Mathews backs Malinga to get 'back in the groove'

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Skipper Angelo Mathews defended the waning form of opening bowlers Nuwan Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga, after Sri Lanka secured a convincing 77-run win over Pakistan in the second ODI in Hambantota.

Skipper Angelo Mathews defended the waning form of opening bowlers Nuwan Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga, after Sri Lanka secured a convincing 77-run win over Pakistan in the second ODI in Hambantota.

Kulasekara went without a wicket in the series opener at the same venue earlier this month – and again didn't manage a breakthrough on Tuesday. Malinga, meanwhile, has proved very expensive throughout the series.

The Sri Lankans managed to square the series despite the pair's collective shortfall – and are likely to retain leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna for the decider in Dambulla later this week.

Prasanna, selected ahead of batsman Dinesh Chandimal, delivered telling figures of two for 36 – including the pivotal dismissals of half-centurions Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad.

"It was a crucial toss to win because the wicket was getting slower and slower. We bowled badly in the first 10 overs, but then pulled it back very well. We will be a lot more confident now going into the last match," said Mathews.

"The spinners came to the party and did a good job. Seekkuge was absolutely brilliant. Malinga and Kulasekara are coming after a long break, and they will be back in the groove."

The participation of veteran batsman Mahela Jayawardene in Saturday's finale will remain in the balance until the extent of the injury sustained during the second ODI is ascertained. "Mahela wasn't on the field. He has a bit of a niggle, and hopefully he will be back for the next game," concluded Mathews.

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