Australia's captain Steven Smith has expressed disappointment at his team's middle-order slump against Ireland but said the side would be better for the hit-out ahead of their ODI series against England. In Smith's first match as full-time one-day captain, Australia won by 23 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis system in a rain-affected contest reduced to a 24-over chase.
Debutant Joe Burns (69) and David Warner (84) put on 139 for the opening wicket but the rest of the batting order struggled to find the same rhythm. Smith scored 21 off 38 balls, George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell managed only single-figure scores, and Australia reached 222 for 6 before rain ended their innings prematurely after 40.2 overs.
However, their total was big enough against an Ireland outfit that relied largely on an 86-run partnership between Ed Joyce and Niall O'Brien for the third wicket. The revised target became 181 from 24 overs due to the rain, and Ireland were bowled out for 157 in the final over of their chase.
"It was a good workout for us," Smith said. "It was a pretty frustrating day, going on and off but I think all the boys got what they needed out of it. I think Davey Warner and Joe Burns, on debut, played really nicely. They're positive signs for us.
"The middle order again, we lost a few wickets in clumps, which is disappointing, but it's our first game back in white-ball cricket, so I'm not really reading too much into it. I thought with the ball we were pretty good.
"It was tough to get in a rhythm, whether being a batter or a bowler. That comes down to attitude. The boys had the attitude today. Ed Joyce and Niall O'Brien got a little partnership together there, and we always thought we were one wicket away from cracking it open and it turned out to be that way."
Nathan Coulter-Nile picked up 3 for 13 in his first international match since last November, and Pat Cummins bowled with good pace to collect 2 for 19. But perhaps the most promising sign for Australia was the success of Burns, whose 69 came from 70 deliveries and served as a timely reminder of his credentials after he was left out of the Ashes squad.
"Joe has had a taste of Test cricket [against India] and he played quite well in those Test matches that he played," Smith said. "I thought he played really nicely today. He complemented Warner. They both played really well. Rod [Marsh] has said before if you're scoring runs in one-day cricket you can certainly put your name up for Test cricket and hopefully he can take the opportunity of opening in this series with both hands."
The match was Australia's first ODI since their triumph in the World Cup final against New Zealand in March. Their five-match one-day series against England begins in Southampton on Thursday next week, preceded by a T20 in Cardiff on Monday.