Sri Lanka survive Ireland scare
Ireland provided highly-fancied Sri Lanka with a major scare before subsiding to a nine-run defeat in the ICC World Twenty20 match at Lord's.
Having been beaten by New Zealand in the opening match of the Super Eights stage, Ireland were expected to slump to a similarly emphatic defeat to one of the favourites to win the tournament.
But instead of slumping to a heavy defeat, Ireland gave Sri Lanka as many difficulties as any team in the competition by restricting them to a modest 144 for nine.
However Ireland then slipped to 135 for seven in reply after a 59-run opening stand.
It was an impressive display from Ireland, the only remaining associate team in the tournament, who have exceeded expectations for a second successive global event following their success at the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean.
They were given a flying start to the match by removing Tillakaratne Dilshan, the second highest run-scorer of the tournament, off the second ball when he became one of four victims for wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien off seamer Boyd Rankin.
Dilshan's early departure was quickly followed by that of captain Kumar Sangakkara, brilliantly caught stood up to the stumps by O'Brien off seamer Trent Johnston to leave Sri Lanka struggling on 14 for two.
Mahela Jayawardene then teamed up with 39-year-old opener Sanath Jayasuriya in a 67-run stand, which came from 49 balls and eventually proved crucial.
The pair were forced to start slowly and Sri Lanka were restricted to 28 for two at the end of the six overs of fielding restrictions - easily their worst start of the tournament - but they accelerated quickly and their stand included a spell of 37 runs off three overs.
But just as Sri Lanka looked to accelerate, Kevin McCallan's off-spin won an lbw decision against Jayasuriya, who fell for 27 off 27 balls, and no other batsman was able to keep man-of-the-match Jayawardene company for long enough to build a more testing target.
Jayawardene, without a half-century previously in the tournament, did his best to maintain Sri Lanka's momentum and hit nine fours and a six in his superbly-judged innings of 78.
But Sri Lanka suffered as their final five wickets fell for 14 runs in only 16 balls.
Seamer Alex Cusack was the Irish inspiration for that flurry of wickets, claiming 4-13 in 13 balls including bowling Jayawardene.
Facing a lesser target than they would possibly have expected, Ireland were given a solid start with a new opening partnership of captain William Poterfield and Niall O'Brien enjoying a half-century stand.
O'Brien, who missed the New Zealand defeat with a right ankle problem, aggravated the injury after being sent back for a quick single and received treatment for several minutes before continuing.
But once Porterfield fell, caught behind attempting to cut Muttiah Muralitharan, Ireland's challenge faltered and they lost five wickets for 19 runs in only 23 balls.
Wicketkeeper O'Brien battled until the 15th over with his ankle problems to hit 31 off 37 balls before becoming one of two victims for Ajantha Mendis as Sri Lanka's two main spinners strangled Ireland's reply by conceding only 35 runs in their eight overs.
Fast bowler Lasith Malinga effectively finished off Ireland's challenge with wickets in successive balls, although John Mooney hit an aggressive 31 off 21 balls to keep Ireland challenging until the final over.