Ireland ride on sensational O'Brien to shock England

Kevin O’Brien’s fastest World Cup hundred sinks England

By Jamie Alter

 

Bangalore: Mar 2, 2011

 

After the dizzying heights of Sunday night, those who turned up at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore were treated to another match of epic proportions.

 

Chasing 328 Ireland looked down and out at 111 for 5, but Kevin O’Brien’s outrageous century, the fastest in World Cup history and sixth overall, turned the match on its head and sealed a victory that will go down in history. Not least because it was the highest World Cup chase ever.

 

With a nerveless Alex Cusack for company, Kevin O’Brien walloped from the word go – he clubbed six resounding sixes off a shellacked England attack – and didn’t let up his intentions until he was run out for 113 off 63 balls in the penultimate over. Pause for a moment to consider that there were 24 dot balls during Kevin O’Brien’s century, indicative of how savage he was.

 

It was an innings of epic proportions, one that marks Ireland as a genuine threat and leaves England to pick up the pieces of a floundering World Cup campaign going into Sunday’s clash against South Africa.

 

With an asking rate of 6.56, Ireland suffered an early knock in their chase, losing the captain William Porterfield first ball, and then Paul Stirling in the tenth over just when a platform had been set.

 

Niall O’Brien stroked some crisp shots but chanced his arm against Graeme Swann and was bowled for 29, after which Ed Joyce was beaten by a peach from Swann. In his first game since September, Gary Wilson failed to get going and was out lbw to Swann.

 

Coming off a punchy innings in Dhaka, Kevin O’Brien cut and drove and swatted with joy, bolstered by the company of Cusack. Swann’s last two overs went for 22 as Kevin O’Brien swatted two sixes and clipped a four to fine leg. It all seemed a bit of hit-and-giggle, but then Kevin O’Brien hooked James Anderson for six and the nervousness set in for England.

 

Cusack played a couple lovely drives off Stuart Broad but was content to knock the ball around to get his partner on strike. Kevin O’Brien reciprocated in style, with the stand-out shot being a sliced six over cover off Tim Bresnan. That was just one of six shots that he sent sailing over the ropes, as Ireland robbed 62 runs in the batting Powerplay.

 

It was hitting of devastating quality, made to look effortless: clear the leg, have a heave, watch the ball sail over the ropes. Anderson and Bresnan most felt Kevin O’Brien’s ire: Anderson was taken for 24 off 11 balls, Bresnan banged for 24 off 11.

 

O’Brien gave England a chance when he skied Paul Collingwood, but Strauss fumbled a steepler. Next it was Michael Yardy to goof up, a firmly hit return catch from Cusack going in and out of his palms. Cusack returned the favour by swatting six off Collingwood, after Strauss brought the midwicket fielder in, and suddenly the equation was 70 off 65 balls.

 

Then the landmark over: having curbed his aggression after reaching 97 with a thumped four, Kevin O’Brien turned Yardy off his toes to reach his century off just 50 balls. Immediately he allowed himself a gigantic roar that would have been heard back in Dublin, before putting on his poker face and marking out his guard.

 

Minutes later, Cusack sacrificed his wicket in a moment of incoherence. It ended a clever innings of 57; the pair had added 162 in 17.1 overs, running well between the wickets and pushing a sloppy England. With some good luck – John Mooney twice slashed fours to third man – and some bravado – twice Mooney made room and slapped fours over cover-point – Ireland ticked along even as Kevin O’Brien slowed down.

 

As nerves frayed, Mooney rounded off the 48th over by pulling Anderson for four. That left Ireland needing 12 off 12 balls, only for Ireland to lose Kevin O’Brien, run out by a frame, one delivery later. You could have cut through the tension with a bread knife. As Kevin O’Brien walked off the park, the fans – local, Irish and English – stood as one to applaud a great innings.

 

Trent Johnston, who hit the winning runs four years ago when Ireland famously beat Pakistan, drove his first ball for four and the denouement was rounded off when Mooney clipped Anderson for four first ball of the final over. Amazing scenes unfolded.

 

Earlier, England for off the blocks in a hurry thanks to some good works from Strauss and Pietersen. Ireland were in with an opening after the two were dismissed, but that England did not go off the boil was due to an excellent hand from Trott, who played an innings of high quality and unflappable demeanour.

 

Trott’s approach was just what England needed after Pietersen’s irresponsible dismissal in the 17th over. On a big ground and a slow outfield, he and Bell placed the ball in the gaps, ran hard to take all the twos and threes on offer, and managed to punctuate steady periods with boundaries to leave Ireland huffing and puffing.

 

Trott never strayed from the conventional method, ran hard for his runs – there were only nine fours in his 92 – and he paced his innings excellently. His first fifty took 55 deliveries, and his next 40 came from 35.

 

Bell was slower to get going – his first boundary came off his 27th ball faced – but he was soon ticking along at nearly a run a ball without playing a shot in anger. When the field spread Bell settled into accumulation mood, matching his partner shot for shot. With Trott, Bell added 167 in 26 overs before he was smartly held by a tumbling Stirling at midwicket.

 

That was followed by Ireland, sparked by four-wicket hero Mooney, snatching five wickets for 49 – or England contriving to lose them, depending on how you look at it – and what a difference it made.

 

Brief Scores: England 327 for 8 (Jonathan Trott 92, Ian Bell 81, Kevin Pietersen 59; John Mooney 4 for 63, Trent Johnston 2 for 58) lost to Ireland 329 for 7 in 49.1 overs (Kevin O’Brien 113, Alex Cusack 47, John Mooney 33*; Graeme Swann 3 for 47) by three wickets.

 

Man of the Match: Kevin O’Brien

 

(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine.His first book, The History of World Cup Cricket, is out now.)

 

 

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