Sri Lanka v South Africa, 1st Test, Galle July 15, 2014

Mathews tips seamers to sweeten Jayawardene's farewell

For almost 20 years, Mahela Jayawardene has captured the Sri Lankan public's imagination. Of the schoolboy cricketers over the last 30 years, Jayawardene was perhaps the only player to match the island-wide fame Arjuna Ranatunga had achieved in the early 1980s.

Angelo Mathews would have been making his first forays into the sport when Jayawardene was still playing for Nalanda College, and he would almost certainly have known Jayawardene's name. There were few in Colombo who had not. As such Mathews is intent on giving the senior batsman the farewell his career deserves.

"We sent Sanga and Mahela both off in a magnificent way in Bangladesh by winning the World T20, so if we can send him off by winning all four Tests, against South Africa and Pakistan, we will do our best to do so," Mathews said. "He's been tremendous for us in the past 15 years or so scoring a lot of runs his contribution to the team is unbelievable. He's decided that he is going to quit so we got to respect it and move on. It's always good to have him in the team but when he has decided we can't really go against it.

"He made his decision a couple of days ago, and he had a chat with me as well," Mathews said. "Every good thing comes to an end and its going to be a massive loss. He also had a chat with the whole team yesterday. To fill his shoes it's going to be a tough challenge for all of us. We got a bunch of lads who we can have faith in we just have to go with it."

Sri Lanka have strived to prepare for Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara's exits by grooming young batsmen over the past 18 months, but the team will nonetheless feel Jayawardene's departure keenly, Mathews said. An injury to their usual Test keeper will allow Sri Lanka to play another young batsman against South Africa - most likely to be Dinesh Chandimal, who will also take the gloves.

A pitch Mathews said was "the typical dry Galle wicket" which will suit two spinners may aid him in his ambition of sweeping the series against South Africa, as will an improving pace attack. Sri Lanka last played a Test in Galle in March last year, and had been unable to take 20 Bangladesh wickets on an unusually flat surface. The pace attack has since made significant headway however, setting up victories in Dubai, Mirpur and Headingley this year.

"Starting from Pakistan in Dubai, I had the two fast bowlers - Shaminda Eranga and Suranga Lakmal - and later Dhammika Prasad. They all bowled extremely well. They haven't played a lot of Test match cricket but the way they bowled showed a lot of maturity and a lot of confidence in themselves. It's great to have a few guys like that, because when you throw the ball to them, you always know what you are going to get. I'm very proud to have them in the team."

Sri Lanka's hopes for the tour suffered a significant blow when they gave up their first ever home ODI series to South Africa, but Mathews remained confident his team would move past that disappointment. "We didn't deserve to win the ODI series, but we got a fresh bunch of about 6-7 players who have joined the squad, and we are going to start off fresh.

"We know the conditions but we've got to play good cricket to beat them. South Africa are a balanced team. Hopefully the guys will turn up, sharpen their game and win."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Steven on July 16, 2014, 3:08 GMT

    Mathews says all the right things he captains well and bats well who bowl abit to Sri Lanka is in good hands ab Amal and sanga there's nothing between them but ab has the advantage in my view cos he can adapt to any situation he can bat all day if he needs to and he can up the pace when required to me ab is the complete package to the other two can do that to but ab does better then anyone there's nothing he can't do to be honest I would have all three in my team anyday they are so good they all are so good to watch I wish there was TV coverage of this fascinating series in my part of the world so many class players on display should be agood series but why not 3tests instead of 2 that's just crazy in my opinion

  • Rizwan1970 on July 16, 2014, 2:34 GMT

    If srilanka thinking of wining again South Africa they should exploit the weakness of South African towards the quality spin bowlers. In the current squid Ajantha Mendis can make a different, if he can use little bit of flight and drift, together with Hearath make a good spin combination. Though Ideal attack would be 2 fast and 3 spin bowlers,for that Dilrual Perara has to replace one of the batsmen.

  • Harsha on July 16, 2014, 0:19 GMT

    @brian Lara : AB is a very good player.but if you are saying he is by far the best over sanga and Amal .thats wrong. Both Amal and sanga also have impeccable records and recent form to back them.infact sanga has a better record out of all 3 all around. I would put all3 of them at same level due to way they play the game and achievements they have recent past

  • Saman on July 15, 2014, 22:52 GMT

    LAKingsFan you dont know of Srilankan cricket mate. Dont forget that when SL beat SA at their own back yard two years ago , they had a far inferior bowling attack and apart from Herath , others werent doing well at that time. So story is very different now and SL has a very well balanced fast bowling attack and has two very good slow bowlers to back them up. But having said that , anyone who knows crickt , will agree with me that if SL play the way they played in ODI ( missing catches and playing silly stores) they will find it out very hard to contain strong SA. But if SL play to their full potential beating them isnt that difficult.

  • Suresh on July 15, 2014, 16:48 GMT

    It may be slightly possible against Pakistan(Only slightly. Remember Sharjah). I don't think SL can win against South Africa.

  • Dummy4 on July 15, 2014, 14:01 GMT

    It is high time SL should study and develop attacking batsmen similar to AB. The way AB played bowlers do not no where to bowl.

  • Sinhhalaya on July 15, 2014, 11:50 GMT

    Dhammika Prasad bowled the spell of his life when he took 4 English wickets. He had to huff and puff mightily until he got his fifth, though. I don't see him ever reprising that performance. Once in a lifetime stuff for him, unfortunately. Weedy Lakmal is just coming back from injury. Eranga is like the SL weather in this era of extreme climate change - good one minute and woeful for days after. The talk of winning all four upcoming tests shows just how immature the captain is. Yes you must be positive in your outlook, especially with the media. However, to make such exaggerated claims - even as wishful thinking - shows a disconnect with reality. SA are a very, very good side and the best that SL can hope for is that ABDV is unfit to play. Then all they have to do is get past Amla and 6 other good batters and also deal with Steyn, Morkel, Philander & Co. Chances with Pakistan are marginally better (if the visitors have one of their famous meltdowns).

  • Dummy4 on July 15, 2014, 11:45 GMT

    if A B is not playing it will be a big lost not only to SA olso for all of us such an entertainer love to see AB Amla and sanga bat but for me AB is by far the best it will be a good series looking forward to best of luck for both teams

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