Mathews’ Near Miss, And His Self-Ignored Advice

COLOMBO – Tharanga Paranavitana showcased a skill more befitting a rugby back than a Test batsman to earn himself four bonus runs in the second over of the day, as he completed a quick single after dropping the ball into the off side. 

Jeetan Patel at cover swooped in and felt he had a chance of running Paranavitana out, but his throw to the bowler’s end was wild, and threatened the running batsman instead of the stumps. Paranavitana reached behind him and fended the ball away, much like a rugby fullback would when trying to shake off the last defender, and the ball ricocheted off his gloves and went even further away from the fielder who was already struggling to back up the throw. Paranavitana was not deemed to be handling the ball or obstructing the field as the batsman is allowed to use his hands in self-preservation in that context.

Angelo Mathews could also have got himself and his partner out with the same shot in the third over of the morning, when he straight drove Trent Boult aerially. Boult at first felt he had a chance to take the catch, but he was too slow to react. If he had got a finger on the ball he might have effected a dismissal as the ball went on to hit the off stump with Paranavitana out of his crease. Even the umpire had a near miss as force of the shot uprooted the stump, which cartwheeled not far from him.

Martin Guptill has had a woeful tour of Sri Lanka so far with the bat, but his stunning reflexes and sure hands haven’t left him, which was seen in his stellar catch to dismiss Mathews at second slip. Mathews lunged at a fullish wide delivery from Southee, and the resulting outside edge flew fast and low, but Guptill leaped almost instantly to his right and plucked the ball one-handed. It was a take that would have been impressive at gully or backward point, but to move so far, so quickly at slip almost defied belief.

Early in the day Ross Taylor put three men on the leg-side fence despite the cautious progress of Sri Lanka’s overnight pair, but Mathews spotted the men in the deep and grew wise to the trap. Almost immediately he called out to his partner at the non-striker’s end, urging him not to play the pull. But sure enough, Tim Southee pitched one short next ball, and what should Mathews do but play the pull himself. He had controlled the shot well, but it was “do as I say, not as I do” from Sri Lanka’s probable future captain.

Suraj Randiv has had a mediocre series with the ball, but with Sri Lanka in danger of being dismissed before reaching the follow-on target, he seemingly impersonated the man he was batting with. Thilan Samaraweera had also been an offspinner in domestic cricket, and had turned himself into an obdurate batsman in his career’s second incarnation. Having taken only one wicket in the first innings, Randiv made 34 from 102 deliveries and contributed in the discipline he wasn’t picked for.

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