Australia v Ireland ODI
Australia cruise to big win over Ireland
Zampa takes three before Khawaja and Smith half-centuries see Aussies home by nine wickets
Andrew Ramsey at Willowmoore Park, Benoni
28 September 2016, 07:55 AM AEST
The sense of relief among Australia’s ODI team at finding themselves on familiar footing against a less venomous foe was palpable as the world champions handed Ireland a thrashing in their one-off ODI.
Even the sight of a sluggish wicket at Benoni, a result of South Africa being only a few weeks removed from the often frosty mornings of the Highveld winter, gave cause for the visitors’ eyes to light up following their recent travails on the tailor-made spin strips of Sri Lanka.
For the bowlers, who shared the nine Irish wickets (plus a run-out) to fall for a below-par 198, after the underdogs’ rollicking start that had the Australians briefly on the back foot.
But more so for the top-order batters who gorged themselves on Ireland’s honest but scarcely daunting seam bowling and revelled in their capacity to swing the bat with impunity often verging on audacity.
In the knowledge that the outfield was largely unpopulated during the first 10 overs of the Power Play and the only dangers in the pitch – in stark contrast to the Sri Lanka Test and ODI experience – was a lack of pace and an occasionally commensurate variation in bounce.
Propelled by a 73-run opening stand between David Warner – reverting to his regular role as Steve Smith’s deputy – and Usman Khawaja that occupied just 52 balls at a rate of more than eight runs per over, Australia coasted home with virtually 20 overs to spare.
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While Warner, who had found touch at the back end of the Sri Lanka campaign after a difficult Test series, brimmed with confidence in his 30-ball 48 before one popped on him from the sluggish surface, the most obvious beneficiary of the change in conditions was Khawaja.
During a wretched stint in Sri Lanka where he lost his Test berth and a similarly unproductive few outings in the limited-overs format which initially cost him his place for this South Africa ODI tour until Shaun Marsh was ruled out with a fractured finger, Khawaja bore no resemblance to the tortured soul tormented by spin.
— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) September 27, 2016
His unbeaten 82 from 77 balls faced was characterised by the array of effortless drives and wristy square-of-the-wicket strokes that had installed him as such a dominant force during the previous Australian summer.
And even the fortune that had deserted him – as Sri Lanka’s phalanx of finger spinners probed and exposed the left-hander’s uncertainties in the alien conditions – reappeared at a most opportune moment.
The skied chance that Khawaja offered to fine leg when he was on eight and his team 0-33 that doubtless would have been snared at Kandy or Colombo was turfed by Ireland seamer Peter Chase steaming in from the fine leg boundary.
With another equally fortuitous blemish when he popped a ball back over bowler Barry McCarthy’s head when on 73, only to see it once more elude the exasperated Chase’s despairingly fruitless dive.
Save for his 98 (run out) against the West Indies during the mid-year ODI tri-series in the Caribbean, it was Khawaja’s highest score for Australia in any form of the game since he was in his pomp against New Zealand last February.
Australia is one of a handful of Test playing nations (along with India, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka) that Ireland has yet to topple in the ODI format.
But there was a decided sense of an upset on the blustery breeze that whipped through the former frontier goldmining town when Ireland’s openers William Porterfield and Paul Stirling took the fight to their more fancied rivals.
Perhaps emboldened by the familiarity with the conditions – Ireland had previously played three ODIs at Benoni (the most recent against South Africa last Sunday) while Australia had never before been scheduled at the bucolic venue – the associate nation made the most of their decision to bat first.
Making his international debut, Daniel Worrall found that getting the ball to swing in the thinner atmosphere up on the veld was not as simple as he had hoped and he came in for some heavy treatment in his third over.
His new ball partner John Hastings was finding a similar lack of assistance from the surroundings and Stirling (30 off 27 balls) led Ireland’s charge towards 50 with all wickets intact.
But a combination of tighter lines as the Australians attacked the stumps and the introduction of leg-spinner Adam Zampa as the fielding restrictions were lifted after 10 overs saw a stalling of the run rate and the regular loss of wickets.
Scott Boland and Zampa got rid of the openers, and then Boland earned himself a sliver of trivia buff history when he became the first player to earn a wicket using the new DRS guidelines introduced by the ICC to better reward bowlers’ lbw shouts.
Even though the technology used to uphold the verdict against Ireland’s top scorer John Anderson (39 from 49 deliveries) seemed to indicate the ball safely clearing the stumps.
And then Worrall – who had been denied his maiden international wicket when a caught behind verdict was struck down on review – returned to earn the scalp of Gary Wilson in similar fashion.
And then play a central role in the bizarre removal of Sean Terry next ball, when the Irishman awaited the outcome of an lbw appeal but did so while loitering out of his crease only to have Steve Smith throw down the stumps from slip.
That mini-collapse in which Ireland lost 3-2 in the space of seven balls and slumped to 5-123 at the mid-point of their allotted overs effectively quashed any hopes they held of posting a challenging target.
And for the second time in three days the men in green were left to ponder a disappointing performance against a couple of the ODI game’s benchmarks that might also have provided something of a reality check on their loftier international aspirations.