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Injury-prone Mathews won’t bowl in ODI series

Updated July 29, 2018

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DAMBULLA: Sri Lankan batsman Kusal Mendis running past the players’ equipment during a training session at the Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium on Saturday.—AFP
DAMBULLA: Sri Lankan batsman Kusal Mendis running past the players’ equipment during a training session at the Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium on Saturday.—AFP

DAMBULLA: Sri Lanka’s injury-prone skipper Angelo Mathews has ruled himself out of bowling during the One-day Internationals against South Africa which start on Sunday.

Mathews has been troubled by recurring injuries since being brought back as one-day captain in January and had to sit out some matches before the current series against South Africa.

The 31-year-old all-rounder said he still expected the team to show new signs of recovery after a disastrous 2017. They convincingly beat South Africa in a two-match Test series.

“We would like to play better cricket than what we have been doing in limited overs,” Mathews said ahead of the first ODI at Dambulla.

“We started very well in the Test series, and hope we can continue with the momentum in the ODIs.” Mathews, who has taken 114 wickets in 196 ODIs, said he will not risk himself against South Africa. “I won’t be bowling in this series. Hope to start bowling in the nets and see how I feel.”

Asked if the six-match ban against opening batsman Danushka Gunathilaka was a setback, Mathews said it was disappointing, but the team put the priority on discipline.

Gunathilaka, 27, was slapped with the ban for breaching player rules during the second Test as police investigated the alleged rape of a Norwegian woman in his hotel room. The batsman has not been accused of rape, but a friend has been charged.

“It is disappointing to rule out a player when the team is doing well... they can be the best player, but they have to deal with consequences,” Mathews said.

All-rounder Shehan Jayasuriya, 26, is expected to replace Gunathilaka, while uncapped Prabath Jayasuriya was brought in to the squad.

The ODI series presents an opportunity at redemption for South Africa as they look to hit the ground running first up.

They are, however, missing a vital cog in their machine, in the form of the talismanic A.B. de Villiers, who announced his retirement from all forms of international cricket early this year.

Two of the new additions to the squad gave a decent account of themselves in the only warm-up match against the Sri Lanka Board XI, as Reeza Hendricks and Wian Mulder — with a single 50-over international between them — registered a half-century apiece, while skipper, Faf du Plessis top-scored with 71 off just 60 balls.

Mulder’s all-round ability came right to the fore, as he also picked up three wickets, conceding just 12 runs in four overs to go with his 56.

Tabraiz Shamsi was another one to pick up three wickets, while his uncapped Titans team-mate contributed with two scalps at the cost of 45 runs in seven overs.

The five-match ODI series ends on Aug 12 in Colombo. A one-off Twenty20 International is to be played in Colombo on Aug 14.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2018