O’Brien’s memorable century gives Ireland a World Cup victory over England

Kevin O’Brien hit the fastest World Cup memorable century of history time off just 50 balls to lead Ireland to a thrilling World Cup triumph over England in Bangalore.

When England got 327-8 off their 50 overs, it appeared that they would win, but O’Brien’s strong hitting helped them win by three wickets.

It was a victory that surpassed Ireland’s stunning World Cup victory over Pakistan in 2007.

If England’s encounter versus India on Sunday was exciting enough, this match will almost certainly be much more so.

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After losing three wickets for eight runs and slipping to 111 for five in an almost futile pursuit of 327 for eight, O’Brien (113) stepped to the crease when damage limitation appeared the best his team could hope for.

But he answered with a powerful innings, slamming six sixes and 13 fours in a 50-ball century and dominating a 162-run stand with Alex Cusack in 17 overs (47).

No one in the England attack was safe, with Graeme Swann (three for 47) the lucky one in that he completed his entire 10-over allocation before O’Brien launched his assault.

England didn’t help matters by dropping five catches in total, including one each by O’Brien and Cusack. Even O’Brien’s run-out at the start of the 49th over, attempting to scamper a second run, could not prevent Ireland from reaching the finish line with five balls to spare.

After O’Brien had almost killed England off, John Mooney and Trent Johnston nicked the winning four to midwicket.

Jonathan Trott (92) and Ian Bell (81) had been England’s primary batting contributions, with the former becoming the joint-fastest batsman to 1,000 one-day international runs in cricket history.

O’Brien’s surprising heroics, though, demoted him from headline to footnote.

Ireland’s chances of chasing down a tournament record under lights seemed bleak, especially after captain Will Porterfield was dismissed on the first ball of their reply under lights. Porterfield inside-edged an attempted cover-drive at a wide delivery from James Anderson back on to his stumps when they needed a positive start.

In a 62-run second-wicket stand, Paul Stirling and Ed Joyce gave England, and Stuart Broad in particular, plenty to ponder about. However, Stirling was caught at deep square-leg in the 10th over after getting beneath a draw from Broad’s replacement Tim Bresnan.

On 21, Joyce mis-pulled two Bresnan deliveries and could have easily gone to either. However, Anderson’s rush in from midwicket was not quick enough, and wicketkeeper Matt Prior immediately spilled a high, swirling opportunity.

Anderson parried a huge shot at Swann for six after new batter Niall O’Brien was dropped on five at long-off. The comfort for England appeared to be that a repeat of their fielding miscues in their first encounter against Holland would hardly matter.

When Niall O’Brien missed a slog-sweep at Swann, who got a second wicket when Joyce ran up the field and was easily stumped after failing to cover the spin, it still felt that way.

When Gary Wilson was caught lbw sweeping, Swann was back in business. But that was just to get O’Brien and Cusack together for what turned out to be a match made in heaven.

By the time Andrew Strauss dropped a challenging skier from extra-cover after O’Brien brutalized a ball from Paul Collingwood skywards on 91, several huge blows had already been delivered.

On 32, Cusack dodged a difficult caught-and-bowled opportunity to Mike Yardy. After a mix-up over a single, England finally grabbed the breakthrough when Cusack failed to reclaim his ground. But O’Brien understood he’d put in all the effort, and he wasn’t about to allow England a way back into a game they appeared to be winning.

For winning the toss, Strauss and Pietersen went after the opposition’s new-ball combination, Boyd Rankin and Johnston. After a 91-run stand in less than 14 overs, the in-form captain was bowled round the legs while attempting to paddle-pull slow left-armer George Dockrell off his stumps.

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Pietersen attempted to reverse-sweep off-spinner Stirling but somehow presented a routine catch to wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien shortly after achieving his first half-century as an ODI opener, from only 41 balls.

Bell, off Mooney, chipped a full delivery low to a tumbling Stirling at direct midwicket. In the powerplay, there were still 55 runs. After Trott fell short of his century, bowled by Mooney (four for 63), England stumbled and could only muster a sub-par 70 in the final ten overs.

Former Ireland captain Johnston bowled Prior and Yardy with precise lines, becoming the first bowler to capture 50 ODI wickets for his country.

As England’s innings ended in a whimper, it looked improbable that it would cost them the game – but that is exactly what O’Brien did “inputs from”.

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