Yet again, Kevin O’Brien proved to be the life-saver for the Irish….
Mohammad Amir to Kevin O’Brien – a length ball turns into a leading edge to deep point for TWO RUNS.
The Malahide Cricket Club breaks into celebrations as their local hero Kevin O’Brien become the first Irish Test centurion.
From taking Bengaluru’s Chinnaswamy Stadium by storm against England in the 2011 World Cup to sticking to the old school method in Ireland’s Test debut, Kevin has come a long way. This time around, when he removed his helmet after his century, his hair was not painted pink anymore, the air was known as he soaked most of it in a sigh of relief as the entire stadium got on their feet to join his celebrations. It was a huge moment for Kevin and Ireland.
To be precise, Ireland have played three significant matches till date, with the third one underway in Dublin. The first one was in the 2007 World Cup when they eliminated Pakistan in the group stage and then in 2011 World Cup when they did the same to England. There has been one constant face in all these three matches – Kevin. In the World Cup match against Pakistan, Kevin was the second top-scorer behind this brother Niall and remained not out when Johnston hit the winning runs.
Sledging Jimmy Anderson, Kevin set the world record of smashing the fast century in a World Cup as he remained unbeaten on 113 off 63 as Ireland beat England.
Seven years later, the same Kevin still stands like a rock for his country. Having made to follow on 180 runs behind, there was no one who had expected Ireland to take the Test into the fifth day. At stumps of fourth day, Kevin was still there, unbeaten on 118 and when Ireland will resume play on the final day, they’ll be 139 runs ahead of Pakistan. From being the World Cup giant-killers to today a full-fledged Test side, Ireland have come a long way and Kevin has evolved from being a mere slogger to a Test cricketer.
When Kevin scored the fastest World Cup hundred, Ireland had found a representative of Irish cricket in Kevin. He might not be the best of the lot, but he was always available. He started as an underage cricketer, with an Irish playing brother and father. With just two First-Class games in County Cricket and overall 41 First-Class games, Kevin made his Ireland debut in the 2007 Intercontinental Cup against the UAE. He would go on to become the mascot of the game, who hit sixes and won Ireland their games. Outside Irish cricket, Kevin has not been of the same significance. He has been one of those players who have performed for their country more than their clubs.
But on Monday, his knock defined him as the Test cricketer, who would come in handy for Ireland in their initial journey as a Test team. He didn’t hit any sixes in his maiden Test century. His first fifty came off as many as 100 balls, contradicting his World Cup fastest century in the 2011 World Cup. For most of his innings on the fourth day, he poked and nudged and flicking the ball to cover point for a single was his favourite shot of the day.
It has been over a decade now since Kevin became a professional cricketer and prior to the Dublin Test, Kevin only had one First-Class hundred, an unbeaten 171 in a first innings against Kenya in 2008 in ICC Intercontinental Cup. Kevin has been known for his fireworks and not scoring First-Class centuries but on Monday, he would change that. He fought the Pakistan bowlers, overcame the pressure of the follow-on and followed his own instincts to take the edgy-risks. The ball wasn’t coming in the middle of the bat but he ensured he did not give up. In his innings of over five hours, there was only one close call against him, LBW off Rahat Ali’s bowling when Kevin was on 69.
He is not used to playing longer First-Class innings so the pressure at the times took a toll on him. After he reached 80, he played and missed a ball and in frustration, he swung his bat violently on the stumps. His batting partner, Stuart Thompson had to come and calm him down. When he entered the 90s, the pressure doubled and it was visible on his face that he was not very comfortable. On 97, when hundred was very near, the ball crossed the fence but the umpire signalled for leg byes. Irritated Kevin went to his new partner, Tyrone Kane, and said, “Bloody leg byes”. And then, Kevin was seen doing some yoga poses to Kane as he said, “I’m getting old and I’m not used to batting for five hours”. On 99, he missed the ball and was frustrated so much that he missed the next delivery too. Not only that, Pakistan’s Shadab Khan even appealed for caught behind.
Irish cricket is known for its all-rounders – the players who aren’t top-level bowlers but make up for that with the bat. They have never urged for bringing up someone like Kevin but even they know he is special. Kevin is not the best player of his country, in fact not even in his own family. But with his achievements in the three vital matches he has played for Ireland, one can wonder if there will ever be another player for Ireland who will replicate Kevin’s feats.