Shane Watson will look to continue his run of form in T20s against Ireland. Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au/AFP
Anyone who expects Australia to canter to victory over Ireland need only cast their minds back to a pair of opening round jaw-droppers in previous editions of the ICC World Twenty20 tournament.
In 2007, Zimbabwe stunned Australia after ‘keeper Brendan Taylor carried his bat for an unbeaten 60, while an ever bigger upset occurred at Lord’s in 2009 when minnows the Netherlands chased down England’s score of 162 on the final ball of the match.
In one-day cricket, Ireland has caused boilovers against the likes of Pakistan, Bangladesh and England, but the team is yet to cause any seismic shocks in the Twenty20 format of the game. Bangladesh recently swept a three-match series against the Irish, although two of the games did go down to the wire.
Ireland has two of the more talented younger players in international cricket in the shape of burly batsman Paul Stirling and crafty spinner George Dockrell . Stirling has cracked three quickfire 50s in T20s this year against Afghanistan, Canada and Kenya, while Dockrell was recently named ICC Associate Player of the Year.
It’s no secret Australia struggles against spin, and this was emphasised further when Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal led the wicket-takers in the recent ODI and T20 series in the United Arab Emirates. Dockrell showed he’s adept at the shortest format of the game in his team’s last World T20 campaign, taking 3 for 16 against the Windies and putting the brakes on England’s power-packed middle order.
Australia’s recent record in T20s is awful, posting just five wins and a tie from its last 17 matches. The team has lost its only two 20-over matches in Sri Lanka, both to the home side. Evergreen Mike Hussey batted well in the one-dayers in the UAE, and smashed 71 against England in a final tune-up on Monday. Shane Watson has been consistent at the top of the order of late, averaging 36 across his last four matches, including the two warm-up matches.
Mitchell Starc impressed in the UAE in his first two T20 internationals, taking 3 for 11 and 1 for 17, backing that up with 2 for 32 against England. Across all Twenty20 matches, he has taken 46 wickets in 28 matches at an outstanding average of 15. Brad Hogg could also feature amongst Australia’s leading wicket-takers after picking up five wickets in the two warm-up games.
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