Galle: Ireland are smarting after the Bangladesh Test slipped through their fingers but skipper Andrew Balbirnie said his team can go the distance in their maiden five-day series in Sri Lanka.
The visitors are yet to win in the format since being granted Test status in 2017 but rallied last week to give their hosts a fright in the second innings.
Ireland are now none from four after their six-wicket loss in Dhaka and Balbirnie is confident his men can make their mark in the two-match series starting Sunday in Galle.
“In Dhaka, we showed we’ve a number of players who can step up to the mark,” Balbirnie told reporters.
“Potential is there. We’re trying to get more exposure and more games to them,” he added. “Hopefully, what we learnt from the last week, we’ll bring to this series.”
Bangladesh showed signs of promise for the Irish side in their impressive third-day fightback, with Lorcan Tucker becoming only the team’s second Test centurion on his debut.
Harry Tector managed two fifties while off-spinner Andy McBrine made 72 runs in addition to his six wickets.
Six of Ireland’s number made their Test debut in Bangladesh and the neophyte visitors can expect a hard slog against a veteran seventh-ranked Sri Lanka team.
But Balbirnie said his side were excited to show their mettle.
“We haven’t had a lot of Test cricket but now we have two against a very strong team,” he said. “It’s nice to put the whites on again and we love this experience.”
Sri Lanka have made several changes including potential wicketkeeper duties for Sadeera Samarawickrama, 27, who makes his international Test comeback after an absence of more than five years.
“Sadeera has done pretty well in domestic cricket and deserves the break. He’s really hungry as well and we hope he’ll cement his place in the side,” Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne told reporters.
Karunaratne will have a new opening partner in Nishan Madushka, with Oshada Fernando axed following last month’s 2-0 series loss in New Zealand.
“I have opened batting with about 10 guys now in Test match cricket so it’s nothing new for me,” Karunaratne said of the switch. “He’s been scoring heavily this year and this is a huge break for him.”
Sunday marks Sri Lanka’s first game at home across formats this year. Both Tests will be played at Galle, with the second match scheduled for April 24-28.
Ireland: Andrew Balbirnie (capt), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, Murray Commins, George Dockrell, Fionn Hand, Graham Hume, Matthew Humphreys, Tom Mayes, Andrew McBrine, James McCollum, Paul Stirling, PJ Moor, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Ben White.