Ireland coach Phil Simmons had anticipated that Sri Lanka would struggle in the cold, cloudy conditions of an early May morning in Dublin, but Angelo Mathews’ side adjusted superbly to complete a convincing victory with 10.1 overs to spare.
Ireland skipper William Porterfield won the toss and chose to field, and his bowlers thrived under the early morning sun, restricting the visitors to 219-8 from their 50 overs.
Middlesex seamer Tim Murtagh was the pick of the Irish attack with 2-21 from his 10 overs, but Sri Lanka flourished in the final overs as Nuwan Kulasekera smashed an unbeaten 42 from 34 balls and Ajantha Mendis hit 18 not out from nine deliveries.
Ireland looked in pole position to record a first-ever home win over a top cricketing nation at the halfway stage, having hit scores of 220-plus in their three games against Pakistan and England in Dublin last summer.
But Sri Lanka, without a host of star players, were able to adapt as conditions worsened and dark clouds appeared overhead.
Kulasekera and Suranga Lakmal accounted for Ireland’s star batsmen Paul Stirling and Ed Joyce in the first five overs, then the unorthodox mystery spinner Mendis ripped through the Ireland middle order, taking 3-27 from his 10 overs. Porterfield (37 from 87 balls) and Niall O’Brien (33 from 39 balls) briefly sparkled, but Sri Lanka were able to close out the game with little discomfort.
Porterfield admitted afterwards that his side had struggled with Mendis’s variations of spin and pace.
“Mendis was a threat on the pitch, with the ball turning for him. If he has a bit of assistance, he is very difficult to play,” Porterfield said.
“If we had got through that spell, we’d have set ourselves up for a good chase, but we kept losing wickets.”
Sri Lanka captain Mathews was happy to get through a good workout against the Irish ahead of their tour of England later in the month.
“The guys were a bit scrappy but to get over the line was a good effort,” he said.
“We had to adjust to the wicket. This is my first time playing in Ireland, as it is for most of our team, and we had to work hard as the wicket was difficult to bat first on.”