Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 3rd ODI, Dambulla August 29, 2014

Mathews puts faith on versatile XI

Angelo Mathews has been contributing with regularity with both bat and ball © AFP

Adaptability has been among Sri Lanka's strengths in global competitions. Since 2007, they have put together their fine run of finals appearances by reacting quickly to the diverse challenges each new opposition and venue pose, during the competition. In recent years, Sri Lanka have achieved this with a clot of multi-skilled cricketers in the middle order.

Angelo Mathews has been chief among these, finishing innings with increasing aplomb, and maintaining economy with the ball when he can't quite manage to penetrate. Thisara Perera has contributed in both disciplines as well, and in the past, cricketers like Jeevan Mendis and Farveez Maharoof have been part of good campaigns. 

Mathews has had his sights set on the World Cup for some time now, and as the build up begins in earnest, he hopes to make adaptability a cornerstone of Sri Lanka's next bid for global-tournament silverware. He had hoped to experiment with his XI in this series, but after Sri Lanka ran up a total of 310 and defended it with some comfort at Hambantota, Mathews has begun to feel Sri Lanka are zeroing in on a unit that is well-equipped to deal with any situation.

"The combination that we have can play on any wicket," he said. "I don't think we'll have to change the combination for the Dambulla wicket. It might have a little bit more carry than Hambantota. It might get drier and drier as the day goes on. It might be effective for the spinners. You can never predict it 100%. I think the XI that played in the last game can handle any sort of pitch."

The advantage with that XI is that Mathews has a wide array of bowling resources to call upon. There are the frontliners in Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Rangana Herath, but then Mathews himself, Perera and Seekkuge Prasanna are almost frontliners themselves. In that core group of bowlers, Mathews has the best death bowler in the world, a swing bowler who can be a threat at the start of an innings, an experienced spinner who exerts control, and a more attacking slow-bowling option in Prasanna.

Mathews and Perera themselves add variety. Both have cutters, slower balls and bouncers, but can also deliver line, length and seam. Beyond the bowlers and allrounders, Tillakaratne Dilshan is among the most reliable part-time spinners in limited-overs cricket, and Ashan Priyanjan also bowls finger spin. Although Malinga and Kulasekara had a poor outing in the second ODI in Hambantota, Mathews had the resources with which to pare back Pakistan's chase, unlikely though it was that the opposition would run down 310. The buffer his support bowlers provide, means there is more margin for error for the frontline bowlers.

"Not really worried about Lasith and Kule," Mathews said. "For example, if Kumar Sangakkara or Dilshan or Mahela Jayawardene fail in a couple of innings, we're not going to throw them out because we know the class that they have in themselves. Lasith and Kule know their mistakes and they will come back. We need to be patient with them because sometimes people can have rough patches and they will turn up and win you games. They are that quality. They've always been our pressure situation bowlers and we need to have faith in them. We don't need to get panicked. We still have time. We'll go with them."

On the batting front, Sri Lanka have twice made good scores despite few runs from the top three. A strong lower order gives the batsmen leeway as well. With batting down to Kulasekara at No. 9, Sri Lanka have rarely batted so deep.

"We're playing seven batters, and we expect at least a few to get the runs on that day. I'm pretty sure the top order will start getting runs, because they're not out of form. It didn't happen in the last two games, but I have faith in them. I'm sure if they get a good start they will carry on."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 30, 2014, 8:32 GMT

    angi is correct .. i been putting many post here telling same thing about few year back.. any way it is good that angi is known that what we want.. we lost many matches finding so call batting heros.. we have gone well in past with batting captain and vice captain . arjuna aravinda ,,,, sanath marvin.. sanga mahela.. but we also lost matches tring to fine the that.. chandimal. . kapugedera , chamra silva.. i think we had great allrounder now we have to use them than trying fine batter.. it be only afetr dili .sanga mahela gone we need batter.. any way we giving so many chance to them.. and my find we need only 5 batter 1 weekeepr 2 main baller ,, 3 good allrounder that you can decide with the pitches.. we have got so many allrounder like off thisara , maharoof. sekkuge. jeewan. kulasekara, and i am sure there many hard hitting allrounder in team.. don,t try to fine batters they will come.. i think thisara is good for vice captain with angi,, in all formats... thanks

  • Sam on August 30, 2014, 3:42 GMT

    Agree with everything.... Do like Randiv to get a chance though. We are going to miss Senanayake's batting and I thought he was a reliable number 8. Think Randiv has the same potential.

  • Dummy4 on August 30, 2014, 2:54 GMT

    Umar akmal is under pressure with keeping plus batting role i think he should more focus o battig as he is a quality batsman and keep too if he can bowlers should bowl yorkers learn from malinga

  • Edwin on August 30, 2014, 2:43 GMT

    The word "Batter" is such a lazy, ugly, insultive and incomplete term for the gentlemen like Batsmen, who graces this wonderful sport of ours! Ugh., it makes me cringe to hear people and players, let alone national captains use this word!

  • SujeeKl on August 30, 2014, 2:30 GMT

    I like to see Malimga start balling with Mathews. . Because Kula leaking and struggle bit with new ball. . It's better to bring him as first balling change. . Kula is one of main baller for ODI. . But he struggling to prove that.. wish team will keep the aggressive any Stage age of the game even wicket falling. . That's the way Aus doing while winning three world cup.. because always tuff ask to defend 300 plus runs now a days

  • Android on August 30, 2014, 0:20 GMT

    sri Lanka has that potential to win world cup. .

  • Dummy4 on August 29, 2014, 20:10 GMT

    If Kule continues to fail for much longer, it might be a good move to play Prasad for a few games, or perhaps bring back fast-bowling all rounders like Maharoof, Lokuhettige, K Weeraratne etc.

  • ESPN on August 29, 2014, 17:14 GMT

    Impressed with the ideas Mathews got. He understands players and treat everyone the same whether it is selections or on field, off field incidents. Calmness, Assurance, steel he provides for the team is just amazing.

  • Vivian on August 29, 2014, 14:29 GMT

    Both Dilshan and Sangakkara are yet to contribute strong enough with the bat. Here is there last chance in Pakistan tour. If Mahela and Mathews could keep their momentum, their would be yet another series victory.

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