Watson too sharp for Ireland
Ireland failed to overcome a dismal start to their World Twenty20 campaign as they were beaten by seven wickets in their opening Group B match against Australia.
Skipper Will Porterfield pulled Shane Watson’s first ball of the match straight to Mitchell Starc at long-leg as the Irish limped to 33 for four in the eighth over.
A 52-run partnership between brothers Niall and Kevin O’Brien at least gave the Ireland attack something to bowl at, but Watson hit a 30-ball half-century to help steer Australia home with 29 balls remaining.
Porterfield chose to bat on a good-looking Colombo track, but, after his early departure, Ireland looked nervous; Paul Stirling was almost run-out with the score still on nought, although the Middlesex man did then thump the final ball of the over to the cover boundary.
After a far-from-fluent seven off 12 balls, Stirling launched Starc to Watson at third man and, having hit two boundaries in three balls off Pat Cummins, Ed Joyce tamely chipped off-spinner Glenn Maxwell to David Warner at mid-off.
Things got no better for Ireland when Gary Wilson played all round a straight one from Brad Hogg and was given lbw.
Kevin O’Brien hit the veteran left-arm chinaman for consecutive fours in the 12th over before a glorious drive off Dan Christian and a thumping pull off Starc brought up further boundaries.
However, having seen the more sedate Niall bowled by a Watson slower ball, Kevin O’Brien tamely flicked the former Hampshire man to wicketkeeper Matthew Wade at the end of the same over following a 29-ball 35.
Former skipper Trent Johnston was bowled by Starc but some late hitting from Alex Cusack and Nigel Jones - who hit Ireland’s only six in the final over - carried the minnows to 123 for seven, Watson’s 3-26 the pick of the bowling.
Warner and Watson soon dashed any thoughts of Ireland defending that total with a 60 partnership in seven overs, before the former chipped spinner George Dockrell to Kevin O’Brien at deep midwicket.
Watson hit three huge sixes on the leg-side in his knock of 52, before being run out by Johnston at short third man.
Mike Hussey fell in the same Kevin O’Brien over after being hit on the pad in front of middle stump, but any faint hopes Ireland had of an unlikely comeback dissipated when Johnston failed to cling to a difficult chance after Cameron White pulled Rankin in the air.
White thumped a leg-side four to finish the contest at the start of the 16th over, leaving Ireland needing to beat West Indies to keep their chances of progressing to the Super Eights alive.