Mathews hails team’s attacking efforts

On a day when Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara failed to get going, when Tillakaratne Dilshan was involved in two run-outs, one of which cost him his wicket, Sri Lanka’s hero was Angelo Mathews. Coming in to bat at No. 6, Mathews was the difference between Sri Lanka posting a mediocre score and one that would put the pressure back on the opposition.

When a potent mix of rain and hail, backed up by gusting winds, thunder and lightning brought West Indies’ chase to an end after 13.5 overs, handing Sri Lanka the win by 27 runs (Duckworth-Lewis method), the first semifinal of the ICC World Twenty20 2014 on Thursday (April 3) was interestingly set up. Although Sri Lanka was ahead, West Indies’ power hitters were yet to come, and the team’s penchant for leaving things to the end cost it.

“It would have been great if we had played the 20 overs, and it would have been a good, close game as well. Well, thanks to the weather we are in the final and we deserve to be in the final, because we have played some good cricket,” said Mathews, man of the match for his critical unbeaten 23-ball 40. “After the first half, we got to know that there might be bit of rain. But we didn’t play for the rain, because you can’t really predict the rain. We just had to keep them tight and get wickets because they have some really big hitters, and if they get going we can’t stop them. We had to take wickets to push them back. Lasith (Malinga) came to bowl in the first six overs, which he doesn’t do normally, but he had to come in then because we needed our best bowler to come and strike for us and he did that.”

It was Mathews’ late charge that made the difference, and he explained his mindset at the time. “I never got a signal (from the dressing-room on when to cut loose). We just had to calculate, be wise in choosing our options and bowlers to attack,” said Mathews. “Attacking Narine wasn’t an option. We wanted to get seven to eight runs off Narine and capitalise from the other end. From the 16-over mark, we just had to take the risks.”

Very few teams have succeeded in taking on Krishmar Santokie at the death, but Mathews was clear in his plans, and he got the execution spot on. “We just had to take correct options. We had to find our bowlers. I was feeling pretty comfortable against Andre (Russell) and Santokie. We knew that if we get to 150-160, it will be a good score with our bowling attack,” said Mathews. “In a semifinal like this, putting the runs on the board will always be pressure for the side batting second. We were aiming at 150-160, and I’m glad we were able to get to that.”

Mathews was helped along by Lahiru Thirimanne, who was retained in the XI despite the availability of Dinesh Chandimal, who missed Sri Lanka’s last match through suspension for slow over rates. “Thiri has been batting really well. We just talked about rotating the strike and trying to get those ones and twos, because the boundary from one end was a little bigger, so you had a chance to get those twos,” said Mathews of his partner. “We wanted to build a partnership and launch at the end. Thiri batted brilliantly once again and hopefully he will continue that in the final as well.”

Mathews was all praise for Chandimal and the decision he took in the team’s best interests. “It was a collective decision – the selectors, management, Chandimal. You got to do what’s best for the team all the time, regardless of who you are,” said Mathews. “I think he opted out, and he was brilliant in that.  He wanted the best XI on the park. I think it was a great decision and a brave one.”

Sri Lanka did not have a preference of which team it would like to face in the final, and the winner of the India-South Africa match will come into the last game knowing that Sri Lanka has now had a taste of the conditions in Mirpur. “The last game in Chittagong, the pitch was a bit slow and it turned a little bit, which helped our spinners,” said Mathews. “We have played on this wicket in the last couple of months. We were aware of conditions. It was a good wicket, the ball was coming on pretty well. For the seamers, if you bowl your slower balls, it gripped a little bit.”

The bowlers and batsmen both came to the party on Thursday. It was no wonder that Mathews did not especially care who his team was up against in Sunday’s final.

(Courtesy: International Cricket Council)