Sri Lanka v South Africa, 2nd ODI, Pallekele July 8, 2014

Mathews rules out reshuffling batting order


If there has been a theme to Angelo Mathews' captaincy so far, it has been stability. Mathews has largely called on the same pool of players across the two formats he captains. He has been generous with young players, affording them time to bed in at the top level. Bowlers have adhered to proven formula. Batsmen have followed plans rigorously. If the past six months is anything to go by, it is an approach that has brought results.

While South Africa have spoken, almost at every turn, about the World Cup in seven months, Mathews has ignored the future-focused chatter. "There's a long time to go," he said. "We are not thinking about the World Cup yet." Mathews prefers to win now, and build his team up gradually. No frills. No experiments. Just every man doing his job.

One-nil down in a home series, Mathews deflected suggestions that changes could improve his team's chances. "We don't need to panic," he said. "It's just one game and we played poorly. We can turn things around if we play better cricket than this. We don't need to panic or make major changes. Making changes shows the opposition that we are panicking. We just need to pull our socks up and try and perform better."

But despite his reluctance to unsettle the XI, there are thematic concerns Sri Lanka could address. The first is the second openers' position. Kusal Perera shone brightly, and briefly, as has been his way, at the Premadasa, without truly nailing down his place atop the order. He had played a match-turning innings in Sri Lanka's World T20 opener against South Africa, but tailed away towards the end of that tournament. There is no doubting his ability and his potential, but there is also reason to question his consistency at present. He had been dropped in England, with Lahiru Thirimanne pushed up to open, only for Perera to return when Thirimanne made little headway.

Mahela Jayawardene is a possible opening partner for Tillakaratne Dilshan. He averages 44.47 when opening - significantly higher than his career average of 32.94 - and he has meshed successfully with Dilshan in the past. A move up the order for Jayawardene may allow Perera to drop down to No. 4, where he often bats in domestic cricket, or even for Thirimanne to climb up the order to a position he prefers, but Mathews sees no sense in a batting reshuffle.

"I don't think we are that desperate to open with Mahela because his experience in the middle order counts a lot. We need someone like Mahela to try and control the middle order. Kusal has been doing pretty well up there, and he played a good knock on Sunday. Unfortunately he couldn't carry on.

"Mahela will play at No.4 but in an emergency, he might play as an opener or at No.3. We've got a set batting order and we're not going to meddle with that."

For the moment, Sri Lanka are grooming at least three young batsmen in their XI. In addition to Perera and Thirimanne, Ashan Priyanjan has had a run in the side over the past months. He too has shone sporadically. But he has given enough glimpses of promise to extend his run, despite the poor dismissal in the first ODI, Mathews suggested.

"Ashan plays very freely, no matter what the situation is," Mathews said. "He always trusts his ability and trusts his instincts. I want him to do just that. But in the last game, he showed little bit of inexperience. That happens to everybody. At the start of your careers, you get a lot of nerves. I feel for the player but he still a very good player."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kepili on July 9, 2014, 11:29 GMT

    Conditions conducive to a little bit of seam & some bounce.... Kusal Perera failed again facing under 10 balls for the TWENTY FIRST time in thirty two innings! He managed just 7 including a free-hit boundary thanks to a a no-ball !

    Thirimanne got his preferred position to bat and looks like he has regained some of his confidence back from the lovely drives he played.

  • Anil on July 9, 2014, 10:11 GMT

    I agree with Nick Branson on the Best XI for Sri Lanka, for the moment.

  • Dummy4 on July 9, 2014, 9:06 GMT

    All of the people calling for the inclusion of Thanraga are wasting their breath. There is absolutely no chance for Tharanga to be included in the playing 11 now. Thiramanne is a good batsmen he just needs time. Attapattu was also facing a similar situation when he began playing, and he became one of the best opening batman of sri lanka. Give Thramanne until the Pakistan series then we shall see......

  • Dummy4 on July 9, 2014, 7:53 GMT

    Actually my improved XI would be 1. Tharanga 2. Dilshan 3. Sangakkara 4. Mahela 5. Kusal 6. Matthews 7. Thisara P 8. Kula 9. Senanayake 10. Herath 11. Malinga

  • Dummy4 on July 9, 2014, 7:47 GMT

    I personally think Sri Lanka should seriously drop Thirammane because he is not good at all and is only good at using the pace of the ball which he can not rely on all the time. He is a very slow batsmen and is just dead weight. I think someone like Upul Tharanga should try and open or mahela should open in place of Kusal. My XI would be 1. Tharanga 2. Dilshan 3. 4. Sangakkara 5. Mahela 6. Matthews7. Ashan 8. Kula 9. Senanayake 10. Herath 11. Malinga

  • udendra on July 9, 2014, 5:14 GMT

    Whoever suggested KJP to be dropped, should be insane. The only shuffle needed is Thisara for Ashan. Thirimanne can be dropped.

  • Nick on July 9, 2014, 4:01 GMT

    As much as Mathews and selectors might want to keep the same side together, it must be remembered that today's game is a must win for Sri Lanka. Thisara Perera hit a thrilling 65 at Pallekele last time SA toured including 34 (5 sixes and a four) off one Robin Peterson over. So he must come into the reckoning, especially as Priyanjan failed at the Premadasa and also that the side is carrying Thirimanne at 7. Lakmal too has the pace and accuracy to trouble the SA top-order and Kulasekara might have to be rested.

  • Anura on July 9, 2014, 2:41 GMT

    SL fans need to have patience and trust their captain. Malinga is perhaps the best death bowler in the world. But, he is not consistent. It looks to me he puts more effort when he is the captain of T20 side. Also, we have seen that even the best bowler on the side sometime has an "off day". AM has the responsibility of judging his bowlers when they are bowling. On Sunday, he thought Malinga was not at his best. I think that is the reason he went with other options. I think AM was right for not having Malinga bowl his 10 overs. I think where SL lost the match was their pursuit of the D/L method and the fear of darkness.

  • Steven on July 9, 2014, 2:13 GMT

    I'm with Mathews on this one no need to make changes after one loss he's agood promising captain and agood batsman I do think he could bat higher in the order one day he's good enough weather he does that before the big two retire or after they have retired is upto him I'm not a fan of thirimanne he doesn't appear to be upto it but I'm glad Mathews is giving players like him agood chance to prove that they are upto it u only want to make changes when they are needed after one loss this ain't the time for changes I think Sri Lankan cricket is in good hands with Mathews in charge for many years to come

  • pat on July 9, 2014, 2:07 GMT

    I think it is time to re think about Thirimanna . Sri Lanka should avoid assigning vice captaincy / captaincy roles to young players . Mathews may be an exception . But it does not work with evryone . See what happend to Chandimal . I guess Thiri should be releived from v. Captain role and allow him to develop as a good batsman . He does not look like a one day player .

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