Angelo Mathews has a cool head even in these days of global warming. The icebergs in the Arctic and Antarctic might melt, but Angie’s cool head will always remain cool.
Admittedly, Mathews is apathetic. North Korea might drop its next H bomb next to Mathews and you would still not see him reacting much. This is what makes him an excellent finisher; this is what makes a numero uno stonewaller.
When the foes sortie the citadel, the team always looks upon Mathews to batten down the hatches and steady the ship. But the astute captain, once the doldrums cease would easily foray into enemy fortresses and loot their cities like snatching a candy from a kid.
Living up to his reputation, Mathews played another of his lone-warrior kind of knock against New Zealand in the 2nd T20I. Here we look back at five such performances of his in the past.
#5 64 off 76 balls against Australia at Perth, 2012
In the 3rd match of the CB series involving Australia and India, Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat first on a dry Perth surface. An excellent bowling performance by all the Lankan bowlers made sure Australia failed to bat out their 50 overs as they lost all their wickets for 231 runs.
In reply, Sri Lanka lost their first five wickets for 119 runs as Angelo Mathews walked out to bat. However, the slow-motion collapse would continue as Mathews oversaw Sri Lanka lose the 6th wicket for 129, 7th for 143, 8th for 175 and 9th for 180 runs. Mathews had scored only 34 off 54 balls and his team required 52 runs from 36 balls.
The lone warrior decided to take charge as he chaperoned Dhammika Prasad to pick up singles while he himself took calculated risks. The right-hander picked the gaps with the precision of a surgeon and paced the ball like a veteran golfer.
Sri Lanka would score 8, 7, 8 and 10 off the next four overs, respectively, and only twice the ball would cross the boundary. By that time, the pair had already added 34 runs off 20 balls with Mathews scoring 20 of them.
Sri Lanka moved onto the last over with 18 required. The first ball from Mitchell Starc was walloped through the mid-wicket boundary while the second one sailed over long off. Sri Lanka now needed only 8 off 4 balls. The next two balls would be hit for a single each and Mathews was back on strike with 6 needed off two balls.
Mathews got ready to get underneath a short ball, but could only manage to hit it into long off’s hands as Sri Lanka lost the match by five runs, a defeat that was respectable given the woes the team had been in 6 overs ago. Mathews ended up scoring 64 off 76 balls and no one else crossed fifty for his team.
#4 80 off 76 balls against Pakistan at Premadasa, 2012
Sri Lanka entered the last match of the five-match ODI series having to win it to win the series. Pakistan, on the other hand, required to win the match to level the series.
On winning the toss, Pakistan opted to bat first and raked in 247 runs, a total that was challenging then.
In reply, Sri Lanka lost the first six wickets for 138 runs and the stage was perfectly setup for yet another rescue effort from Angelo Mathews. By the 41st over, Sri Lanka lost their 7th wicket and were left needing 72 runs off 54 balls with only three wickets to spare.
Mathews rotated the strike and made Jeevan Mendis at the other end take risks, which Mendis did with aplomb as he raced off to 19 and brought the equation down to 36 runs off 22 when he got out.
With the tail exposed, Mathews took charge, characteristically dropping the ball into gaps and pilfering quick runs.
As Sri Lanka moved to the last over, 15 runs were required and Mathews plummeted Mohammad Sami for a six and a four off the 2nd and 4th ball of the over, respectively, to seal the game for Sri Lanka. Mathews ended up with 80 runs off 76 balls with most of the runs coming batting with the tail.
#3 139 off 116 balls against India at Ranchi, 2014
Sri Lanka were having a nightmare in India as they lost the first four matches by huge margins and came into the fifth match having to do well to ward off the mortification of getting whitewashed.
Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat first and as they had done through out that series, they lost their first four wickets cheaply with only 85 runs on the board.
Thirimanne joined the captain and tried to resurrect the Lankan innings but a score of 213 by the 45th over was too paltry on an Indian pitch. The vice-captain perished trying to up the ante and there were only five overs left.
Mathews by that time had accumulated 79 runs off 96 balls, but given how well the Indians had batted in that tour, that was not worthy of a mention. However, it was then the Sri Lankan captain shapeshifted into a besotted devil.
Off the very next over, the right handed demon demolished KV Sharma for two sixes and a four. A six-hitting spree succeeded that as Mathews raced off to his maiden century and ended up hitting 10 sixes, 7 of them coming during the last five.
By the virtue of his innings, Sri Lanka ratcheted up their score to 288, giving them a realistic chance of winning the match. However, India fought hard to win the game by 3 wickets. Mathews ended up scoring a whopping 139 runs off just 116 balls.
#2 160 and 4-44 against England at Leeds, 2014
It was Mathews’s first tour of England as captain and Sri Lanka managed to eke out a draw in the first test by the skin of the teeth. In the second test, batting first on a seamer-friendly track, Sri Lanka scored 257, with Sangakkara top scoring with 79.
In reply, England were cruising at one stage with 311 on the board and only 6 wickets down. That was when Mathews introduced himself into the attack and ran through the English batting order along with Shaminda Eranga reducing the hosts to 365 runs.
Batting in the second innings, Sri Lanka were 7 down for 277 with a slim lead of 169 and Mathews partnered with Rangana Herath to produce one of the finest stonewalling innings which from being a match saving one eventually became a match winning one.
Mathews added 149 runs for the 8th wicket with Herath, and 95 of them came from the captain’s willow. The skipper finally got out at 160 giving England a target of 350, which Sri Lanka successfully defended. This was incidentally Sri Lanka’s first test series win in England.
#1 77 off 84 balls against Australia at Melbourne, 2010
Sri Lanka set off on a tour of Australia, for the first time with a realistic opportunity of winning a series in Kangaroo land, under the captaincy of Kumar Sangakkara.
In the first of the three-match ODI series, Australia won the toss and elected to bat first. The Sri Lankan bowlers managed to draw first blood by getting to the driver seat first as they kept striking at regular intervals. Thisara Perera picked up five as Australia finished with 239 runs.
In reply, Sri Lanka were at one stage 8 down for 107 runs with any chances of winning the match having completely dwindled. Again the prelude had been ideally set-up for Sri Lanka’s savior as he once again compiled a gobsmacking 9th wicket partnership with Lasith Malinga, of all tail-enders, to take Sri Lanka over the line.
The partnership with Malinga was worth 132 runs and that came at a rate of 7.2 per over. Mathews scored 77 off 84 balls. Sri Lanka would go onto win the second match, making it their first series win in Australia.