Mathews defends off-colour seamers
Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka captain, has said Nuwan Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga might need a little time to get back to their best form
Sri Lanka's batsmen have cranked up their consistency, with captain Angelo Mathews milking a purple patch that began last December. However their bowling has not kept up. Pakistan were unable to overhaul a target of 311, but they had exploited the hosts' pace attack to get off to a flier before the slower bowlers pulled things back.
Lasith Malinga has also failed to summon the usual threat he does. Nuwan Kulasekara's last ODI wicket was in May. But Mathews has cautioned against writing them off.
"We have to accept when we don't play well, and I don't think we saw the best of Malinga in these past two matches," Mathews said. "Same with Kulasekara. They've had a break from cricket, so you need to give them a little time to come back.
"I was a bit concerned we didn't bowl that well in the first 10 overs. Especially the lines and lengths were not that great and they started off brilliantly, getting 100 runs in 12-13 overs. But once the ball got older, the spinners started turning the ball and that was the turning point."
Malinga has cost over 6.5 to the over in his past three matches. His search for yorkers was persistent but unsuccessful in the first ODI which allowed Sohaib Maqsood and his bottom-handed thumps to take Pakistan over the line.
"We bowl him [Kulasekara] and Malinga in the death overs, which is tough. When they fail in one or two games, we shouldn't be too quick to criticise them, because they are very good bowlers"
Sri Lanka were able to compensate with Thisara Perera, who had posted a tall enough score and assisted with three wickets including that of Shahid Afridi when the equation was a manageable 88 off 58 balls.
"Thisara's all-round talents were a big influence on this game. He scored very quickly and then took three wickets. Usually we want our seven batsmen to score runs, and that's what we expect them to do. It's a bonus when the bowlers contribute, and Thisara batted very well."
Mathews himself has shouldered greater responsibility in building his side's totals and his solidity was necessary with Sri Lanka opting for an extra spinner at the cost of Dinesh Chandimal. The Sri Lanka captain came close to a maiden ODI century for the second time running, but again fell with his team requiring acceleration.
"I don't feel any extra pressure in the 80s and 90s, so I'm not sure why it's happening. Today I had to go for that shot because the team needed runs. The form players have to make sure they do what the team needs. In the next match, I could play differently. If you get a start, especially, you should do that. I did that today, and I'm happy.
"I haven't changed much since I started. Mentally, you learn certain things the more you play. We learn a lot from the seniors. Beyond the runs that the seniors score, they are very important to the team, because we've learned so much from them. But I think I've only changed my approach. I haven't changed the way I bat since I started."