Angelo Mathews congratulates his counterpart Misbah-ul-Haq after Pakistan had won the third and final Test by seven wickets to take the three-match series 2-1 at Pallekele. AFP picture by Lakruwan Wanniarachchi

Sa’adi Thawfeeq reporting from Pallekele

PALLEKELE: Skipper Angelo Mathews said he never thought his team could lose the third and final Test against Pakistan after the tourists were left with a tall task of chasing 377 for victory in the fourth innings at the Pallekele International Stadium.

“I actually thought after we made 376 that we were sitting pretty. This will definitely take a lot of time to digest, this defeat,” said Mathews at the post match press conference.

“We never expected this sort of performance from our team as well as the Pakistanis. We obviously played three seamers because there was a little grass on the pitch, but then on the fourth and fifth days in Sri Lanka, you can’t expect a lot of help from the wicket for the seamers. Unfortunately Tharindu Kaushal didn’t bowl that well and we couldn’t put the pressure on them.

“Kaushal has played a lot of matches in ‘A’ team cricket, which is why we chose him. But we need to think about if the pressure of being the only spinner was too much for him. He’s not an experienced Test bowler.”

Mathews praised his fast bowlers and said, “For the seamers, there was no hope at all on the pitch. They bowled their hearts out. Hats off to them they’ve been brilliant right throughout the series.

“I thought Dhammika Prasad was brilliant, as were Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal. Even Dushmantha Chameera was excellent in the last game. There was no help from the wicket. But you can’t really blame the wicket when you’ve got 376 to get them all out.”

Pakistan chased down the target in 103.1 overs to pull off a stunning seven wicket win and with it pocket the three-match series 2-1.

The defeat was the first for Mathews and his team in the post Mahela-Sanga era. The two big guns have quit the international scene with Sangakkara due to make his final bow during next month’s Test series against India.

“It’s definitely not easy without them. We’re into an era where we don’t have Mahela and Kumar. All of us have to take responsibility and move on. No one is there forever,” said Mathews.

“It will take a bit of time, but we have to take responsibility. It was a good game from our point of view. We fought really hard. After the first couple of days both teams were even. Then we were put under a lot of pressure. We were 30 odd for 3 and then the rest of the batters fought really hard.

“Jehan Mubarak and Upul Tharanga grabbed their opportunities and played mature roles. We fought really hard to get to 376 and we never thought we would lose from there.”

Mathews said it was a tough call to leave experienced spinner Rangana Herath out of this Test.

“It was just a tactical decision, because he is still our no. 1 bowler. Unfortunately we had to leave him out because they were playing Rangana really well in the first couple of matches and Tharindu Kaushal was troubling them in the second Test. We thought that’s the way to go in this particular Test.”

Mathews acknowledged that leg-spinner Yasir Shah was the difference between the two teams.

“He’s a very good bowler. Not many loose balls in all three Test matches. He’s been accurate from the word go. He troubled most of us and we had a lot of problems with him. He will definitely end up being a very good bowler in the future.”

AFP picture by Lakruwan Wanniarachchi

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