SCORECARDA career-best haul from all-rounder James Hopes propelled Australia to an unconvincing 39-run one-day international victory, but not before the tourists were given a fright by cricketing minnows Ireland on Thursday.A stunning upset loomed when Ireland, who have just six fully contracted players on their books, reached 3-137 in the 25th over in pursuit of Australia’s 9-231, which was built on a composed 81 by Tim Paine.But Hopes spared the four-time world champions the ignominy of losing to a non-Test playing side by returning stellar figures of 5-14, easily eclipsing his previous best of 3-30, while off-spinner Nathan Hauritz collected 2-40.Ireland lost their final seven wickets for 55 runs, 36 of which came in an entertaining last-wicket stand between John Mooney and Boyd Rankin.”With the new ball is the best time to bat on that wicket,’ said a relieved Ricky Ponting.”We were hoping to make the most of the new ball and we didn’t and they got off to a flying start.”Hopes was outstanding and I thought Hauritz was very good as well. Once we took the pace off the ball it was very hard to score.”A sellout crowd of 4500 sniffed an upset after Ireland openers William Porterfield and Paul Stirling thrashed 80 off 68 balls, including 42 from the first four overs.Ryan Harris and Clint McKay bore the brunt of the attack and were smashed around the ground.Nineteen-year-old Stirling, who earlier claimed a tidy 2-34 from his 10 overs, made a run-a-ball 36 to complete a fine double before being bowled by Harris.Porterfield creamed three boundaries in Harris’s first over but failed to capitalise on lives given to him on 35 and 38 and was bowled by Nathan Hauritz for a team-high 39 off 42 balls.Brisbane-born Alex Cusack and Niall O’Brien added 51 for the fourth wicket before Hopes wreaked havoc on the Irish.Bowling a stump-to-stump line on a wicket favouring slower bowlers, medium-pacer Hopes trapped Cusack in front for 30 then combined with Paine to dismiss Andrew White for four.He was on a hattrick after removing Trent Johnston and Peter Connell but was denied by No.11 Rankin.”I was talking on the sideline when the Irish medium-pacers were going. They were bowling quite straight and weren’t giving us much room to cut,” Hopes said.”So I sat down with the coaches and spoke about taking the cross-bat shots out of it and trying to get them to hit the ball back past us.”All our batsmen were saying it was very hard to drive so I was trying to make them drive.”Paine formed the cornerstone of Australia’s innings, sharing twin 66-run partnerships with Ricky Ponting (33 off 54 balls) and Cameron White (42 off 54).But the Australians lost their way in the final overs and only Hauritz, with a whirlwind 19 off 10 deliveries, was able to significantly up the ante.AAP
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