A super start to Iain O'Brien's farewell Test
The first day of Iain O'Brien's last Test for New Zealand didn't begin well. Before heading to McLean Park for the series decider, he received "pretty average news" about his UK visa and, after getting there, Daniel Vettori lost the toss and New Zealand had to bowl when they would have preferred to bat. From there on, though, O'Brien's day got remarkably better.
"A few things didn't go my way this morning before we left the hotel. Managed to push them aside and that might have helped me push a bit harder in the middle. You use what you can to motivate you," O'Brien said. "I got some pretty average news this morning but we'll work through that. It may end up delaying my departure by possibly months. So it's another hurdle to get over."
What O'Brien did, though, was give Pakistan's batsmen several hurdles to clear and four of them failed. He bowled a hostile, accurate spell in the first session, clocking over 140 kmph consistently, restricting the batsmen with his discipline before delivering the knock-out blow with something extra. At one stage O'Brien's figures were 4.2-4-3-3. His first wicket, in his first over, was that of Faisal Iqbal and his next three - Mohammad Yousuf, Umar Akmal and Misbah-ul-Haq - were all dismissed for zero.
Pakistan had slumped dramatically from 39 for 1 to 51 for 5 and were eventually dismissed for 223, a "great result for us bowlers" according to O'Brien. "I think that spell I bowled at the Basin last week, after we were knocked over for 99, was probably up there in quality also," he said. "But yes, to bowl first on a pretty good deck, to bowl a few maidens and take a couple wickets, it was a great start to what hopefully will be a pretty cool Test."
O'Brien said that the fact that this was his last Test was "part of the thoughts" but was pleased that it spurred him on to wrecking Pakistan's innings. "To get that first ball out of the way … it's always the second one for me that's the messy one, so it was basically 'get the second ball out of the way' and keep going."
He didn't get a five-for, though, and finished with figures of 4 for 32 as Daryl Tuffey mopped up the last four wickets. O'Brien said, with some irony, that it was perhaps fitting that he didn't take a fairytale five-wicket haul in his last Test given his valuable, yet unglamorous, role in the New Zealand attack, where he often shoulders the burden of bowling into strong winds.
"I was pretty keen to get five, and make that a part of my last Test. But it was probably fitting that I didn't as well because I haven't had too many fives. So it's probably best that I didn't, you know, in terms of the kind of player and the role that I've played."
O'Brien had announced his retirement from international cricket during the Wellington Test, which Pakistan won to level the series 1-1. He said the decision was because he wanted to move to the UK to be with his wife and play for Middlesex.