Watson praises Ireland
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
SHANE Watson has sung the praises of Ireland on the world stage despite their heavy defeat to Australia in the World Twenty20 in Colombo on Wednesday.
Watson, the man of the match at the Premadasa Stadium after taking three for 26 and then scoring 51 off 30 balls, said Ireland's challenge is going to be increasingly difficult because of the respect they are now held in, but they can rise to that challenge, said the Aussie all-rounder.
"The better Ireland get the more people are going to make sure they are up for the game. That's not taking anything away from Ireland in the past but now the quality of the players they have and what they have shown on the world stage, whether it is in Twenty20 World Cups or last year's World Cup, the bigger sides in world cricket are going to make sure they are up for it because if they are slightly off they know the Irish can take the game away from them with the quality of players they have.
Watson went on: "It is going to make it even more of a challenge for Ireland because they know what they will get from the opposition is full tilt every time and but with the quality of players they have they are going to continue improving and at their best they are going to challenge the higher ranked teams at their best as well.
"It's a great thing to see for world cricket, their passion and, most importantly, the quality of players they are bringing through."
His words were little consolation to an Ireland squad who admitted they let themselves down on the big stage as opening night nerves struck again.
Not since Ireland beat Bangladesh at the World Twenty20 in England in 2009 has William Porterfield's side won their first game at a major tournament.
In 2010, they lost by 70 runs to West Indies at the World Twenty20 in Guyana, last year Bangladesh were their conquerors in the opening match of the ICC World Cup and they have even lost their first match in the last two qualifying tournaments, to Afghanistan in 2010 and Namibia this year, forcing them to win 10 matches in a row to reach Sri Lanka.
But the continued optimism in the Irish camp is based on their bouncebackability at all those events. For example, it was match two at last year's World Cup when Ireland famously beat England and only rain in Guyana had denied them victory two years ago in their second match against Paul Collingwood's side.
In the second match of both T20 qualifying tournaments, Ireland also laid down their marker, scoring 200 against the United States in 2010 and this year in Dubai they hammered Kenya by 10 wickets.
Little wonder then that there is still positivity in this Irish squad that West Indies can be taken down on Monday in their second match of this tournament.
There is still a worst case scenario of Ireland upsetting the Windies and still heading home on Tuesday, by losing out on run-rate. But the positives vibes say Australia will beat West Indies in the next group B tomorrow to guarantee their place in the Super Eights and leave second place up for grabs.