Mathews was one of four Sri Lankan batsmen included in the Board XI side to gain valuable practice ahead of the Test series and he made the most of it by scoring a brilliant 92 off 124 balls in the two-day warm-up match against South Africa at P Sara Oval.
“I felt really good I was hitting the ball really well and the wicket was also good. The confidence is pretty high obviously when you score runs against a top quality team like South Africa,” said Mathews. “I feel like I am hitting the ball really well and getting into the groove.”
Mathews hit 13 fours and three sixes and spent over three hours in the middle taking on the pace of Philander, Steyn, Rabada, Ngidi and the spin of Shamsi (who took five wickets) and Von Berg.
Mathews is of the opinion if Sri Lanka plays to its potential there is nothing to stop them from beating South Africa.
“South Africa has played extremely good cricket at home and away over the past couple of years so it’s not surprising that they are no 2. A couple of years ago in 2016 we beat the no. 1 ranked team Australia 3-0 here so it is an opportunity for us to once again showcase and beat a very strong South African team and try and win the series at home,” said Mathews.
“Usually the spinners bowl quite a lot in hot and humid conditions the wicket will break very soon. But you need to score runs as well.
It will be tough test for both teams. We just need to try a way to score as much runs as possible.
They have got good fast bowlers as well as spinners as we saw yesterday (Saturday). There will be effective reverse swing coming to play here in the subcontinent. It’s all about trying to score runs. Both departments can win you matches,” he said.
PLAYING THE ROLE OF SENIOR BATSMAN
Being the senior batsman of the Test side Mathews said he had a role to play.
“Even though I am not the Test captain I am still leading the ODI and T20 sides. As seniors we are leaders in the team regardless of being a captain or not. We have to lead by example and rally the youngsters around and try and guide them. That is our job at hand and at the same time our performances also matters, we have to deliver,” said Mathews.
The former Test captain is trying to come out of a frustrating year and a half through injuries.
“I’ve done my very best to do everything possible to stay out of injuries but sometimes you just can’t control it. I am doing the best I can. I am getting all the expert advice and working with them. Sri Lanka Cricket has also been very helpful providing all the necessary resources to me,” explained Mathews.
“One thing that the experts have told me is to have a good long break because I’ve played such a lot of cricket in the past four years and it has taken its toll. I can’t put it down to zero percent all I can do is manage my injuries and work load and do the things that I have been doing in the past 3-4 months to manage it.”
The majority of Mathews’ injury tends to stem from his lower limbs.
“When I was playing for my school also I had lower limb injuries. It’s just that the experts don’t have a concrete answer for that. What they say is the work load can also take a toll on the body. Keeping up with the rehab is very difficult to do while you are playing because you can overstrain yourself. You’ve just got to have a balance in everything you do. Have to manage and balance your workload. It’s all about how you feel. I know a little bit of my body since I am into my thirties now. Still I may makes mistakes my problem is that I sometimes over train.”
LEAVING CARIBBEAN INCIDENTS BEHIND AND STARTING AFRESH
Mathews praised the efforts of the Sri Lanka team to make a comeback from being 0-1 down and draw the three-Test series one-all by winning the third Test without him, Dimuth Karunaratne and skipper Dinesh Chandimal who form the core of the batting.
“It was a fantastic effort in the midst of so many other distractions. To pull that game off was a brilliant effort by the whole team. Suranga (Lakmal) was outstanding he got the backing of the players and they rallied around him. When something like that happens obviously the players will get together to fight for each other. That’s what they showed on the field,” said Mathews.
“It was an unfortunate incident that rallied the team around. But we don’t need that kind of things to happen to rally around we always go into a game helping and supporting each other.
Those little sparks will obviously spark life in the team unfortunately it was not a very good incident for us. We like to leave that behind because we are starting a fresh series and just play the way we did in the last test against West Indies.”