As match preparation for Ireland’s first international of the season, against Sri Lanka at Clontarf tomorrow (10.45am start), the Newstalk inter-provincial did not go exactly as planned.
Kevin O’Brien scored 98 from 67 balls, as Leinster Lightning beat the North West Warriors, but that was the only positive. The bowling was something else.
O’Brien, Max Sorensen and George Dockrell, who can all expect to be facing the World Twenty20 champions, bowled 25 overs between them and conceded 150 runs without taking a wicket while Stuart Thompson and Andy McBrine, who are also in this week’s Ireland squad, may have taken three wickets but their 15 overs went for 96.
McBrine, not for the first time this year, was the pick of the bowlers and deserved his two wickets, the only Warriors bowler to stand up to the brutal assault by O’Brien and Andrew Balbirnie (103 not out) which dominated the Lightning innings.
In just 21 overs, they put on 187 with McBrine bowling eight of those overs and giving up only four boundaries. In the same period, 15 were plundered from the other end, giving an idea of the skipper’s relative control. He should be the second spinner tomorrow — or, dare I say, even the first.
Like McBrine, Dockrell ‘only’ went for five an over but the fact that Lightning skipper John Mooney could not even trust him with a 10th over at the death showed that the Somerset slow left armer, still unused at county level this season, needs many more overs under his belt. He needs an accurate start tomorrow.
Andrew Poynter, despite an encouraging winter on his return to the international team — after 17 months out of the picture — did himself no favours at The Hills on Saturday, caught behind early on with Niall O’Brien, surely a certainty to be selected after his good start to the season for Leicestershire.
He may be out of favour in Twenty20 cricket but he has played in the last 15 ODIs for which he has been available.
The Ireland batting though — much like the inter-provincial action which saw 539 runs scored in 88 overs before rain prematurely ended the match with Lightning 19 runs ahead on Duckworth/Lewis — is not a concern. Captain William Porterfield, Ed Joyce and the elder O’Brien have all scored centuries for their counties in April and Ireland’s three 50 over-totals last year against Pakistan and England last year were 275, 229 and 269. Significantly, they didn’t win any of the games.
So, as usual, the spotlight will be on bowlers this week — the teams play a second ODI, also at Clontarf, on Thursday — and despite the absence of star batsmen Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara from the Sri Lanka line-up, it will be a major step-up for the Ireland bowlers to what they have been used to this season.
National coach Phil Simmons is also sweating on the fitness of Alex Cusack who had to pull out of the inter-pro with a groin injury but the Clontarf all-rounder has missed the last five ODIs and the World Cup is now only nine months away.
The Sri Lankans trained at Clontarf yesterday, and although five of their biggest names are missing, captain Angelo Mathews has been skipper in seven Test matches and averages 44 in the 32 ODIs when he has been in charge, while Upal Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal and new vice-captain Lahiru Thirimanne have records which speak for themselves.
Meanwhile, If it wasn’t for the Balbirnie-O’Brien partnership, the Warriors would have repeated their victory at Strabane last season after an unbroken fifth wicket stand of 105 between the Thompsons, Stuart and Johnny, had helped the North West side to an imposing 285.
But Lightning proved you need only two batsmen to make a dent even in a total as big as that. They had to; the third top score was 10!