Ireland’s ICC World Twenty20 campaign got off to a disappointing start as they were outclassed by Australia in Colombo.
Shane Watson took three wickets to help restrict Ireland to just 123 before the all-rounder smashed a quick-fire half century to guide his side to a comfortable seven wicket opening game victory.
Irish skipper Will Porterfield won the toss and elected to bat first on what looked like a good track at the Premadasa Stadium. Nigel Jones was rewarded for a fine performance in the final warm-up game against Bangladesh on Monday with a place in the side at the expense of Middlesex seamer Tim Murtagh.
However it was the Australians who took charge of the game from ball one as Watson took Porterfield by surprise with a short one and the Warwickshire batsman holed out to Mitchell Starc at fine leg. The dismissal set the tone for the one-sided nature of the no-contest and despite just one place in the ICC rankings separating the two countries, the gulf in class was vast as Starc and then teenager Pat Cummins followed up Watson with some sharp and accurate bowling.
Paul Stirling has been in great form during the warm-up games but failed to find his feet despite thrashing Watson over cover in the first over. He made just seven before becoming Starc’s first victim after getting a thick outside edge which flew down to a fired up Watson at third man.
The Australians were clearly determined to silence their critics as they continued to apply the pressure despite Ed Joyce finding the fence twice off Cummins in the fifth over. The introduction of Glenn Maxwell brought another wicket as Joyce was tempted into going over the top after a couple of dot balls but he could only find David Warner at mid-off who took a routine catch.
Gary Wilson didn’t last long despite hitting his first ball for a glorious boundary as he was trapped LBW by 41-year-old Brad Hogg to leave Ireland floundering at 33-4. Ireland’s hero from Bangalore, Kevin O’Brien attempted to salvage the situation as he put on a fifty partnership with brother Niall with some bludgeoning boundaries however the return of Watson to the attack put an end to any hope of Ireland posting a challenging total.
The stakes were high in the middle as umpires Aleem Dar and Kumar Dharmasena were forced to intervene on several occasions as heated words were exchanged between Warner and Kevin O’Brien in particular. However the Irish all-rounder was only spurned on by the Aussie sledging as he clattered Starc through mid-wicket and then cover to bring up the fifty stand. His brother’s attempts to up the run rate proved costly as he was clean bowled by a Watson slower ball and later in the same over, Kevin edged behind to Matthew Wade for a well-compiled 35.
Alex Cusack (15) and Nigel Jones (14*) gave the innings some much needed impetus as Jones hit Watson for a maximum in the final over but in truth Ireland were at least thirty runs short of a testing total for a strong looking Australian top-order. Ireland had done well to recover from 33 for 4 to post 123 for 7, which was still well below par on a surface that held no demons.
Ireland desperately needed early wickets to give themselves any chance of pulling off another World Cup shock but Warner and Man of the Match Watson didn’t take long to get ahead of the rate and put their side on the road to victory. The Aussie openers made the Irish score look a whole lot smaller as they launched an early onslaught off the bowling of Rankin and Johnston.The introduction of Paul Stirling and George Dockrell to the attack didn’t do anything to stem the runs as Watson sent the ball to all parts of a sparsely populated Premadasa Stadium. The departure of Warner for a run a ball 26 applied the brakes momentarily and when Watson was sloppily run out for 51 shortly after, Ireland sniffed half an opportunity to add some respectability if anything to the scoreboard.
However the considerable depth of the Australian batting line-up was apparent as they strolled home to victory with plenty in reserve despite losing Mike Hussey to Kevin O’Brien.Ireland coach Phil Simmons with be hugely disappointed with his sides display and an opening game defeat means that Ireland must beat a star studded West Indies outfit on Monday if they are to have any chance of progressing from Group B.
Speaking after the game, Irish captain William Porterfield was inevitably disappointed with how his side had performed. “We didn’t have a great start, we tried to get a platform but it didn’t happen. We’ve warmed-up well and weren’t surprised by conditions. I can’t fault the lads for trying.”
Australia 125-3 (Watson 51, Warner 26) beat Ireland 123-7 (K. O’Brien 35, Watson 3-26) by 7 wickets
William Porterfield c Starc b Watson for a duck.
Paul Stirling c Watson b Starc 7
Ed Joyce c Warner b Maxwell 16
Gary Wilson lbw b Hogg 5
Niall O’Brien b Watson 20
Kevin O’Brien c Wade b Watson 35
Trent Johnston b Starc 7
1:50pm Australia beat Ireland with 30 balls to spare.
1;43pm Australia need 15 to win.
1:27pm Australia are have now got to 91-2 after ten overs.
1:05pm Looks like we will probably only see 12 overs at the rate of scoring.
1:01pm Australia have hit 3 fours and a six in the third over. 40 without loss.
12:57pm Its looking like it could be an early finish to this match. Australia are already 25 without loss.
12:55pm Ireland have thrown six wides in the first three overs.
12:45pm The Australians are at bat, they have scored 6 without loss in the first over.
12:30pm The Irish batting is over and they have reached 123 runs against a strong Australian side.
12:27pm Ireland get their first six of the match in the last over.
12:24pm Only one over to go and its going to take a miracle by the Irish bowlers.
12:21pm The Irish run rate is only 5.78
12:17pm Its a 101 with three overs to go, and Ireland have lost another wicket. Johnson is gone.
12:13pm Ireland are now 95-6 after 17 overs.
12:10pm Its going to be tough now for Ireland.
12:08pm Niall O’Brien is bowled out and is followed by Kevin O’Brien.
12:02pm Its another boundary for Niall O’Brien..
12;02pm It looks like Ireland should now reach about 120 runs.
12:01pm Really nice four from Niall O’Brien, one bounce and its over the boundary.
12:00pm The O’Brien brothers have now scored 41 between them.
11:58am Its been a great ten minutes for Ireland, we are now up to 68 for 4 after 12 overs.
11:48am Its a bit better for Ireland, they have now reached 46-4 after 10 overs
11:42am Ireland need to start getting fours and sixes very quick.
11:36am Kevin O’Brien is on the field, so its hopefully the O’Brien brothers to the rescue for Ireland.
11;34am Looks like Ireland will not make 100, Gary Wilson is gone after scoring just five runs
11:28am Just a shocking start for Ireland, Ed Joyce is now gone.
11:22am It another four from Ed Joyce, its 24 for 2 after five overs.
11:21am Nice four form Ed Joyce, Ireland will need a lot more from him.
11:17am Ireland have lost their second man, Sterling is gone with Ireland on 15, Niall O’Brien comes onto the field.
11:13am After what was such a terrible start Ireland are up to 13 for 1 after three overs, they will need to get to about 150 to have any chance of winning
11:05am Its a bit better for Ireland as they get a four from Sterling, its 4 for 1 after the first over.
11:00am Terrible start for Ireland with the skipper William Porterfield getting caught on the first ball.
10:55am Irish order for batting
William Porterfield (c), Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien, Gary Wilson (wk), Kevin O’Brien, Trent Johnston, George Dockrell, Nigel Jones, Boyd Rankin, Alex Cusack.