Cricket: Australia labour as Ireland excel
Ireland's cricketers gave themselves the chance to claim a memorable first success over Australia after they restricted the tourists to 231 for nine in their one-day international in Dublin today.
A suffocating bowling display ensured Australia's batsmen were unable to blow the cobwebs away in their first match of a two-month tour that continues with a five-match ODI series against England starting next Tuesday.
Opening batsmen Tim Paine typified the tourists' inability to come to terms with a slow-paced Clontarf wicket with his laboured 81 from 122 balls the anchor of an Australian innings that could have offered far less but for the Tasmanian wicketkeeper-batsman.
Kevin O'Brien (three for 43) and off-spinner Paul Stirling (two for 34) were the stand-out bowlers for the hosts, who were beaten by nine wickets in their only previously completed ODI against Australia at the 2007 World Cup.
Ireland's only misfortune was a badly bruised thumb suffered by Trent Johnston, which prevented the veteran all-rounder from bowling in the latter overs and could also stop him from batting in the chase.
Tall quick Boyd Rankin claimed the dangerous Shane Watson (13) early during an impressive new-ball spell in glorious sunshine in west Dublin.
Watson had already launched Johnston over long on, but was troubled by Rankin's extra bounce before feathering an angled guide through to wicketkeeper Gary Wilson.
That brought Ponting to the crease and unlike his team-mates he immediately found his groove, despite not having played since Australia's tour of New Zealand in March.
The skipper caressed Peter Connell to the fence with a pair of effortless offside drives while at the other end the far more watchful Paine briefly broke his personal shackles with a hooked six off Rankin.
The introduction of Kevin O'Brien and off-spinner Stirling served to slow Australia's rate after the initial powerplay, the tourists managed just 29 runs from overs 15 to 25, and the Irish were rewarded with the crucial wickets of Ponting and vice captain Michael Clarke in successive overs.
Ponting (33) advanced down the wicket to Stirling but mistimed his lofted drive to Andrew White running in from deep mid-wicket before Clarke was brilliantly stumped by Wilson off medium paceman Alex Cusack for a duck.
Australia were struggling to find the boundaries with Paine using 86 balls to reach his 50, which included just two fours and a six.
Paine's stoic presence was temporarily offset by Cameron White (41) who launched a couple of big shots before he too fell to the economical Stirling, who induced him into a mis-timed drive to William Porterfield at mid-wicket.
Paine then pulled Rankin over the deep backward square fence, but just as he looked to be coming to terms with the surface he miscued Kevin O'Brien to his brother Niall, who opted not to keep wicket due to a broken finger.
The O'Brien's then teamed to remove Mike Hussey (eight) and Nathan Hauritz (19) as the Australian late hitting never materialised, much to the delight of a capacity 4,500 crowd.