Saturday 26 May 2018

Kevin O’Brien targets victory after hitting Ireland’s first Test ton

O’Brien’s 118 not out against Pakistan has helped Ireland accrue a 139-run lead in Malahide.

Kevin O'Brien celebrates reaching his ton (Niall Carson/PA)
Kevin O'Brien celebrates reaching his ton (Niall Carson/PA)

By Liam Blackburn, Press Association Sport, Malahide

Kevin O’Brien is hoping his latest international ton will lead to an Ireland victory – just as his century against England did at the World Cup seven years ago.

The 34-year-old became the first man from his country to post a three-figure Test score as Ireland, forced to follow-on by Pakistan on Sunday, accumulated a 139-run lead by reaching stumps on the penultimate day in Malahide at 319 for seven.

Ireland had been fighting to prevent a heavy defeat in their maiden Test when, still 85 behind, O’Brien came out to bat at six, but his 118 not out, coupled with Stuart Thompson’s useful 53, has raised hopes of an unlikely draw, or even an improbable victory.

O’Brien performed similar heroics in Bangalore in 2011 when Ireland found themselves 111 for five in response to England’s 327.

His 50-ball ton that day, still the fastest in World Cup history, guided Ireland to a famous victory and O’Brien is hoping his latest century can inspire another.

“It’s a very proud and emotional moment,” he said.

“To get there, it’s a great honour. Hopefully now we’ve put ourselves in a good position to try and go ahead and win it. There’s no reason why we can’t, we’ve just got to try and start off well tomorrow and try and get as many runs as we can.

“If we get a crack at them, try and get them a couple down early and see where we go.

“I still think for me (the century in) Bangalore is definitely number one, just for the sheer moment it was and against who it was, in the World Cup.

“If I can continue on tomorrow for another hour and a half, that 118 changes to 170-odd, this could top it.”

There were nervous moments in the 90s for O’Brien to endure as a four scored when he was on 97 was correctly deemed as leg byes.

With O’Brien one shy, Pakistan brought on Mohammad Amir, who had already accounted for Irish captain William Porterfield, O’Brien’s brother Niall and Gary Wilson to reach 100 Test wickets.

“The leg byes, I knew it hit my leg obviously,” Kevin O’Brien explained.

“The crowd were going mad and I was running past Tyrone (Kane) going, ‘Bloody leg byes!’

“Obviously they bring on their strike bowler, I was hoping there was one more over from Shadab (Khan) because I was fairly comfortable against him.

“They sniffed an opportunity to try and get me out on 99 and fortunately another thick edge went past the fielder and I got two runs.

“It was just relief, really. Emotional – first Test and all that. Just a great honour to join a fairly small list of players that have done it.

“My mum and dad don’t miss a game and my wife was there as well, and obviously Niall’s in the side. I’m very proud.

“I’ve got about 85 WhatsApps from the family group so it will take me a couple of hours to read through them!”

Some over-cautious and frankly odd field placements did allow O’Brien and Thompson to comfortably chip away at Pakistan’s lead and then build their own.

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Pakistan opener Azhar Ali

“I think credit should be given to the Irish players for the way they came back,” Pakistan opener Azhar Ali said.

“They batted really well, they’ve been challenged with a good bowling side but especially Kevin O’Brien, the way he played a composed knock after Ireland lost five or six wickets – he kept going and he took the other players with him.

“Credit should be given to the Irish players for the way they handled the pressure.”

Press Association

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