Angelo Mathews averaged 47.27, 63.66 and 52.5 in 2016, 2017 and 2018 in ODIs. In a period where Sri Lanka lost 42 of their 65 ODIs, Mathews was a silver lining, making runs and standing tall amidst a group of failing batsmen.
Since the Champions Trophy in 2017, Mathews had made 798 runs in 22 matches at an average of 53.2 including a hundred and four half-centuries coming into the World Cup. No other Sri Lankan batsmen had an average above 50 in this time frame. Only two - Lahiru Thirimanne and Danushka Gunathilaka - averaged 40 or more. Mathews was clearly Sri Lanka's biggest hope in the batting department as they entered the World Cup as underdogs.
But Mathews began the World Cup with back to back ducks against New Zealand and Afghanistan. He then had a third single-digit score against Australia. Sri Lanka seemed to be struggling on the batting front without Mathews contributing.
Against England, when his mates collapsed in a heap, Mathews held the fort. He was unbeaten on 85 in 115 balls as Sri Lanka ambled along to 232. It eventually proved to be enough on a tricky wicket and Mathews, who had coped criticism for his strike rate in the first innings, was suddenly hailed for a gritty knock.
But cometh the match against South Africa, Mathews was back to being ineffective. His 11 took up 29 balls and came soon after Sri Lanka had slammed 67 runs in the first powerplay before a familiar mid-innings collapse. His inconsistent form in this World Cup has been hurting Sri Lanka whose batting has appeared thin without him contributing.
But Mathews has never had a fruitful ICC tournament. While his overall career reads perfectly respectable - an average of 41.56 in 209 games - his World Cup and ICC Champions Trophy records aren't quite good. In World Cups, Mathews averages 32.83 in 20 ODIs with just two scores of 50 or more. The 85* against England a few days back is his highest World Cup score.
Being Sri Lanka's most experienced batsmen, Mathews was expected to step up and drop anchor around a young team. But instead, he has struggled with himself in four out of five matches in the World Cup so far. That Sri Lanka has only won one of those four games - that against Afghanistan - shows why Mathews is a crucial player for them.
Without him stepping up, Sri Lanka have lost wickets at frequent intervals post the first 15 overs. The run rate has also dipped in this time frame. In overs 1-10, Sri Lanka have struck at a rate of 6.64 this World Cup with a runs/wicket ratio of 47.4. In overs 11-40, the run rate is 4.2 and the runs/wicket is 17.4. They have failed to accelerate and control the fall of wickets with Mathews struggling for form.
His last century in the format came in 2017. He only has one other century in ODIs - in 2014 - but the frequency of making half-centuries before meant that Sri Lanka could always rely on him.
Even when he had a good time between 2016 and 2019, Mathews' strike rate was a cause for concern. In 2017 and 2018, his strike rate lurked in the 70s.
In 2019, the strike rate has dropped to a very concerning 60.22 and there aren't enough runs to save him. In 6 matches, he has just 106 runs with 85 of them coming in a single match. With Sri Lanka aiming to challenge for a semi-final spot, they need Mathews to step up and deliver in the remaining two matches against West Indies and India.