Mathews stresses need for long hours of concentration

Rex Clementine reporting from Johannesburg

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews has stressed the need for long hours of concentration from his batsmen leading up to the third and final Test against South Africa here in Johannesburg. The tourists have already lost the series after heavy defeats in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town and are facing the humiliation of a 3-0 whitewash.

"We need long hours of concentration. That has been lacking from the batters. We need to be patient when it comes to bowling, because, however green the wicket, you’ve got to land the ball on the spot to get a wicket. They’ve been doing that pretty well, but unfortunately we haven’t been doing that. Hopefully that will change," Mathews told journalists.

There have been four Test centuries by the Sri Lankans in South Africa prior to this tour and on all those occasions, except for Kumar Sangakkara’s ton, the batsmen have occupied the crease for more than five hours. Sanga reached his milestone 11 minutes short of five hours in 2011 in Durban. Hashan Tillekeratne batted for 331 minutes for his hundred at the Centurion in 2002 while Thilan Samaraweera, who made two centuries in the 2011 tour, batted for 356 minutes in Durban and 325 minutes in Cape Town.

The Lankan batsman to have occupied the crease for the longest period of time in an innings so far in this series is Kaushal Silva who batted for 204 minutes in the second innings in Port Elizabeth.

"When you get a 20 and a 30, you suddenly feel that you’re set. But we need to try and push hard and concentrate hard. Whoever gets a start needs to convert that into a big innings."

"You’ve got to play on merit. When the bowler is bowling well, you’ve got to respect him, and whenever you get the loose ball, you try and capitalise on it. It’s a bit of a balance of both. You can’t go negative, you can’t go over positive; so you need to have that correct balance," Mathews said.

Mathews paid a rich tribute to former South Africa captain Hashim Amla, who will become the eighth South African to feature in 100 Tests when the third Test gets underway. "What a fantastic player he has been right throughout for South Africa. He’s such a wonderful human being. He’s so nice on and off the field. I’ve known him for the past so many years. I’ve played against him in 2011 as well. He’s been an amazing player and hopefully he will continue, but not tomorrow! We wish him all the very best! May he go from strength to strength!" wished the Sri Lankan skipper.

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