Sri Lanka v South Africa, 1st Test, Galle, 5th day July 20, 2014

Only ourselves to blame for defeat - Mathews

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Sangakkara's wicket the biggest drawback - Mathews

Among the gleanings from Galle is evidence that Angelo Mathews is an evolving captain. This may be as true on the field, as it is off it. On the recent tour of England, Mathews had stirred up a minor controversy when he suggested to a Sinhala media outlet that the official suspicion over Sachithra Sennayake's action had something to do with his potency against England.

But in Galle, when the opponents were found to be scuffing up the ball in order to achieve an unfair advantage, Mathews was more reticent in his criticism, weighing each phrase carefully before committing to it.

The back of Sri Lanka's first innings had been broken by a reverse-swinging burst from Dale Steyn, but Mathews avoided incendiary language. "It is unfortunate if someone tampers with the ball and they get the better out of it," he said. "It's unfortunate for the opposition. It shouldn't happen and umpires need to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Mathews stopped short of using the word "cheated" when asked if he and his team felt that way, after the defeat. But he did suggest a connection with what Philander had done to the ball, and the way it behaved afterwards. "It's not within the laws and you can't really tamper the ball. But they did it to try and make the ball reverse. It did."

Mathews did, however, concur with what seemed obvious both on television, and live at the ground: South Africa and Steyn achieved considerably more reverse-swing on the third session on day three, after Philander had tampered with that ball, than they achieved on day five, at a similar stage of the innings.

This is despite the fact that pitches generally become more abrasive as the game wears on, particularly when no rain has fallen on them - as was the case between the third afternoon and the fifth day in Galle. Mathews was at the crease on both the third evening - during Steyn's spell - and on the fifth day, when the ball was at a similar age to the ball that was reverse-swinging appreciably on day three.

"No. There was not as much reverse today as on the third afternoon, to be honest. With the wind the ball comes in, but the third afternoon it was reversing quite a lot."

After day four's play, South Africa coach Russell Domingo had said "other sides are better at [ball tampering] than we are", but both coach Marvan Atapattu and captain Mathews said Sri Lanka "don't do it".

But despite the controversy, Mathews laid the blame for the defeat at his own team's doorstep. "In this Test only Sangakkara made runs. We have seven batters in the side and to expect one man to deliver all the time is wrong. We have to bat well against the world no.2 ranked Test team, whether you play at home or away.

"Even on this slow track, it was their fast bowlers who took wickets. Where we lost the Test was the failure of our batsmen to score runs on the first innings. If we had got another 100 runs in the first innings, we had a good chance of winning this Test."

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