Kevin O'Brien secures Ireland dramatic tie
His fans have come to expect thunderous innings and Kevin O'Brien didn't let them down, with his 84 off 47 balls seizing a tie for Ireland against Pakistan
The Report by Ger Siggins
Ireland 275 for 5 (Stirling 103, O'Brien 84*) tied with Pakistan 266 for 5 (Hafeez 122*, Shafiq 84) (D/L method)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
His fans have come to expect thunderous innings and Kevin O'Brien didn't let them down, with his 84 off 47 balls seizing a tie for Ireland against Pakistan in the first of two ODIs at Clontarf.
Ireland's cricket resurgence was sparked by beating Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup, when Trent Johnston and O'Brien saw them home at Sabina Park. The same pair were at the wicket with 13 needed off three balls here, when O'Brien hit Saeed Ajmal for six and two, before the last ball sped for four to leave them one run short of their Duckworth-Lewis-adjusted target.
"It feels a bit like a loss to be honest", a downcast O'Brien said afterwards, "we got ourselves in a position to win. You don't go out to tie a game, you go out to win it."
O'Brien's Man-of-the-Match knock, which included 11 fours and 2 sixes, overshadowed two masterful centuries of contrasting styles. A high-class, unbeaten 122 by Mohammad Hafeez warmed the hearts and hands of the large Pakistani contingent before Paul Stirling fired Ireland's chase with a ton of his own.
Hafeez, 32, made his first ODI century in 19 innings as Pakistan overcame difficult early conditions to post a formidable 266 for 5. The quality of Hafeez's innings was all the more laudable considering it was interrupted four times by stoppages as the Dublin skies emptied rain and hail on the picturesque ground.
In some ways the climate may prove as much a block to Irish ambitions as anything else. The many new fans the game has won in the country in recent years can't have been impressed by the live experience, as almost all the marquee fixtures since 2007 have been interrupted by rain.
The crowd were good-natured, however, and a carnival atmosphere obtained despite the chill. Eyebrows were raised when Pakistan opted to bat on winning the toss but, after fine opening spells by Tim Murtagh and Johnston there was little to concern the visitors.
Nasir Jamshed hit as big a six as has ever been seen here but was forced to retire hurt on 15 and when first-change bowler Alex Cusack snapped up Imran Farhat the locals found their voice. But it was another 30 overs before they had anything to cheer about as Hafeez and Asad Shafiq found batting increasingly easy.
Shafiq passed 1000 runs in ODIs, and his personal best, and was in sight of a maiden century when he spooned Cusack to Johnston at long-on. Their partnership of 188 was the second highest against Ireland for any wicket, dwarfed only by Brendon McCullum and James Marshall's opening 274 for New Zealand against a virtual second string in 2008.
Hafeez moved steadily to his hundred, finding gaps all round the wicket and reaching the milestone off 102 balls. There was a hiccup next over when the recovered Jamshed was well-taken by a diving Tim Murtagh and, next ball, Hafeez sent Misbah ul-Haq back, which he declined to do and was run out without facing. Kamran Akmal cracked three boundaries before O'Brien yorked him in the final over, and there was just time for Hafeez to sign off with a glorious cover drive to close as classy an innings as Dublin has seen in quite a while.
With only 47 overs bowled, the target was revised up to 276 and Stirling set Ireland off in a fashion that has become his mark. Two years ago he made a century against the same opposition, which caused Waqar Younis to rave: "He is a fine player, he played proper shots and he is not scared of playing his shots against good bowlers."
Here he played classical drives and deft cuts whilst bludgeoning boundaries on the way to his fifth ODI hundred, in 101 balls. He and Porterfield put on 62, before the second large second-wicket stand of the day, with Ed Joyce. The Sussex man has been in fine form in England but was disappointed to miss a straight one from Hafeez. The pitch generally failed to turn as much as expected and Saeed Ajmal had a day to forget quickly, his ten overs going for 71. He frequently bowled short and O'Brien played some punching backfoot drives through extra cover. Mohammed Irfan, too, had a difficult day, not least in the field where he was tested frequently.
"Ireland are a good side," Misbah, Pakistan's captain, said afterwards. "We will need to improve in all areas before Sunday's game." There were still a few hundred tickets left for that game but they may go quickly when word spreads about this remarkable result.