Ireland are a gutsy cricket team, and do not want to be looked at with benevolence, so they will appreciate this appraisal of their game so far at this World Cup: they do not yet have the depth of skill to challenge a top side that is not having a bad day.

There is much to like about Ireland. They play with pride but are not proud. Their performances make it seem as though they have more resources than they do. They are the face of Associate cricket's crusade for greater opportunity, and have competed with more heart than England or West Indies in this tournament. But first against South Africa and now against India at Seddon Park, a ground that offered no hiding place for weaknesses, Ireland could not stretch their opponents even a little.

The two largest holes in Ireland's game are that while their batsmen are comfortable against pace - even of a high degree - they struggle against spin, and their seam attack is so unthreatening that in the absence of any assistance from the conditions and bad shots, the chances of a wicket are remote. All those factors were in play against India, and the script the match followed was of little surprise.

Ireland's openers, William Porterfield and Paul Stirling, had made a smooth start against a pace attack that had hustled and harried South Africa, West Indies and Pakistan, albeit on a benign pitch that offered little swing or seam. They got to 57 in nine overs by the time MS Dhoni decided to let spin shape the course of the innings. The India captain said after the game that had this match been of greater importance, he would have brought his spinners on sooner.

Though Ravindra Jadeja's flatter and faster left-arm spin went for 20 runs in his first three overs, Ireland's uneasiness against the offspinner R Ashwin was evident and the slowdown immediate. Stirling fell trying to loft Ashwin, and with two left-hand batsmen - Ed Joyce joined Porterfield - the decision to bring on part-time offspinner Suresh Raina, who also varies his pace, was an easy one to make for Dhoni.

The pitch did not offer much to the spinners either. There was some bounce, but the degree of turn was average and balls were not stopping on the batsmen. Make no mistake, the Seddon Park surface was one for the batsmen, but Ireland were straitjacketed by Ashwin and Raina.

Ireland could not force the spinners off their lengths by using their feet or the depth of the crease, and in the absence of width and poor length, they were limited to tentative dabs and prods. The sweep was their most frequently used attacking shot, and though it brought runs, on a pitch with bounce it also cost Ireland the wickets of Andy Balbirnie - crucially off the last ball of Ashwin's spell and a blow that triggered a collapse - and Gary Wilson.

Ashwin's first spell was 8-1-19-1 - he ended with 2 for 38 - and Raina bowled ten overs on the trot to finish with 1 for 40. Ireland simply lacked the nous to tackle tight spin bowling in ordinary conditions, a failing that could be put down to a lack of exposure to such challenges and that the best player of spin produced by their country is now captain of England.

"I think exposure is a big thing," Porterfield said after his side's eight-wicket defeat. "You've probably heard me say it a 1000 times that we've played only nine ODIs against the top teams in the last four years in between World Cups, which is not a lot. That's disappointing from our point of view to not have that experience and get those games under our belt.

"I think the skill factor is there, but you have to give credit to the way Ashwin and the lads bowled. We could have tried to put them under a bit more pressure but we didn't want to go too hard too soon. We picked up a bit of momentum coming into the Powerplay but every time we managed to do that we lost wickets."

Ireland's total of 259 was at least 40 runs below par and unlike West Indies, India's top order was never going to give them too many chances on a flat pitch. Their four seamers - John Mooney, Alex Cusack, rookie Stuart Thompson and Kevin O'Brien - bowl medium pace without too many variations. There is a sameness to their attack that is dispiriting and makes it difficult to set fields for in ideal batting conditions. Ireland need seamer-friendly conditions to test an ace batting unit. They did not have even a bit of that in Hamilton and they suffered. Once again, it did not help that the one 90mph bowler Ireland have produced is striving to have a career for England.

"We don't have lads at the minute who are coming in bowling 90 clicks, which a lot of sides do," Porterfield said. "I think the lads have got great skill, but we've come up on a very flat wicket and you see the way their lads played. It was a very good pitch on a small ground and defending an under par total on that is very difficult."

When Ireland opened their World Cup campaign with a victory against West Indies, it was rightly said that the result was not an upset. And as much as that is a credit to Ireland's development despite the difficulties they face, it was also an indictment of the shambles West Indies are in. But when the pitch is flat and the opponent is well-drilled and playing their A game, this Ireland team is not close to forcing a positive result.

They may or may not have greater exposure to playing quality spin in the future, and they may continue to lose players to England. They have come far despite those obstacles, but to not be seen as an Associate who punches above their weight, they need to find ways to cope with days like today.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo