One of the lowest points in my career – Mathews

The unexpected 2-3 home series loss to Zimbabwe is “one of the lowest points” of Angelo Mathews’ career, and may in fact prompt the re-evaluation of his captaincy. Two days ago, Mathews hinted he may not be Sri Lanka’s captain during the 2019 World Cup, but an unexpected series loss to the 11th-ranked ODI side has his leadership draw particular scrutiny.

“It’s one of the lowest points in my career, and a hard one to swallow,” Mathews said. “Everything went against us, from the toss to misreading the wicket. But there are no excuses. At the end of the day we were not good enough to beat them. They played better cricket.”

Under Mathews, Sri Lanka have won an away Test series against England, and a home Test series against Australia – two of Sri Lanka’s greatest triumphs in the format – but they have been largely poor in ODI cricket since the last World Cup. They have defeated Ireland and West Indies under Mathews, but have lost home series against Pakistan, Australia and now Zimbabwe. Mathews said he would seek consultation before making a firm decision on his captaincy future.

“Still haven’t thought about stepping down,” he said. “There’s time. I’ll give it a bit more thought and talk to the selectors. I haven’t decided anything yet.”

Though they have won T20 series against depleted South Africa and Australia squads, Sri Lanka have not won an ODI or Test series this year. Their performances on the South Africa tour and the group-stage exit at the Champions Trophy came under particular fire.

“We have not been consistent,” Mathews said. “The pressure is on all of us. The more we lose, the more pressure we are under. There is no solution for that and the only solution is winning. We try to win games, but we commit too many mistakes.”

On Monday, Mathews largely dwelt on a substandard batting effort after Sri Lanka scored only 203 in the series decider and ended up losing by three wickets. Danushka Gunathilaka hit a pained fifty, and Asela Gunaratne scored a smart 59 not out – much of it in the company of the tail. However, the top order had failed to break the shackles Zimbabwe’s spinners had imposed on them and were bailed out, to an extent, by the 50-run ninth-wicket stand between Gunaratne and Dushmantha Chameera.

“We did well with the bat in the last four games, but this game we were awful with the bat. If we could have got to 235, we could have done well. It was a flop today. There was some turn for the spinners in the beginning, but our eventual score wasn’t enough. We have a lot of improvements to make.”

Despite the dispiriting defeat, Sri Lanka have little time to lick their wounds. The one-off Test against Zimbabwe begins on Friday, before a full tour against India kicks off on July 26.

“We have an India series coming up, but before that, we have the Test against Zimbabwe to talk about. The Indian series will be even tougher. In a small period we have to fix our problems. As a team we did do the training, but nothing is working in the middle.”

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