India Whitewash Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews Stands Tall Amid Ruins
Although India whitewashed Sri Lanka, captain Angelo Mathews stood apart from his fellow players and hit a fiery 139* - becoming the highest ODI scorer this year - and took two wickets to set an example.
He was fuming after his team's humiliating defeat against India on Thursday. Sri Lanka's 153-run defeat spurred captain Angelo Mathews to play his best ODI cricket yet, on Sunday.
A maiden century (139*) and two wickets from Mathews in Ranchi helped Sri Lanka show some signs of life albeit in a losing cause - the team lost the match by three wickets. Interestingly, his Indian counterpart in Virat Kohli also finished on 139* in the match. (Scorecard | Highlights)
Opting to bat first with the risk of a whitewash eminent, Sri Lanka got off to a slow and sorry start once again. What appeared like a usual script was changed dramatically by Mathews who came in to bat at No. 5. The innings - from 73/3 in the 15th over when Dinesh Chandimal fell - was spearheaded by the captain who went on to hit six fours and as many as 10 massive sixes.
Ably supported by Lahiru Thirimanne (52), Mathews put on 128 runs for the fifth wicket. Spin as well as seam was blunted with equal poise by both batsmen and even when Thirimanne's innings ended, it had little effect on Mathews.
A veteran of 137 matches, a century had always eluded Mathews - 93 being his previous best. In Ranchi though, the 27-year-old was in no mood to give in - the pain from the previous match clearly visible. "Our loss is embarrassing," he had said after the Kolkata match. "We did not fight and our bowlers did not have any answers." The tale was exactly the opposite on Sunday as Indian bowlers struggled to find a way to stop Mathews.
While there was no stopping Mathews and he remained unbeaten till the end of the innings, he returned to deliver deafening blows to the Indian top-order. Set a target of 287, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma failed to fire and fell to Matthews - both bowled inside the first five overs.
In a team which is graced by former captains Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, Mathews showed what leadership is all about. And while it may have come late in the series, his all-round performance will surely influence fellow players to step up ahead of the World Cup.