Shane Watson bats for Australia. Presseye/Rowland White/INPHO
What might have been

Ireland miss out on landmark win after falling just short against Australia

A 23-run defeat in Stormont for John Bracewell’s side.

Updated at 19.50pm

- Ryan Bailey reports from Belfast

IT WAS ANOTHER case of what might have been for Ireland against one of the heavyweights on home soil.

It’s now five years since they’ve managed to topple a Full Member nation on these isles and coach John Bracewell will undoubtedly look back on today’s 23-run defeat to Australia as one that was within his side’s grasp.

After a day of fluctuating weather in Belfast, Ireland were tasked with chasing 195 to record a landmark victory but were foiled by further rain and an Australian pace attack brimming with quality.

In the end, the world champions’ superiority shone through but it was a valuable workout for both sides on-front of a patient Stormont crowd forced to endure a succession of heavy showers and a biting breeze.

But those who remained were rewarded with a valiant Irish chase that ultimately ran out of steam as the innings progressed.

Niall O’Brien and Ed Joyce combined to reduce the equation to 68 to win from 42 balls but a flurry of quick wickets ended Ireland’s hopes of pulling off another major scalp.

Cricket - One Day International - Ireland v Australia - Civil Service Cricket Club Mitchell Starc bowls to Ed Joyce. PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

The pair both fell in the 40s and despite a cameo from Stuart Thompson, Ireland never got going again and were eventually bowled out for 157 with two balls remaining.

Earlier, Ireland had produced a spirited fightback by taking five quick wickets to stem the flow of an early onslaught from the tourists.

Australia came out of the blocks quickly and played with a purpose which suggested they were keen to erase the memory of their recent Ashes defeat.

But after Joe Burns – on ODI debut – and David Warner had passed fifty, Ireland wrestled back a semblance of control as they found their rhythm with the ball.

Craig Young proved expensive in his opening spell but returned from the other end to remove Burns for 69 and Tim Murtagh then struck twice in quick succession – removing Warner and then George Bailey – to bring Ireland back into the contest.

Shortly before another passing shower briefly halted play, Andy McBrine was rewarded for an economical spell as Glenn Maxwell got the slightest of edges behind to O’Brien.

O’Brien then took a sprawling catch down low to his right to see the back of Australia captain Steve Smith for 21 and when the rain returned shortly after 4pm, they were reeling on 222 for six.

But the visitors had just enough to get over the line.

Ireland set for ‘Everest scale’ challenge as world champions Australia arrive in town

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