Kevin O’Brien becomes first Irish player to make a Test century

Battling Irish display forces inaugural Test match against Pakistan to fifth and final day

Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien celebrates his century. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien celebrates his century. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

 

Pakistan 1st Inns 310-9 dec (Faheem Ashraf 83, Asad Shafiq 62, Shadab Khan 55; T Murtagh 4-45, S Thompson 3-62, B Rankin 2-75)

Ireland 1st Inns 130 (47.2 ovs) (K O’Brien 40, G Wilson 33no; Mohammad Abbas 4-44, Shadab Khan 3-31, Mohammad Amir 2-9)

Ireland Second Innings 319-7 (K O’ Brien 118no, Stuart Thompson 53, Ed Joyce 43, W Porterfield 32)

Ireland lead by 139 runs with three wickets remaining

Kevin O’Brien wrote another glorious chapter in his own and Ireland’s cricketing history at Malahide late on Monday afternoon, becoming the first Irish player to make a Test century as a battling Ireland display forced the inaugural Test match against Pakistan into an intriguing fifth and final day.

The clock showed 6.15pm when the 34-year-old all-rounder ran two off Pakistan left-arm seamer Mohammad Amir, his second run a leisurely stroll back to his crease before he raised his bat and helmet above his head to mark the moment as the ground rose to celebrate his momentous achievement.

In the context of the match, O’Brien’s knock helped Ireland turn a first-innings deficit of 180 into a lead of 139 runs, with O’Brien walking off to another standing ovation on 118 not out and Tyrone Kane unbeaten on eight, the Merrion player having faced 67 deliveries.

It amazingly leaves all results possible at the start of the final morning - even perhaps just the fourth win by a team following-on in the 141-year history of Test cricket - although a mixed forecast could see interruptions later in the day. O’Brien is well able to up the scoring rate if required, with a target above 200 bound to cause Pakistan problems on a fourth-innings pitch, with the ball still moving around. Ireland bowler Tim Murtagh may fancy adding his name to the future honours board after his four-wicket haul in the first innings.

Play will get underway at 11am, with tickets available for just €10 on the gate and under 16s get in free. You won’t find better value in a sporting event, one that may even become a piece of remarkable sporting history.

It was a shame there was not more there on Monday to share Kevin O’Brien’s moment, even though plenty of local schoolkids did take advantage of the free admission. It will be a memory they will never forget.

It was yet another unforgettable memory for Kevin’s parents, Brendan and Camilla, who were also in Bangalore on the night that their youngest son broke World Cup scoring records and English hearts in the 2011 World Cup. His wife, Ruth-Anne, was also there to celebrate, while older brother Niall led the celebrations in front of the Irish dressingroom. The quality of the knock was appreciated by the Pakistan fielders, who applauded him to a man, as he hugged batting partner Kane. They shook his hand as he left the field when play finished just before 7pm.

O’Brien’s record-breaking World Cup century came off 50 balls, and he has been unfairly typecast as just a big hitter in some quarters; something he put to bed one and for all with Monday’s display of skill, experience and calmness at the crease.

He admitted after his heroic five hours and 40 minutes in the middle that his World Cup knock is still his best innings, but added a delicious caveat to put the final judgment on hold until Tuesday.

“I still think for me Bangalore is definitely number one, just for the sheer moment it was, and against who it was, and it being in the World Cup. If I continue on tomorrow for another hour and a half and that 118 changes to 170-odd, this could top it,” said O’Brien, whose last Ireland century was the one in Bangalore 169 innings ago.

“To get there it’s a great honour and hopefully now we’ve put ourselves in a good position to try and go ahead and win it and there’s no reason why we can’t. We’ve just got to start off well tomorrow, try and get as many runs as we can and if we get a crack at them try and get them a couple down early and see where we go from there.”

O’Brien joked that the temporary nature of facilities at Malahide will mean he has to wait before his history-making knock is recorded in gold-leaf paint, with a proposed new national stadium on the Sports Ireland campus in west Dublin still four or five years away at least.

“It’s nice to be on the imaginary notice board here in these Portakabin changing rooms, so hopefully when Abbotstown is fully built I can get my name up there,” added O’Brien, before acknowledging the pride he felt in having his family in the stands.

“Mum and dad don’t miss a game and my wife was there as well and then Niall was inside. [I'm] very proud, I just got about 85 Whatsapps from the family group so it will take me a couple of hours to get through them. Anytime mum and dad watch and my wife’s there I am very proud, whether I succeed or fail.”

Bar a couple of half-decent leg-before shouts early in his innings and a late edge through a vacant third slip, O’Brien’s knock was chanceless, the right-hander judging the slow pitch brilliantly and also looking confident against the leg-spin of Shadab Khan, who he played effortlessly off the back foot most of time.

He came to the wicket 40 minutes before lunch, with Ireland on 95 for four, still 85 short of making Pakistan bat for a second time. He shared partnerships of 32 with Paul Stirling and 30 with Gary Wilson before the crucial seventh-wicket stand of 114 with Stuart Thompson, who continued his fine match with a half-century.

Yet again, though, there was no doubting who the star man was.

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