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Pakistan there for the taking - O'Brien


Niall O'Brien: 'That 72 against Pakistan was probably the best I’ve batted'

Niall O'Brien: 'That 72 against Pakistan was probably the best I’ve batted'

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Niall O'Brien: 'That 72 against Pakistan was probably the best I’ve batted'

If Ireland manage to beat Pakistan tomorrow at the Adelaide Oval and qualify for the World Cup quarter-finals, it's a fair bet that one of the O'Brien brothers will be in contention for the man-of-the-match award.

With only a couple of Pool B matches remaining, there are still various permutations and "what ifs" but to be sure of reaching the last eight Ireland have to win - and beating the ICC's 'Full Members' is what the O'Briens specialise in.

Older brother Niall top-scored when Ireland first shook the cricketing world with a three-wicket win over Pakistan in 2007, Kevin put England to sword four years later and last month it was Niall again seeing his side to victory over the West Indies.

"That 72 against Pakistan was probably the best I've batted," Niall said. "The conditions were really tough and I wasn't in any sort of nick going into the game.

"The funny thing was I hadn't even practised my batting in the nets before the start of the game but then I hit some balls in the car park during the innings break - getting a few odd looks - and when I went out to bat something just clicked."

The 34-year-old veteran will not need to repair to the car park for inspiration this time as he is in good form and only missed out on a century against India on Tuesday in the push for late runs.

The O'Briens were part of a positive buzz around the Ireland camp yesterday as the team trained at the beautifully re-built Adelaide Oval. While no-one is underestimating the size of tomorrow's task, there is a quiet air of confidence.

Coach Phil Simmons is again likely to resist the temptation to bring in Craig Young to bolster his mis-firing pace attack, and will settle instead for three spinners again. All 15 squad members are fit but physio Kieran O'Reilly has had one or two niggles to treat.

"Pakistan are a dangerous team," Niall O'Brien said. "They have a strong bowling line up and while their batting hasn't fired as of yet there is experience there in Younis Khan and some very good young players too.

"I think they're there for the taking, though. They are inconsistent, like so many Pakistan teams, and if we play to our best I think we can beat them. It's going to be a nip-and-tuck game for sure and if our batsmen start better than their bowlers that could be the key."

It promises to be a cracking contest with Ireland appearing to have a stronger and better-functioning batting line-up, while Pakistan are much better in the bowling department, even without star spinner Saeed Ajmal, who has been banned for throwing some of his deliveries. At a reception for the team held by kit supplier O'Neills, Niall admitted for the first time that he missed most of Kevin's record-breaking century against England in Bangalore.

"I was in the dressing-room with Ed Joyce and we were both cursing ourselves for getting out on a pitch that was full of runs. After a while we started to hear 'Shot, Kev' a couple of times and when I came out he was in the 60s and I was thinking 'This is going to be close'"

After a lifetime of being the higher-achieving older brother, Niall suddenly found himself being asked if he could help get Kevin's autograph.

"Being usurped doesn't appear to have upset him unduly and he chuckles "everyone deserves their 15 minutes of fame."

"Anyway," he added, "my dad Brendan claims that he was a better sportsman than both of us because he played football and hockey too."

Ireland v Pakistan, live, Sky Sports 2, tomorrow, 3.30 am

Follow Ger Siggins live blog on Independent.ie

The Permutations

  • If Ireland beat Pakistan they will finish third in Pool B and likely face Australia in Adelaide on Friday, unless the Aussies fail to beat Scotland in their final Pool A game, in which case  Ireland would meet Sri Lanka on Wednesday.
  • If the West Indies fail to beat the UAE, Ireland can afford to lose but will have to fly back across the Tasman to face New Zealand on Saturday.
  • A tie or (rain-affected) no-result in either the West Indies-UAE match or Ireland's game would be enough for the Irish to progress.

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