Ireland's hopes of qualifying for the Super Eights stage of the ICC World T20 Championship are hanging by a thread after Phil Simmons' charges were convincingly beaten by Australia in their Group B opener at Colombo.

Despite winning the toss and electing to bat William Porterfield couldn't have imagined a worse start as the Ireland skipper tried to hook a short one from Shane Watson from the very first ball of the game but found only the safe hands of Mitchell Starc at long leg.

The Warwickshire man has been on a disappointing run of late and his loss seemed to affect the top order. Paul Stirling, so often Ireland's aggressor, lasted just into the fourth over when he flashed at a wide one from Starc only for Watson to return the compliment to his team-mate to leave Ireland reeling on 15 for 2.

That brought Ed Joyce to the middle and the Sussex skipper began with a couple of boundaries as Ireland tried to rally however the crisis deepened when Joyce lobbed a simple catch to David Warner soon after.

Brad Hogg then trapped Gary Wilson lbw to reduce Ireland to 33 for 4 and an early finish looked on the cards however the O'Brien brothers managed to stem the Aussie tide.

Kevin was in typically aggressive mood hitting Hogg for consecutive boundaries and by the 14th over Ireland had worked their way to 85 for 4.

The innings was to change again however as first Daniel Christian bowled Niall for 20 before his sibling edged one behind to Wade and was gone for 35.

After Starc bowled Trent Johnston for 7, Alex Cusack and Nigel Jones added 22 in the final few overs as Ireland closed on a disappointing 123 for 7, Watson with 3-26 and Starc (2-20) the pick of the bowling.

The Irish lads needed an early breakthrough to have much chance of pulling off a shock but found Watson and Warner in no mood to oblige.

A half century partnership came and went and it looked very much like damage limitation for the fielding side from that point.

George Dockrell provided the Irish with a little respite when he had Warner caught by Kevin O'Brien with the score on 60 but Watson raced to a half century in next to no time.

Unfortunately for the big all-rounder it was to end soon after when he was brilliantly run out for 51 by Trent Johnston, an innings that included 5 fours and 3 sixes.

The damage had long since been done however and although Kevin O'Brien removed the prolific Mike Hussey before the end, Australia were able to cruise to a 7-wicket win with 29 deliveries remaining.

Man of the Match Shane Watson had some encouraging words for Ireland but warned that tough times are in store as teams are now taking them very seriously and any hopes of catching them unawares are remote. "It is probably going to get even harder for Ireland now," he said.

"They know what they are going to get from the opposition is full tilt every single game. The better Ireland get the more people are going to make sure they are up for the game.

"That is taking nothing away from Ireland in the past, but with the quality of the players they have and what they have shown on the world stage in World Cups the biggest sides know that if they are slightly off the Irish can certainly take a game away from them. I am sure with the quality of players they are going to improve. It is a great thing for world cricket to see the quality of players they are bringing through."

Ireland coach Phil Simmons was obviously disappointed with the way his side performed but backed them to bounce back in the final group game: "Losing three wickets in the first six overs doesn't help the cause and it's a long way back from there. I thought Niall and Kevin O'Brien did well in the middle overs but 123 was about 30-40 short of par on this pitch.

Simmons defended the decision to bat first saying: "We've batted first in all our games here. The pitches don't change much and I'd back our batsmen to put a defendable total on the board. We didn't bowl or field as well as we can so there's a lot of improvement needed before our final group game. We'll work hard over the next few days and I'll have no problem lifting the team for the West Indies clash on Monday."

Ireland must now hope that they can deliver a big win over the West Indies on Monday if they are to progress but they won't need reminding that they have to be some way better than this if there is any chance of that happening.