O'Brien smashes England for six

Thu, Mar 3, 2011, 00:00

CRICKET WORLD CUP:CRASH, BANG, wallop. Hello world, I’m Kevin O’Brien and I can hit a cricket ball.

Well the world certainly knows now after Ireland yet again sent shockwaves through the game with O’Brien enjoying arguably the finest innings in World Cup history at the Chinnaswamy Stadium last night as they chased down a record target of 328 against England to secure a barely believable three-wicket victory in Group B.

It was brutal in its nature, the pick of England’s bowlers belted to all parts of the stadium to huge cheers from both the Irish contingent of about 200 fans and the locals, who enjoy both an underdog and a big-hitter.

In total he hit six sixes, one of them the longest in the tournament so far that measured 102 metres, and 13 fours as he scored the quickest century in World Cup history off just 50 balls.

He perished for 113 before Ireland could get over the line but in the hands of John Mooney and talisman Trent Johnston, the job got done with five balls to spare as Ireland recorded their highest one-day score.

Mooney clobbered a Jimmy Anderson full toss to the boundary fence for four to seal the victory before launching his bat so high in the air that the swooping kites were in danger of an untimely demise.

Mooney finished unbeaten on 33 from 30 balls, while Johnston made seven from four after coming in after O’Brien was run out and hitting his first delivery for four.

There were other batting heroes, with Alex Cusack proving the perfect foil for O’Brien, hitting 47 from 58 balls in a 162-run partnership for the sixth wicket, an ODI record for Ireland.

Paul Stirling (32), Ed Joyce (32) and Kevin’s older brother Niall (29) all got starts after skipper William Porterfield was bowled first ball of the innings by Anderson. But when Gary Wilson was trapped leg-before by Graeme Swann to leave Ireland on 111 for five in the 25th over, Ireland looked done and dusted.

We didn’t count on Kevin O’Brien and a bat that seemed to flash at extraordinary speed as balls clattered the boundary boards and the stands.

The umpires were even forced to change the ball as one six smashed into the concrete terracing that accommodated the local fans, who danced and cheered and waved both Indian and Irish tricolours.

And what a contrast on an afternoon that had started in the worst possible fashion when Ireland coach Phil Simmons, having made a tactical change by bringing in all-rounder Cusack for Andrew White, then lost Andre Botha after he pulled up with a groin strain during the pre-game warm-ups.

It was a terrible blow to the North County player, who has struggled with injuries in recent years, and a serious set-back to the bowling attack after his fine display against Bangladesh where he took three wickets for 32 in nine overs.

There was definitely more bounce in the wicket but Boyd Rankin failed to hit the right areas yet again as Strauss and Kevin Pietersen got England off on the right note.

The big Warwickshire bowler’s first four overs went for 31 runs as England and Cusack fared little better when he replaced him from the Pavilion end as Ireland haemorrhaged 77 runs off the first 11 overs.

To compound matters, there was also a scare involving Kevin O’Brien, who jarred his knee and ankle fielding a drive from Strauss in the covers. Tough as old boots, O’Brien junior was up and running after a blast of the magic spray, although after what transpired later, police may be looking for a local witch doctor.

Porterfield brought George Dockrell on in the 12th over but when his first over went for eight the skipper must have been wondering where to turn to next.

Pietersen hit the fifth ball of Dockrell’s opening over for four to bring up his half-century off 40 deliveries, amazingly the first boundary the 18-year-old conceded in the tournament.

And the new Somerset signing would make the breakthrough in his next over when Strauss waltzed across his stumps and was bowled for 34, just 124 less than his memorable knock against India here last Sunday night.

If Strauss’s dismissal was poor, then Pietersen’s was downright dismal as he gave away a chance of a first ODI century since 2008 when he top-edged a sweep off the last ball of Paul Stirling’s first over straight into the gloves of Niall O’Brien for 59.

That left England on 111 for two but a 167-run partnership between Jonathan Trott (92) and Ian Bell (81) brought them up to 278 for two before a late collapse again stymied England.

Mooney claimed the wicket of Bell for 81 with the last ball of the 43rd over, thanks to a smashing catch by Paul Stirling at mid-wicket, and the North County all-rounder bowled Trott for 92 in his next over to start the rot.

They would only add 49 runs and lose six wickets late on to close on 327 for eight, with Mooney finishing with four for 63, his best bowling figures for Ireland.

Four years on from the famous victory over Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup, England’s total looked a world away at that stage. We never counted on an out of this world batting display from one man and a team performance that must surely rank as the greatest in Irish sporting history.