Can Mathews do a Botham?


Sri Lanka’s former captain Angelo Mathews in pensive mood during fourth day’s play of the one off Test against Zimbabwe at R. Premadasa Stadium yesterday. Mathews will resume on 17 today and a lot will depend on him as to which way the game is heading. Pic by Ishara S. Kodikara.

by Rex Clementine

The 1981 Ashes series is of fairytale stuff. England lost the first Test at Nottingham and in the second Test at Lord’s captain Ian Botham collected a pair. He stepped down from captaincy handing the reigns to the brilliant Mike Brearley. What happened from thereon as they say is history as Botham bludgeoned the Aussies to help England regain the Ashes. The 1981 Ashes is known as Botham’s Ashes.

Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews is in a similar predicament having stepped down from the captaincy and finds the team in dire straits now facing a first ever Test defeat to Zimbabwe. The weight of expectations will be on him to bail Sri Lanka out and it will be an interesting contest at R. Premadasa Stadium today. Can Mathews do a Botham?

Set a target of 388 to win the one off Test, Sri Lanka were 170 for three at stumps yesterday (day four) and still need 218 runs with seven wickets in hand. No team has successfully chased down such a massive target to win a Test match in Sri Lanka. The highest successful run chase here was in 2015 when Pakistan achieved a target of 382 with seven wickets to spare. Sri Lanka’s highest successful run chase ever is 352 against South Africa in 2006.

At close, Mathews was unbeaten on 17 with Kusal Mendis on 60. Mendis was struggling with cramps and with Asela Gunaratne nursing a hamstring injury, much of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the former captain.

Following Sri Lanka’s humiliating first ever defeat in the ODI series to Zimbabwe, defeat in the one off Test could spell more trouble to country’s cricket already plagued by controversies.

It was a tremendous recovery by Zimbabwe to post 377 all out after being 23 for four and then 59 for five. Sikandar Raza was the hero for the tourists with his maiden Test century. Raza batted for over five and half hours for his 127 that came off 205 deliveries with ten fours and a six.

Raza, who added 86 runs with Peter Moor for the sixth wicket was involved in a record 144 run stand for the seventh wicket with Malcolm Waller, the partnership that hurt the Sri Lankans most.

The Zimbabweans showed plenty of character and even the ninth wicket pair of Graeme Cremer and Donald Tiripano added 55 runs for the ninth wicket and that could prove to be crucial.

Rangana Herath finished with six wickets in the innings and took a match bag of 11 wickets.


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