Ireland batsman Niall O’Brien’s recent form for Leicestershire will remind Sri Lanka that he could prove the difference in their upcoming friendly matches if the Boys in Green are to cause an upset.
O’Brien’s compatriot Ed Joyce recently backed Ireland to beat the T20 World Champions in what would be one of the most unprecedented victories in the history of the international game. It really is a case of David vs. Goliath, but O’Brien, having been one of county cricket’s unsung heroes for several years, can bat his side over the line. This will be his second season at Grace Road after spending six years making his name with Northamptonshire.
His 133 in Leicestershire’s draw against Glamorgan was one of the highlights of the season so far, although he was able to repeat such an impressive feat in the second innings which saw him out for 1 off the bowling of Graham Wagg. It was a ton that helped the Foxes reach 500 all out, though an earlier declaration may have been in order as the Welsh outfit clung on for a draw.
Joyce’s hopes may have been founded on the Dublin weather, which he insists the Sri Lankans will find difficult to overcome, but O’Brien also looked comfortable behind the stumps, taking the catches of the veteran Murray Goodwin and Gareth Rees.
Sri Lanka may well view the matches against Ireland and their T20 fixture versus Scotland as simply a warm-up for their summer series against England, which has the potential to be slightly more daunting but it remains to be seen whether, under new head coach Peter Moores, that will actually be the case.
Marvan Atapattu, who has been named Sri Lanka interim coach following the departure of Paul Farbrace to become Moores’ assistant, will certainly be taking O’Brien’s performances into account before the two sides face off in the Irish capital on the May 6 and again two days later.
Of Ireland’s 13-man squad, O’Brien is not the only call-up to ply his trade in England. Captain William Porterfield of Warwickshire, Joyce of Sussex, and Paul Stirling of Middlesex are just some of the more familiar names. Porterfield, too, has been preparing for Sri Lanka’s visit well, scoring 77 against Lancashire.
Meanwhile, Ireland coach Phil Simmons will be hoping that the experience of the T20 World Cup earlier this year will have boosted his players’ confidence, with all 13 who are named in their latest squad having featured at some stage of the tournament.
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