By Srian Obeyesekere
Dimuth Karunaratne led Sri Lanka holds the aces in the historic first ever test match against minnows Ireland in the historic first ever test match between the two countries that gets underway at the Galle International Cricket Stadium tomorrow. But for the 11th full member of the ICC fold Andrew Balbirnie’s little known team, the thrust to locking horns with top flight opposition will be to realising their country pep up adrenaline pumping dream slogan word, ‘When Irish eyes are smiling, the whole world is smiling’ to breaking a barren run of losing all 4 tests since gaining test status on June 22, 2017.
Ireland lost their inaugural test match to Pakistan in 2018, and has also been beaten by Afghanistan, Bangladesh and England. But the one rallying pep up against the odd’s Balbirnie and his team would draw from is the impressive ODI record of 75 wins from 185 exchanges and 66 T20 wins from 147 that has been a sword edge to Ireland making headway in world cricket’s two most action packed formats. It’s best illustrated by the fact that Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien holds the unique fastest century record in World Cup history off 50 balls versus England on March 2, 2011. Now retired, he did represent his country in the lost inaugural test to Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the 2-match series that is a part of the ICC World Test Championship, will be of importance to Sri Lanka to getting back on track following the two recent away losses to New Zealand. The Lankans will do well to be wise to the fact that no team can be taken for granted and leave no room for complacency.
Ireland’s captain Balbirnie has scored a highest of 82 from the four outings which is modest going given the little exposure in the firmament. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka carries a mixture of experience and youth. Counting two veterans in skipper Dimuth Karunaratne and Angelo Matthews who have scored over 13,000 runs between them and 14 tests centuries, young 23-year old batting sensation Nishan Madushka who debuted against New Zealand with a highest of 39 against the odds, is the hype to big doings on the back of a phenomenal entry scoring a double century against the Enlarged Lions for a Board XI and 1000 domestic runs in just five innings.
Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne (Capt.), Dinesh Chandimal (wk). Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Matthews, Nishan Madushka, Kamindu Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Ramesh Mendis, Lasith Embuldeniya, Prabath Jayasuriya, Dushan Hemantha, Vishwa Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Milan Rathnayake.
Ireland: Andrew Balbirnie (Capt.), Mark Adair, Curtis Compher. Murray Commins, George Dockrell, Fionn Hand, Graham Hume, Matthew Humphreys, Thomas Mayes, Andrew McBrine, James McCollum, P.J. Moor, Henry Tector (wk), Ben While.