|Ireland v Australia One Day International 2012|
Ireland v Australia 2007
The margin of defeat may have been worse than expected but it was a day to say 'I was there'. They travelled in their hundreds from all parts of Ireland to Barbados for Ireland's first match against Australia in the World Cup finals and although it was all over before lunch the party continued long into the afternoon. If there is one country who knows how to party more than West Indies it is the Irish and they were not going to let the little matter of a nine wickets defeat by the world champions ruin their day. From the first single by Jeremy Bray to skipper Trent Johnston's chicken dance celebrating the wicket of the great Adam Gilcrhist, the fans lapped it up in the amphitheatre that is the Kensington Oval. There were many more Australian cheers in between but this was Ireland's day.
Johnston apologised to the crowd for the team 'not being up to scratch' but apart from a couple of isolated shots and a handful of deliveries, the team had nothing to be ashamed of. Even their total of 91 was only the ninth lowest in a World Cup match. Indeed Ireland had only five wickets down when they passed the all-time low of 36 and only six had fallen when they reached 45, the best performance by an Australia attack in the finals when they dismissed Namibia four years ago.
When Ireland bowled, Boyd Rankin continued his impressive form in the tournament, conceded just 14 runs off the bat in four overs as Adam Gilchrist threatened mayhem. Three successive fours off Dave Langford-Smith was his high-point but, four overs later, the captain raised the roof at the World Cup final venue with a ball that nipped back through Gilly's defences. At 62-1 for one, it was hardly panic time for the Aussies but it forced Andrew Symonds to walk to the wicket. And he should not have been there at the finish because Bray, at mid-off, got his hands to a drive but failed to hold the catch above his head. Two balls later, Symonds smashed John Mooney into the sightscreen for six and when Michael Hussey pulled the second ball of the 13th over into the Greenidge & Haynes stand, Australia had become the first team to confirm their place in the semi finals.
The change in the Australia batting order - to allow Hussey and Symonds some time in the middle ahead of their final two group games against Sri Lanka and New Zealand - was the only concession the world champions made to the weaker opposition. Captain Ricky Ponting had promised Ireland they would go for the kill and from the moment he won the toss - or rather Johnston lost yet another - he was determined to show off his magnificent team in the best possible light. With some moisture still in the pitch Ponting had no hesitation in giving his bowlers first use of the fastest pitch in the Caribbean and Glenn McGrath and Shaun Tait made deadly inroads.
Bray, not for the first time in the tournament - failed to survive the first over, yorked by McGrath and before the legendary fast bowler had Eoin Morgan caught at first slip for a nine-ball duck, Tait's express pace accounted for William Porterfield, given the slow death by umpire Rudi Koertzen and Niall O'Brien was bowled first ball. Carnage threatened. Was it all going to be too much for Ireland? Not a bit of it. Kevin O'Brien responded with two fours off Tait and managed to survive a 94mph short ball in between although Andrew White was felled by a horrible blow to the helmet from McGrath. White didn't really recover and the McGrath slower ball did for him in the next over to leave Ireland 32 for five. O'Brien saw off the opening bowlers but turned first change Stuart Clarke straight to mid-wicket and Johnston, determined to enjoy himself against his former New South Wales team-mates, made 17 from just 24 balls before he played on in Tait's second spell.
The medium pace of Andrew Symonds accounted for Kyle McCallan who chipped to mid-on and the slow arm spin of Brad Hogg was too much for Dave Langford-Smith, caught at silly point. John Mooney cashed in on his call-up, as a replacement for the injured Andre Botha, and hit a couple of cover boundaries in his 23 and, for the rest of his life, he can say he was top scorer against Australia in the World Cup. And well deserved too. Trying to defend 91 against the best batting team in the world was an impossible task and if it is any consolation to the Ireland players, the Aussies scored even quicker against South Africa in their group game.
This was a day when the occasion was always going to be more important than the result and with this unique experience behind them Ireland can now concentrate on tomorrow's Super Eight clash with Bangladesh - a game the players believe they can win.