We panicked in the final – Mathews

by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews justified his decision to bowl the less experienced Shaminda Eranga in the last over against India in the final of the tri-nation competition in Trinidad on Thursday. He also backed under-fire fast bowler Lasith Malinga whose performances against India made Chairman of Selectors Sanath Jayasuriya question the fast bowler’s performances against the neighbouring country.

Mathews came in for much criticism after he left the last over for Eranga in a tense final, instead of bowling himself or reserving Malinga. India were down to the last pair and required 15 runs in the last over and much to the Sri Lankan fans’ dismay, Indian captain M. S. Dhoni finished the game off with two balls remaining.

"I did what my gut feeling said," Mathews answered.

"It is always good to listen to your gut feeling rather than expecting things to happen. We were panicking a little bit towards the end. I thought the bowlers were brilliant, but once again Dhoni took the game away from us. In hindsight, I could have bowled Lasith or even myself in that last over, but we just wanted to get that one wicket rather than leaving it for the last moment. Last man Ishant Sharma did well holding one end up."

Malinga, Sri Lanka’s strike bowler has won the team many games, but his performances against India have been well below par in the recent past. In 148 ODIs, Malinga has taken 229 wickets at 26.58, but those figures drop drastically against India against whom Malinga averages 41.86 in 32 matches with only 37 wickets.

This year, his performances against India drops even further as in four games he has taken only three wickets at an average of 53.

"Look, he is our best bowler," Mathews explained. "At Power Plays he is the man to do the job for us along with Nuwan Kulasekara. The Indians take him on not showing any respect. They just play him so well. They have figured him out quite a bit. It’s very important that we keep him in good spirit because we need to go back for him during pressure situations even now."

Mathews called the batting collapse in the final as ‘pathetic’ after Sri Lanka lost eight wickets for 30 runs. From 171 for two in 39 overs, Sri Lanka were bowled out for 201 runs with seven deliveries still left.

"I felt the batting part lost us the game. We were cruising at one stage and the middle order came up with a pathetic batting effort and we kept taking the wrong decisions while batting and that lost us the game. Sanga (Kumar Sangakkara) and Thiri (Lahiru Thirimanne) giving us a good platform and we should have done better. After doing all the hard work we had the opportunity to get a big score but it wasn’t to be so," Mathews further said.

Sri Lanka has struggled against India in the recent past losing several big games including the ICC Champions Trophy semi-final and the tri-nation final in a fortnight. Mathews denied the Sri Lankans had a mental block when playing India in big games.

"I wouldn’t say so, but we haven’t had a very good recent past in the semis and the finals against them. We nearly had the final in West Indies, but once again Dhoni took it away. After the loss against India in the semi-finals in the Champions Trophy, it was disappointing and depressing for all the guys. Unfortunately we only got 200 runs in the final but I thought the bowlers were brilliant," Mathews said.

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