A mismatch it was

Deadly duo- Shaun Tait and Glenn McGrath (below) blew Ireland's challenge to smithereens.-Pics: AP Deadly duo- Shaun Tait and Glenn McGrath (below) blew Ireland's challenge to smithereens.

Although Ireland entered the Super Eight with that fine win over Pakistan, and has been competitive for lengthy periods of other matches, the gulf between the minnow side and Australia was gargantuan, writes Richard Gibson.

Ricky Ponting's Australia ruthlessly dispatched World Cup minnow Ireland to go clear at the top of the Super Eight standings. The reigning champion, gunning for an unprecedented third straight title, went clear of its rivals with a nine-wicket victory which also inflated its net run rate considerably.

Ponting insisted before the match that his team would be attempting to turn in its best performance of the tournament to date and professionalism persuaded him to insert Ireland rather than allow his under-used batsmen extended time in the middle.

Within a handful of overs the decision was fully vindicated as Ireland's top four batsmen perished for a dozen runs. It was a different story at the head of the chase of a paltry 92 as Adam Gilchrist's powerful forearms whizzed the ball to the boundary with their usual regularity.

Dave Langford-Smith, one of three Australians featuring for Ireland having qualified through marriage, bore the brunt as three consecutive deliveries travelled to the rope on the off-side in an over which cost 16.

Both Michael Hussey and Andrew Symonds were promoted up the order to provide rare opportunities in a tournament in which the Australians have barely broken sweat. They came together at 62 for one, in the ninth over, after Gilchrist was bowled by a fine inswinger from the Sydney-born Irish captain Trent Johnston.

Symonds muscled the opposition into submission. Two brutal strokes from him — a pulled four and a straight six — sandwiched a spectacular attempted catch at mid-off by Jeremy Bray off medium-pacer John Mooney. And Hussey finished things in spectacular fashion as he pulled giant paceman Boyd Rankin for six off the second ball of the 13th over.

It emphasised that although Ireland earned its place in the Super Eight with that fine win over Pakistan, and has been competitive for lengthy periods of other matches, the gulf between the minnow side and Australia was gargantuan.

Ireland was dismantled for just 91 thanks mainly to veteran Glenn McGrath and young firebrand Shaun Tait. McGrath, the leading wicket-taker in World Cup history, wasted little time in adding to his tally as left-hander Jeremy Bray played around a full delivery, the sixth of the morning, and was bowled.

McGrath's new-ball partner Shaun Tait then showed his pace with a delivery that flew past William Porterfield's nose. He began his second over in even more spectacular fashion as Porterfield, beaten by the pace, fell leg-before and Niall O'Brien dragged a full toss onto his stumps the very next ball.

Kevin O'Brien narrowly survived, denying the bowler the hat-trick, the ball passing the outside edge on its way to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist. But immediately he clipped two boundaries off his pads in the same over. Inexplicably, however, Tait totally lost his control in his next over, bowling four wides and a no-ball. The over cost him nine runs in addition to a dropped catch of Andrew White at second slip by Ponting. When White then bunted a slower ball from McGrath to mid-off, Ireland had lost half its side for 32 inside 11 overs.

Johnston drove a four through mid-on to instigate some typical chuntering from former New South Wales colleague McGrath. But he and O'Brien fell immedaitely, the former played straight to midwicket off Stuart Clark and the latter played on to a ball from Tait, who was bowling his second spell.

Vice-captain Kyle McCallan failed to clear mid-on and was caught by Tait off Symonds, while Dave Langford-Smith tamely popped up a catch to silly mid-off, off wrist-spinner Brad Hogg. Tailender Mooney, drafted in to bolster the bowling, top scored with 23. He perished while attempting to steal a single off Brad Hogg — Tait's throw from mid-off was spot on.

The Scores

Super Eight: Australia v Ireland. Australia won by nine wickets.

Ireland: J. Bray b McGrath 1; W. Porterfield lbw b Tait 1; E. Morgan c Hayden b McGrath 0; N. J. O'Brien b Tait 0; K. J. O'Brien c Hodge b Clark 16; A. White c Hogg b McGrath 6; D. Johnston b Tait 17; W. McCallan c Tait b Symonds 5; J. Mooney (run out) 23; D. Langford-Smith c Ponting b Hogg 2; W. Rankin (not out) 4; Extras (w-15, nb-1) 16. Total (in 30 overs) 91.

Fall of wkts: 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, 4-12, 5-32, 6-42, 7-54, 8-72, 9-80.

Australia bowling: McGrath 7-1-17-3; Tait 6-1-39-3; Clark 8-1-19-1; Hogg 6-2-9-1; Symonds 3-1-7-1.

Australia: A. Gilchrist b Johnston 34; M. Hussey (not out) 30; A. Symonds (not out) 15; Extras (lb-4, w-8, nb-1) 13. Total (for one wkt., in 12.2 overs) 92.

Fall of wkt: 62.

Ireland bowling: Langford-Smith 3-0-27-0; Rankin 4.2-0-24-0; Johnston 3-0-18-1; Mooney 1-0-14-0; McCallan 1-0-5-0.

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