By John Kenny
Ireland forced a tie against Pakistan in a thrilling finish to the first of the RSA one-day cricket internationals at Castle Avenue in Clontarf.
Needing a six to win off the last ball or a four to tie, Kevin O’Brien (84 not out) swept the final ball of the Ireland innings off the bowling of Saeed Ajmal for four to reach 275 and tie Pakistan’s revised first innings score.
On a cloudy and windy morning in Clontarf, Pakistan won the toss and decided to bat. Their openers Imran Farhat and Nasir Jamshaid were tied down early on due to some tidy bowling by both Trent Johnston and Tim Murtagh.
Jamshaid retired hurt with back problems in the tenth over with Pakistan on 27 for none. The only breakout of that opening spell was a massive six by Jamshaid off Johnston’s bowling.
That six aside, the bowling of Johnston and Murtagh was accurate and precise. The first wicket went for 33 runs in the 12th over as Farhat slashed at a wide one from Alex Cuasck and was caught at slip by Paul Sterling for nine.
Four interruptions for rain reduced the match to 47 overs a-side, but Pakistan didn’t let those breaks in play disrupt them.
The tourists took their score from 33 for 1 to 221 for 2 with Mohammad Hafeez and Asad Shaiq plundering the Irish bowling before Shaiq went in the 43rd over caught on at long on by Trent Johnstone for an impressive 84 to give Cusack his second wicket.
At that stage Jamshaid resumed his innings as Hafeez claimed his century in 102 deliveries in the 44th over, going on to make an unbeaten 122 and helping Pakistan to post a score of 266 for five with some late wickets falling to Kevin O’Brien’s bowling.
When Ireland took to the field, openers William Porterfield and Paul Stirling took the score to 62 in the 13th over before Porterfield perished pulling from off to on and was caught at midwicket for 19.
Stirling moved on past 50, with his half century coming off 51 deliveries, he and Ed Joyce took the score from 62 for 1 to 158 for 2 with Joyce bowled for 32 in the 33rd over by Mohammad Hafeez.
Stirling went on to make his century - his second against Pakistan – but went as he skied one off the bowling of Hafeez when he was on 103 .
Kevin O’Brien took up the chase going past 50 in only 28 deliveries, which included a huge six, and aided by Gary Wilson (11) and Trent Johnston (7 not out) , Ireland got close to Pakistan’s revised Duckworth Lewis total of 275.
Needing 15 to win off the last over Ireland scored 14 to force a memorable tie and set up what should be another close affair in the team’s second encounter on Sunday.