- June 2, 2023
Hosts Sri Lanka registered back-to-back innings victories against Ireland in a 2-game test series. The series was thoroughly dominated by the Asian team and the Irish players looked clueless in both the games. Ireland is a relatively newer test-playing nation and the series would be a learning curve for them. After a one-sided first game, Ireland did come up with some fight in the second game and put up a better show with the bat in the first innings, amassing 492 runs in what was supposed to be a fighting total. However, the Sri Lankan batsmen just took on the touring bowlers for a ride and ended up with an innings victory despite conceding that much in the first innings.
As Sri Lanka whitewashes Ireland, Prabath Jayasuriya continues his dream run in the red ball game taking seventeen wickets in the series, while Kusal Mendis came back to his batting form with a century and a double century in his two innings earning him the Man of the Series trophy.
Team effort for the Lankans
Sri Lanka has been a tough side to beat in the subcontinent conditions. The result of the series should come as no surprise to anyone. However, what mattered is that all the players were chipped in with their contributions, be it the batting or the bowling department. Player of the series Kusal Mendis has not been at the top of his batting form and this series came as a good opportunity for him to get some runs under his name. In the first match, he scored a massive 140, and taking that a notch higher in the second game, he scored a double century, totaling 385 runs in the two innings. Captain Dimuth Karunaratne who has been the most consistent test batsman for Sri Lanka also scored two centuries in his two innings.
Another highlight for Sri Lanka would be the young opener Nishan Madhushanka, who had only played one test match before this series, getting a double century in the second game. Across the two innings, six Sri Lankan batsmen reached the triple-figure mark including veterans Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews. These are really good signs for the hosts before they face Pakistan next in July.
The bowlers were equally impressive in the two games for Sri Lanka. Prabath Jayasuriya was the star of their bowling attack taking two 5-fers in the four innings. The left-arm spinner also became the fastest spinner to take 50 wickets in the test matches as he dismissed Paul Stirling in the second innings, reaching the milestone in only his seventh game. Despite the spinners dominating the show, the Sri Lankan pace duo of left-arm Vishwa Fernando and right-arm Ashita Fernando also bowled well and got a fair number of wickets on spin-friendly pitches.
Sri Lanka came within striking distance of playing the finals of the World Test Championship 2021-23 cycle. Despite Ireland being a relatively weaker opponent in these conditions in the longest format, the Sri Lankan side would like to take confidence from the series victory and try to repeat the performance against Pakistan later in the summer.
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Positives for Ireland in the Test Series
While the conditions were too alien for the Irish side, some of their batters did try to adjust accordingly and played some good knocks. Especially in the first innings of the second game, two Irish batsmen – experienced Paul Stirling and the allrounder Curtis Camphor scored centuries and took them to a massive total of 492 runs. That inning also saw good contributions from captain Andy Balbirnie and wicketkeeper Lorcan Tucker who scored 95 and 80 runs respectively. The 19-year-old Harry Tector displayed some good batting temperament in both games, being the most consistent Irish batsman and also the highest scorer for them in the test series averaging over 44.
However, what let the tourists down was the dismal bowling performances from some of their experienced campaigners. Senior left-arm spinner George Dockrell took only one wicket and conceded over 100 runs at an economy of over 5 runs per over in the first game on a pitch where the Sri Lankan spinners took 15 wickets. The other senior spinner in the team, Andy McBrine also didn’t do much to inspire some confidence with his bowling.
As Ireland will venture more into the longest format, they need some good wicket-taking spinners in the side and also batters with a good temperament to play spin as spin bowling is a significant component of the red ball game in any corner of the world. The test series against Sri Lanka would be a good learning curve for the Irish and irrespective of the results, the men in green should work upon the learnings to repeat their formidable white ball performances in this format as well.