Colombo - Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews on Monday lavished praise on his ace spinners for nearly winning his team the second Test against South Africa with their lion-hearted effort.
As it happened: Sri Lanka v South Africa
The hosts were agonisingly close to victory, having taken eight
wickets in the second innings, but South Africa's tailenders hung on to
snatch a draw in the end.
Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath was
almost unplayable on a deceptively turning track at the SSC ground,
conceding just 40 runs off 45 overs for five wickets.
Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera was also effective, picking 3-60 off 44 overs.
The duo bowled relentlessly, helping Sri Lanka complete 94 overs on the fifth and final day despite several rain interruptions.
like to make a special mention about Herath and Perera for the effort
that they put in," Mathews told reporters after the game ended.
were unbelievable. It was always going to be hard to dismiss (the South
Africans) but they put their hearts out to help us win the game.
Unfortunately we could not pull it off."
Mathews said the team was gutted because the draw handed South Africa their first Test series win on the island in 21 years.
South Africa had won the opening Test in Galle by 153 runs to go 1-0 up in the two-Test series."We
all wanted to win this game because we knew we didn't play well in
Galle. All of us were hungry to win this game. I saw that hunger in all
the eleven of us but unfortunately the South Africans held on," Mathews
The Sri Lankan skipper defended the ploy to play three
specialist spinners in the match although Ajantha Mendis came a cropper
with the ball, going wicketless in the two innings.
"We had to take that chance. We knew our seamers won't trouble them as much our spinners.
"We thought Mendis could make a difference but he had quite a bad game," he said.
Rival captain Hashim Amla also gave credit to Herath and Perera for making it a tight finish for them in the end.
was a slow scoring Test match for us but I think the credit goes to the
spinners and the Sri Lankan team who really made it difficult for us
out there," said Amla, 31.
"There were nerves, tension,
fingernails got bitten in the dressing room. It was emotionally draining
to watch the guys try and save the game for us. We almost reached our
Amla said it was a "pleasing feeling" to win his first series as captain and see the team jump on top of world Test rankings.
"But to be honest, our primary aim was not to get to number one. (Our aim) was to find a winning formula for a newish team.
"Not many foreign teams come to Sri Lanka and win series. So I am thankful to the team for showing so much commitment."
Africa are in a rebuilding phase after the retirement of their
long-standing skipper Graeme Smith and legendary all-rounder Jacques
Amla was named the captain last month, becoming the first non-white player to lead the Test team in a full-time capacity.