Match Preview – Sri Lanka vs Ireland, Ireland in Sri Lanka 2023, 1st Test

Match Preview - Sri Lanka vs Ireland, Ireland in Sri Lanka 2023, 1st Test

Big picture: Mirpur Test has prepared Ireland for SL tour

If you’re Ireland, Test matches are quite like buses, you wait ages for one and then suddenly here come three to take you on a tour of the subcontinent. Okay, maybe that’s not quite the analogy, but the fact remains that having played their first three Tests in 2018 and 2019, they’re now set to double that tally in the span of a month in 2023. Having already played a one-off Test in Bangladesh earlier this year, Ireland are now set for two more against Sri Lanka in Galle.

In each of their Test outings so far, Ireland have acquitted themselves rather well in periods, on several occasions showing considerable mettle when folding might have been the easier option – most recently this resolve was on display in Mirpur when they fought back from 13 for 4 to reach 292.

Despite that being in an ultimately losing cause, the willingness to tough it out in unfamiliar conditions for prolonged periods of time, even when the going seems acutely unyielding, bodes well for what they’re likely to find in Galle.

The challenge that will face the visitors hardly needs to be spelled out after all. In Mirpur, 13 Irish wickets fell to spin. Sri Lanka’s squad has two left-arm spinners, two that can bowl offspin, one that can bowl either, and a legspinner. To add to this, Sri Lanka is in the midst of one of its hottest periods, with temperatures expected to go beyond 30 degrees throughout the first Test.

As for Sri Lanka, in a World Cup year, this series provides them with the opportunity to trial out a few new faces. While the spine of the squad comprises the old heads of Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne, Nishan Madushka is likely to be given a stint at the top of the order in the absence of Pathum Nissanka, while there could also be debuts for seamer Milan Rathnayake and legspinner Dushan Hemantha.

Form Guide

Sri Lanka: LLWLW(completed matches, most recent first)
Ireland: LLLL

In the spotlight: Nishan Madushka and Andy McBrine

Nishan Madushka has had a stratospheric few months. Despite Sri Lanka’s Test side not necessarily in the market for top-order batters, Madushka’s recent form – a double-century and two centuries against England Lions opening the innings – has made a Test call-up almost an inevitability. And even though the series in New Zealand was a tough baptism, particularly having been asked to bat down the order, he showed glimpses of the talent that had brought him to that stage. Against Ireland, in more familiar conditions – and Pathum Nissanka surprisingly missing out on the red-ball side for yet another series – the stage is set for Madushka to make a claim for a permanent role at the top of the order.

Following a trialling tour of New Zealand, Sri Lanka might well be looking forward to more accustomed climes. But for their batters, who would have been utilising fairly separate skillsets in New Zealand’s bouncier conditions, Galle might initially take a little getting used to. Enter Andy McBrine, who picked up seven of his 10 Test scalps in Mirpur earlier this month. As of late, Sri Lanka’s batters haven’t been the most secure against visiting spinners, and so McBrine will surely be salivating at the prospect of trying out an accommodating Galle surface. He’ll certainly play a key role if the visitors have any hope of pushing for a historic first Test win.

Pitch and conditions

The weather in Galle is expected to be nice and sunny (read: hot and sweltering) with no rain expected over the coming week. And while the Galle pitch in recent times hasn’t deteriorated towards the fourth and fifth days as it might have in the past, expect it to spin nevertheless.

Team news

Having handed out seven debuts in their last outing against Bangladesh, some of whom had spent time training in subcontinental conditions, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see an unchanged XI.

Ireland (probable) XI: 1 Murray Commins, 2 James McCollum, 3 Andy Balbirnie (capt), 4 Harry Tector, 5 PJ Moor, 6 Curtis Campher, 7 Lorcan Tucker (wk), 8 Mark Adair, 9 Andy McBrine, 10 Graham Hume, 11 Ben White

Most of the Sri Lankan side picks itself, with the only point of contention being whether legspinner Hemantha is granted a debut. Sadeera Samarawickrama will also likely see a Test return following a five-year absence.

Sri Lanka (probable) XI: 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt), 2 Nishan Madushka, 3 Kusal Mendis 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Sadeera Samarawickrama (wk), 8 Ramesh Mendis 9 Prabath Jayasuriya 10 Dushan Hemantha/Lasith Embuldeniya 11 Asitha Fernando

  • This will be Ireland’s first ever Test series comprising of more than a single match.
  • Prabath Jayasuriya, playing his sixth Test, is 17 wickets away from reaching 50 Test wickets. Dilruwan Perera holds the current SL record, having reached the feat in 11 Tests.
  • Dhananjaya de Silva, with 34, boasts the highest number of Test wickets between the two sides.
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