Restored O'Brien gives Aussies a scare
Niall O'Brien celebrated his return to wicketkeeping duties with three superb catches and a top score of 45 as Ireland gave world champions Australia a scare before losing a rain-effected Hanley Energy Challenge one-day international by 23 runs in Belfast.
The showers worked in favour of the home side as the longest of four delays brought an end to the Australia innings on 222-6 and after a Duckworth-Lewis calculation Ireland were set a gettable 198 from 27 overs, which was later revised to 181 from 24.
After the early loss of both openers to perhaps the sharpest attack that has ever been seen in Ireland, a perky third-wicket stand of 86 between O'Brien and Ed Joyce had the Stormont crowd dreaming of a mighty upset.
Joyce, who scored an ODI century against Australia for England in 2007, looked in good touch as he smashed Mitchell Marsh's first ball back over his head for six, but a rush of blood saw him charge Glenn Maxwell and lose his off stump for 44 from only 33 balls.
O'Brien also fell to the off-spinner, picking out long-on in search of his sixth boundary, and the Ireland chase ended on 157 all out despite promising cameos from Andy Balbirnie and Stuart Thompson, the latter striking Maxwell for two sixes in an over.
"I was pretty pleased with the performance," said captain William Porterfield. "They got off to a good start but the way we fought back with the ball was a fantastic effort. We took six wickets for less than 100.
"Niall was actually suffering with a bit of an upset stomach, but it didn't seem to affect him, and he took a couple of really top class catches."
Australia surprised Ireland by choosing to bat and raced away to 139-0 with half-centuries from both openers before a canny spell of 1-40 from spinner Andy McBrine began to apply a brake, which Tim Murtagh added to with a fine second spell which included the scalp of his former Middlesex team-mate David Warner for 84.
O'Brien took a skier to dismiss Joe Burns for 69, held a fine edge standing up to McBrine then dived full length to hold another nick from skipper Steven Smith. He is back where he belongs behind the stumps.