Belfast Telegraph

Cricket World Cup:: Kevin O'Brien ‘batted like a true legend’

By Ian Callender

Phil Simmons has seen and played with some of the biggest hitters in the game but the Ireland coach admits Kevin O’Brien’s match-winning innings against England is up with the best of them.

Statistically, in World Cup terms it is the best — no batsman has been within 15 balls of doing what the Dubliner, who celebrates his 27th birthday today, did to England on Wednesday as he scored a century off just 50 balls.

“It’s up there with the best. I couldn’t put it in the same class as a Viv Richards or a Brian Lara but it was the fastest ever in the World Cup and, I think, the sixth quickest in an ODI so it was an exceptional innings,” said the former West Indies all-rounder.

“And we weren’t playing against Holland or Canada or Kenya, it was against England, one of the top sides in the world.”

While O’Brien was besieged for requests to do interviews yesterday — he even took a phone call from Ireland president Mary McAleese — Simmons did not allow the rest of his team of heroes to be left out of the limelight.

“They all played like Trojans,” he said. “Everybody was talking about Kevin but the way Alex (Cusack), and John (Mooney) and Trent (Johnston) batted at the end showed everyone is learning.

“We slipped up against Australia at Clontarf last year when we should have won, we slipped up against Bangladesh last week so it was good to see them finish it off yesterday. The bowlers were also brilliant in the last 10 overs. We conceded only 30 runs in the Powerplay when they were on top.

“Everyone was saying that England didn’t do this, didn’t do that but we stopped them from scoring runs because of the way we bowled. We have come back from bad spells in both games and that’s good to see.”

The ultimate test for the team, however, will be facing the host nation, in front of 40,000 fanatical fans in the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore but Simmons does not believe it will be worse than the atmosphere the team faced in that opening game in Dhaka.

“After that, this crowd is not going to faze us,” he insists. “In Bangladesh it was a rude awakening for quite a few of the players so I hope that stands us in good stead on Sunday.

“A lot of them were nervous, not just because of the crowd but also because it was the first game of the World Cup. Big batsmen, big players get nervous so I wasn’t surprised that it was like that.

“But we’re looking better and better and although the top order in both batting and bowling has to work hard on things, we have two days ahead of us before the game.

“Trent and Boyd (Rankin) haven’t bowled to the best of their ability yet but if we get them firing it will be the start of how you go about getting India. If they get 360-370, as they did against Bangladesh, then there is no chance of making that, but if you keep them closer to 300 there is a chance.”

And, as Ireland proved on Wednesday night, as they accumulated their highest ever ODI total, even 330 is not beyond the range of this batting line-up. And the top four of William Porterfield, Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce and Niall O’Brien have yet to reach 40 in this World Cup. How many runs can we score if they get off to a good

start? Even if the Ireland bowlers can, somehow, tame the India batsmen — the best top seven in world cricket with Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar just for starters — Simmons is wary of the Indian bowlers who will not bowl as badly as Ireland’s victims on Wednesday.

“They won’t bowl the short balls that England did, so we will have to work on our plans,” added the coach.

“It’s such a big challenge that we can learn so much no matter what the result. They wont be taking us lightly so they will have to come hard at us and we will see what that means. It will be a real education.”

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