x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Plucky Irish need all of O'Brien's might against strong Sri Lankans

Kevin O'Brien has to step into the shoes of the departed Eoin Morgan as Ireland's No 1 batsman if they are to beat Sri Lanka.

LONDON // With their best batsman now immersed in life with his adopted nation, Ireland's cricketers face another daunting task of trying to topple the might of Sri Lanka without him in the Super Eight this evening. Eoin Morgan's departure from Ireland to England ahead of this tournament may have left them short of firepower with the bat, but it has left the stage open for others to flourish.

Kevin O'Brien, who holds the distinction of being the first international player to hit a six into the main stand at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi, shone in the pool stage win over Bangladesh. O'Brien could be one eye-catching knock away from earning a lucrative Indian Premier League contract. "I would love to. It would be great if I got the chance," said O'Brien, whose brother Niall, Ireland's wicket-keeper, earned a place in the Indian Cricket League on the basis of a half-century against Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup.

Today's opponents Sri Lanka are dripping with talent, and have long been a formidable force in limited-overs cricket. Their success has been founded on a powerful bowling line-up, which includes Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga. As a marker of the strength, Nuwan Kulasekara, the seamer who only broke back into the side for their last game against Pakistan, is the world's No 1 ranked limited-over bowler.

Tillakaratne Dilshan, their opener, said his side are confidence of success, even when defending relatively small totals. "We're playing very good cricket, we know with Mendis and Murali we can defend 160 against any team," said Dilshan, whose innovative batting displays since his elevation the top of the order have been a feature of Sri Lanka's unbeaten run in the tournament. pradley@thenational.ae

Ireland v Sri Lanka, starts at 4.30pm, ART Prime Sport