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India vs Sri Lanka: Leader Angelo Mathews rediscovers himself, in a support role

Angelo Mathews struck his second half-century in a row in the ODI series against India, scoring 55 in a 122-run partnership with another seasoned player, Lahiru Thirimanne, who top-scored with 67

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Sep 03, 2017 20:50 IST
India vs Sri Lanka,Angelo Mathews,Sri Lanka cricket team
Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews raises his bat to celebrate scoring fifty runs during their fifth and last one-day international cricket match against India in Colombo on Sunday.(AP)

It has been far from adequate as Sri Lanka have struggled through the tour by India, but having lost Angelo Mathews as skipper, the island’s cricket team is slowly regaining the all-rounder. (5th ODI BLOG | SCORECARD)

On Sunday, Mathews struck his second half-century in a row in the series, scoring 55 in a 122-run partnership with another seasoned player, Lahiru Thirimanne, who top-scored with 67.

The Sri Lankan total of 238 was the highest of the series, but it may be too little to help them avoid a whitewash. Still, if the hosts are looking to take some positives, Mathews will be one.

The 30-year-old was barely visible going into the Test series, and when the ODIs started. The leader of the pack until barely a month ago, he is regaining his poise, though in a support role as batsman.

Mathews again demonstrated the virtue of patience to his struggling team, where most batsmen have fallen to anxiety, trying to manufacture shots.

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Mathews top-scored with 70 in the previous game. He was again willing to support Thirimanne, who made his second fifty of the series after being recalled as an injury replacement.

It’s a turnaround Sri Lanka will be happy with amid the gloom. The nation’s most talented player after the retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews was at his lowest after Sri Lanka were upset 2-3 in the home ODI series by Zimbabwe.

He resigned as skipper amid media reports that he was not getting enough support from the cricket administration. That came after the early exit in the ICC Champions Trophy.

Injuries had already left him half the player he was, as he took up bowling only in this series while his batting too had suffered.

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Still, the Sri Lankan batsmen did not learn from Mathews in this series. In the first ODI, which India won by nine wickets, he played a steady hand at one end, but saw batsmen fell one after the other.

In the fourth ODI on Thursday, Mathews top-scored with 70, but none of the others chipped in and Sri Lanka were all out for 207. He also took two wickets, bowling six overs after injury issues. Still, it wasn’t enough to prevent a 168-run defeat.

In this series, Mathews has also not spoken to the media, stepping to the front for his beleaguered teammates. Neither was he asked to deputise when captain Upul Tharanga was banned for two games due to the team’s slow over rate.

Sri Lanka can ill-afford not to have Mathews back to his best as a player, and even as skipper heading into the 2019 ICC World Cup.

First Published: Sep 03, 2017 20:48 IST