Australia survive an Irish scare
Australia 231 for 9 (Paine 81, K O'Brien 3-43) beat Ireland 192 (Porterfield 39, Hopes 5-14) by 39 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Australia almost became the joke of the day in Dublin before James Hopes' five wickets ensured a seriously rusty performance ended in a 39-run success over Ireland. It was an ODI that was meant to be a warm-up for Ricky Ponting's side, but it was rightly treated as a full-scale international by Ireland and the highly-fancied visitors were almost embarrassed.
The captain William Porterfield started the dramatic chase of Australia's 232 by blasting three fours off Ryan Harris' first over and he later pulled a six off Clint McKay during a frenetic 80-run opening partnership with Paul Stirling. It felt like a Twenty20 game but eventually turned into a more familiar exchange between the world's No.1-ranked team and one of the minnows. There was much relief among the Australians when Hopes stood up with a career-best 5 for 14 off nine overs and Ireland were dismissed for 192.
With the bat the tourists were uncertain as they struggled with the pace on a slow, low pitch, and the bowling was even worse initially. Doug Bollinger, Harris and McKay were pounded for 76 off the first 10 overs in a horrible opening as they bowled too short and were punished.
Stirling punched his way to a run-a-ball 36, but he became too adventurous when going across to Harris and lost his leg stump. The spray from Harris after the dismissal showed how irritating the afternoon had become for the Australians. Harris followed up by having Gary Wilson lbw to a ball coming back before Porterfield (39 off 42) was tangled by a Nathan Hauritz offspinner and bowled. Suddenly the locals had gone from favourites to the trouble of 86 for 3.
Alex Cusack and Niall O'Brien steadied the situation during a stand of 51 to retain hope of a first win over Australia. However, Cusack exited with 30 after being lbw to Hopes and Hauritz (2 for 40) had Niall O'Brien (15) caught behind in the next over. Hopes followed up by removing Kevin O'Brien and knocked over Trent Johnson, who was carrying a badly bruised finger, and Peter Connell in consecutive balls. John Mooney held out with 38, putting on 36 for the final wicket, until he skied to Ponting.
The Australians have a practice match against Middlesex on Saturday before the opening ODI of the five-match series against England on Tuesday. Significant improvement on this performance is needed, although they will be more comfortable with the conditions at Lord's and the Rose Bowl.
Tim Paine steered Australia's uncomfortable innings with a hard-working 81 at the start of a difficult day. The visitors struggled when they fell to 86 for 3 in the 23rd over before Paine and Cameron White (42) stepped in to set the hosts a challenging total.
Paine, who is filling in for the injured Brad Haddin, wants to gain a spot in the side as a specialist batsman and he did a solid job in testing circumstances. He found the going tough throughout but refused to give in until he clipped the impressive Kevin O'Brien to his brother Niall at midwicket.
The highlights for Paine were three pulls off Boyd Rankin - two went for six and another for four - in a hardworking, 122-ball assignment. The O'Brien brothers combined again to remove Michael Hussey (8) and Nathan Hauritz (19) as Kevin led the way with 3 for 43.
Ponting ordered some batting practice for his team after winning the toss, but the visitors were under pressure having lost Shane Watson (13), Ponting (33) and Michael Clarke (0). Ponting was chasing some form after a lay-off of almost three months, but he was frustrated into holing out to deep midwicket off Stirling's offspin.
Cusack (2 for 38) had Clarke stumped in a tight call and Ireland were on top before Paine and White put on 66 for the fourth wicket to regain some control. White gave Stirling (2 for 34) his second breakthrough while Rankin finished with 2 for 45. It was an impressive effort from Ireland even though they could not achieve an unforgettable result.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo