Irish nightmare for England

Thursday, 3 March 2011 01:17 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

(Reuters) - Kevin O'Brien smashed the fastest ever century in the Cricket World Cup to propel Ireland to a shock three-wicket win over England on Wednesday.

O'Brien battered six sixes and 13 fours from 50 balls to reach three figures as Ireland passed a target of 328 to win. He was eventually run out for 113.

It was the highest successful run chase in the tournament.

The previous fastest 100 was by Australian Matthew Hayden who took 66 balls to achieve three figures in 2007 against South Africa.


Led by a big partnership from Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, England looked to have done enough to bat Ireland out of the game at the midway point with 327 for eight on the board.

It looked even more forlorn for the Irish when Gary Wilson was dismissed to leave Ireland struggling at 111 for five.

But a 50-ball century from Kevin O'Brien, and impressive support acts from Alex Cusack and John Mooney, managed to get the Irish back into the game and they won the game with five balls to spare.

England, having chased in both their previous matches at the World Cup, opted to bat first when Andrew Strauss won the toss.

And the skipper set about getting England to a flying start in partnership with Kevin Pietersen.

Pietersen in particular was in full flow, striking the ball cleanly and treating the opening bowlers of Trent Johnston and Boyd Rankin with disdain.

The pair set about another impressive and pacy opening stand, scoring 72 in the first 10 overs before Strauss fell for 34 - coincidentally on his 34th birthday to teenage spinner George Dockrell.

Pietersen brought up his 50 in just 40 balls and looked well set before surrendering his wicket to Paul Stirling.

The nature of his dismissal will attract plenty of debate - having looked set for a big score, he took on the part-time off-spinner with a reverse sweep, only to glove the ball and see it loop up to wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien.

England, coasting along at more than a run a ball, slowed down as Trott and Bell settled at the crease, but having added 37 runs in their first 10 overs together, the duo upped their pace.

In their stand of 167 the two looked unruffled, with Trott reaching a landmark by passing 1000 runs in just 21 ODI innings - a record he now jointly shares with Viv Richards and Kevin Pietersen.

But both fell short of centuries, and the tail failed to wag, with a string of batsmen coming and going and England lost six wickets for 39 runs by the end of their innings.

Jimmy Anderson gave England the perfect start with a bit of luck, removing William Porterfield who dragged on to his stumps first ball.

England had things under complete control, reducing their opponents to 111 for five thanks to some astute bowling from Graeme Swann, who bowled a superb dipping delivery to claim the prize wicket of Ed Joyce, stumped.

Then Kevin O'Brien came to the wicket and changed everything. The 26-year-old played aggressively and without fear, relying on his good eye and raw power to strike a succession of boundaries.

England's bowling promptly went to pieces under O'Brien's assault, as James Anderson, Tim Bresnan and Michael Yardy lost all semblance of line and length, and with it their composure.

O'Brien launched a ferocious assault, including a towering six over midwicket measured at 103 metres - the biggest hit of the tournament so far.

The 100 partnership between O'Brien and Alex Cusack came off 61 balls, and Ireland's batting powerplay yielded 62 runs from five overs.

England's panic was summed up by Andrew Strauss, who dropped a skyer from O'Brien when he was on 91.

England threatened to drag the game back under control with the run outs of Cusack and O'Brien, but Mooney remained composed to see them over the line.

Terrible fielding performances from England had been disguised by excellent batting efforts, but Ireland exposed them and England will have to rebound quickly to have any hopes of progressing in the tournament with Ireland realistic contenders for the quarter-finals.