Monday 19 March 2018

O'Brien has England in his sights as Test status nears


Kevin O'Brien. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Kevin O'Brien. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Sam Wheeler

Kevin O'Brien reckons he will "never come close" to repeating his record-breaking World Cup heroics against England, but he is adamant that Ireland can upset the odds again and shock Eoin Morgan's men in next week's two-match series.

O'Brien, buoyed by news that Ireland are in line to be granted Test status within two months, vowed to "give it a shot" when asked if he could better his celebrated 50-ball century from 2011 when the Boys in Green take on England at Bristol and Lord's.

"That was a once-in-a-lifetime innings," the all-rounder said of his Bangalore fireworks. "I don't think I could ever come close to achieving that again.

"I am a pretty confident player, but I just don't think of producing innings like that every day. Once I go out, I try to let my natural instinct and aggression take over. I just try to play the situation, and if I think I can hit a bowler for a four or a six, I'll go for it."

O'Brien accepts that Ireland are underdogs against England, who have been reinvigorated under Dublin-born Morgan since a disastrous World Cup in 2015, when they won fewer games than the Boys in Green.

By contrast, Ireland have slipped down to No 12 in the rankings since then, and lost to Afghanistan over three formats earlier this year; with a number of stalwarts retiring, the consensus is that they are a fading force. But O'Brien (33) disagrees.

"Definitely there's still life in the team," he insisted.

"We're a little bit older, and maybe teams have slightly figured us out, but there's certainly still a lot of talent in the team, with three or four young guys who've come in over the last 15 months.

"The young guys just need a bit of time to find their feet in international cricket. I made my debut against a couple of county teams; these guys are making their debuts against Australia, South Africa - the best teams in the world.

"England are a very good team, but we've beaten them before, and that's going to give certain individuals confidence. Plus, we've got some good players in good form. If three or four of us get going, we can be pretty destructive."

O'Brien has previously said that Test cricket would not suit him, but he is thrilled by the prospect of playing in Ireland's debut five-day match, which could come as early as next year.

A change in International Cricket Council regulations has opened the door to Ireland (and Afghanistan) being made 'full members' in June, provided they fulfil various criteria, involving governance and finance as well as cricket structures and on-field results.

Buoyed by yesterday's announcement of a significant sponsorship deal with Turkish Airlines, Cricket Ireland CEO Warren Deutrom is "hopeful" that they will make the grade, saying: "There seems to be a momentum behind this that is difficult to ignore."

"It would be a very special day," added O'Brien.

Irish Independent

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