Cricket: O'Brien on hand to steady the ship
IRELAND played to their strengths yesterday in Dambulla and posted a satisfactory -- if not imposing -- 324-7 on the first day of an InterContinental Cup clash with Afghanistan.
Shorn of three senior bowlers, it was imperative that the national side batted first in the four-day game and William Porterfield performed his most important task before the start of play by winning the toss.
The skipper and Gary Wilson cashed in with an opening partnership of 120 as the Afghan attack initially proved less of a distraction than the local Sri Lankan wildlife that has disturbed the sleep of some members of the tour party.
Wilson departed for 53 -- his maiden half-century in first-class games -- and Porterfield's hopes of a century were dashed when he fell on 78 to Hamid Hassan, the seamer who bowled Afghanistan to victory over Ireland at the World Cup qualifiers last year.
Leg-spinner Sami Shenwari then sparked a mid-order slump by claiming the wickets of Alex Cusack, Andre Botha and Kevin O'Brien to leave the three-times IC Cup winners wobbling on 231-5.
Niall O'Brien stood firm through the collapse, though, and with Andy White he repaired most of the damage in a solid partnership of 85 for the sixth wicket before both were dismissed in a disappointing final half an hour.
Meanwhile, former Ireland batsman Eoin Morgan claims he isn't ready to play Test match cricket despite being the only England player to be offered a new deal in this week's Indian Premier League auction.
Dublin-born Morgan will collect $220,000 for five weeks with the Royal Challengers Bangalore after sparkling for England in one-day matches -- but he has been overlooked for his adopted country's upcoming Test tour of Bangladesh.
Morgan said: "I believe that I'll be pushing for a Test spot at some point, but I'm certainly not ready yet because my form in the longer game hasn't been anywhere near as good as my one-day form."
In New Zealand, the Ireland U-19 World Cup squad travelled to Napier yesterday ahead of their opening match in the Plate competition against Zimbabwe tomorrow.