Openers lead strong Sri Lankan reply after Stirling, Campher centuries

Paul Stirling scored 103 runs

As Ireland quickly surpassed their previous greatest Test score early in the day and continued on to a massive 492 by tea, Paul Stirling and all-arounder Curtis Campher each hit his country’s third and fourth Test hundreds. 

The openers for Sri Lanka advanced to 81 for no loss by stumps, which partly diminished the brilliance of Ireland’s first innings. However, the home team will still need to put up a massive total of their own to put pressure on the visitors. Ireland had suffered defeats of 143 and 168 in the previous game.

Ireland’s day-two march was launched with a 64-run sixth-wicket stand between Stirling and Campher, after which Campher grabbed the lead in an 89-run seventh-wicket combination with Andy McBrine. Ireland was brought within sight of 500 because of these alliances, but the tail swiftly dropped.

Prabath Jayasuriya, who bowled a staggering 26.3 of Sri Lanka’s 55.3 overs on the day – effectively only taking a breather of one over between lengthy periods – was once again the main wrecker for the hosts. For his efforts, he secured a five-wicket haul in Galle, which felt like it had become routine for him. 

This was the sixth time in his seven Test career. He totaled 58.3 overs and recorded final figures of 5 for 174. Vishwa Fernando and Asitha Fernando, two seamstresses, each took two.

Vishwa delivered the opening blow of the day, possibly the best delivery of the Test thus far, to get rid of Lorcan Tucker in the first over. He jagged one back in sharply while pitching on a length to Tucker, who was batting on 90, causing it to slide between bat and pad and crash into off stump. Stirling returned to the crease after the dismissal. 

After experiencing incapacitating pains on the first afternoon, he injured himself and retired. However, Stirling demonstrated some early proficiency on day two when he drove Vishwa for two off-side goals.

But once he entered the nineties, he began to have some anxiety. He was struck in the shoulder by an exceptionally intense over from Asitha while he was on 97, and the next ball required him to deflect another short one with his gloves. 

With a slog over deep midwicket off Jayasuriya, Campher reached his first Test fifty at the other end before the ball was returned to Stirling, who was still on 97.

He took a step back, executed a T20-style cut, and got it. Stirling joined Kevin O’Brien as the only batters from Ireland to have scored a century in all three formats when he hit Asitha well over deep point. 

But Asitha would quickly catch him with that short ball. The following over, he hurried Stirling into a hook, and Dhananjaya de Silva at fine leg caught the top edge. Off 181 deliveries, Stirling has made 103.

But Campher discovered a more than competent partner in McBrine, and he took the initiative in the relationship that actually increased Ireland’s total to a huge amount. 

Throughout this time, Jayasuriya bowled some menacing deliveries but was also occasionally flat, which may have been because of the challenging nature of the playing surface. As he made his way closer to 100, Campher used his feet more and more while sweeping elegantly.

Midway through the second session, or about halfway there, he reached the milestone and excitedly pointed to the dressing room. This was Campher’s maiden century in any competitive senior cricket, including List A and first-class matches. 

Campher is not typically recognized for huge innings and is primarily known in the team for his seam bowling. In fact, his previous top score in a T20I was 72 not out.

Sri Lanka started to assert themselves again with the dismissal of McBrine, who on 35 threw his bat at a Vishwa delivery when he didn’t need to. 

A few overs later, Jayasuriya took Campher’s edge, the opportunity flying low and to Dhananjaya’s right, who caught it spectacularly while diving. Following Graham Hume’s lbw, Jayasuriya would hole out Matthew Humphreys with some slogging.

The openers for Sri Lanka then got off to a quick start. When the seamers veered off-stump, Nishan Madushka, who had tightened up his defense, let loose with some piercing cut strokes. 

Dimuth Karunaratne easily caught runs into the outfield in between his normal leg-side boundaries to get himself going. Before Galle was overtaken by dark skies and the game ending an hour earlier than expected, he had strolled to 39 off 45 and Madushka had 41 off 64.