Australia has avoided the embarrassment of a loss to world No.10 Ireland in Steve Smith’s full captaincy debut following a tense, rain-affected one-day clash in Belfast.
On a day which was interrupted by half a dozen rain delays, Australia won by 23 runs as Ireland were caught short, bowled out in the final over for 157 chasing the revised target of 181 from 24 overs.
It looked as though Ireland were on track to record a stunning upset, as veterans Ed Joyce (44 off 33) and Niall O’Brien (45 off 53) put on 86 for the third wicket – a partnership that included five runs when a Shane Watson delivery was deflected onto the helmet by wicketkeeper Matt Wade.
However, Nathan Coulter-Nile (3-13), Pat Cummins (2-19), Mitchell Starc (2-34) and Glenn Maxwell (2-41) made the mountain too large to climb for the hosts.
Smith admitted the weather had made life difficult for both teams throughout the day.
“It was tough to get in a rhythm, whether being a batter or a bowler,” he said.
“That comes down to attitude and the boys had the attitude today.
“I thought 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.”
Earlier, Australia’s potential Test opening partnership passed its first audition, with David Warner (84) and Joe Burns (69) smashing a century stand in an otherwise disappointing batting display by the tourists.
The pair posted half-centuries and combined for 139 runs as Australia amassed 6-222 from 40.2 overs before heavy rain set in and their innings was called early.
The home side suffered some heavy blows early in their chase, with both Starc and Coulter-Nile striking in their opening overs to leave Ireland struggling at 2-9.
Joyce and wicketkeeper O’Brien were thrusting Ireland into favouritism when Maxwell struck.
The allrounder broke the partnership by clean bowling Joyce, and doubled up with the wicket of O’Brien, well caught in the deep by Burns, the following over.
Beyond an powerful opening partnership, and an unbeaten 26 to Shane Watson, Australia had precious few contributions from their deep batting lineup, with a collapse of 6-75 the recent trademark of their middle order contribution.
On debut, Burns started explosively and looked every bit the part as he smashed 69 off 70 balls – a knock which included a monster six and later three consecutive fours.
The Queenslander was given a reprieve on 61 when caught behind, only to find out after a short pause that pace bowler Craig Young had overstepped the mark and a no-ball was called – but he soon fell to the same bowler having added just eight more runs.
Warner continued to fire in his absence, and a century beckoned before he too fell victim to a mistimed pull – finding Joyce in the outfield off the bowling of Tim Murtagh (2-45) for 84.
Neither George Bailey (2) or Maxwell (1) lasted long, and suddenly Australia had lost 4-31 as the clouds converged.
“The middle order again, we lost a few wickets in clumps which is disappointing,” Smith, who scored 21, said.
“It’s our first game back in white ball cricket so I’m not really reading too much into that.”