Ricky Ponting scoffed at the idea that there would be any element of complacency in Australia’s approach to the game against Ireland, and predicted that the stars of the Irish team would need to perform like they never had before to even get a whiff of an upset.
“There’s no such thing as complacency in the World Cup, it is just a media term,” he said. “I’ve played a lot of international cricket, I have played alongside a lot of very good players, and I have never seen that. I look at [Friday] as another opportunity to impose ourselves on this event and show everyone how good a cricket team we are. We will seek to go in for the kill.”
Three of Ireland’s starting XI have roots in New South Wales - “It will make them look forward to doing well against us” - but Ponting was certain that little would stand between his side and the victory that will guarantee a place in the last four.
“They need five or six players to play cricket like they’ve never done before,” he said. “Stranger things have happened. Favourites don’t always win, but if they do the things that they normally do to even 85% of their potential, they always come off best in these situations.”
Australia brushed aside Scotland and The Netherlands with contemptuous ease in the group stage, and Ponting expected a similarly emphatic display against a side that have been the Cinderella story of the competition. The only thing in Ireland’s favour is the element of surprise, with the Australians not having a great deal of footage to review to pinpoint strengths and frailties.
For Trent Johnston, the Irish captain who watched as a fan when Australia stumbled on home soil in 1992, it will be a match to savour. “If you can’t get yourselves up for a game against Australia, then you should not be playing in the World Cup,” he said. “We need to play at least ten to 15% better than we did against Pakistan. We have to bring our A game to the park in every department and if even that’s not good enough at the end of the day, it is after all Australia against Ireland - professionals against amateurs.”
Having pitched his tent in Ireland years ago, Johnston initially worked for a clothing label owned by U2’s Bono and took citizenship in 2003. He has few regrets about what might have been. “I did dream of playing for Australia in the World Cup, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Ireland gave me the chance to play in the World Cup, and I am grateful for that.”
For Adrian Birrell, the coach, just being here is achievement in itself. “I had planned a holiday in Mexico,” he said with a smile. “I had to cancel that after we got to the Super Eights! I told the boys that by getting through to this stage, they’ve given me the greatest present ever. There’s a great deal of satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment, this is the result of the hard work of five years.”
Having acquitted themselves with credit in previous games before the blip against New Zealand, Ireland’s main aim on Friday will be damage control. “We are under no illusion what awaits us tomorrow,” Birrell said. “Australia will come out trying to annihilate us. This is the toughest game in the history of Irish cricket, but we’ve got to stick to our game plans, to our processes and be disciplined. I’ve told the boys to just go out and enjoy the day. To play Australia in this awesome stadium will be an experience of a lifetime. We’ve had just one bad game in the competition, and even there, there were a lot of pluses.”
Ireland will be hoping that Andrè Botha, the allrounder who is so central to their plans, is fit to play after a hamstring strain, while Australia could give Glenn McGrath a day off with Mitchell Johnson stepping in. Brad Haddin might also get a game with Adam Gilchrist sitting out. Whatever the playing XI is though, they should be far too strong for an Irish side that must hope that their indefatigable spirit can bridge the massive chasm that separates the teams in terms of ability.
Source:Cricket WorldcupMore on:Adrian Birrell, Australia, New Zealand, Ricky Ponting, Super Eight, Trent Johnston, World Cup
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