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Ian Callender

A wonderful century from Stuart Poynter did not save Ireland from defeat against Sri Lanka A but it gave the vastly under-strength home side more than a measure of respectability in the first of the three-match series.

It also gave Ireland hope that they will be more competitive in the remaining games, back at Stormont tomorrow and Coleraine on Sunday, because when they slumped to 103 for seven, in reply to the tourists' imposing 283, it looked to be men against boys.

But Poynter, first in partnership with Craig Young and then in a ninth wicket stand of 87 with Peter Chase, showed his peers how to take on and beat the Sri Lanka pacemen who had wreaked so much havoc in the first 30 overs of the Ireland innings.

Poynter (23) admitted afterwards it had helped that he had faced the same bowling attack just three days earlier, playing for Durham.

That day he was second top scorer with 36 but this time he went past his previous best score for Ireland of 63, on the same ground against Australia A last season, and brought up his 100 with the arguably the shot of the day, a punch down the ground for six.

If it wasn't the shot of the day it was certainly the champagne moment and on the hottest day of the year there was a better than average crowd to acclaim him.

He was out to the fourth ball of the last over for 109, from just 88 balls - his second 50 had come off just 33 balls - and included 11 fours and two sixes. He has no chance of displacing Gary Wilson or Niall O'Brien to wear the wicket-keeping gloves at next year's World Cup finals but he certainly cannot be discounted as a spare batsman.

Indeed, after this knock he is probably in pole position because on a day when Ireland - without 10 first-choice players, mainly because of county commitments - had to field three debutants, it was No 11 Chase who ended up as fourth top scorer.

There was always certain to be two new caps because Graeme McCarter, who has been with the squad since Monday, arrived from Gloucestershire with a calf strain and Stuart Thompson was declared unfit yesterday morning with a thigh injury. So, the team picked itself with CIYMS captain Chris Dougherty and North Down's Nick Larkin both selected to bat in the top four.

Dougherty hit a couple of fours and was looking good until he tamely hit one straight to backward point and Larkin survived six balls but steered his seventh low to slip.

In between, John Anderson was the first of four victims for the impressive Dushmantha Chameera, bowling fast and straight, as Ireland lost six wickets for 50 runs in 20 painstaking overs.

Andrew White, who received a guard of honour before leading the team onto the field on the day he became Ireland's most capped player, also lasted only seven balls, new captain Andrew Poynter played a loose shot straight to mid-on and Andy McBrine fell to a flying catch at short fine-leg.

They scored only 17 between them. Andrew Balbirnie had looked good at the start and was just one short of his best score when he was caught at the wicket in the middle of the Ireland collapse.

Ireland suffered another casualty when Eddie Richardson had to retire hurt after being hit on the jaw by Chameera and must be a doubt for tomorrow's second game. Bowling first, he had an undistinguished first seven overs but stormed back to take five for 12 in his last 15 balls to give him his best bowling figures.

The rest of the bowlers, though, have much to prove and, no doubt much to National Coach Phil Simmons' delight, they are sure to be tested.

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Stormont, Belfast