O'Brien runs out of support after maiden ODI century
Niall O'Brien scored his first ODI century for Ireland at Malahide yesterday but the veteran's valiant 109 from 131 balls was largely a lone hand as New Zealand won the second match in the Walton tri-series by 51 runs.
After hinting at a return to form at Lord's last week and again in the abandoned match against Bangladesh on Friday, this was another spirited showing as the Boys in Green restricted an admittedly under-strength Black Caps line-up to 289-7 from 50 overs.
Wicketkeeper O'Brien then found a new lease of life and gave the home crowd genuine hope of seeing a sixth Test-match playing nation added to Ireland's list of conquests but a steady loss of partners proved costly at the business end of the chase.
After 40 overs, New Zealand had been 202-4 with the wickets in hand to kick on, Ireland were 216-6 with O'Brien about to reach his century with his fifth maximum, but crucially without enough strength in the tail, and the end came quickly after he was stumped.
"It was a nice personal milestone but without the win it's still gutting," O'Brien said. "We were in a great position for most of our innings but they held a couple of great catches.
"This last 18 months has been tough for me with injuries and stuff and it's no secret I was starting to doubt myself. The pressure was on but those runs feel like the start of a new career so hopefully I can crack on.
"It's not as though I haven't been in form; I've been getting the starts but just not going on from there. So I'm delighted to have got that hundred for the team and for coach John Bracewell who has stood by me."
Ireland gave a debut to Simi Singh but didn't call on the YMCA all-rounder to bowl, despite fellow spinner George Dockrell only conceding 42 from his 10 overs.
Peter Chase was a little wayward, conceding six wides in his 1-74, while Barry McCarthy had the best return of 2-59.
A target of 290 was not daunting but with Ed Joyce's back strain keeping him on the sidelines for a second match, Ireland needed a solid start from captain William Porterfield and Paul Stirling but didn't get one as both openers departed inside six overs.
O'Brien, batting at No 3 in an ODI for the first time since 2010, found the first of two reliable partners in Andy Balbirnie and the third-wicket pair built the foundations of a successful chase with a partnership of 86, either side of the second of two rain delays.
Balbirnie again showed class, striking 36 from 50 balls, including five fours, but again got out just when he was beginning to hurt the Black Caps.
Kevin O'Brien went quickly but momentum was maintained by Gary Wilson's bright 30 from 23 balls, which included four boundaries. Decisively, when he drove into the covers and fell to another sharp catch there was no-one left to give O'Brien the required support.