Zealand had also been severely affected by rain, with the team bowling first gaining a discernible advantage in those matches.

Sri Lanka were doubly disadvantaged by the rain in the second match, as they contended with a wet ball that the spinners in particular found harder to grip, and a wet outfield that lubricated the ball's passage over it. The visitors eventually secured a thrilling four-wicket win, off the last ball of the match.

"We played two spinners, because we didn't make a decision based on the weather," Mathews said. "If you looked at our innings, their spinners managed to get some good turn, which showed the pitch was susceptible to spin. We weren't taking rainfall into the equation. There was rain in the past few days, but because we couldn't foresee what would happen with the weather, we took the choice to have a balanced attack - with three fast bowlers and two spinners.

"If you look at the pitch here, it's good to bat on at the start and gets more and more suited to spin, and plays slower as the match goes on. We aimed to put a big total on the board first up, but didn't take the rain into account."

In a frank assessment of his team's failure, however, Mathews suggested changes to that strategy might be afoot, ahead of the last match of the series in Dambulla. Sri Lanka must win that match - provided the rains relent long enough to allow a game - in order to draw the series.

*"The loss is a great lesson for us, given the way we coped with the ball," he said. "We have to think about how we grip the ball and how we bowl when the ball gets wet, and also about the team to play in that situation. We'll go to Dambulla, look at the pitch, and take the decision on that. Even in this match, we played what was our best XI, but we'll have a look at if the combination needs to change in the next game."

Mathews also defended his decision to use all available overs from his seam bowlers before the final over of the match, in a game that was going to the wire. Tom Latham and Luke Ronchi had produced a match-turning 93-run partnership in New Zealand's middle overs, to bring their equation down to 41 runs from four overs, when Mathews made the call to bowl both Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara, who had three overs left between them. That decision left Rangana Herath with the final over, in which he failed to defend 20 runs, against a militant Nathan McCullum.

"I couldn't use Rangana earlier because our two spinners weren't able to grip the ball or turn the wet ball, and Luke Ronchi and Tom Latham were batting well," Mathews said. "I needed a wicket at that time, and that's why I gave the ball to Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara, hoping that they would bowl well and keep as many runs left to defend as possible. I gave three fast bowlers the chance to bowl the maximum quota of five overs. "Lasith and Nuwan bowled really well to give us 20 to defend in the last over, and I thought Rangana Herath would do well, but unluckily, the match got away from us."

Mathews also challenged the young batsmen in the team to begin making sizeable contributions, after they have largely failed to provide adequate support to the senior men in the past year. Opener Dimuth Karunaratne failed in both innings so far in the series, and middle-order batsmen Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne used up deliveries and got out cheaply, after coming into bat in the late stages of the innings in the first match.

"We have not taken this series lightly, and you see that in the way we've played our best team. But our young batsmen - Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Perera - need to overcome the challenges they face. I think there is too much pressure on TM Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Our four or five other batsmen must accept the challenge and play well. Our young players must look at our seniors and learn more, and take on more responsibility in the team."

*The second half of this story had initially been hidden, by accident

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 15, 2013, 15:23 GMT

    what a crazy decision by Anjelo mathews . TO use a spinner to ball last over .Earlier I said he is not a good captain .Still its the same .

  • Manoj on November 15, 2013, 2:17 GMT

    SLC should have used SL A team instead of the national team. Coz they beat the almost similar NZ A team easily couple of months ago both in tests and ODI. They had Milne, Devcich, Ellis, Munro, Elliot, Ronchi, Corey Anderson, Lathom which seem McCullum and Mills made ths difference. This is the high time to give the responsibility to youngsters.

  • TK on November 15, 2013, 0:41 GMT

    for those who say we should give Matthews a chance. Can you please advise on what basis you feel he is captaincy material? Also, why cant we blame him? NZ drop their seniors even after a few injuries to others.We should have dropped our seniors I include herath as well to keep them for tests and blodd our youngsters. But no! Matthews is worried about losing a nonsense series to NZ B team. So we play our seniors and still lose with 1 game washed out. To add insult to injury we then have him putting us in to bat first in the middle of the bloody monsoon season. The first ODI was rained off, 2 days later what the hell was he expecting, I dont car the fact that D/L probably worked in our favour but everybody who knows anything about cricket knows you bat second in those conditions. He then decides to bowl a spinner in the last over, priceless. Do you still think he is captaincy material???

  • Dummy4 on November 14, 2013, 21:44 GMT

    @Ranil Fernando . you are saying "young players are paid and they are representing Sri Lanka. So they need to perform well" . Are they representing sri lanka sitting in the dressing room ? Are players love to be paid to do nothing . I think you are joking . What is the difference of winning or loosing for youngsters . Still we are loosing and we cant even beat India on our home soil .

  • Dummy4 on November 14, 2013, 18:04 GMT

    I can't understand why Thisara Perera didn't play in both the matches. I think he should be in the final match and we can use him as an opener with Dilshan. There's no point having both Chandimal and Thirimanna in the team. Let some other young player to play. @ Samith Suranjan - Losing series of matches matters to many cricket lovers in Sri Lanka. Don't be stupid. These young players are paid and they are representing Sri Lanka. So they need to perform well. Another thing I can't understand is that we are seeing same names. Aren't there any other better players in the country?

  • Dummy4 on November 14, 2013, 16:58 GMT

    If we score consistanly arround 300- 350 with our seniors it is ok . What are we doing we score a very average score . We cant even think about 350 . Thats why we need to have young generation who is fearless and creative . But unfortunately we do not give youngsters chances . Any one can argue they are not good as seniors . But we have to give them chance and develop them . Loosing a match or series or many series dosent matter for giving them chances. We have to develop our youngsters . So sad now we do both loosing and not giving youngsters chances .

  • Marlon on November 14, 2013, 14:32 GMT

    Just drop Sanga, Dilshan, Mahela... With New Zeland B team, no need to playe seniors.. N no point when they scoring 50s.. They just boosting thir averages.. my combination for 3rd ODI 1. Dimuth 2. Kusal 3. Thirimanna 4. Chandimal 5. Mattews 6. Ashan Priyanjan 7. Thisara 8 Kule 9.Senanyake 10. Suranga 11. Malinga/Mendis

  • Dummy4 on November 14, 2013, 13:53 GMT

    we need 3rd o.d.i s,l team mahela,dila,sanga,lahiru,mathews.chandi,perera,nuwan.senanayaka.malinga,mendis

  • Nazeer Mohamed on November 14, 2013, 13:52 GMT

    i cant say that it was mathew's mistake absolutely but eventually we lost the match coz of his poor decision by giving the bowl to a spinner to bowl the last over. but he was with limited resource in the last match which we all have to understand thats the reason why that decision has taken by him, but i hope we will win the next one and we will level the series in shaa allah best of luck to lankan lions just win the next game for us

  • Manoj on November 14, 2013, 12:40 GMT

    We have to accept that our youngsters are not playing up to the standard at the moment. If they wouldn't get to the form before big 3 retires, we will have a very bleak future. One suggestion is to use the youngsters somewhere up the order and play 2 of the big 3 down the order while resting one in each match. This will boost the confidence of the youngsters. These youngsters have a problem with lack of confidence rather than the talent. This can be seen clearly when they play in SL A team, they do perform well even outside home. But, in the national team, they are reluctant to get the responsibility and let the big 3 to do the everything. This has to be changed by giving them more responsibility within the team.

  • No featured comments at the moment.