Murali and Mendis keep a tight rein on battling Ireland

Sri Lanka 144-9 Ireland 135-7

For a few overs yesterday Planet Cricket was slipping off its axis again. The balance was eventually restored to what passes for normality in the World Twenty20 but not before Ireland had pushed Sri Lanka all the way.

This Super Eight contest was another splendid advertisement for the shortest form of the game and its demands on skill and nerve. Sri Lanka, recently installed as genuine contenders, prevailed by nine runs and to do so they required precisely those qualities. They are not quite the complete team but they have enough flair in all departments to ensure they will not be easily dislodged from the competition. Top of their Super Eight group, the semi-finals are beckoning loudly. Ireland's realistic hopes were not finally extinguished until they were three-quarters of the way through their pursuit of the 145 they needed.

Like many sides before them – and probably a couple more this week – they were throttled by the spin combination of Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis, the master and the apprentice. In the 15th over of their innings, Ireland lost two wickets to Mendis while scoring only three runs, and in the 16th from Murali they added only three more.

That was the end of the match as a contest but Ireland have been worth their place at the high table, where they have done much more than make up the numbers and have engaged their superiors throughout. Ireland's captain, William Porterfield, said: "We bowled and batted pretty well but we just fell short. It was our aim to win a game in the Super Eights and we will be giving that a big go tomorrow."

From Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka's captain, there was an undoubted sense of relief. "We lacked a bit of intensity and that's what we have to work on," he said. Sri Lanka had much the worse of it at the start of both innings. If they were indebted to their spinners for sealing the victory, it was their erstwhile captain Mahela Jayawardene who ensured that they secured a viable total. Sri Lanka lost two wickets within the opening four overs including Tillakaratne Dilshan, the sensation of the tournament.

His departure when he mis-hooked the second ball of the match delighted Ireland. But many observers might have felt deprived of the chance to see "the Dilscoop" in action, the spectacular new stroke for which the batsman gets down on one knee as if about to ask a father for his daughter's hand in marriage – and then hoists the ball behind the wicketkeeper.

Sangakkara followed shortly afterwards to give wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien a second catch (of three) and some serious regrouping was necessary. Jayawardene's partnership with the veteran left-hander Sanath Jayasuriya did not take Sri Lanka to sunlit uplands but they were certainly out of the woods. Jayasuriya was a model of restraint in this period and was just getting round to unloading some big shots when he was leg before to Kyle McCallan, a decision with which he patently disagreed – perhaps with justification.

Sri Lanka's innings rather tailed off as they became the improbable victims of Alex Cusack, who took four wickets in nine balls including that of Jayawardene. Ten more runs and Ireland would have been out of it but as it was they had given themselves a sniff.

For once, they sent in their two best batsmen at the top of the order and neither Porterfield nor Niall O'Brien was found wanting. They put on 59 for the first wicket. The pace was slightly too sedate but they had to keep wickets in hand. They knew Mendis and Muralitharan, who had been introduced early, would return. The thought must have prayed on them.

Porterfield was first to go in the 10th over but it was only when Mendis accounted for both the O'Brien brothers – first Kevin and then Niall – both going for glory that the destiny of the match was settled.

There was still time for a concluding Irish flourish to reduce the deficit to something more appropriate to their contribution. They have served the associate membership of the ICC well and may care to remember that the victors yesterday were themselves associate members a mere 27 years ago.

Super Eights: Teams and schedule

*Group E: India, England, West Indies, South Africa.

Group F: Pakistan, Ireland, Sri Lanka, New Zealand.

*Today: England v West Indies, Pakistan v Ireland (The Oval). Tomorrow: New Zealand v Sri Lanka, South Africa v India (Trent Bridge).

Thursday and Friday: Semi-finals (Trent Bridge and The Oval).

Sunday: Final (Lord's).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing