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Australia’s World Cup defence gets stronger with 42-run win over Ireland

Australia got their World Twenty20 defense back on track with a 42-run win over Ireland at the Gabba in Brisbane on Monday.

Chasing Australia 179-5, Ireland were 137 in the 19th over to move Australia within five points of leaders New Zealand, who have a game in hand, at the top of Group 1.

England, who play New Zealand on Tuesday, are third, two points behind Australia but with better net pace, a factor that could be decisive in a tight group.

Ireland, also on three points, had outside hopes of reaching the semi-finals going into the match but were caught in the chase by Mitchell Starc’s pace and swing and then the pressure on their 180-run scorer.

They slumped to 25-5 to hand the World Cup hosts a comfortable victory despite a superb unbeaten 71 from Lorcan Tucker.

Australia captain Aaron Finch, who won the man of the match award for his 63 runs, said scoring was not easy.

“It wasn’t the easiest goal, it was a lot slower than we expected,” Finch said. “They changed their pace really well and played a lot of cutters early in the innings.

“It was hard to get a rhythm and we did well to get 179.

Earlier, Finch returned to form with his 44-ball knock that featured five fours and three sixes, answering critics who called for his dropping after a poor run with the bat.

Finch denied that all the chatter had affected him. “No, to be honest, I don’t feel the pressure at all,” Finch said.

“The support from the exchange and support staff was unbelievable. T20 is a high risk game, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.”

He remained patient and played a major role as Australia lost their first three wickets to tight Irish bowling.

Ireland ‘making progress’

His cautious approach paid off and Finch capitalized after Ireland’s attack began to falter under the pressure of Marcus Stoinis’ onslaught, blasting 35 off 25 balls.

Ireland started their chase brightly but suffered a major blow when captain Andy Balbirnie was bowled by Pat Cummins for a six off the last ball of the second over.

He was followed almost immediately by the dangerous Paul Stirling, caught by Cummins at mid-off off Glenn Maxwell at part-time for 11.

Maxwell then had Harry Tector caught at square with Ireland on 24 and the game was as good as one run later when Starc clean balled Curtis Campher for a duck.

Bowling with real pace, Starc struck again with another lovely inswinger to account for George Dockrell, leaving Ireland on 25-5.

Tucker and Gareth Delany led a slight recovery until Delany skied to Maxwell and tried to belt Stoinis for a six hundred.

Tucker, ranked third, played a solitary hand and amassed his 71 off 48 deliveries before running out of partners.

“We’re making progress to keep up with these big teams – looking at the scoreboard we thought it wasn’t against us,” said the Balbirnie skipper.

“Again there was a problem with the goal post and who knows if anyone stayed with Tucker.

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