Sri Lanka are on the verge of whitewashing South Africa and their former skipper and still their best batsman, Angelo Mathews is delighted by the fact. After another batting first innings batting collapse, South Africa are looking down and out from the game, as they find themselves 5 down for just over a 139 at the end of Day 3 chasing an impregnable score of 490.
After the day's play, Mathews was quoted saying, “It is always satisfying to beat the top team, South Africa have been a very good side for the past so many years and they are ranked number two. They are a good travelling side as well. Pleased with the way we have played so far. We have worked really hard. We look forward to wrapping it up tomorrow"
“It is going to be a huge achievement for us as we are an inexperienced side. Beating the number two team in the world is something special. We will enjoy that. But we have a job at hand tomorrow morning. The first couple of wickets are going to be crucial. If we can knock off a couple early then we can enjoy the victory.”
Reiterating there is no harm in playing on spinning tracks against non-subcontinental teams, Mathews said, “It is never easy for a foreign team – especially non-sub-continent sides to come over here and play, It is vice versa when we go to South Africa, England and Australia. It is tough for us. That is the challenge the visiting team has. The home team play for their advantage."
“Most teams look to play to strength when they play at home. Against Australia, South Africa and England, we need to play on these kind of surfaces. When we go to Australia and South Africa we play on tracks with grass and that is tough. So most teams exploit home advantage.”
Recently, Dean Elgar had complained that Sri Lanka gave South Africa practice and warm-up game surfaces different to the ones they've encountered in the Test matches by stating, “The two-day game that we played – all we faced in the top order was just seamers, I didn’t face one ball of seam in the whole Test series. That’s pretty streetsmart, I’d say. They gave us a flat wicket that didn’t turn, and that’s pretty streetsmart. The series starts really before the first ball is bowled. The wickets we had were brilliant – they were almost like a one-day wicket. That gives the batters a lot of confidence because we are smashing everything. In the Tests, all we faced were spinners on pretty dusty wickets.”
Mathews brushed aside such suggestions, saying South Africa also used the same tactics when they had toured and said, “I remember in the last tour when we landed in Bloemfontein, we had the same (kind of tracks), The practice match wicket was nothing like what we played on during Test series. It can be a tactic. Most teams do it. I am not too sure what happened here. It was a slow wicket at the Oval. It spun a little bit towards the end. It was not very flat, but turned a little bit. Our spinners took lot of wickets.”
Emphasising how big a difference they've made, Mathews praised the Sri Lankan spinners and said, “They have been fantastic for the last so many years, Against Australia a few years ago our spinners – Rangana, Dilruwan and (Lakshan) Sandakan bowled extremely well. They will exploit the conditions and they are seasoned campaigners. Rangana obviously is one of the leading wicket-takers in the world. Dilruwan has played lot of games and he has done well both home and away. They know what they are doing.”
(Inputs from Wisden India)