Brutal O'Brien shocks England
Kevin O’Brien played one of the greatest innings the World Cup has seen as Ireland completed a remarkable run-chase to beat England in Bangalore.
His savage 113 off 63 balls was almost solely responsible for rescuing the Associate nation from a position of little apparent hope and enabling them to pull off an upset to rival all upsets.
Although he was run out in the penultimate over of a scarcely believable pursuit, O’Brien had done enough to allow John Mooney and Trent Johnston to see Ireland to a target of 328 with three wickets and five balls to spare.
It was yet another breathless finish for England, who seem incapable of taking part in a routine game in this tournament, but any inadequacies in their performance will rightly be overshadowed by the brilliance of O’Brien.
In powering his way to three figures off just 50 balls, he recorded the sixth fastest century in ODI cricket. It comfortably surpassed anything we have seen in this competition, and spanned 16 fewer deliveries than Matthew Hayden’s hundred four years ago, the previous fastest in World Cup history.
On a day when records tumbled like autumn leaves, Ireland were left celebrating the highest successful chase achieved in a World Cup.
That Jonathan Trott, en route to 92, joined Viv Richards and Kevin Pietersen as the quickest player to 1,000 ODI runs - in 21 innings - had long since been forgotten by the time Mooney swung James Anderson through midwicket to seal a victory that will live long in the memory of the Irish and English alike.
Trott’s third-wicket stand of 167 with Ian Bell, who made a fluent 81, was central to England’s imposing 327 for eight, and appeared to the game’s defining partnership until O’Brien and Alex Cusack combined to flay 162 in barely 17 overs. Cusack’s contribution was a mere 47.
That their alliance began with Ireland tottering on 111 for five in the 25th over makes it all the more astonishing, although England will once again reflect on a below-par fielding display marred by five dropped catches.
Andrew Strauss spilled a tough chance over his shoulder at mid-off, but O'Brien had 91 to his name by that time - and was deep into an innings that ultimately contained 13 fours and six sixes.
The figures are worth dwelling upon, for they reflect the brutality of O’Brien’s strokeplay on a pitch every bit as true as that on which 676 runs were scored by India and England at this venue on Sunday.
The prospects of an Ireland victory appeared distant after Will Porterfield dragged the first ball of their reply, an Anderson loosener, on to leg stump.
Paul Stirling’s departure for a breezy 32 hardly helped matters, and you would have got long odds on anything other than a convincing England win after Graeme Swann struck three times in the space of 10 deliveries.
Niall O’Brien, sweeping rather ambitiously, was bowled off stump; Ed Joyce’s patience evaporated when he advanced fatally to provide Matt Prior with one of his easier stumpings; and Gary Wilson was lbw as he too tried to sweep.
If England assumed the contest was over, they did not reckon upon the younger of the O’Brien brothers.
Swann was twice hoisted into the stand at deep midwicket - he nonetheless returned admirable figures of 3-47 - to spark an unrelenting assault in which Cusack was consigned to the role of roadie, never mind playing second fiddle.
He had the best view in the house as O’Brien, swinging powerfully over the leg side and driving forcefully down the ground, mounted a staggering assault that peaked when he smeared Bresnan over point for six.
They plundered 62 off five overs of the batting powerplay and, although Cusack was run out in the 42nd over and O’Brien perished with 11 needed off 11 balls as he tried to get back on strike, Mooney and Johnston held their nerve while all in the crowd were losing theirs.
Mooney’s unbeaten 33 off 30 balls will be remembered more fondly than his 4-63 haul, but the role he played in limiting England’s late charge with the bat was not dissimilar to that performed by Bresnan against India four days ago.
But for a collapse that saw six wickets fall in the final eight overs, England’s innings was superbly paced, and served as more than ample justification for Strauss’ decision to bat first on a pacy surface.
Stirling, who took 1-45, also deserves credit for applying some sort of control with his occasional off-spin after Strauss and Kevin Pietersen’s opening stand of 91 inside 14 overs.
Strauss, fresh on the back of an ODI-best 158 three days ago, made 34 on his 34th birthday, only to be bowled behind his pads as he stepped across to manufacture a sweep against left-arm spinner George Dockrell.
Pietersen, who had shown his usual disdain for anything in the vicinity of his pads, responded to losing his skipper by pulling Mooney off the front foot for a flat six over midwicket, but his attempt at improvisation ended in failure when he gloved a reserve-sweep off Stirling to Niall O’Brien. He had struck 59 off 50 balls.
While Trott and Bell initially erred on the side of the caution, they rarely missed the opportunity to score.
Trott, typically, favoured the leg side, while Bell drove with his usual poise - both over and through the infield - in the arc between extra-cover and wide mid-on. There was no better example than when he advanced to ease Dockrell over long-off for six.
Both managed to combine control and aggression until Bell clipped the last ball of the batting powerplay to short midwicket, where Stirling took a splendid catch diving to his left.
Mooney gained further reward when Trott, aiming an expansive drive, had his off stump pegged back by one that nipped back, and Prior was bowled making room to Johnston moments later.
Paul Collingwood holed out at long-on attempting a second six of the over off Mooney, who had Bresnan taken at deep midwicket off the last delivery of the innings after Johnston’s slower ball had done for Yardy.