Thursday, June 16
Start time 10.45 local (0945 GMT)
Ireland begin what they hope will be a busy period of ODI cricket
by welcoming a somewhat battered Sri Lanka across the Irish Sea for a pair of matches in Malahide. The series will provide a useful test of their progress after John Bracewell
's first year in the job of head coach.
Although Ireland have theoretically been given a pathway to reaching the 10-team 2019 World Cup, a lack of fixtures means they face an uphill struggle to reach the top eight and secure automatic qualification (West Indies, currently ranked No. 8, are 52 points clear of Ireland in 12th). But the visit of Sri Lanka, ahead of a five-match series against England, will allow Ireland to return their focus to the format that has given them greatest exposure on the world stage after a disappointing World T20.
It is only by playing the top sides that Ireland can be expected to progress and these two ODIs will be their first against a Full Member since a one-off game with Australia last August; Pakistan will also visit later in the summer, with a five-match series against fellow Associates Afghanistan in between. This all represents vital competitive game time
As they look for a first major victory in Dublin
, Ireland might be tempted to view Sri Lanka as wounded prey. Heavily beaten in the Tests against England, they have brought in several new faces (and some not so new) for the ODIs and their first challenge will be in working out a first-choice XI. Since Sri Lanka played five one-dayers against New Zealand in December-January, injuries, withdrawals and a change in selectors mean that only five of the side that played at Mount Maunganui
are available here.
Sri Lanka have a reputation as hardened Associate-beaters, however, as well as experience of playing Ireland in Dublin, having won with reasonable comfort in 2014
. Graham Ford will be hoping a change to white-ball cricket can bring out some of their native belligerence once again.
Ireland: WLLLL (last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LWLLW
's last ODI appearance came in an England shirt, at the end of the ill-fated Ashes tour of 2013-14. His time as an England-qualified Irishman was not the happiest but he remains a classy bowler, reliably effective with his county Warwickshire and set for a first home appearance in green in almost four years. The last time Rankin played at Malahide, he took 4 for 46 - but that was for England against his countrymen.
has 13 ODI hundreds to his name but has played only nine matches in the last two years (one of which was against Ireland in Dublin). His last significant contribution was even further back in time, an unbeaten 174 against India in 2013 that stands out like a lighthouse amid the rocky returns of the latter half of his career. Recalled after strong domestic form at the age of 31, he will add vital experience to a transitional side.
Ireland lost Niall O'Brien, due to a calf strain, and Stuart Thompson (personal reasons) from their original squad of 13, while Craig Young was not considered due to injury. Durham seamer Barry McCarthy
looks set for a debut, unless Max Sorensen is preferred. John Anderson provides another batting option but played the last of his three ODIs in 2014.
Ireland (possible): 1 William Porterfield (capt), 2 Paul Stirling, 3 Ed Joyce, 4 Gary Wilson (wk), 5 Kevin O'Brien, 6 Stuart Poynter, 7 George Dockrell, 8 Andy McBrine, 9 Barry McCarthy, 10 Tim Murtagh, 11 Boyd Rankin
Tillakaratne Dilshan made himself unavailable for the tour but Sri Lanka do have Kusal Perera back after his now-rescinded doping ban. Kusal Mendis could make an ODI debut, with Lahiru Thirimanne struggling for runs - although ODIs are his strongest format. Sri Lanka have several all-round options, including the uncapped (in ODIs) Dasun Shanaka, Danushka Gunathilaka and Farveez Maharoof
, whose last international appearance came in 2012.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Kusal Perera, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Lahiru Thirimanne/Kusal Mendis, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 5 Angelo Mathews (capt), 6 Dasun Shanaka/Danushka Gunathilaka, 7 Farveez Maharoof, 8 Seekkuge Prasanna, 9 Suraj Randiv, 10 Shaminda Eranga, 11 Suranga Lakmal
The surface is unlikely to be chock-full of runs, with 250 the par score in recent years and some assistance likely for seam bowling. There has been some rain around but the forecast is reasonably good for Thursday
"There's a big opportunity for us to get a series win against one of the top-ranked sides. There's no reason why we can't come away from this with a 2-0 win."
Ireland captain William Porterfield struck confident tone before the first match