Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lankan captain, reckoned that losing three crucial wickets in the middle overs was the reason his side lost to Australia in the first One-Day International (ODI) in Colombo on Sunday (August 21).
Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal had steadied the ship after losing both the openers. The pair had added 79 runs for the third wicket when James Faulkner struck to send Mendis back for 67. The left-arm pacer also accounted for skipper Mathews in the same over. Mitchell Starc was also summoned to the attack and he delivered with the wicket of Dhananjaya de Silva, leaving the hosts struggling at 132 for 5.
“We were going pretty well at one point,” Mathews said in the post-match press conference. “But straight after Kusal Mendis got out, I got out, and then Dhananjaya got out. I thought that was a bit of a turning point. We needed a partnership with Dinesh Chandimal. Either me or Dhananjaya had to set it up for Thisara Perera and Milinda Siriwardana to go out there in the 43rd or 44th over and get those quick runs. It wasn’t easy to get quick runs. The boundaries were 80 or 85 yards away. We needed to be scrappy, but unfortunately we were short 20 or 30 runs.”
Chasing a target of 228, Aaron Finch got the visitors off to a blazing start. The opener came out with a particular game plan – to score against the new ball. He rocketed away to a 37-ball fifty and by the time he got out for 56, the visitors were well ahead of the asking rate.
“He got a lot of runs against the new ball, and that would have been his plan, because when the ball gets a bit older – after 10 overs – it is not easy on this track. With the fielding restrictions and two men out of the ring, he scored quickly and fearlessly against our spinners,” Mathews said.
The pitches so far in the series have been very dry and have raised a few eyebrows, especially from the Australian camp. The one at the R. Premadasa was no different and Finch opined that it was a ‘poor pitch’. Mathews also agreed with the Australian opener as there was a puff of dust every time the ball hit the surface.
“The pitch was a bit too dry I thought,” Mathews said. “It was hard work for the batters. It was stopping and gripping for the seamers’ slower ones, and it was turning square. With this kind of weather we knew it was going to turn, but it was a bit too dry. It’s that type of wicket that Australia’s seamers will also come into play with their variations.”
Though the pitch was conducive for spin bowling, the Sri Lanka spinners did not have enough runs on the board. Dilruwan Perera and Lakshan Sandakan were among the wickets, but the duo were a tad expensive. It was the debutant Amila Aponso, who was the standout bowler for the hosts, with figures of 1 for 27 from his 10 overs.
“I thought Amila bowled the best out of the lot,” said Mathews, who had six spinners at his disposal. “Dilruwan Perera was steady, but the way Amila bowled was fantastic. This is actually the first time I’m seeing him. He bowled extremely well and I’m very pleased.”
Faulkner was awarded the Man of the Match for his four-wicket haul as Australia chased down the total with 19 balls to spare. Sri Lanka, who lost the first ODI by three wickets, trail 1-0 in the five-match series.