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Where does Angelo Mathews rank among Sri Lanka’s greatest Test batters?

by Sarah Waris 5 minute read

With a composed 199 in the first Test against Bangladesh, Angelo Mathews showed, once again, that there’s no substitute for experience, hitting his first Test ton since January 2021, and reinforcing his status as one of Sri Lanka’s greatest batters.

After 95 Tests under his belt, Mathews is the fourth-highest run-scorer for Sri Lanka in Tests, standing at 6,631 runs at an average of 45.10. He is well on course to break Sanath Jayasuriya’s run-tally, who, with 6,973 runs, is just 342 runs ahead. Mathews’ average is the seventh-best among all Sri Lanka batters in Test cricket, and the third-highest among players with at least 6,000 runs, behind only Kumar Sangakkara (57.40) and Mahela Jayawardene (49.84).

No other batter from Sri Lanka has made more runs than Mathews since his debut in July 2009, and only nine players in the world have scored more than him, of which only seven batters have scored more runs at a better average.

The right-hander has garnered 12 centuries in his career, with a high score of 200*, against Zimbabwe in 2020. Mathews came close to becoming the seventh Sri Lankan to get at least two double hundreds, before he fell one run short of the milestone on Monday.

Overall, eight Sri Lanka batters have made more hundreds than Mathews, but his 37 half-centuries take his tally of fifty-plus scores to 49, again the third-best from Sri Lanka. Unsurprisingly, Sangakkara (90 fifty-plus scores) and Jayawardene (84), two titans of Sri Lanka cricket, and unarguably the two greatest batters from the country, lead the list.

Notably, Mathews’ career has coincided with a testing period for Sri Lanka’s Test team. The side was ranked fourth in the ICC Test rankings when Mathews played his first Test, and has slipped down to seventh right now, going through plenty of ups and downs. The team’s poor form has hardly had any bearing on his form, though: he’s made four hundreds and 19 fifties in defeats. No other player has made more fifty-plus scores in defeats from Sri Lanka, with Mathews often being the lone man standing for the side. He has also made 2,907 runs in losses, the second-most from the country, and is expected to cross Sangakkara’s tally of 2,938 runs soon.

What stands out for Mathews is his slightly superior record away from home. In Sri Lanka, he has made 3,463 runs at an average of 44.39 with five hundreds and 21 fifties. Overseas (including neutral venues), his average improves to 45.91, with seven hundreds. His two high scores (200* and 199) have both come away from home, and he has recorded the joint second-most fifties by a Sri Lankan abroad (16). He has also faced as many as 6,607 balls when not playing in Sri Lanka, the third-best after Sangakkara and Jayawardene. Overall, he has faced 13,663 deliveries and is third on the list of most balls faced by a Sri Lanka Test batter, signifying his grit and resilience in the middle order.

Mathews has also been at his best when playing in SENA, often regarded as the toughest combination of venues to play Test cricket in, especially for a batter from the subcontinent. He has played 20 Tests in South Africa, England, New Zealand, and Australia, making 1,427 runs at an average of 39.63. However, what catches the eye is the fifty-plus scores that he has registered. Mathews has three hundreds in SENA – only four Sri Lankans have more – and eight fifties. Overall, he has notched up 11 fifty-plus scores in SENA and is joint-second on the list, tied with Jayawardene, who played 11 more Tests than Mathews in SENA. Sangakkara once again tops the charts.

The 34-year-old was also the captain of Sri Lanka for four years, from 2013 to 2017, a period where he led the team in 34 games. Though he did not taste much success as a skipper, with the team losing 15 games, he took on the responsibility of leading from the front, scoring 2,802 runs, the most by any player from the side in this period. Only one captain – Jayawardene – has made more runs than Mathews at a batter average in Sri Lanka’s Test history.

Although Mathews last picked a wicket with the ball in 2017, his 33 Test scalps do add to his overall legacy. Only Jayasuriya has scored more runs and picked up more wickets than him. Even if Mathews does not add to his wickets tally any further, his batting records have ensured that he ends as one of Sri Lanka’s finest.

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