In my post yesterday on the ongoing World Cup, one of my takes was that the tourney this year had too many bad teams. While I still stick to that opinion, I did make the mistake of including Ireland in my list of minnows that are diluting the strength of the competition.
Well, it took all of 1 day for Kevin O'Brien and Ireland to make me look totally ignorant and utterly foolish. What an innings and what a victory! Coming as it did against a highly-fancied English team that had knocked the jeepers out of India just a few nights earlier, this victory was all the more remarkable.
So as ought to be the right action to take, here is my homage to what was undoubtedly one of the best ODI innings ever played, and, in my mind, the best World Cup batting performance along with Kapil Dev's 183 versus Zimbabwe in 1983, and Dave Houghton's 100 against Australia in 1987.
The most significant aspect of KOB's innings today was that he did not let up after getting to his century, and almost went the whole way in ensuring a victory for his country. This was crucial, given the obvious gap in class between him and the subsequent batsmen; also, his physical presence seemed to intimidate the Englishmen and spur them into some rather ordinary bowling.
Often, the "gap" in purported class between the heavyweights and the minnows in world cricket is exacerbated by the fact that the big-boys dominate in the sledging department as well; it seems to be their inherited right to chew down an associate opponent upon getting shown-up on the field.
Well, not anymore. To me, the best part about KOB's knock today was that he appeared to be as prolific with his mouth as he was with his bat. His verbal assault on Jimmy Anderson after bashing him for a six over mid-wicket was sheer ecstasy. Funnier was that Jimmy seemed to have initiated that 'conversation.' KOB gave back an earful, and followed that with two more sixes off of Anderson in the latter's next over.
For once, there were no minnows on the field. The Irish were ready for a bare knuckles, all-out, onslaught, with KOB leading the way.
Sachin Tendulkar took the initiative against England two nights ago with a calculated attack on Graeme Swann, England's trump card, with two sixes off his second over. KOB seemed to have taken note of that. Up until his arrival to the crease, Swann had been wrecker-in-chief, taking 3/26 of 8 measly overs.
In his 9th over, unfortunately, KOB took him to the cleaners, twice pulling him for sixes, the second one from outside the off-stump! England ought to have heard the warning bells then, but to no avail!
Not to be minimized in the midst of the O'Brien frenzy is the hand played by his partner-in-crime, Alex Cusack. He was content to rotate the strike during much of his stay and turn the strike on to KOB; but when the required rate appeared to creep up towards the 38th over, he showcased his range of aggression with a six off of Collingwood, followed by an exquisite cover drive for four off....who else, but poor old Jimmy Anderson.
And to cap it all off, Cusack proved his worth in gold by unselfishly sacrificing his wicket in a mix-up with KOB, when he appeared to be well-safe, and, in fact, had to turn back and run almost the length of the pitch in order to give away his wicket. Sparkling team cricket at its ultimate best!
In three matches thus far, England have given up a boatload of runs --- 292, 339, and 329 runs; which is further accentuated by the fact that two of the three matches have been against Netherlands and Ireland, the so-called minnows. The Ashes-winning, world-beaters from a few months back have vanished; to be replaced by a bowling unit that has absolutely no plan in place, or does not seem to know how to execute its plan.
Anderson needs to be dropped, as he has been criminal in the death overs; Broad is either unfit or had a terrible day today. Yardy might not make it onto a full-strength Tamilnadu or Rajasthan Ranji team; which leaves Bresnan and Swann as the only bowlers whom Strauss can place any trust in.
On top of the ghastly bowling display, the team has been ragged on the field, dropping 11 catches in three matches. Strauss's drop off KOB today is likely to be talked about for a while, but at least he tried to make a difficult catch look easy. Worse was the absolute mess of an effort made by Yardy in the 37th over when KOB pulled Bresnan towards square-leg. If Yardy had been on the fence, as logic would dictate, that would have been the simplest of catches. Instead, he was standing 20 meters inside, and thus had the ball landing over his head for a four! Remarkably poor intellect in a crucial situation indeed.