Are we seeing the best of Angelo Mathews? | Daily News


 

Are we seeing the best of Angelo Mathews?

When Angelo Mathews entered international cricket 12 years ago big things were expected from him and he managed to fulfill them and even go onto lead his country in all three formats of the game with merit. He was essentially a middle order batsman and he also bowled occasionally at medium-pace proving to be a more than useful all-rounder. All this was until he became injury prone in the mid 2000s. His injuries were by and large below the waist especially in his legs. Hamstrings, torn calf muscles and achilles heel were part of his injuries which was to affect his career constantly that not only made life frustrating for Mathews but also to the selectors and coaches who had a time trying to balance the side without a Mathews or with a Mathews who can only bat not bowl. Captaincy also became an issue with Mathews eternally getting injured and Sri Lanka having to appoint a different player to lead the side in the three different formats from time to time.

This scenario went on for some time and in that period Sri Lanka’s cricketing stocks plummeted to new depths which they have not experienced since they won the World Cup in 1996.

In the mean time Mathews worked hard on his fitness – he had been branded a slow runner between wickets by former coach Chandika Hathurusingha who also accused him of running out 49 of his partners in 64 run out decisions he has been involved in. In other words he was not a candidate for any of the two white ball formats.

The recent tour to Zimbabwe saw Mathews’ fitness levels reaching new heights. He had shed quite a lot of kilos and looked slim and fit that made him light on his feet. With Zimbabwe painstakingly using up nearly one and a half days to pile up 358, the only way Sri Lanka could win was to gain a massive first innings lead and put pressure back on the Zimbabweans in the second innings.

To do that someone had to play the anchor role and Mathews did it to perfection. He batted 10 hours in the middle in oppressive hot conditions to score his first Test double century frustrating the Zimbabwe bowlers for 468 balls. His marathon knock enabled Sri Lanka to gain a handy first innings lead of 157 and after dismissing Zimbabwe for 170 in the second innings, coast home to a comfortable 10-wicket win.

The second Test affected by rain for a large part ended in a draw with Mathews contributing 64 and 13 to carry away the Player of the Series award.

 


WEST INDIES’ NEMESIS

Mathews’ next series was the three-match ODIs against West Indies and he once again proved that he was playing near his best with some sterling performances on the field. Although he failed with the bat scoring 18 in three innings, his value as an all-rounder was priceless and it was on display for all to see as he helped Sri Lanka sweep the series 3-0. What we saw was a new and forceful Mathews energising the entire Sri Lanka team on the field with his fielding and bowling.

Like he did at Chester-le-Street in the 2019 World Cup game he once again deprived West Indies of a possible win in the third ODI at Pallekele, proving to be their nemesis.

At Durham with Nicholas Pooran going strong with a maiden ODI century West Indies were sniffing victory chasing Sri Lanka’s total of 338. Sri Lanka had a problem on their hands with leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay leaking runs and they had to find another bowler to plug the leak. The captain Dimuth Karunaratne turned to Mathews who had not bowled since December 2017. It was a gamble and it paid off. Mathews dismissed Pooran with his first ball and off the fifth saw Isuru Udana drop Sheldon Cottrell. The over cost only three runs, a wicket and a dropped catch. What an over! Sri Lanka went onto win the contest by 23 runs.

Then at Pallekele again Mathews was West Indies’ stumbling block. West Indies were giving Sri Lanka some anxious moments in their chase for 308 when Sri Lanka lost the services of their spearhead Nuwan Pradeep who usually bowls well at the death with a hamstring injury. Mathews put his hand up to compensate for Pradeep and came up with another stunning performance to finish with four wickets for 59 runs bowling the full complement of 10 overs!

The last time Mathews had bowled ten overs in an ODI was five years ago (in July 2015) and here he was once more in the thick of things guiding his team to victory.

“I told Dimuth that I’ll bowl five overs and if we really need, I’ll take over again. After Nuwan Pradeep got injured, someone had to come in. So I did,” said Mathews after taking the Player of the Match award. “I am very happy that I could bowl all my 10 overs. I have worked very hard during the last five to six months with my trainer. I could cut down a lot of my weight. Thereafter I started bowling.”

Mathews playing two back to back series without showing any signs of injury is certainly a revelation. Are we seeing the second coming of Mathews in the latter part of his career?


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