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Sri Lanka just too strong even without stars

By Ian Callender

Sri Lanka continue to have the hex over Ireland, as they completed a comfortable 79 runs victory in the first of two one-day internationals at Castle Avenue.

The teams don't meet that often and Ireland's 77 in the 2007 World Cup clash in Grenada is still their lowest in one-day internationals.

Thanks to a third wicket stand between William Porterfield and Niall O'Brien that total wasn't in danger yesterday and once the tourists had posted 219 for eight on the slow Clontarf pitch, the game was always out of reach of the leading Associate nation.

The Sri Lankans may have arrived in Dublin without five of their star names, but there was always going to be enough depth to give Ireland problems.

The difficulty of facing such a talented attack was highlighted by the normally-free-scoring captain William Porterfield's innings of 33, which used up 87 balls and only Niall O'Brien, with 33 from 39 balls including five fours, looked comfortable, until Max Sorensen and George Dockrell's lusty blows near the end.

Ajantha Mendis was named man of the match – he had Porterfield, caught at deep mid-wicket, and O'Brien, leg before – but he must have been run close by Nuwan Kulasekera whose unbeaten 42 took the game out of Ireland's reach and he also removed Paul Stirling with the last ball of his first over.

Ed Joyce lasted only six balls before he was caught behind off Suranga Lakmal, a hammer blow to Ireland's hopes of chasing down the total.

The third wicket stand of 57 put Ireland back on course, but then came the burst of wickets which "killed us", in the post-match words of Porterfield.

After Mendis had trapped O'Brien, Gary Wilson and Porterfield were left stranded in mid-pitch with the former adjudged run out. Kevin O'Brien then pulled his first ball straight to deep mid-wicket and when Stuart Thompson fatally went back to Mendis' quicker ball, Ireland had gone from 63 for two to 74 for six in the space of 29 balls. The game was over as a contest.

Skipper Angelo Mathews rang the changes to let his bowlers get adjusted to the pitch, which they were all seeing for the first time.

Sri Lanka will be confident of completing a series win in the second game tomorrow.

The positive for Ireland was their bowling, the reverse of protocol with this Ireland squad. Tim Murtagh conceded just 21 runs in his 10 overs and after getting an instant breakthrough with his fourth ball, he deserved his second wicket in his final over. That only let in Mendis to join Kulasekera and they shared an unbroken stand of 43 from 22 balls, the latter hitting three fours and the only two sixes and Mendis a breezy 18 off nine balls.

It was a decisive turnaround and the bowlers did the rest.

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