Aaron Finch came back into form and Australia took an appreciable chunk out of their net run-rate deficit at the T20 World Cup by beating Ireland at Brisbane.
Finch was criticised for his go-slow in his last knock against Sri Lanka but sparkled with three sixes and six fours in his 63 off 44 balls as Australia posted 179 for five, adding 101 in the last 10 overs.
While Ireland lost five wickets in 13 balls to slump from 18 without loss to 25 for five, Lorcan Tucker might have done England a favour with an unbeaten 71 in 48 balls to restrict Australia to a 42-run win.
— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) October 31, 2022
Ireland’s semi-final hopes appear over after a second Super 12s defeat but Tucker’s knock spared them embarrassment and kept Australia’s net run-rate below that of England, who face New Zealand on Tuesday.
Net run-rate will be decisive if teams finish level on points, with Australia joining group leaders New Zealand on five – although England could make it a trio if they overcome the Kiwis at the same venue.
The top two sides will make the last four but Australia captain Finch, who limped off the field in Ireland’s chase with a hamstring injury, was adamant his side were thinking of nothing but a victory.
While David Warner was out cheaply after turning a loosener from Barry McCarthy (three for 29) straight to short fine leg, Finch kickstarted his innings by clubbing Mark Adair for a straight six.
Finch, evidently frustrated in his 31 not out off 42 balls against Sri Lanka, was ably supported by Mitch Marsh’s 28 off 22 balls, the highlight of which was two meaty sixes in a Fionn Hand over.
Ireland were loose in the field, sending down 13 wides, including five in an 11-ball over by Adair, which ended when Finch heaved a full toss over deep midwicket to reach his fifty off 38 deliveries.
Finch pumped George Dockrell down the ground for his last six before picking out Adair off McCarthy, who had earlier needed some treatment after a tremendous bit of athleticism to prevent a boundary.
Josh Little finished with excellent figures of 4-0-21-2, snaring Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis to catches inside the ring, but Adair’s 4-0-59-0 was unflattering as he leaked 17 runs in the last over.
Andy Balbirnie and Paul Stirling cleared the rope in the opening two overs but Ireland’s chase veered off course after the former shuffled across his stumps and was bowled round his legs by Pat Cummins.
Stirling and Harry Tector fell in the same Maxwell over while Mitchell Starc’s searing inswinging yorkers castled both Curtis Campher and Dockrell to leave Ireland reeling after just 3.2 overs.
Tucker settled by lofting Cummins over mid-on for four then took back-to-back leg-side boundaries by using Starc’s pace against him but, at this stage, this represented no more than damage limitation.
Adam Zampa winkled out Adair and Hand after Stoinis had seen off Gareth Delany but Tucker was proving more difficult to remove and crunched Josh Hazlewood for six to bring up a 40-ball half-century.
Tucker then drilled Starc for three fours in an over, taking seven off the left-arm fast bowler overall, and while an Irish victory was fanciful, they made sure they avoided a thrashing.
McCarthy pulled the returning Cummins into the deep before number 11 batter Little was run out as Ireland were skittled for 137 in 18.1 overs.