By Shehan Daniel reporting from Durham
Angelo Mathews took the key game-changing breakthrough against the West Indies on Monday, a moment which the former captain volunteered for despite having virtually given up on his bowling.
With the West Indies not giving up on their chase of 339, a World Cup record if successful, Captain Dimuth Karunaratne found himself short on options, with three of his main bowlers having completed their quotas.
Jefferey Vandersay, his fourth front line option had gone for 50 runs off his seven overs, and was not a viable option in the last 10 overs of the match.
It was this situation, knowing his team would need someone to bowl a couple of overs that compelled Mathews to volunteer to bowl, even though he had not practiced his bowling in eight months.
He was given the 48th over of the game with the West Indies requiring 31 to win off the last three overs.
And on his very first ball, Mathews dismissed Pooran, caught behind which proved to be the final plot twist in an enthralling game.
“I haven’t been bowling in the nets at all. That was the first ball and I got Pooran out and that was after eight months. We knew that we had to make up two overs. We couldn’t just bowl the spinner towards the end when Pooran was batting beautifully, so I said to the captain, “Look, I have a bit of experience, so I’ll just try bowling the two overs,” Mathews said after the match.
“If I got injured at that time, I wouldn’t have regretted it because we had the game in our hands and we needed the bowler,” he added.
Injuries have, after all, restricted Mathews from bowling and playing as the all-rounder he came into the team as, which has now put his batting under the microscope and his contributions in that role often been questioned.
On Monday, however, Mathews stepped up and delivered when the team needed it, even if winning had no consequence on their World Cup campaign, and produced just another match-clinching contribution from a player who has a history of such moments in his career.
He had also made a contribution of 26 off 20 balls during Sri Lanka’s innings.
“I’m a guy who wants to take up a challenge, at any given time. And I have played quite a number of ODIs, before this and I’ve got a little bit of experience playing all three formats, bowling in different occasions, different situations, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do at the time and I’m glad that I was able to do it. Thinking it is something else. Doing that is something else. Maybe my experience helped. And we had no choice, too. So I had to bowl that couple of overs,” Mathews added.
He didn’t rule out returning to bowling more often.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to build it up before the World Cup. Glad that I was able to, you know, help the team out bowling a couple of overs today, but I’m trying my best to start bowling as soon as possible going forward,” he said.
Pooran’s sensational innings, having come to the crease when West Indies were 71 for 3 in the 16th over, was supported by contributions from his middle-lower-order partners, most notably Fabian Allen.
“He (Allen) was batting brilliantly, too. We needed one wicket as soon as possible when they were getting going and they were hitting it clean. Our bowlers didn’t have answers to how they played at the time. All the bowlers tried their extreme best and we needed a little bit of luck towards that latter part of the innings and we were fortunate to get that run-out,” Mathews added.