World Twenty20: Watson steers Australia past potential Irish banana skin
Ireland 123-7 Australia 125-3 (Australia win by 7 wickets)
There are 18 varieties of banana in Sri Lanka. The fruit is an integral part of the economy and of growing significance in a series of cottage industries.
What this means for the World Twenty20, in which several smaller cricketing teams are lining up in the group stages against the big beasts of cricket, is that there are abundant skins to slip up on. Among the cognoscenti, there is a feeling of inevitability that it will happen.
Australia went into their Group A match against Ireland yesterday in a deeply apprehensive state. Their coach, Micky Arthur, admitted that he would sleep much better after the match than before it.
In the event, his concern was overdone if not misplaced. Ireland, who were briefly above Australia in the ICC world rankings last month, rather let themselves down when confronted by their opponents' firepower and they were defeated by seven wickets with all of 29 balls unused.
The loss of a wicket to the first ball of the match – their captain, William Porterfield – and of three more before the eighth over made a genuinely competitive total unattainable. In the event, they did well to detain Australia as long as they did in making the 124 runs needed to win.
Having started with such authority, Australia simply had too much nous for their opponents. Now ranked ninth in the world, one place above Ireland in a table of 11, they were never imperilled despite some batting carelessness as the winning line approached.
A partnership of 52 from 44 balls between the O'Brien brothers, Kevin and Niall, repaired some but not all the early damage for Ireland. They have long been a properly robust unit of cricketers, neither cowed nor cocky but able to hold their own.
Eight of their number played for English counties in the recent season, including all their top six. They will be annoyed to have given quite such a moderate account of themselves.
Australia began at a lick with 44 from five overs, 19 of them in the fourth by which time it was as good as over. Shane Watson, who opened the bowling and took 3 for 26, also chipped in with the bat, bashing his way to 51 from 31 balls which included three sixes.
He was run out by a direct hit, not sensing the danger quickly enough in dashing for a single. All this did was extend proceedings a little more as Australia contented themselves with cantering to the line.
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