Abu Dhabi: Angelo Mathews said Saturday he has justified his place as captain of Sri Lanka team after scoring marathon century in the drawn first Test against Pakistan. Mathews grounded an unbeaten 157 in 7 1/2 hours in Sri Lanka's mammoth total of 480-5 declared in the second innings to go along with his 91 in the first innings.
Pakistan were forced to bat out for a draw Saturday in pursuit of 302-run target on the last day as they finished at 158-2. "I am really happy and hope I have justified my place in the team," Mathews said after scoring his career-best knock in Test cricket.
The Sri Lanka captain showed no signs of a nine-month break from Test cricket since Sri Lanka last played against Bangladesh in March 2013 while senior pros Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara struggled on a batting-friendly wicket. Pakistan took a sizeable first innings lead of 179 runs after dismissing Sri Lanka for 204 on the first day as Younis Khan (136) and captain Misbah-ul-Haq (135) scored centuries in a total of 383.
Despite losing last six first innings wickets for 56 runs, Pakistan were looking for a 1-0 lead in the three-match series when they had reduced Sri Lanka to 186-4 by the third day for an overall lead of just seven runs that included key wickets of Sangakkara and Jayawardene.
But Mathews featured in two big century stands with his deputy Dinesh Chandimal (89) and Prasanna Jayawardene (63 not out) in a superb fightback to force Pakistan to settle for a draw on the last day. "We had six batters in the dressing room and we had to do the job," Mathews said. "We knew we needed to put our hands up and try to get a big one."
Pakistan bowlers toiled hard on the fourth day for the sole wicket of Chandimal as Mathews batted rock solidly against the pace trio of Junaid Khan, Bilawal Bhatti and Rahat Ali. Offspinner Saeed Ajmal also could not trouble Mathews with his "doosra" - a ball that spins away from the right-handed batsman - as Sri Lanka mounted pressure on Pakistan by getting its second best fourth innings total in T
"I knew I can't afford to lose my wicket because we only had Prasanna as the other batter," he said of his 138-run partnership with Chandimal. "The way the Pakistanis were bowling, they were pretty sharp ... we wanted to bat through, not to waste time, score some runs and put them under pressure."
Mathews and Prasanna took 90 minutes to beef up Sri Lanka's lead beyond the 300-run mark on the last day as the wicket eased out considerably for batting. "We had to make sure that we don't get to a losing position, we needed to get into a strong position to bowl them out," Mathews said. "We knew the wicket wasn't doing that much so we needed some time to get them out as well, but we thought bat a few overs, get the 300-run mark, because in a couple of sessions it's not easy to score that 300."