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07 May 201411:06 By Ryan Bailey

Bowlers give Sri Lanka 79-run win

Ireland impresses with the ball but falls well short of expectations with bat

Bowlers give Sri Lanka 79-run win - Cricket News

Ajantha Mendis of Sri Lanka picks up three wickets against Ireland.

One of the biggest challenges facing Sri Lanka, according to Angelo Mathews, in the first bit of this six-week tour of the United Kingdom, is to attune to the early-season conditions it’ll encounter. While the thermals remained very much a necessity in Dublin, Sri Lanka warmed to the task laudably to record what was in the end a very comfortable 79-run victory over Ireland in its first One-Day International on Tuesday (May 6).

It was, however, another case of what could have been for Ireland as the hardy punters, who braved the piercing early-May elements, headed home disappointed. At the halfway stage, it would have harboured hopes of another famous scalp – to add to its lengthening list – and a first on home soil, with good reason too.

A dogged and unrelenting bowling display from Ireland – restricting Sri Lanka to 219 for 8 – had made it favourites on a surface that yielded full value for shots. Not for the first time, though, Ireland was left to rue a missed opportunity. From the moment Nuwan Kulasekara bowled Paul Stirling in the second over of the chase, the odds on an upset lengthened.

William Porterfield and Niall O’Brien steadied proceedings thereafter but a five-over period, in which Ireland went from 63 for 2 to 74 for 6, drained any life from the innings and prompted many of those in the stands to seek refuge in the warmth of an inner sanctuary.

For Marvan Atapattu, the newly appointed Sri Lanka head coach, it was a satisfactory if not perfect start to his reign. There would be reservations about the application of some of the batsmen in conditions likely to be faced across the water, but a defeat to an associate nation in his first game in charge was avoided.

The most pleasing aspect of the win for the new management will, nonetheless, be the manner in which it was achieved. With many of their stalwarts missing, the second rung stood up and showcased its proficiency at the highest level.

It was, however, a couple of proven performers that wrestled the ascendancy from the vigorous hosts in the space of a couple of overs. Having bludgeoned an unbeaten 42 with the bat, Kulasekara bowled with great discipline on his way to two wickets, while Ajantha Mendis and Suranga Lakmal took three apiece to run through the Ireland order.

Lakmal found the edge of Ed Joyce, for a duck, and then returned to account for the dangerous Kevin O’Brien, who mistimed a pull straight to midwicket first ball, and then Alex Cusack. By that stage, Ireland’s hopes had gone on the back of an ultimately decisive five-over period. Niall O’Brien had played positively and looked in good touch as he crunched five boundaries around the ground but he became Mendis’s first victim on 33.

His departure sparked a collapse. The next over, a horrible mix-up between Porterfield and Gary Wilson ended with both batsmen finding themselves at the same end, and although Porterfield tried to sacrifice his wicket, it was Wilson who had to go. Porterfield tried to atone for his error but only managed to swat Mendis to Kusal Perera at deep midwicket for 37 either side of the wickets of Stuart Thompson and Cusack. The tail provided some late resistance but only added gloss to the scorecard that showed Ireland’s lowest total – 140 all out – at the North Dublin venue in ODIs.

Earlier, there was little surprise that Porterfield, upon winning the toss, asked Sri Lanka to bat on a surface that was expected to aim the seamers. The Ireland bowlers managed to utilise the favourable conditions from the outset as Tim Murtagh struck in the first over to set the tone for what was to follow.

After Perera had trudged back to the pavilion, caught at second slip by Kevin O’Brien, Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal dropped anchor. They was watchful, but after managing to negotiate the initial onslaught neither could kick on.

Porterfield rotated his bowlers to great effect as Ireland managed to take wickets at regular intervals to maintain a stranglehold on the proceedings. Mathews threatened to wrestle back some ascendancy but his charmed existence came to an end on 30 when Niall O’Brien ran him out brilliantly. The departure of the captain, however, provided the platform for the lower-order batsmen to free their arms.

First, Kulasekara swatted Cusack over mid-on for a flat six and, in the same over, dabbed one down to third man for a second boundary. Ashan Priyanjan, who scored an impressive 31, ably supported him.

Mendis added some late gloss with a flurry of boundaries, including an incredible reverse sweep off fast bowler Max Sorensen in the final over, to thrust his side up past 200.

At the end of play, Mathews admitted he was “always confident of defending the total”, but he could never have envisaged it was going to be that easy.