Despite a frustrating day of heavy showers, Ireland and Australia finally got their Hanley Energy Challenge ODI played to a conclusion on Thursday evening with the world champions’ class telling in the end with a 23-run win on DLS.
The game had certainly enjoyed all the build-up over the past few months but this most unfriendly of summers was determined to have its say on proceedings. A delayed start meant the loss of playing time although thanks to the efforts of the beleaguered Stormont ground staff it wasn’t to be quite as bad as many had feared.
The world champions seemed intent on making up for lost time as they began their reduced 47-over innings with debutant Joe Burns and the dangerous David Warner taking on all comers after they had won the toss and decided to bat. Craig Young was in the openers’ sights early on as the first ten overs belonged very firmly to the visitors; Burns and Warner racking up 80 without loss during the power-play.
To be fair the Irish bowlers clawed it back in the next phase of the contest as the rate slowed dramatically however there were 139 on the board before the batsmen were finally separated in the 22nd over. Young was the man responsible for the breakthrough- the Bready bowler having his revenge at the start of his second spell when tempting Burns to get under one which was caught by Niall O’Brien for 69 (7 fours 1 six).
Warner and skipper Steve Smith added 26 more before the former was caught by Ed Joyce off Tim Murtagh for a typically aggressive 84 (7 fours 3 sixes) and the impressive Murtagh then cleaned up George Bailey for just a single in his next over.
Andy McBrine was also bowling well and he was next in on the act having Glen Maxwell caught behind for 2 before another shower forced the players off for a short interruption.
Just one over per side was lost this time but on the resumption Stuart Thompson put Ireland right back in the match as he picked up the key wicket of Smith for 21 - O’Brien with his third catch of the innings, and this one the pick of them.
Mitch Marsh brought up the Aussies’ 200 with a boundary off Thompson but with the next shower looming, John Mooney had him caught by Murtagh for 11 to leave the score 214-6. Shane Watson (25*) and Matthew Wade (1*) took that to 222 before persistent rain put an early end to the visitors’ innings.
A two-hour stoppage obviously meant a recalculation and the DLS target looked tough on the hosts who were set 195 from 27 overs to win the game.
And if it looked a big ask to start with it would have appeared a mountain in the home camp after Mitchell Starc and Nathan Coulter-Nile dismissed William Porterfield and Paul Stirling respectively in the first 10 deliveries as Ireland slumped to 7 for 2.
Yet more rain meant yet more number crunching and another interruption saw Ireland now set 181 in 24, however Ed Joyce and Niall O’Brien gave the patient home support real hope on their return.
The pair batted superbly for the next 12 overs - adding 86 to their team’s cause before a relieved Maxwell bowled Joyce for an excellent 44 from 33 balls.
O’Brien fell soon after having made 45 (5 fours) and the hosts were slightly behind when Pat Cummins claimed the wicket of Andrew Balbirnie for 12, however Stuart Thompson took 16 off Maxwell’s next over to bring the match back to life. Ireland needed 46 off 5 overs now but two wickets in the 20th over - Gary Wilson (1) and John Mooney (0) was of little help.
Cummins and Starc then bowled the death overs very well against the North West Warriors pair McBrine and Thompson - the latter out for a battling 24 to end any hopes of another famous upset.
It was a solid effort from the Irish boys against a real top-notch side and fitting tribute to the hearty souls who braved the elements throughout the day that the game was played to a conclusion.