'Bangalore century still No.1' says Kevin O'Brien after another slice of Ireland history
Kevin O'Brien joked that he would take pride in seeing his name put up on the "imaginary honours board" at Malahide after becoming the first Ireland batsman to score a Test century, and only the fourth batsman to do so in his country's maiden Test match.
However, he insisted that the moment, though "very proud and emotional", still ranked second in his personal annals, behind the blistering 50-ball hundred with which he stunned England at Bangalore in the 2011 World Cup.
This was O'Brien's first hundred for his country since that balmy night seven years ago, in which Ireland hunted down a massive target of 328, having at one stage slumped to 111 for 5.
"For me, Bangalore is definitely No.1, for the sheer moment of where it was and who it was against, in the World Cup. If I I can continue [tomorrow] for another hour and a half, to 170-odd, this could top it," he said.
"It was a very proud and emotional moment, to get there is a great honour, and hopefully we've put ourselves in a good position to go on and win it," he added. "There's no reason why we can't. We've just got to start off well tomorrow."
Ireland officially have a Test Match honours board and Kevin O'Brien becomes the first name to grace it here at Malahide Cricket Club pic.twitter.com/Ry0lvoZ0cy— Irish Cricketers (@IrishCricketers) May 14, 2018
For the crowd at Malahide, the occasion of the first Irish Test century appeared to happen twice. On 97, O'Brien looked to have tickled a leg glance for four through fine leg, and the celebrations began the moment the ball hopped over the boundary. However, O'Brien himself had known all along that the shot had come off his pads, and a loud groan went round as umpire Nigel Llong signalled leg byes.
"I knew it hit my leg, but the crowd were going mad," said O'Brien. "I was running past Tyrone [Kane] saying 'bloody leg byes'."
Two more singles took him to 99, whereupon Pakistan turned back to their main man, Mohammad Amir, much to O'Brien's chagrin.
"Then they bring on their strike bowler, I was hoping for one more over from Shadab [Khan] because I was fairly comfortable against him, but yeah, they sniffed an opportunity to get me on 99, but fortunately a thick edge went past the fielder and I got two runs.
"It was just relief, and emotion," he said. "In my first Test as well, it's a great honour to join a small list of players who have done it.
Ireland's ambitions are unsated now they they've got Full Member status, with a new stadium commissioned for the National Sports Campus in nearby Abbotstown. As such, the existing facilities at Malahide are still a touch Spartan.
"It'll be nice to be on the imaginary honours board here in these portacabin changing rooms," O'Brien joked. "But hopefully when Abbotstown is fully built I can get my name up there."
The O'Brien family was well represented for the historic occasion, with O'Brien joking that he had about "85 whatsapps" to trawl through later that evening. "Mum and dad don't miss a game," he said. "And my wife was there, and obviously Niall in the side as well. It's good to have support from family and friends."
After surviving a tense final few overs, in which he relied on luck more than judgement to keep his wicket intact, O'Brien admitted that he wasn't used to "these longer forms" and paid tribute to his batting partners, Stuart Thompson, who also made a half-century, and Tyrone Kane, who was unbeaten on 8 at the close.
"We'll have to see how we pull up tomorrow," O'Brien said. "Batting for five hours takes its toll. But Thompson was brilliant after tea, he took pressure off me, letting me score in singles while we were going at 3.5 an over, and for TK to bat 60-odd balls in tough circumstances against an unbelievably high quality attack, hats off.
"It's a new-ball wicket," he added. "There's still a bit of nibble around and if it's overcast, it'll certainly swing. If we can get up 180-odd that gives us a chance of hopefully a draw, and if we can get a few to stay low, we've a great chance to put them under pressure."