Mike Hussey hits a shot through the off-side. Photo: Getty Images
NO AUSTRALIAN player has said it out loud but they are all thinking it.
Ireland has a reputation for felling giants at world cups, which is why vice-captain Shane Watson declared it was time for Australia to leave its patchy Twenty20 form behind after a narrow loss to England yesterday in its final warm-up for the World Twenty20.
In theory, the Irish team that is Australia's first opponent tomorrow should not present anywhere near as stern a challenge as England, the defending champion and No. 1 Twenty20 team. But Ireland conquered England at the most recent 50-over World Cup and booted Pakistan out of the one before that.
''Not too many guys have been talking about it but deep inside everyone knows they are a very dangerous team,'' Watson said. ''They've got some highly skilled players and we certainly have to be at our best to make sure we dominate the game. We need to be at our best against Ireland to make a statement in our first game because we have been very up and down with our form.''
Coach Mickey Arthur also conveyed a feeling of trepidation. ''I know I'll only rest easy when that game's passed,'' Arthur said. ''That's not through fear of failure. They have been a giant-killer and they're playing with a quite nice bit of freedom. Any team in this competition can win if they have a good day.''
The Australians paid for wayward bowling with a nine-run loss to England at the NCC ground in Colombo. They will depend heavily on their skilful pace attack throughout the tournament, but the seamers were unable to control the swing in the humid morning conditions, conceding 14 wides.
This allowed England to climb to 6-172 and not even the valiant batting of Michael Hussey could get Australia home.
''That's going to be one of the crucial things, controlling that new ball swing,'' Watson said. ''In this humidity the new ball is going to swing and we have got guys who can swing the ball, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, so we have to make sure we can control it because we can't afford to have that many extras. In the end that was the reason they got 170, and it lets the batsmen off.''
Hussey held together the Australian innings from No. 3 with 71 from 51 balls. He took a special liking to Danny Briggs, a left-arm orthodox spinner from the Isle of Wight, hitting him for three consecutive sixes and a four in one over. But his departure in the 17th over, lbw to Stuart Broad, left the lower order with too much to do. Glenn Maxwell (18 from 13) and captain George Bailey perished in the quest for quick runs and Australia needed 22 from the last over, which was too big a task for Matthew Wade and Dan Christian.
The Australian chase began poorly when David Warner was caught at backward point for a duck in a fine first over from Steven Finn.
Watson soon got his eye in, crunching Finn, Tim Bresnan and Broad for sixes before he was bowled trying to sweep the off-spin of Graeme Swann for 30 from 16 balls.
Cameron White also succumbed to spin, stumped for nine off Briggs.
Spinner Brad Hogg took two wickets but was expensive, conceding 39 from his four overs. He had Luke Wright caught in the deep by White and also captured top-scorer Alex Hales, for 52.
Except for Maxwell, the Australian bowlers conceded more than eight an over.