Australia are poised to storm into the semifinals without being seriously challenged as they take on debutants Ireland in their Super Eights match on Friday.
The defending champions have not really been tested on their way to posting six successive victories, including three in the group stage. They look set to continue the trend, considering Ireland’s limited resources. Australia and New Zealand are the only unbeaten sides in the tournament, with eight points from four matches, and need just one more win to assure themselves of a place in the last four.
Ricky Ponting’s Australians have been playing quality cricket for more than a month. They may be meeting a winless Ireland, but looked in no mood to take the game lightly. When asked whether Australia were expecting a warm-up game on Friday, fast bowler Shaun Tait said: “No, it’s not a warm-up match. We have got to be at our top form. We take this game as seriously as against any other side. We are in the Super Eights now. If we relax in any of these games and then come up against a big side, we might get done in then. We just want to concentrate on what we are doing at the moment.”
Australia will be up against New Zealand and Sri Lanka in their last two matches. “They (Sri Lanka and New Zealand) are the teams playing quality cricket at the moment and we expect them to be a quality threat,” said Tait, who was named man of the match in their previous game against arch-rivals England.
Australia’s batting has flourished in almost all the matches, with openers Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist providing solid starts and skipper Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke building on the innings.
They have not felt the absence of injured paceman Brett Lee, with Tait performing consistently well, along with veteran Glenn McGrath and Nathan Bracken.
"I expected to have a good run at some time in the World Cup. It’s good to have success," said Tait, who has so far grabbed 11 wickets in six matches in the Caribbean. "It has been fantastic coming into the Australian team and playing with these guys. It has helped my game by learning from them. It helps a lot observing them and working out with them and bowling with them. I feel a lot more confident bowling now than a few months ago."
Ireland may be searching for their first victory in the Super Eights, but have performed creditably against South Africa, England and New Zealand in their last three games. “We’ll take all the positives from our previous games and be competitive," said Ireland’s Australian-born skipper Trent Johnston. "We have three opportunities left and we need to prove that we are a very competitive team if conditions are on our side."
Ireland did manage to put pressure on South Africa, England and New Zealand in their earlier Super Eights matches but lacked the experience and resources to make the most of the opportunities. They will clash with New Zealand and Bangladesh in their last two matches.