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Match Analysis

Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal stand up to be counted

Having gone through several rough patches, the two senior Sri Lanka batters came good at a time when it really mattered

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Angelo Mathews doesn't go for the big shots as often nowadays, but when he does, it is a thrilling sight  •  AFP/Getty Images

Angelo Mathews doesn't go for the big shots as often nowadays, but when he does, it is a thrilling sight  •  AFP/Getty Images

Early in their careers, Angelo Mathews once helped Dinesh Chandimal reach an ODI hundred at Lord's.
Sri Lanka needed 17 in seven overs, with Chandimal on 87. Mathews scored just one run off 18 balls to ensure Chandimal got to the three-figure mark. The English players led by Kevin Pietersen fired back at the duo. But they didn't care. They were young guns with guts, ambition and spunk.
Mathews was going to be Sri Lanka's first big pace bowling allrounder, while Chandimal was going to lead their batting to the next generation. But life had other ideas. Sure, they were given the responsibility of captaining their country at the highest level. But they have also been followed around by fitness concerns. They've even been dropped. Right now, when fans see them walking into the middle, they just sigh, wondering about what could have been.
Sri Lanka are coming off a poor tour of India. They're under new management as well. This is exactly the time they need their seniors to stand up and be counted. And guess what happened? Mathews scored more than 300 runs - and two centuries - in a series for the first time since 2015. Chandimal got his first century since 2018.
More importantly, their 199-run sixth wicket stand, the highest between the pair in Tests, got them out of an iffy position on the second day and put them in total control by the fourth afternoon. During the partnership, now a Sri Lankan record for the sixth wicket against Bangladesh, Mathews and Chandimal seemed to occupy a state that comes only with experience. They ensured a 141-run lead, that is potentially match-winning at the Shere Bangla National Stadium where teams don't often cross the 500-run mark batting second.
This was a very important series for Chandimal. He has seen the likes of Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis and Pathum Nissanka excel while his own career has kind of stagnated. Chandimal, for a long time, has been trying to reclaim the aggressiveness he had when he was very young. He used to play such jaw-dropping shots. But now, he's become more of an accumulator, shelving his natural flair for something that just looks less than. But late in the day in Dhaka, after grinding the Bangladeshi bowlers down, some of that old homespun charm started to leak out. Chandimal went from fifty to hundred in just 63 balls.
Mathews too hasn't had a big series like this in a while. He too has become a lot more defensive than he used to be. Both the 199 in Chattogram and the 145 here have been second-fiddle innings where his partner at the other end did most of the dominating. But this is the game he trusts now. His defence is rock-solid. That's why even Shakib Al Hasan couldn't break through it despite 10 hours of trying.
Minimising risk has been the Mathews way. And even when he went looking for runs, he made a conscious effort to play as close to the body as he could. Chandimal, being a slightly more adventurous player, chanced his arm a little more and was especially effective whenever the spinners dropped it short outside his off stump.
Sri Lanka know what it's like to beat Bangladesh. But right now their Test cricket is on uncertain ground. It was in these trying times that two of their old heroes showed they still have plenty of fight left in them.
With inputs from Andrew Fidel Fernando, ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84