Sri Lanka v Ireland: Andrew Balbirnie’s 95 helps tourists post 319-4 on day one

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Andrew Balbirnie and Paul Stirling run between the wickets in Galle
Paul Stirling produced a 115-run partnership with Andrew Balbirnie before having to retire hurt because of cramp and the Ireland captain was soon dismissed for 95
Second Test (day one of five), Galle
Ireland 319-4 Balbirnie 95, Stirling 74 retd inj, Tucker 78*; Jayasuriya 2-95

Ireland battled back from last week’s first Test hammering by Sri Lanka to impressively reach 319-4 by the close on day one of the second Test in Galle.

Skipper Andrew Balbirnie was denied a first Test century as he was dismissed for 95 after his record Irish Test partnership of 115 with Paul Stirling.

The partnership had been halted with Ireland 204-3 as Stirling was 74 not out when he retired hurt with cramp.

But Lorcan Tucker’s unbeaten 78 rounded off a tremendous day for Ireland.

It was a gritty response from the tourists after Sri Lanka’s biggest ever victory last week, as they clinched an innings and 280-run win in Galle, with Ireland’s run of Test defeats since earning full member status in 2017 increasing to five.

In the opening Test in Galle, Sri Lanka had taken immediate control by posting 591-6 in their first innings.

However, crucially, Balbirnie won the toss on Monday and while Ireland looked in trouble at 43-2 following the cheap departures of Peter Moor (5) and James McCollum (10), they regrouped superbly as the skipper produced a 46-run partnership with Harry Tector.

Tector’s dismissal for 18 left Ireland on 89-3 but the big-hitting Stirling’s arrival saw him take the game to the hosts as he struck three sixes and six fours, before having to go off after ending up sprawled on the ground when attempting to avoid a short ball from Asitha Fernando.

After Stirling’s departure, Balbirnie’s scoring rate began to diminish and as Sri Lanka applied the pressure, the Ireland captain was dismissed when his attempted sweep shot off a Ramesh Mendis ball was instead nicked to Dhananjaya de Silva at slip.

That left Ireland on 232-4 with Stirling also in the pavilion, but Tucker continued the brilliant form that saw him record his first Test century in Bangladesh earlier this month as he pushed Ireland beyond the 300-mark, with Curtis Camper also unbeaten on 27.

Ireland will hope that Stirling is able to resume his innings on day two as they will look to reach a runs tally in excess of 500.

Stirling’s inclusion in place of George Dockrell was one of three Ireland changes with left-arm Matthew Humphreys handed a Test debut and Graham Hume also drafted in as Murray Commins and Mark Adair were left out.


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