Rex Clementine in Galle

Test cricket can be cruel at times. Take the case of former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin. After playing the game for 16 long years, nearly half of them as captain, he was left stranded on 99 Test matches and never got a chance to play his 100th game. So was Curtly Ambrose, who finished on 98 Tests. We Sri Lankans have treated our own legends shabbily. Both Arjuna and Aravinda finished on 93 Tests each although they could have gone onto complete the milestone of 100 Test matches.

Aravinda was told in 2002 that from that point on he will only be considered for limited overs cricket and his days playing his favourite format were over. He didn’t argue with the selectors but vented his anger on bowlers scoring a stunning double hundred in his last innings in Test cricket. There was total carnage and that was his way of saying he’ll go on his terms.

No one would doubt Mathews’ place in the side. Not that many youngsters are knocking on the door to knock off their former captain. But cricket in our part of the world at times can be a vicious circle. Already thrown out of the white ball team, his detractors can find many ways to skin him. There are terms like ‘fitness tests’, ‘youth policy’, ‘looking at the future’ and ‘an aging team’.

Mathews sealed the deal in May this year when he scored back to back hundreds in Bangladesh (199 and 145). So his place was secured until at least he completed the milestone of 100 Tests. Now,  he’s taken a fresh guard and declared he wants 10,000 Test runs. Good on him.

Sri Lanka Cricket felicitated Mathews before the start of the game with his family present. His team mates made sure that they put up a splendid show ending the day on 315 for six and they were looking set to post a competitive total, something essential in Galle in the first innings.

Mathews made 42 before getting a thin edge off Nauman Ali and was caught behind. He was involved in a crucial 75 run stand for the fourth wicket with Dinesh Chandimal.Chandimal was the top scorer in the Sri Lankan innings making 80. The former captain has been in great touch having hit back to back half-centuries in the first Test against Pakistan and a career best 206 not out against Australia in the second Test.

A hundred was there for the taking for Chandimal but he threw it away with a rash shot. His 80 contained nine fours and two sixes.Openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Oshada Fernando gave Sri Lanka a solid start adding 92 runs for the first wicket. Fernando batted superbly with excellent use of feet. He hit four fours and three lofted sixes with the third hit over the ropes brining up his seventh half-century in Test match cricket. The vey next ball after the milestone he was caught behind.

Niroshan Dickwella was retained despite much criticism and he came up with a knock that could save his place and was unbeaten on 42 at stumps having hit five fours and one six.Both teams did two changes with Pakistan giving a surprise by dropping former captain Azhar Ali. Sri Lanka handed Test debut to Dunith Wellalage.