Irish victories over England are always sweetly celebrated, and especially so on English soil when the home team are the reigning World Champions.
All those elements were in place last night near 10 pm when Kevin O’Brien polished his personal CV of magic moments against England by scoring the winning runs with only two balls left to be bowled.
Centuries from Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie had set up the famous seven-wicket win over England in the third and final One Day International at the Ageas Bowl on Tuesday.
It was the second time in history that Ireland had beaten England.
The pair put on 214 for the second wicket in a chase of 329 to set up the victory, although both fell in the space of three overs, with 50 needed from 33 balls when Kevin O’Brien walked out to join Harry Tector at the crease. The new pair managed to put any nerves at bay to guide the visitors home to victory, with O’Brien hitting the winning single.
Happy. That’s it, really. Just happy. pic.twitter.com/TEbuCdwuQB
— Cricket Ireland (@Irelandcricket) August 4, 2020
Nevertheless, the stars of the show were Ireland’s captain and vice-captain. Stirling teed up the chase by dominating an opening 50-run partnership with Gareth Delany, contributing 36 of the runs as Ireland were able to build a platform that had been missing in the previous two ODIs.
Then began the monster second-wicket partnership, with Stirling’s massive sixes off the bowling of Adil Rashid making up the majority of the highlights. Balbirnie advanced to his 10th ODI half-century from 43 balls, and Stirling then survived a drop from James Vince at midwicket before moving to his ton from 96 balls.
The milestone-ticking didn’t relent, with Balbirnie bringing up his century from the first ball of the 42nd over, but a mix-up just three balls later resulted in Stirling being run out on 142. Balbirnie’s attempts at acceleration proved costly thereafter as he lofted Rashid to Sam Billings at long-off. England seemed set to wrestle back control at that stage, but the youthful exuberance of Tector married up perfectly with the experience of O’Brien to deliver the win.