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Pressure on shaky Angelo Mathews as Sri Lanka prepare to fight in Kotla

While lack of big partnerships has hurt Sri Lanka cricket team in the series vs Indian cricket team, the form of their most senior batsman, Angelo Mathews, has troubled them the most

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Nov 30, 2017 17:04 IST
Sidharth Gulati
Sidharth Gulati
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India vs Sri Lanka,IND vs SL,Kotla Test
Angelo Mathews, former Sri Lanka cricket team skipper, has not scored a Test century since August 2015, and has not fired against Indian cricket team in the current series as well.(BCCI)

After registering a series win (2-0) over Pakistan in the UAE, a fighting show was expected from Dinesh Chandimal’s Sri Lanka against a team which ‘tour-washed’ them (9-0) earlier this year.

While Suranga Lakmal & Co. did restrict the Virat Kohli-led Indian cricket team in the first innings of Kolkata Test, things soon got back to the old rut with the Lankans barely managing to escape a humiliating defeat at Eden Gardens after being in the game for three-and-a-half days.

In the second Test, after winning the toss on a good Nagpur track, Sri Lanka were bundled out for 205, and Kohli’s fifth double hundred added insult to injury. The visitors eventually lost the Test by an innings and 239 runs.

While the lack of big partnerships has hurt Sri Lanka, it is the form of their most senior batsman, Angelo Mathews, that has troubled them the most.

The former captain hasn’t scored a Test hundred since August 2015, and has since then averaged 27.80 across 36 innings. In the ongoing series, Mathews has scored just 84 runs at 21.00. His dismissal in the second innings of Nagpur Test, when he hit one on the rise against Ravindra Jadeja to Rohit Sharma at mid-off, raised questions about his focus.

On Thursday, Sri Lanka were back at the training ground without their most experienced spinner, while their former captain showed no signs of intent to lead a fightback.

As the visitors practised at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, wrist-spinner Lakshan Sandakan and Jeffrey Vandersay, called up as replacement for left-arm spinner Rangana Herath (back problem), were given extended spells at the nets.

Left-arm pacer Vishwa Fernando, who last played a Test against India in July-August, had a long session too.

Mathews got throw-downs from batting coach Thilan Samaraweera and then bowled, even though it’s unlikely he will bowl much -- even a single delivery probably -- in the final Test starting on Saturday.

Injuries over the last 12 months have affected the all-rounder. Mathews suffered a torn hamstring during the South Africa tour in January and didn’t play international cricket until June. He was then ruled out of the two-Test series against Pakistan due to a calf strain. He had also missed a Tri-series in Zimbabwe last year due to ‘multiple leg injuries’.

Pothas expresses concern

After the Nagpur annihilation, Sri Lanka coach Nic Pothas slammed the team for not executing plans and said senior pros like Mathews must introspect.

“I have been only in place for six months and Angie (Mathews) hasn’t played a lot of Test match cricket prior to one of these games. But you can count on numbers over a period of time.

“Your numbers will tell you a pretty good story about where you stand. You can look at yourself and ask what have I done.”

Pothas’ comments were clearly pointing fingers at Mathews’ form as well as his commitment.

First Published: Nov 30, 2017 16:57 IST