When Ireland last played Australia in a one-day international in Belfast, it took just three deliveries for Aussie fast bowler Brett Lee to underline the vast chasm in quality between the sides.
Bowling at over 90mph, Lee took two wickets in the first three balls of the match before the rains came to spare Ireland a humiliating defeat.
Just five of the Australia team that featured at Stormont in 2012 remain for today’s Hanley Energy one-day international between the sides, but Darren Lehmann’s squad has arguably improved in the last three years.
Captain Steven Smith and opener David Warner are at the peak of their powers and Australia’s starting 11 in Belfast contains eight players who featured in the World Cup-winning campaign this spring.
Mitchell Starc is one of the best exponents of white-ball swing in the game, while Pat Cummins could well match the now-retired Lee for pace one day if he stays injury-free.
Ireland, in contrast, have endured a miserable summer following a disappointing World Twenty20 qualifier on home soil in July, where they finished third following defeats to Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong and then the Netherlands in the semi-finals.
All-rounder Kevin O’Brien will not feature at Stormont after aggravating a hamstring injury on Wednesday, but his brother Niall will keep wicket for Ireland for the first time in three years after losing the gloves to Gary Wilson in 2012.
“Bracers (new head coach John Bracewell) has come in and he wants to have the chance to have a look at both of them so Niall will be keeping,” Ireland captain William Porterfield confirmed.
Max Sorensen steps in as a late replacement for Kevin O’Brien, while the experienced Ed Joyce returns to bolster the Ireland top order against an Australian attack far superior to the associate bowlers who caused them such difficulty last month.
Bracewell admits that his side face a tough task against a “wounded” Australia still smarting from their 3-2 Ashes defeat to England this summer.
“You measure yourself as a warrior and a competitor on how you compete in pressure-cooker situations,” the New Zealander said.
“I hope the players are not sidetracked by the event and the enormity of the Everest that they are climbing.”
W Porterfield (capt), A Balbirnie, G Dockrell, E Joyce, J Mooney, T Murtagh, A McBrine, N O’Brien, M Sorenson, P Stirling, S Thompson, G Wilson, C Young.
J Burns, D Warner, S Smith (capt), G Bailey, G Maxwell, S Watson, M Marsh, M Wade, M Starc, P Cummins, N Coulter-Nile.
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