Lorcan Tucker gave fans a glimpse of glory at the Gabba on Monday with a sparking 71 not out before running out of partners as Australia closed out a 42-run victory in Brisbane to all but end Ireland’s hopes of reaching the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup.
The Boys in Green conclude their Group 1 campaign against New Zealand in Adelaide on Friday knowing that only a bizarre sequence of results can see them finish in the top two.
Tucker, now the leading run-scorer in the tournament, arrived at the crease when Andy Balbirnie was bowled for seven at the end of the second over and watched on as his team lost another four wickets in the powerplay, to languish on 25-5 chasing the home side’s 179-5.
Adhering to his team’s motto of fearless cricket, Tucker added 43 with Gareth Delany for the sixth wicket, 23 with Mark Adair - before bringing up his first World Cup half-century with a massive six - and another 33 with Barry McCarthy off only three overs.
Suddenly Ireland needed 44 from the final three overs - by no means an impossible ask in the modern game - but Tucker did not face another ball as McCarthy holed out to deep mid-wicket and Josh Little was run out attempting to get off strike.
The disappointment and realistic talk of what might have been in the team hotel on Monday shows how well Heinrich Malan’s squad have played in this tournament and just how much they have improved as a unit since last year’s miserable early exit.
“We're making progress in keeping up with these big teams,” skipper Balbirnie said. “It was a hard fought game and if someone had stayed with Lorcan, who knows?”
Little and McCarthy again shone with the ball for Ireland, picking up the five wickets between them but Adair had an off day and the absence of a reliable fourth seam bowler meant spinners George Dockrell and Delany having to get through seven overs.
It was McCarthy (3-29) who claimed the two early breakthroughs before having top-scorer Aaron Finch caught late on for 63, while Little was at his fiery best, removing dangermen Glen Maxwell and Marcus Stonis for figures of 2-21.
But good as Little was, he was outshone by fellow left-armer Mitchell Starc who started with a swinging double-wicket maiden, featuring two late in-duckers that would have bowled far better batsmen than Curtis Campher and Dockrell.
That really should have been the game, as early as the fourth over of the chase, but this young Ireland team don’t know when they are beaten as exemplified by Tucker’s 48-ball innings, containing nine fours as well as that mighty six.