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O'Brien writes name in Irish history books by inspiring victory with ton

 

Great feat: Kevin O’Brien has now hit a century in all three formats
Great feat: Kevin O’Brien has now hit a century in all three formats

By Ian Callender

Kevin O'Brien's first Twenty20 century ensured a comfortable win for Ireland in their penultimate game at the pentangular tournament in Oman.

Hong Kong, their first opponents at the T20 World Cup qualifiers in 10 days' time, were their hapless victims as Ireland did much as they liked - no one more so than O'Brien, who has become the first Ireland player to score a century in all three formats.

Eight years after his memorable one-day international hundred against England at the World Cup, and 17 months after reaching three figures in the Test match against Pakistan, he completed the set yesterday from 53 balls - three balls slower than in Bangalore in 2011 - with his sixth six, to go with 10 fours.

There were still 14 balls left for Ireland to score 26 runs and finish on 208-5 - their fourth highest total - with O'Brien giving his wicket away in the last over, caught at long-on for 124 after another six and two fours.

The victory margin of 66 runs could have been even wider but, with the game all but won, Gary Wilson gave Paul Stirling two overs, which went for 25, so that will likely make the skipper think twice about throwing him the ball in the qualifiers.

Wilson, however, still took it seriously enough to share the last six overs between his three front-line pace men - Boyd Rankin, Mark Adair and Stuart Thompson - and they took four wickets for 45 runs with the pressure off.

Shane Getkate, Craig Young and George Dockrell sat out the game, giving a first appearance this week for Simi Singh, who took a wicket with his second ball, and Lorcan Tucker, who held two catches as wicket-keeper.

Neither got a chance to bat, which would indicate the top seven for the qualifiers are nailed down, although Ireland will hope for more than two significant contributions in an innings, a feature of this week's tournament.

Stirling hit 36 from 27 balls in the opening stand of 80 with O'Brien but was never at his fluent best, and the same could be said for Andrew Balbirnie, as the first three wickets fell to off spinner Ehsan Khan's quicker ball.

Ireland's final match before they head to the UAE is against Nepal tomorrow (6.30am BST) and that promises to be a much tougher test.

Nepal have won their first two games, including against the Netherlands yesterday by four wickets despite needing 28 off the last two overs.

Scores: Ireland 208-5 (K O'Brien 124, P Stirling 36, G Delany 19, A Balbirnie 10; Ehsan Khan 3-32) Hong Kong 142-9 (H Arshad 45; B Rankin 2-21, S Thompson 2-25, G Delany 2-27, S Singh 1-9, M Adair 1-32). Ireland won by 66 runs.

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