Brained by O'Brien

John Mooney and Trent Johnston are over the moon after beating England.-PTI

England and the spectators least expected it, but Ireland knew what it was doing when it shocked its more fancied rival. Over to Shreedutta Chidananda.

As the ball rained down on the G Stand at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on that Wednesday night, the ICC's decision to limit the number of participating teams at the 2015 World Cup to 10 appeared increasingly like England's bowling — wretched and patently clueless. As Kevin O'Brien cudgelled the fastest century in World Cup history, carrying Ireland to a staggering three-wicket win, it wasn't only England's catching that looked worthy of derision.

Captain William Porterfield lamented as much after the game. “For any ICC Associate or anyone in the High Performance Programme, it's a pretty disappointing move,” he said. “It could be the death of a lot of countries. It, to me, wouldn't be a World Cup if you're cutting out teams like that.”

The result may have come as a shock, but the Irish effort does not deserve patronising appellations like ‘plucky' and ‘courageous'; what it was, was a ruthless, calculated batting performance that made the most of English ineptitude in the field. In pursuit of a colossal 328, the men from the Emerald Isle crossed the line with five balls to spare, making it the highest successful run-chase in the competition. John Mooney clipped James Anderson to the deep-midwicket boundary to complete the feat, tossing his bat in the air in delight as the few thousand present erupted.

The outcome looked a foregone conclusion in favour of England at the halfway stage when Graeme Swann took three Irish wickets in as many overs to leave the chasing side floundering at 111 for five. O' Brien and Alex Cusack, however, set about rescuing the seemingly irredeemable situation. Staring at a requirement of 161 runs off the last 19 overs, in the midst of a partnership already worth 56 off 40 balls, the pair opted for the batting Powerplay, with dramatic results. They plundered 62 runs in the 30-ball period, reducing the equation to 99 off 13. Although the quest for victory endured a momentary stutter, when Cusack was run out calamitously in the 42nd over to bring the curtains down on an epic 162-run (103b) stand for the sixth wicket, Mooney did enough to take his side home.

O'Brien's innings (113, 63b, 4x13, 6x6) was one of cheerful brutality, segueing into sober run-making as the end drew closer. The hulking 26-year-old scorched his way to a 50-ball hundred, leaving in the shade Matthew Hayden's 66-ball effort from the previous edition. He clobbered Swann over deep midwicket in the 27th over for his first six, repeating the act two balls later. He brought up his fifty off 30 balls — the fastest by an Irishman — with a savage pull off James Anderson beyond the square-leg boundary. O'Brien may have scored the biggest six of the tournament — a 102m biff over ‘cow corner' — but jaws dropped all around when he blithely drove Tim Bresnan into the stands over point: indisputably the shot of the match.

‘KOB' brought his century up with a scampered two off Michael Yardy, as mother Camilla wiped a tear in the stands. “That's a long way the best innings I've played,” he said later. “It even eclipses playing in the back garden with Niall. I think anyone is going to struggle to beat that innings; I'll take a few fines for (saying) that, a few raps, but I'll say that all night.

“Myself and Cusy (Cusack), we just took a chance and it came off. I don't think the English had any answers for us. They didn't really know what they were up to.”

Sometime during his innings — the sixth fastest hundred in one-day cricket — O' Brien also became Ireland's highest run-scorer in the format. Lost in the hubbub on a night of records was Jonathan Trott's feat of joining Viv Richards and Kevin Pietersen in becoming the quickest to 1000 ODI runs (21 innings). Trott batted like he always does, as though doing anything beyond the barely functional was a criminal act, hoarding runs in a style stripped of all aesthetic value.

“It was a bit of a shock for us,” a despondent Andrew Strauss said of the defeat. “It's bitterly disappointing. It was an outstanding innings from Kevin O' Brien, just for the gall he showed to take the game to us during the Powerplay. I think we got a bit taken by surprise there. Our bowling could have been better.”

Porterfield, though, was in no mood to understate things. “This is the biggest win Irish cricket has ever had,” he said. “Beating England in any sport is special. A lot of people will have been watching back home. We let them down on that Friday night, but we've given something to smile about this Wednesday.”

THE SCORES

England 327 for eight in 50 overs (Trott 92, Bell 81, Pietersen 59, Strauss 34, Mooney four for 63) lost to Ireland 329 for seven in 49.1 overs (Kevin O'Brien 113, Cusack 47, Mooney 33, Stirling 32, Joyce 32, Swann three for 47).