Mathews bemoans 'awful cricket'
Angelo Mathews is not used to his team losing a series. Not this year at least. So when Sri Lanka lost their first trophy of 2014 in their first home assignment, Mathews did not hold back on the criticism of his own side.
Sri Lanka played "awful cricket" on Saturday, he said, when they allowed South Africa to wallop 339 for 5, then fell 82 runs short of that score. There was no talk of "taking the positives" or dwelling on personal achievements. It was a match in which Mathews felt Sri Lanka "didn't do anything well".
First in the firing line was the bowling and fielding, which was particularly lackluster in comparison to South Africa's effort in the field. The hosts dropped Quinton de Kock on 38 and missed a stumping chance when he was on 71. De Kock would go on to top score with 128 and lay the foundation for South Africa's mammoth score.
"We don't deserve to win - the way we played today," Mathews said. "We started off pretty poorly with the ball and in the field. I think they got 20 to 30 runs too many. On the field we were pretty flat once again. Our fielding was not up to the mark. A team like South Africa is going to steal runs from us. We have to sharpen that up. We let a couple of crucial chances go.
"We know our conditions at home, so we should have played better. South Africa is a very good team, and we can't take them lightly, and I said that at the start of the tour."
No score in excess of 300 has ever been chased in Sri Lanka. Mathews, however, felt the hosts had a chance to win the match with the bat, but his team approached the chase poorly. Mathews top-scored with 58 at a strike rate of 72, and perhaps he wanted his team-mates to bat a little more like him - conserving their wickets and rotating the strike, in preparation for a big surge in the final 15 overs.
However, despite a rapid start, Sri Lanka lost three wickets for six runs between the 12th and 14th overs, effectively leaving the lower middle order with too much to do.
"The way we batted - I guess the middle order thought of getting the runs in 40 overs. We tried to get a few too many runs too soon and ended up giving wickets.
"It was a very good wicket. The middle order could have taken the game deep, we could have chased it. We kept losing wickets at crucial stages. There are about four 30s from the top order. When we are chasing 320, someone in the top four has to score a hundred. Two of their batsmen hit centuries."
Among his frustrations with the batting order is the problem of inconsistency. Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan have been prolific for the team over the past two years, but aside from Mathews, no other batsman has strung together significant scores through that period. Lahiru Thirimanne's Asia Cup may be the only exception.
"If we take Sanga and Dilshan, they are among the runs all the time. If the others can be consistent like that, that would be great for the side. We can't expect runs from a couple of players every match, because there are seven batsmen. Someone has to play well on a certain day. If we don't score runs and take the responsibility, the bowlers have nothing to bowl at."
The third ODI became a double blow for Sri Lanka because it put AB de Villiers in even better touch than he had been in, as he hit 108 from 71 balls. Mathews hoped Sri Lanka would bowl better at him in the upcoming Tests.
"AB is a very dangerous player, and when he gets going you can't really bowl at him because he scores 360 degrees. He's one of the best players I've seen and he's in great form, so hopefully we can get him out early in the Test matches."