Shane Watson has sung the praises of Ireland on the world stage despite their heavy defeat to Australia in the World Twenty20 in Colombo on Wednesday.
Watson, the man of the match at the Premadasa Stadium after taking three for 26 and then scoring 51 off 30 balls, said Ireland’s challenge is going to be increasingly difficult because of the respect they are now held in, but they can rise to that challenge.
“The better Ireland get the more people are going to make sure they are up for the game,” said the Aussie all-rounder.
“That’s not taking anything away from Ireland in the past but now the quality of the players they have and what they have shown on the world stage, whether it is in Twenty20 World Cups or last year’s World Cup, the bigger sides in world cricket are going to make sure they are up for it because if they are slightly off they know the Irish can take the game away from them with the quality of players they have.
“It is going to make it even more of a challenge for Ireland because they know what they will get from the opposition is full tilt every time but with the quality of players they have they are going to continue improving and at their best they are going to challenge the higher ranked teams at their best as well.
“It’s a great thing to see for world cricket, their passion and, most importantly, the quality of players they are bringing through.”
But his words were little consolation to an Ireland squad who admitted they let themselves down on the big stage as opening night nerves struck again.
Meanwhile, Jacques Kallis starred with the ball as South Africa cruised to a comprehensive 10-wicket victory over Zimbabwe in their World Twenty20 opener in Hambantota, sealing their berth in the Super Eights in the process.
Kallis took four for 15 off his four overs as Zimbabwe were limited to 93 for eight and South Africa's openers Richard Levi (50 not out) and Hashim Amla (32no) easily knocked off the target with 44 balls remaining.
The result means South Africa and Sri Lanka have both qualified for the Super Eights from Group C as Zimbabwe bow out of the competition having also been heavily beaten by hosts Sri Lanka on Tuesday.
ICC World Twenty20 2012 — Group C Hambantota: Zimbabwe 93-8 Innings Complete (J H Kallis 4-15); South Africa|94-0 (R E Levi 50 no)
South Africa beat Zimbabwe by 10 wkts.