Angelo Mathews realises that the challenge in the upcoming three-match Test series against South Africa is going to be stern. The 29-year-old all-rounder is set to lead Sri Lanka again, after being out due to multiple injuries, during which Rangana Herath stood in as the captain to lead the side to a 2-0 series win in Zimbabwe.
The skipper expressed his confidence in the young batsmen, who have stepped up in the absence of the stalwarts, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan. Dhananjaya de Silva and Kusal Mendis have been in rich vein of form and would be expected to shoulder the responsibility on a tough tour of South Africa, who themselves are coming into the series on the back of an emphatic 2-1 Test series victory in Australia. While de Silva scored a hundred in his last Test appearance, Mendis top-scored in both the Test wins against Australia at home.
“When Sanga (Kumar Sangakkara), Mahela and Dilshan retired, it created a vacuum in the team, but the youngsters have taken it up well,” Mathews said on Friday (December 23). “We saw in the Australia series that the youngsters like Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva were standing up. It’s great to see them coming through.”
In their solitary practice match against South African Invitation XI in Potchefstroom, seven out of Sri Lanka’s eight frontline batsmen (except Mathews) scored a fifty, with the opening pair of Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva putting up a 159-run opening stand in the first innings.
“In Potchefstroom the facilities were very good, so we’ve had plenty of time to get used to the conditions,” the skipper said. “The wickets were quite a bit slower than other parts of South Africa. I thought we got the maximum out of the 10 days that we got there.”
The all-rounder was quick to acknowledge the good form the hosts are in and said that there would be no room for complacency at all. “South Africa have been playing extremely good cricket against Australia,” Mathews said. “They went over to Australia and beat the Australians, which is not an easy thing to do. If we play to our potential – we’ve got the skills. We’ve done it in the past.”
While Sri Lanka would want to repeat their memories of the 2011 Boxing Day Test in Kingsmead, they would be wary of their poor performance in the three-match Test series in England earlier this year.Sri Lanka embark on a three-match Test series, starting on Monday (December 26) at the St.George’s Park in Port Elizabeth, before playing three Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) and five One-Day Internationals (ODIs) on this tour. (Courtesy Cricket Buzz)