This was supposed to be the day when Sri Lanka’s batsmen were supposed to make merry and toy around with an inexperienced associate attack. Instead, they stumbled and struggled to a nine-run win over Ireland on Sunday.
Chasing 145 for an upset, Ireland got off to a steady start – their openers taking on the Sri Lankan bowling with some quality shots and luck. Niall O’Brian and William Porterfield began well, making good use of every scoring opportunity.
The pair added 59 runs before Muttiah Muralitharan snapped up Porterfield for 31. Sri Lanka sensed an opportunity to squeeze the inexperienced Irish through some tight overs and picked up Andrew White (22). Then came a decisive Ajantha Mendis over in which he dismissed both O’Brien brothers – Kevin and Niall - in the space of 4 balls. Lasith Malinga (2/19) finished off the Irish chase, which ended at 135/7.
Earlier a second-ball duck for the in-form Tillakaratne Dilshan began Sri Lanka’s innings. Kumar Sangakkara never looked his fluent self and was dismissed for 5 leaving Sri Lanka reeling at 14/2. Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene had the job of–lifting Sri Lanka to a competitive total.
Jayasuriya, played the more sedate role, giving the strike to Jayawardene whenever possible. Jayawardene was the aggressor, playing some of the most delightful shots, coupled with deft touches on his way to a 53-ball 78.
When the Jayasuriya was dismissed after he helped Jayawardene add 67 Alex Cusack (4/18) dented Sri Lanka’s charge with wickets at regular intervals.
Having lost their last four wickets for 14 runs, the Lankans had to be content with 144/9.
At the end of the game Sangakkara was all praise for his good friend Jayawardene. “Mahela was brilliant. He's been doing this for years and he was nearly at his best today,” said Sangakkara.
“We had to win today but we didn't get a great start. The bowling was spot on. There are a few things to brush up on. They had some good partnerships. We lack a little intensity and there are some things to think about going forward.”
For his part Jayawardene was pleased to spend time out in the middle. “We have got used to having good starts but today I got the chance to bat for a period of time to help get us through,” said Jayawardene.
“We played some good cricket today. We just need to brush up on a few things,” he said.