Mathews hit a career-best 157 not out following his 91 in the first knock to help SL avert a probable defeat after Pakistan dominated the first three days.
Abu Dhabi: Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq praised his counterpart Angelo Mathews for his fightback which earned Sri Lanka a respectable draw in the first test in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Mathews hit a career-best 157 not out following his 91 in the first knock to help Sri Lanka avert a probable defeat after Pakistan dominated the first three days.
Pakistan had gained a valuable 179-run lead over Sri Lanka's first innings total of 204 and had their rivals in a spot of bother at 186-4 on day three.
But Mathews put on 138 for the fifth wicket with Dinesh Chandimal (89) and unbroken 156 for the sixth wicket with Prasanna Jayawardene (63 not out) to pull Sri Lanka out of trouble.
Set a challenging 302 in 67 overs on the last day, Pakistan finished on 158-2.
Misbah said Mathews turned the match on its head.
"Test cricket is all about this. In getting somebody out in the first innings, you can't just think you won the match," said Misbah.
"This is how teams fight back, they fought hard and batted well and I think this test ends up even-Stevens and both did really well. Mathews batted very well and turned the match."
Misbah refused to agree his team did not try to achieve the target.
"No I don't think so .. with first three wickets we were just trying to build partnership, that was our plan that if we can reach around of 170 - 180 with eight or nine wicekts in hand then we can push onward but when Ahmed Shahzad got out then we thought we should go for the draw," said Misbah, who hoped the pitch would assist spinners more in the second test starting in Dubai on Wednesday.
"Dubai must be different and the ball started to spin on the third day so there must be an important role of the spinner there," said Misbah.
Offspinner Saeed Ajmal, who took 18 wickets in Pakistan's 1-0 series win here in 2011, went wicket-less in his 49 overs on a Sheikh Zayed Stadium pitch which eased out for batsmen after first day.
Mathews said he went for safety-first on the fifth day.
"First of all we had to make sure that we didn't get into a losing position," said Mathews, who batted for an hour and 30 minutes before declaring at 420-5.
"It was a see-saw game and they dominated for the first three days and it was remarkable to stage a comeback and I am happy that we did that through our batting," said Mathews.
"This was the best I have batted for Sri Lanka and I am proud to have justified my place in the team," he said.