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Aussie's big hitters line up for Belfast battle at Stormont cricket clash against Ireland

By Ian Callender

Published 27/08/2015

Good to talk: Australia’s new captain Steve Smith faces the media yesterday at Stormont
Good to talk: Australia’s new captain Steve Smith faces the media yesterday at Stormont

World champions Australia have shown they haven't made the short hop to Northern Ireland for a holiday by naming a full strength side for today's glamour showdown at Stormont (10.45am).

New Australia captain Steve Smith, who revealed that Joe Burns would make his ODI debut as opener alongside big-hitting David Warner, is expecting a tough match.

"Ireland have come a long way over the last couple of years and are starting to get a lot more games. They are not going to be an easy task," said Smith.

"But we have to continue to raise the bar, we are number one in the world but that just means everyone is going to be after us and we have to keep on improving," he said.

Australia lost the Ashes series 3-2 to England despite winning last week's final Test at the Oval.

"It was really disappointing in the Ashes but I thought we finished the last Test really nicely, sending Michael (Clarke) and Chris Rodgers off (into retirement) on a high note that was important for us," said Smith.

"This team has been doing well and our last match was the World Cup final and we want to continue on that success."

Kevin O'Brien's wait to become the first Ireland player to make 250 appearances goes on after he was ruled out of today's match.

O'Brien was due to reach the landmark at the World Twenty20 Qualifiers in Dublin last month but the third-place play-off game was rained off.

Now, cruelly, he misses the chance to play in the glamour game of the summer with a recurrence of the hamstring injury which kept him out of Leinster Lightning's last inter-provincial game at Waringstown earlier this month.

Max Sorensen, surprisingly left out of the original 13-man squad, was last night called in as a replacement for O'Brien, but with Stuart Thompson, the Eglinton all-rounder, also in the squad, there is no guarantee that Sorensen will get a game.

The other major team news, announced yesterday by captain William Porterfield, is that Niall O'Brien - and not Gary Wilson - will keep wicket.

O'Brien, Leicestershire's first choice keeper, lost the gloves in 2012 when he opted to play in the Bangladesh Premier League rather than Ireland's Intercontinental Cup game in Kenya.

Wilson, Surrey's wicket-keeper, took over and the then coach Phil Simmons saw no reason to change back.

But just four months after John Bracewell took over as coach he wants to have a look at O'Brien. So Wilson, certain to play as a batsman, will be in the field.

It is a tremendous break for O'Brien and the new coach has given him his chance in a high-profile game.

It is a major disappointment for Wilson on his return to the ground he still calls home - he played for the old North of Ireland club which later became Belfast Harlequins and now Civil Service North - and, as he revealed yesterday, he was dressing room attendant for the Australians in the last game played at the old Ormeau ground in 2001.

He was also delighted that Sri Lanka and Pakistan were coming to play in two-match series next summer.

"It is brilliant that they are on board," he said.

"(Australia) is a marquee game which has its own purpose - the 15-year-old guy watching from the stands will be inspired to play for Ireland - but the two-match series is always better than a one-off match.

"This is what we want and hopefully there will be many more to come, in fact even longer series, in the years ahead," said Wilson.

AUSTRALIA: Burns, Warner, Smith, Bailey, Maxwell, Watson, Marsh, Wade, Starc, Cummins, Coulter-Nile.

Belfast Telegraph

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