AUSTRALIA was tiring of the Irish jokes and it showed in the deadly serious manner in which Shane Watson muscled his team past Ireland in its opening match of the World Twenty20.
On the strength of a powerful all-round display from Watson, Australia reminded Ireland of its place in the world (10th) and suggested it deserved a much higher position than it took into the tournament (9th). The Australians had dismissed their ranking as irrelvant and nothing backed up their argument like a seven-wicket win with 29 balls to spare. So much for a giant-killing.
The Irish came full of bravado, and didn't miss a chance to engage their opponents in feisty conversation, but no amount of pluck could save them from the moment Watson took the new ball.
The Australian vice-captain had promised to make an early statement about the team's intentions in the tournament and he did, with the first ball of the match.
It was a bouncer to Ireland captain William Porterfield, who wheeled into a hook shot. Mitchell Starc sprinted in from fine leg and took the catch. Statement made.
Watson returned later to punch out a mid-innings revival mounted by the O'Brien brothers, Niall and Kevin, then combined with David Warner for a 60-run opening stand that set Australia on course for victory.
Watson raised his half century from 28 balls with a six off budding spinner George Dockrell, but was run out in the next over for 51.
His opening partner Warner got involved in a couple of altercations, and the umpires had to cool tempers at the start of the Australian innings, but he played Dockrell with class before flicking a catch to deep mid-wicket.
Captain George Bailey and his predecessor Cameron White (22 not out from 19 balls) piloted Australia past Ireland's total of 7-123.
Ireland recovered from 4-33 in the eighth over but still managed only a modest score on the vast expanses of Premadasa Stadium. Again, Watson was the henchman Bailey called upon when a breakthrough was needed.
The 15th over was such a time. Kevin O'Brien had been showing flashes of his match-winning century to upset England at last year's World Cup, driving and pulling confidently against Dan Christian and Mitchell Starc.
Niall was bowled by Watson trying to slog a full, slowish ball into the almost-empty grandstand, ending the partnership on 52. Three balls later Watson produced a short ball, which Kevin tried to lift to third man, and was instead caught behind for 35 from 29 balls.
Watson collected 3-26 and his figures would have been prettier had his final over, the last of the innings, not leaked 12 runs. His was the kind of performance that backed up Bailey's pre-game hunch that he could be the outstanding player in the tournament.
Brad Hogg returned to world cup combat with 1-22 from four overs, and had the Irish guessing rather than reading his variations.
Australian coach Mickey Arthur said he wouldn't rest until Ireland was beaten, such havoc has the strongest of the associate nations caused at previous ICC events. Now that banana peel has been safely stepped over, the Australians can prepare for their second group game against the West Indies. The top two teams in each group of three will progress to the Super Eights.