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Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews rued his team’s ‘pathetic’ fielding performance after his side exited from the ICC Champions Trophy following the three-wicket loss against Pakistan on Monday (June 12).
With only 236 runs on the board, Sri Lanka needed to make every chance count in their do-or-die clash against Pakistan. And when Pakistan openers Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman gave the Men in Green a solid start by adding 74 runs for the first wicket, Sri Lanka’s chances of defending the small total was looking quite bleak.
However, the island nation got a realistic chance of pulling off an unlikely win when their pacers had Pakistan reeling at 110 for four and then 162 for seven. But the butterfingered Sri Lankan fielders dropped as many as three catches and as a result, Pakistan stormed into the semifinal by chasing down the total inside 45 overs.
After Azhar Ali was given a reprieve in the very first over, Pakistan’s last recognised batsman and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed was dropped twice, the first occasion when Pakistan still needed 43 runs to win. Sarfraz fully capitalised on the dropped catches, as he scored 61 not out and shared an unbeaten 75-run partnership with Mohammad Amir for the eighth wicket to guide Pakistan to a nail-biting win.
Speaking at the post-match conference, Mathews admitted that his side’s fielding was at its worst once again.
“Looking at today’s performance, I thought we were pathetic once again,” said Mathews. “If we had held those catches, it would have been a different story today, especially at very crucial times.”
But at the same time, the skipper defended his teammates for their ‘genuine efforts’ on the field.
“The boys have worked extremely hard,” said Mathews. “Today, yes, we dropped three catches, but there has been a genuine effort from the boys and from the support staff. We’ve expressed a lot about our fielding and we put a lot of energy on our fielding. So, yes, there has been a genuine effort.”
But before the poor fielding, Sri Lanka had failed to capitalise on a good start during the batting. At 161 for three in the 32nd over, the island nation was looking destined to score somewhere near 300. However, losing four wickets for only seven runs totally derailed their innings before they were eventually bundled out for 236.
Meanwhile, they had also included Dhananjaya de Silva in the playing eleven, just 48 hours after the all-rounder landed in England to replace the injured Kusal Perera. But defending the team management’s decision, Mathews said it was important to play an extra batsman on the pitch which had grass on it,
“We had to play the extra batsman on this,” he said. “We had to play the seventh batter because we knew there was some grass on the wicket. When you lose a game, you can always say it was poor batting, it was poor fielding, and it was poor bowling, but I thought it was kind of a funny wicket today. Yes, we were 30, 40 runs short obviously, but I’m really proud of the guys, the way they came out and tried to defend that. Unfortunately, the fielding let us down.”
Mathews concluded by lauding Lasith Malinga who troubled the Pakistani batsmen throughout but three dropped catches off his bowling did not allow him to take his side home once again.
“He’s been a great servant for Sri Lanka cricket,” said Mathews. “He’s been fantastic. We saw the effort that he put in today as well. It was unfortunate that we dropped his catches. He would have been a different bowler but still, he came out and gave his heart. He is a champion.”