Australia v Ireland, Super Eights, Barbados April 13, 2007

Ireland can push Bangladesh - Ponting



The Irish batsmen were no match for Australia's precision fast bowling © Getty Images

It was over in 42.4 overs, quarter of an hour before the scheduled lunch break, and Michael Hussey's hefty hit into the stands at midwicket amply illustrated the huge chasm that separates the world's best team from a motley crew striving to enhance the game's visibility in a country where it's hardly the overriding sporting passion.

"We came here to put Ireland cricket on the world map," Trent Johnston, the Australian-born captain, said. "People watching us in Ireland would have been disappointed. They'd think that we're not good enough but they'd also realise that we were playing a huge game. Another couple of matches like this, and we may get closer."

There were a few words of comfort from Ricky Ponting, whose decision to bowl first on a lively pitch killed this contest even before the first ball was hurled in anger. "The Irish would have been a bit nervous, playing against all these guys that they've probably watched on TV," he said. "It can be a bit unnerving. And with [Shaun] Tait and [Glenn] McGrath bowling like that with the new ball, it could've happened to any team. But we wanted to go in there with guns blazing rather than let them hang around and be a nuisance."

Johnston, who scored 17 and took a wicket, was at the crease long before he would have expected, with Tait and McGrath ensuring that the top of the scorecard read like binary code. "I knew it was going be tough," he said. "They're not two-time world champions and going for a third for nothing. We wanted to be competitive but it didn't turn out that way.

"We don't play that type of bowling [McGrath and Tait]. Our top four couldn't get runs. This was the first time they've failed, so they'll learn from it."

Adrian Birrell, the Ireland coach, had said on the day before the game that Australia would look to "annihilate" his side, and his worst fears were confirmed in the morning. "We really struggled to bat against their bowlers," he said, before adding that the Australians were a notch above the other teams that Ireland had come up against.

"We survived against others but couldn't survive against them," he said. "They seem to be in a different class. Every time we come up against a team, it's better than the last. McGrath has been a world-class bowler for a long time, and we struggled against him."

Ponting's post-match assessment was possibly the most accurate though. "I don't know much about Irish cricket, but they need to be congratulated on being here today," he said. "They'll be able to push Bangladesh."

After this ordeal, that April 15 game, which many had expected to be a marquee match-up between India and Pakistan, is an opportunity to reprise the heroics of the first round. And with Andrew White wearing one flush on the helmet from McGrath, the Irish will also be thankful that they won't have to fret too much about grievous bodily harm.

Dileep Premachandran is associate editor of Cricinfo

Comments