Ireland's Hopes dashed at Clontarf
It was a case of what could’ve been for Ireland at Clontarf as they let a brilliant start slip in the second innings to hand a James Hopes inspired Austrlia a 38 run victory in the RSA ODI Challenge.
Set an achievable target of 232 in order to claim the coveted scalp of the world champions, Ireland openers William Porterfield and Paul Stirling got the Irish off to a flyer, banishing Aussies quicks Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris to all corners of the ground to get the capacity Clontarf crowd to their feet.
Porterfield was took a particular fancy to the wayward Harris and initiated a bowling change after just one over as he hit him for three boundaries in his first over. His replacement, Clint McKay faired little better as Stirling dispatched him to the long on boundary, and then to fine leg in as many balls.
Ireland brought the 50 up in the 7th over and looked on course to cause a major upset to the visibly shaken Australia side. McKay continued to struggle with his length and conceded consecutive fours off the now dominant Porterfield before the Irish captain launched him over the long leg boundary for a huge six two overs later.
Stirling was soon on his was back to the pavilion after a characteristically crowd pleasing innings of 36 off 35 balls when Harris, returning after a change of ends, knocked his stumps out of the ground to leave Ireland on 80 for 1.
Porterfield rode his luck after Nathan Hauritz put down a difficult chance at mid-off, forced to dive while watching the ball sail over his head and was again dropped by a diving Shane Watson at first slip with the score on 86-1. Gary Wilson followed Stirling back to the pavilion the very next ball as Harris regained some control to strike the Irish number 3 on the pad and umpire Nigel Llong raised the finger.
Porterfield’s luck soon ran out when he played inside a turning Hauritz off-spinner in the 14th over, clean bowled for a well played 39. Australia, on the back foot for the innings so far, sought to put the pressure back on the hosts immediately by bringing in a short leg. Ireland brought up the team hundred in the 17th regular boundaries kept the run rate ahead of the required.
The introduction of James Hopes at the beginning of the bowling power-play was the turning point of the match as the medium pacer applied the pressure to the Irish with his nagging accuracy and recorded careers best figures in the process.
When Alex Cusack was out lbw to Ryan Harris in the 24th over to leave Ireland on 137-4 and the run-rate starting to climb, it began a period of dominance for the Aussies that was to eventually hand them the match. Ireland were to lose their next four wicket for just 17 runs with Hopes proving impossible to score off as he returned figures of 5-14 off his 9 overs to leave Ireland reeling on 156-9, including the wicket of Trent Johnston, who batted with a severely bruised thumb.
A late cameo of 38 by John Mooney set the Clontarf crowd alight as they maintained a glimmer of hope that their side might pull off an unlikely win. However it wasn’t to be after he skied a full Shane Watson delivery with Ricky Ponting doing the necessary at mid wicket; Australia winners by 39 runs.