Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs Ireland 1st Test 2023

Recent Match Report - Sri Lanka vs Ireland 1st Test 2023

Sri Lanka 386 for 4 (Karunaratne 179, K Mendis 140, Campher 1-44) vs Ireland

Dimuth Karunaratne struck an assured 179, Kusal Mendis amassed 140, and Sri Lanka took firm grip of the Test, as that pair’s 281-run partnership for the second wicket formed the centrepiece of the hosts’ dominant day one. Not only were Karunaratne and Mendis largely untroubled by the Ireland bowlers on a flat Galle deck, they also ensured that their progress was brisk, hitting 33 fours and a six between them.

Sri Lanka lost those batters, plus Angelo Mathews (playing his 100th Test), late in the day. Nevertheless, they finished 386 for 4 – poised for a massive total, with plenty of batting still to come and the track yet to take serious turn. Having lost the toss, then having claimed just one wicket in the first session, Ireland were perhaps always going to be in for some toil.

Their bowlers, though, did not quite wither in Sri Lanka’s scorching April heat either. Legspinner Ben White went at more than five an over, but snaffled the wicket of Mathews in the second half of the evening session. Left-arm spinner George Dockrell was almost as expensive, but broke the big stand by getting Mendis lbw with a delivery that slid on with the arm.

Curtis Campher had struck with the newish ball to nick off Nishan Madushka in the morning. And Mark Adair claimed the biggest wicket of the day, having Karunaratne flash at and edge a wide one, with the second new ball.

It was offspinner Andy McBrine who put in the biggest shift, however, delivering 27 overs and conceding just 107. He’d had a slightly shaky start, conceding three boundaries off his first 15 deliveries, but recovered to bowl some tighter spells, though he did frequently get picked off for singles as Ireland incrementally relaxed their fields. All up, the spinners bowled 61 of Ireland’s 87 overs on the first day.

Where Madushka was troubled by Campher and Adair’s early spells, Karunaratne was more-or-less immediately fluent. He was severe on errors of length, whipping too-full deliveries through midwicket, and pulling short balls just as effectively. After the first 11 overs, he’d already strode to 28 off 32.

Ireland didn’t keep their tight fields to him for long. Eventually they gave him single options, particularly with the spinners in operation. Karunaratne played masterful, risk-free cricket from then on, finding runs in every direction.

His favourite deep-midwicket boundary got a peppering. But as is often the case for him, it was the singles, and twos, plus a three, that formed the bedrock of his big innings. He got to fifty off the 69th ball he faced, though he’d scored only 20 of those runs via boundaries. He progressed almost casually to a fifteenth Test ton, taking only 70 further deliveries to make that second fifty, and yet having hit only two further boundaries in that time. For the majority of his innings, he appeared utterly immovable.

Mendis delighted a little more in hitting out. The pull was an especially productive shot for him, as he frequently went deep in his crease to pummel even slightly-short deliveries from the spinners in front of square. The cover drive was also a major provider of boundaries.

He struggled occasionally against White early on – one legbreak ripping past his outside edge, another taking the edge and running fine. But before long, Mendis’ progress was also largely smooth. He wasn’t quite as adept at picking the gaps as Karunaratne, so despite the boundaries, his strike rate was never as good. But he reached fifty with his most memorable stroke – a run-down-the-pitch six over long on against McBrine.

Mendis waited on errors through much of the second session – one of almost ludicrously smooth progress for Sri Lanka, and brought up his eighth Test century the first over after tea, having just ramped an Adair bouncer through third man for four. The hundred came off 152 deliveries.

The evening proved more fruitful for Ireland, fatigue having caught up with the batting pair, perhaps. Mendis went down to sweep and missed what was essentially a straight one from Dockrell, though there was some dip on that delivery as well. He burned a review on his way out.

Mathews then failed to get off the mark in his 100th Test, edging a short and wide delivery from White behind, third ball. And Karunaratne then lunged at a full wide ball from Adair in the 85th over, giving the bowler some reward for some earnest spells through the course of the day.

Sri Lanka went to stumps with Dinesh Chandimal and nightwatcher Prabath Jayasuriya at the crease.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf

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