Heroic O'Brien to rescue
Kevin O'Brien started the job with the ball and finished it with the bat yesterday as Ireland squeezed home by three wickets in Greater Noida to level their one-day international series and set up a winner-takes-all fifth match against Afghanistan tomorrow.
O'Brien took the new ball and ripped out the first three in the Afghan order. He then returned to the crease late on with Ireland struggling on 130-6 in pursuit of 221 to win and belted two sixes and eight fours in an unbeaten 72 to see the Boys in Green home with 19 balls to spare.
His man-of-the-match winning effort was all the more remarkable as he was forced to retire hurt on 9 with a recurrence of the hamstring strain which had sidelined him in the previous two games and he was limping when he returned to the crease.
"It's the same hamstring unfortunately, which doesn't look too good for Friday," O'Brien said at the post-match presentation in the Delhi suburb. "We'll assess it in the next 12-24 hours to see where we go."
There was no sign of a problem when O'Brien took a wicket in each of his first three overs to reduce the home side to 11-3 or when he returned figures of 4-26 from seven overs. Leg-spinner Jacob Mulder took three wickets and Andy McBrine chipped in with 2-39 but Afghanistan recovered well from 83-7 to reach 220 all out.
On a pitch offering spin and variable bounce, Ireland stalled after an opening stand of 48 between Paul Stirling and Ed Joyce, and it needed O'Brien and Gary Wilson's seventh-wicket partnership of 66 to effectively settle a see-saw contest. Wilson was the last wicket to fall for 41.