Australia had briefly been ranked below Ireland, at No. 10 in the ICC Twenty20 rankings, though since then, it has climbed to No. 9 while Ireland has dropped down to No. 11.
“We knew how really important it was to make a statement, more than anything else, out of this game,” said Watson, the man of the match after taking 3 for 26 and smashing a 30-ball 51. “And I knew by bowling the first over, it really starts with me. It worked out really nice for me, and I maintained the focus and intensity right through. We know that we have to do this against the better teams in the world too. We just need to be at our best.”
Ireland was considered a dangerous floater, and Watson admitted there was some relief at having got the job done. “But we sort of knew going into the match where exactly we have to be, mentally more than anything else so that we were going to be at our best. We knew we had to be up for it and we certainly were. Ireland have got some highly skilled players and it’s nice to have a win over them.
"We haven’t been very consistent with our T20 game, but we do know as a group where we have to be in the next couple of weeks, mentally and physically. Looking at the quality we have in our group, if we are at our best we are certainly going to be challenging the best teams in the world. Today was the first step along that line.”
There was plenty of pace and bounce on the R Premadasa Stadium strip, but Watson said that would change over the next couple of weeks. “The wicket this afternoon was a beautiful one,” he said. “It really had some nice pace and bounce in it. I know it’s the start of the tournament but the more we use the pitches and with more time, definitely they will be more spin. It’s going to be big challenge facing some of the high-quality spinners in the world. We are adapting to the conditions, the series we had against Pakistan (in the UAE) and the two practice matches (in Colombo). The surfaces we played on have been excellent. It’s been a great way to prepare for the tournament.
"But the wickets are going to get tired, there’s a fair bit of cricket going to be played on these wickets. But we also know that when we play in the sub-continent, there’s going to more chance it of being spinner-friendly and sub-continental tams also have probably the highest quality spinners in the world as well. But in T20 cricket, when you play against high-quality spin, it can go one of two ways.
“Obviously, they can step in and change the game but also because you do have to put pressure on the bowler to be able to score, so you can get away a few shots as well,” said Watson. “It can be a fine line and hopefully, we are able to get that the exact way we want it – try and knock those world-class spinners around so that they don’t get into the game like they did last night (when Ajantha Mendis took 6 for 8 against Zimbabwe in Hambantota).”