Mendis, Fernando skittle Ireland to seal Sri Lanka’s innings victory

replay of , Afghanistan vs Sri Lanka, Group B, Asia Cup 2022, Dubai, August 27, 2022
Mendis, Fernando skittle Ireland to seal Sri Lanka’s innings victory

Sri Lanka 704 for 3 dec beat Ireland 202 (Tector 85, Balbirnie 46, Mendis 5-64, Fernando 3-30) and 492 by an innings and 10 runs

Only Harry Tector had mounted any serious resistance, batting out 189 balls for his 85, though Andy Balbirnie did also contribute a 46, despite having had to go off the field for a spell after Asitha had hit him on the helmet. Resisting Sri Lanka’s spinners on a fifth day at Galle was always going to be difficult. But Ireland will be disappointed they did not make the opposition bat again, after they had been so secure in the first innings. They were ten runs short.

It was Jayasuriya who made the first incision of the day, and in doing so, had himself written into the record books. The previous fastest spinner to 50 Test wickets had been Alf Valentine, who completed the feat in eight Tests, way back in 1951. Jayasuriya did it in seven Tests (five of those have been played in Galle), going equal with Vernon Philander, who got to the milestone in 2012. The other bowlers in their company are Tom Richardson and Charlie Turner (who did it in six Tests) – both played in the 1800s.

After Jayasuriya had Stirling caught by a diving short cover, Mendis bowled himself into excellent rhythm, frequently finding ripping turn out of the rough. He had one turn and bounce more than Curtis Campher expected, which meant the attempted sweep shot went into the hands of leg slip. Balbirnie then spooned a Mendis delivery to mid-off.

Later, Andy McBrine and Graham Hume both had their outside edges taken, and gobbled up behind the stumps. Having bowled opener James McCollum late on day four, the lower-order wickets completed his third five-wicket haul. It had only been in the last Test that Mendis had set a new Sri Lanka record by getting to 50 wickets in 11 Tests.

Despite Mendis’ outstanding use of the conditions, perhaps Asitha’s bowling on day five was even more impressive, however, as he repeatedly attacked with the bouncer. In just his second over, he struck Balbirnie on the helmet grille – the deflection coming off his thumb. Balbirnie, slightly dazed by the blow, left the field as a precaution, and would only return after the fall of the fifth wicket.

He kept getting balls to rear up menacingly at batters, occasionally only narrowly missing out on having them caught at short leg, after batters nervously fended at him. In the last over of that seven-over spell – a serious shift given the heat – he got his reward. Lorcan Tucker tried to swat away a ball that burst up towards his ribcage, but was late on the shot. It hit him under the arm as he swiveled, and the ball fell behind him and then disturbed the stumps.

Asitha also closed out the innings, with two spectacular yorkers, with a 77-overs old ball. The first struck the middle stump of Tector, who was coming out of his crease to try and bash another boundary down the ground in the company of the No. 10 Matthew Humphreys. Next ball, another perfect yorker made a mess of No. 11 Ben White’s stumps.

Tector, who had played mature and encouraging innings right through the series, battled hard on day five. He had begun watchfully, having come in to bat late the previous day. His first 50 balls brought him only eight runs, as he got his defence in order first. He’d come down the pitch, but often just looking for singles and twos, rather than venturing huge swings of the bat. Occasionally he’d play a slog sweep, but these were calculated risks.

He also faced down that first Asitha spell bravely, wearing the occasional bouncer on his body. He got to his half-century off the 159th ball he faced. But as he was in the company of the No. 10 at that stage, he started to hit out, hitting three sixes and three fours in one passage of play.

There had been the threat of rain later in the day, but Ireland couldn’t quite push the game deep enough to find out.

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

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