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Andrew Fidel Fernando and David Hopps
May 5, 2014
Sri Lanka will shudder at the thought of losing to an Associate nation for the usual reasons, but a drawn or lost series could also be particularly grim for interim coach Marvan Atapattu, whose audition for the permanent job begins with this trip.
The loss of Thisara Perera has left the squad looking decidedly green, particularly in foreign conditions. Aside from Thirimanne, and increasingly, Angelo Mathews, few of the top order possess the temperament to thrive on early-season Irish pitches. Sri Lanka are without six frontline players, five rested seniors and Thisara Perera, who failed to acquire an Ireland visa thanks to his time at the IPL.
Predictably, this leg of the tour is about blooding youngsters - particularly batsmen. Kithuruwan Vithanage and Ashan Priyanjan will almost certainly have places in the middle order, and while Priyanjan appears the frontrunner to take a place in Sri Lanka's ODI squad to England, Vithanage has the chance to force himself into the mix.
So consistent has been the narrative as Ireland inch ever closer towards acceptance among cricket's elite that they should discover a few setbacks along the way has been hard for some to comprehend. Ireland's defeat against Netherlands as they failed to qualify for the finals of World Twenty20 was one such moment. Time is, nevertheless, a great healer and six weeks on Ireland go into this week's ODI series against Sri Lanka as the underdogs once again.
Nine months out from a third World Cup appearance, there are issues - uncovered during the winter - that need addressing. Consistency in selection has been the cornerstone of recent success but chinks are appearing: Boyd Rankin's decision to decamp, the retirement of Trent Johnston and the absence of John Mooney have brought uncertainty in the lower order. With little game time between now and the World Cup in Australia/New Zealand, there is scant opportunity for experimentation.
In the spotlight
Making 23-year-old Dinesh Chandimal the T20 captain and ODI and Test vice-captain was always a gamble, but a year after he had been appointed, the selectors effectively conceded it had not paid off, when they relieved Chandimal of his leadership roles. Despite his foundering in Asia, Chandimal remains a good prospect, not only because of a Test record that remains decent, but because he has prospered in faster, bouncier conditions Sri Lanka batsmen often take years to master. Without a clot of seniors blocking out top-order spots in Ireland, Chandimal will likely have the chance to choose where he bats. He will probably be retained for the England ODIs regardless of his output in Dublin, but at least one good score against Ireland may help put the edge back into his cricket.
Ireland have six players released by their English counties to play in this series including captain Will Porterfield from Warwickshire and opening bowler Tim Murtagh from Middlesex.
Ireland (possibly) 1 William Porterfield (capt), 2 Paul Stirling, 3 Ed Joyce, 4 Niall O'Brien, 5 Gary Wilson (wkt), 6 Kevin O'Brien, 7 Andrew Poynter, 8 Stuart Thompson, 9 Max Sorensen, 10 George Dockrell, 11 Tim Murtagh
Sri Lanka may be tempted to open with Upul Tharanga, in order to allow Lahiru Thirimanne a chance at batting at his favoured no. 3 spot, but that may create complications with the jostle for middle order positions. Fast bowlers Shaminda Eranga and Dhammika Prasad will also complete for a place.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1. Kusal Perera, 2. Upul Tharanga, 3. Lahiru Thirimanne, 4. Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 5. Kithuruwan Vithanage, 6. Ashan Priyanjan, 7. Angelo Mathews (c), 8. Nuwan Kulasekara, 9. Sachithra Senanayake, 10. Dhammika Prasad/Shaminda Eranga, 11. Suranga Lakmal
Pitch and conditions
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