Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
JAMES McCollum again led the way as Ireland Wolves enjoyed an excellent opening day to their second four-day game against Sri Lanka A in Hambantota.
The Waringstown batsman, fully recovered from the blow to the head sustained when fielding at short leg in the first game which the hosts won by 10 wickets, edged closer to a call-up to the senior side with a second half century in two innings.
McCollum was out in the second over of the afternoon session having scored 72 from 105 balls and this time he got support from Stephen Doheny in a second wicket stand of 110. The Rush batsman was fourth out with the total on 158 but Lorcan Tucker and Neil Rock then stayed together to the close – eight overs early because of bad light – and have already added 128.
Both have already passed their previous best first class scores, as did Doheny, as the team back up their words with action, having said they would learn from their heavy defeat in the opening game.
It wasn’t all good news for the Wolves with Northern Knights captain James Shannon, who swapped places with Doheny to open the innings, caught behind in the fifth over for a run-a-ball 13 and skipper Harry Tector, who has still to reach double figures, dismissed for eight.
Wolves made just the one change to the team with the experienced Craig Young fit to take his place as leader of the bowling attack, coming in for Strabane batsman Aaron Gillespie.
McCollum, who now averages 50 for Wolves in eight games across all formats, and Doheny had to cope with a lot of early movement on a much more seam-friendly pitch than in Colombo last week, but they came through their testing examination in style, McCollum bringing up his 50 in 67 balls, out of 91.
The loss of three wickets for 24 runs in eight overs after lunch threatened to derail Wolves’ good start but Tucker and Rock dug in and after scoring just 15 from their first 52 balls, they quietly and expertly gained control.
Tucker has so far hit six fours and two sixes in his 128-ball innings while Rock, last season’s Knights’ wicket-keeper, playing here as a specialist batsman has been impressively patient with just five boundaries from five balls more. The new ball awaits in the morning.