Last-ball heroics from O’Brien earns tie and sets off Irish celebrations
World Cup hero hits 84 from 47 deliveries against Pakistan following century from Paul Stirling
Kevin O’Brien secures a tie for Ireland off Pakistan’s last ball at Clontarf yesterday.
Six years on from their stunning World Cup victory over Pakistan in Jamaica, Ireland yesterday secured an amazing tie against the same opponents in Clontarf in a thrilling first game of the RSA Insurance One-Day International Series.
A century from Paul Stirling and a barnstorming 84 from 47 deliveries from Kevin O’Brien saw Ireland match the par score of 275 with O’Brien hitting the last ball from Saeed Ajmal to backward square leg to set off wild celebrations amongst the Irish supporters in a 2,000 strong crowd. It certainly warmed up a brutally cold day, with the second game on Sunday set to be a sell out with the series up for decision.
Requiring 15 runs from the final over to win, O’Brien hit Ajmal for a six off the fourth ball before scrambling a two off the penultimate ball to leave Ireland needing a six for victory or a four to secure a second ODI tie for the country following the game against Zimbabwe, also at the World Cup in 2007.
Ajmal, the world’s best ODI bowler, is far to wily to offer anything short, but O’Brien did brilliantly to clip the the off-spinner off his pads to put it wide of 7ft 1in Pakistani bowler Mohammad Irfan and into the advertising hoardings.
O’Brien was at his bludgeoning best in hitting 11 fours and two sixes, although his power can sometimes hide the fact that he possesses an acute cricketing brain and the perfect temperament for the big occasion.
Ireland’s golden generation of cricketers has also been blessed with the arrival of Stirling as a world-class batsman and the 22-year-old from Belfast recorded a second straight century against Pakistan after his knock in Stormont in 2011.
The Middlesex right-hander joins Ireland skipper William Porterfield with five ODI centuries to his name, his 103 coming off 107 balls and including 12 fours and a six off Ajmal that smashed into the corrugated roof of the Clontarf clubhouse.
After taking the somewhat surprising decision to bat first after winning the toss, Pakistan made light of four weather interruptions to make 266 for five off their 47 overs.
On a pitch with a tinge of green and under cold, leaden skies they made a slow start to proceedings with Trent Johnston and Tim Murtagh working well in combination to keep openers Imran Farhat and Nasir Jamshaid in check.
The showers came regularly, one even lashing the sizeable crowd with hailstones before moving quickly through thanks to a strong wind.
Despite beating the bat on a number of occasions, Ireland’s new-ball pairing failed to make inroads, and it was local hero Alex Cusack, given a big ovation on his home ground, that made the breakthrough with just his third delivery.
After scratching out nine runs from 33 deliveries, Farhat slashed a wide ball from Cusack straight into the hands of Stirling at first slip.
Jamshaid had already left the pitch, having retired hurt with a sore back after making 15 that included a six over the clubhouse roof off Johnston in the seventh over, the game’s first boundary.
Cusack’s breakthrough failed to inspire Ireland in the field, with Hafeez and Asad Shafiq going on to dominate the innings with a stand of 188 for the second wicket.
Playing the more orthodox hand, Hafeez would go on to make his fifth ODI century, mixing both beauty and brutality, as he punished anything short of a length.
It was one of the failings of the Irish attack, with Shafiq full of wristy invention as he went past 50 off 63 deliveries to Hafeez’s 67.
Cusack would eventually end the partnership with the score on 221 when Shafiq chipped one to Johnston at mid-on in the 43rd over after he had made 84 off 89 deliveries.
Jamshaid returned to add five before falling to a brilliant catch from Murtagh on the long-off boundary, while Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq was run out next ball by his opposite number Porterfield after a poor call from Hafeez.
Hafeez would make up for it in a late flourish, which saw Johnston dispatched for six in the penultimate over, finishing off with his 12th four off the last ball of the innings to finish on 122 not out.
RSA INSURANCE ONE-DAY SERIES
(at Castle Avenue, Clontarf): Pakistan won the toss and batted. Match reduced to 47 overs per side .
I Farhat c Stirling b Cusack 9
N Jamshaid c Murtagh b K O’Brien 20
M Hafeez not out 122
A Shafiq c Johnston b Cusack 84
Misbah-ul-Haq run out 0
K Akmal b K O’Brien 13
S Malik not out 1
Extras (b2, lb2, w13) 17
Total (for 5 wkts, 47 ovs) 266
Did not bat: E Adil, S Ajmal, J Khan, M Irfan
Fall of wickets: 1-33, 2-221, 3-231, 4-231, 5-261.
Bowling: T Johnston 10-2-53-0; T Murtagh 9-0-40-0; A Cusack 8-0-50-2; K O’Brien 5-0-43-2; G Dockrell 10-0-45-0; P Stirling 5-0-31-0.
IRELAND (revised target of 276 in 47 overs;par score 275)
W Porterfield c Shafiq b Hafeez 19
P Stirling c sub (Amin) b Irfan 103
E Joyce b Hafeez 32
K O’Brien not out 84
G Wilson b Khan 11
N O’Brien c Irfan b Khan 4
T Johnston not out 7
Extras (lb8, w7) 15
Total (for 5 wkts, 47 ovs) 275
Did not bat: A White, A Cusack, T Murtagh, G Dockrell.
Fall of wickets: 1-62, 2-158, 3-171, 4-230, 5-240.
Bowling: M Irfan 10-0-57-1; J Khan 9-1-54-2; E Adil 3-0-17-0; M Hafeez 9-0-34-2; S Malik 6-0-34-0; S Ajmal 10-0-71-0.
Man of the match: Kevin O’Brien.