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A point of sorts was also made, as the win showed Australia, at number 9 and just a slot above Ireland in the T20 rankings, was not just a point but miles ahead of Wednesday’s opponents.
Watson began proceedings with a wicket off the first ball of the match, and William Porterfield could only top edge the short ball to long leg. Ireland never really recovered from the disastrous start as Australia kept probing the weakness that the fall of the first wicket demonstrated.
It was a surprising tactic in sub-continental conditions, but one that the Aussie bowlers used to good effect. Watson preferred to hit the short and back-of-the-length areas, and occasionally rolled his fingers overs to produce the slower bouncer. With the Irish batsmen looking more comfortable driving the fuller length deliveries through the line, the length the bowlers adopted clearly troubled them. Watson picked up two of his three wickets with the short ball and bowled 12 deliveries — half of his four over quota — closer to him than up to the batsman.
It was not until the Brien brothers took the crease, by which time the side was reduced to 33 for four in the eighth over, that Ireland showed a bit of spine. Kevin O’Brien pulled with comfort, as did elder brother Niall, and together they added 52 runs for the fifth wicket, and the partnership saw Ireland crawl past the three-figure mark. Watson came back to remove Kevin, having him caught behind, and Ireland eventually made 123 for seven.
The target was small, but Man of the match Watson left the result in no doubt, hammering five boundaries and three towering sixes, including one that hit the second tier of the R Premadasa stadium.
The 31-year old began his onslaught with two boundaries in the fourth over of the innings from Trent Johnston before flicking him for a six. Watson’s second shot for a maximum was another hit on the on side, a backfoot pull of a short ball. He repeated the big hitting again off Paul Stirling and George Dockrell, crashing a boundary and a six of successive deliveries off both the slow bowlers.
Though his knock ended in an anti-climax — he was run out on 51 — Australia had by then raced to 91 in 10.1 overs. Following Watson’s dismissal, Australia lost another wicket quickly — that of Michael Hussey leg before to Kevin O’Brien four runs later, but it was too little to change the course of the match. Australia, the 2010 finalists, then went on to hunt the target down with 29 deliveries to spare to register two points in Group B encounter.
Brief scores: Ireland 123/7 (K O’Brien 35, N O’Brien 20, S Watson 3/26, M Starc 2/20) vs Australia 125/3 in 15.1 overs (S Watson 51, D Warner 26, K O’Brien 1/18)