Risk-free Ireland need panache
Match factsThursday, May 8, 2014
Start time 1045 (0945 GMT)
Lovely as the Clontarf ground is, it was clear on Tuesday, Sri Lanka would rather have been playing somewhere else. The pre-game talk was a little short of pep. The batting was lackadaisical at times (several players probably wore more layers than the number of minutes they spent at the crease). The yapping that normally welcomes opposition batsmen to the crease was muted, and though the fielding was sharp, there was stiffness in the performance. Still, despite the cold and the absence of six top players, Sri Lanka were unblinkingly professional; winning the crucial moments to put the opposition away. There is little to fault in that.
Ireland will know Tuesday was their best opportunity to scalp a top-eight team at Clontarf for the first time. With a win in the bag, Sri Lanka are likely to be a stiffer opposition this time, but vulnerabilities remain. Sri Lanka's batting remains unsteady. Often one of the three seniors would lead a recovery if early wickets are lost, but in this team, that responsibility may largely fall to Angelo Mathews, who is a swiftly improving player, but one who is still coming to terms with his numerous roles in the side. Much also depends on the accuracy of Sri Lanka's reading of the kind of conditions almost every man in the dressing room is unfamiliar with.
But the hosts would do well to unearth panache in their own game, to throw Sri Lanka off kilter. On Tuesday, Ireland largely played steady, risk-free cricket, and still lost by 79 runs. The bowlers hit good lines, but did not snuff out enough Sri Lanka wickets to ensure there would be no resurgence. The batsmen played sensibly, but were undone by Sri Lanka's superior craft and skill. A bold new bowling plan or a fearless outlook with the bat may be their best chance to upset a team, that this year, has seemed allergic to losing limited overs matches.
Form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
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In the spotlight
Tim Murtagh was Ireland's star with the ball on Tuesday, consistently beating the left-handers' outside edge with his angle and a little bit of away-seam. With four left-handers in Sri Lanka's top six, Murtagh may consider bowling a fuller, more aggressive length. He may travel for runs that way, but Ireland need an out-and-out strike bowler if they are to topple Sri Lanka, and on Tuesday's evidence, Murtagh could be that man.
A week after Sri Lanka's chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya said Sri Lanka would need fast-bowling allrounders for their World Cup campaign, Nuwan Kulasekara outlined his continued progress toward that role with a vital 42 not out in the first match. Already perhaps the most reliable bowler in the attack, Kulasekara is becoming one of the team's most indispensable assets.
Offspinner Andy McBrine sits in reserve for Ireland, but it is unlikely he will play. The hosts have a settled batting order, which means Andrew Poynter may miss out again.
Ireland (probable): 1 William Porterfield (capt), 2 Paul Stirling, 3 Ed Joyce, 4 Niall O'Brien, 5 Gary Wilson (wk), 6 Kevin O'Brien, 7 Alex Cusack, 8 Stuart Thompson, 9 Max Sorensen, 10 George Dockrell, 11 Tim Murtagh
Sri Lanka are unlikely to tinker either.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1. Kusal Perera, 2. Upul Tharanga, 3. Lahiru Thirimanne, 4. Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 5. Angelo Mathews (capt) 6. Kithuruwan Vithanage, 7. Ashan Priyanjan, 8. Nuwan Kulasekara, 9. Sachithra Senanayake, 10. Ajantha Mendis, 11. Suranga Lakmal
Pitch and conditions
There was some dampness in the pitch on Tuesday, and scoring appeared difficult off both seamers and spin bowlers. Word is, a different surface will be used for this match, but expect more of the same.
Stats and trivia
- Ireland have not defeated a full-member nation at Clontarf in 17 attempts
- Sri Lanka have now won 16 out of 17 limited-overs internationals played this year
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando