Not a stranger to creating history for his country, Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien added another feather to his cap this week in Malahide as he became the first Irish player to score a Test century. In Ireland’s debut Test appearance against Pakistan, O’Brien made his countrymen dream with a century in the second innings after following-on, raising hopes of a miraculous win.
Hopes of a miracle at Malahide weren’t just the stuff of fantasy when Pakistan, who need 160 to win on the final day, collapsed to 14/3 before lunch at the Dublin ground. Imam-ul-Haq (74 not out) and Babar Azam (59) then combined to dash dreams that Ireland, the 11th nation to play Test cricket, would record a remarkable win.
That they were in a position to do that, owed much to O’Brien’s impressive 118 – just the fourth instance of a man scoring a century in his country’s first Test match – which was the cornerstone of Ireland’s second innings score of 339.
“It’s the start of a new era,” was how O’Brien described the feeling in an interview to Mumbai Mirror. “We’ve performed excellently well in the 50-over and Twenty20 formats for the last 10 or 12 years. A new chapter has now begun. Hopefully, I will stick around for a few more years and for a few more Tests. I hope to see the Irish team improve its game and I hope to see the day when we can look at cricket as a way of earning and living.”
For a while, it seemed Ireland might rewrite the record books on two fronts in becoming only the fourth side to win a Test after following-on and just the second in the 141-year history of the format, following Australia’s defeat of England in the inaugural 1877 Test at Melbourne, to win their debut match.
“It is very very memorable from a personal point of view,” O’Brien said. “I had dreamt of playing Test cricket when I was young. Everyone all over the world would have known me for only 50-over and T20 cricket. Now people will say I am good enough to play Test cricket,” he added, hoping that more youngsters took the game up in Ireland, now that the spotlight is on the sport.
O’Brien, though, was guarded in his assessment of whether Ireland are ready to take on the big teams in the longest format.
“To be honest, at the moment, I don’t think so,” said the 34-year-old, when asked if playing the likes of India, Australia, South Africa and England, was important for the Irish. “We need to play a lot of Test cricket (before taking on them). We need to take it slowly. We need to find our feet (in the format) and that is first and foremost. We need to play the likes of West Indies, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and get confident in playing Test cricket. Playing Australia in Melbourne or Perth will be a mismatch,” he added.
He reasoned that the skills required for doing well against the powerhouse have to be honed on a consistent basis, which Ireland should acquire over the next few years.
O’Brien, who shot to fame with a 50-ball 100 against England in the 2011 World Cup in a stunning run-chase, also said that the ICC’s decision to limit the World Cup to 10 teams is not ideal, adding that the qualifier tournament in Zimbabwe this year showed the depth of world cricket, and added that the ICC has to increase the number of teams in the 50-over World Cup which will be great for everyone.
O’Brien also looked forward to the two Twenty20 Internationals (on June 27 and 29) against India in June, saying it will be “absolute class” to play the men in blue in front of what is expected to be full-houses.
You can read the full interview here.
(With AFP inputs)