Porterfield keeping his options open
Ireland went into this morning’s opening game in the Twenty20 quadrangular tournament in Colombo against Afghanistan looking for their first win of the tour, but despite defeat in a warm-up match yesterday there were enough positives to maintain optimism.
A Sri Lanka Board XI, including three Test players and a T20 international, defeated Ireland by three wickets with an over to spare.
But the game was always going to be about looking at all the options.
The objective was not to get a winning team even for today but to ensure national coach Phil Simmons and captain William Porterfield know their best line-up for next week’s opening game in the World Twenty20 qualifiers.
So, while admitting that the batters came up about 20 runs short, Porterfield used eight bowlers and two of his best three, Trent Johnston and Andre Botha, did not bowl their full quota, preferring to put Phil Eaglestone, Nigel Jones, John Mooney and young George Dockrell into the spotlight.
While the three pacemen were found wanting — their four overs cost 57 runs — Dockrell, the 17-year-old Leinster leg spinner playing his first senior game, stole the show with figures of two for 20 in his four overs.
Just off the plane from New Zealand on Thursday, where he was playing at the Under-19 World Cup finals, Dockrell was certainly match-fit and it showed as he got his first bowl in the eighth over when the Sri Lankans were 54 for four.
Four balls later, without a run added, George got his first wicket, as Test star Chamara Kapugedera mistimed a pull to mid-wicket.
Twelve balls later he got his second wicket, immediately after he had been hit for six.
Dockrell bowled it slower and wider and a top edge went straight up to short fine leg. He will be keen to prove his spell was no fluke when he gets back on the field.
Eaglestone, who conceded 16 in an eight-ball first over and was then hit for two sixes in his second will just be hoping for another chance but Jones and Mooney, who was hit for three successive sixes by Sekkuge Prasanna, did not even get a second over.
Johnston, though, was superb at the top of the innings, taking two wickets in his first over and had only a wide in his third while Botha did not come on until the 16th over and conceded only singles and one boundary.
There were few complaints about the Ireland batting — only Niall O’Brien did not score at better than a run-a-ball — until the last couple of overs.
Just 15 runs came off the last 16 balls, including the loss of Andrew White whose improvisation proved less successful than his orthodox clean hitting which accounted for the majority of his 38 runs off 37 balls with six fours.
Three sixes were hit, two by the captain and one by Alex Cusack, and there were boundaries in all but four of the first 18 overs.