Sri Lankan captain regretted three dropped catches let his team down in a crucial must-win game against Pakistan at Cardiff, losing by three wickets in a tense finish on Monday.
Chasing 237 to win Pakistan were down and out at 162-7 but Sarfraz Ahmed (61 not out) and Mohammad Amir (28 not out) played out of their skins during a match turning 75-run unbroken stand for the eighth wicket.
But Sarfraz was lucky to get two lives, first when on 38 he lobbed a catch to mid-on where an experienced Thisara Prera grassed an easy catch off Lasith Malinga.
Two runs later Sarfraz was again given a lease of life when substitute fielder Seekkugge Prassana tried valiantly to catch a mistimed hook, again off Malinga, but to see the ball dropping out of his hands.
Danushka Gunatilake also dropped a catch off Malinga in the first over of the innings with Pakistan yet to score a run.
Mathews admitted drop catches made the difference.
“Looking at today’s performance, well, I thought we were pathetic once again. If we had held those catches, it would have been a different story today, especially at very crucial times — first over, and towards the end, where we let go of Sarfraz was very crucial.
“Being an international team — well, I thought we’ve improved a little bit, but today was not really our day.”
Earlier Sri Lanka were bowled out for 236 in 49.2 overs with Junaid Khan (3-40), Hasan Ali (3-43) and two wickets each by Amir and debutant Fahim Ashraf sharing the wickets.
Mathews said his players had worked hard to improve their fielding but it was not their day.
“Well, the boys have worked extremely hard. Today, yes, we dropped three catches, but there has been a genuine effort from the boys and from the support staff, and we’ve expressed a lot about our fielding, and we’ve talked about a lot, and we put a lot of energy on our fielding. So, yes, there has been a genuine effort on fielding.
“I mean, when you lose a game, you can always say it was poor batting, it was poor fielding, and it was poor bowling, but I thought — you know, it was kind of a funny wicket today. Yes, we were 30, 40 runs short, obviously, but I’m really proud of the guys, the way they came out and tried to defend that. We had that in our bags, but unfortunately, the fielding let us down.”
Mathews praised Sarfraz and Amir’s batting.
“Yes, I mean, the — I should mention the bowlers’ effort. They batted really well as well, and they came out and bowled really well as well. Unfortunately, they couldn’t win us the game, but really proud of the bowlers, the way they bowled and batted today.”
Asked about Malinga’s international future, Mathews showed ignorance on fast bowler’s future plans.
“I’m not really sure. He hasn’t spoken anything about it, but he’s been a great servant for Sri Lanka cricket. He’s been fantastic. We saw the effort that he put in today as well.
“You know, it was unfortunate that we dropped his catches as well today, and he would have been a different bowler, but still he came out and gave his heart out, and, yeah, he is a champion bowler for us.”