Bangalore, March 2: It was an epic battle that epitomised every bit the Anglo-Irish rivalry of the ages as the mighty Celtics stole a march on their former colonial masters to win their World Cup 2011 tie at Bangalorer's Chinnaswamy stadium. Dashing middle-order bat Kevin O'Brien brought the venue and indeed the entire cricketing world to its feet with his blazing, relentless 113 off 63 balls to take his side within clear sight of victory.
In the end, overhauling England's imposing total of 328/8 was made light work by the Irish as O'Brien together with Alex Cusack (47 off 58 balls) and John Mooney (33 off 30 balls) held sway against a beleaguered bowling attack. At 111/5 in 24.2 overs, victory for Ireland seemed as improbable as winning the World Cup itself, but the fighting shamrocks showed just how far their grit, determination and outright defiance could take them.
Ireland's historic victory is perhaps all the more outrageous as they lost one of their premier batsmen - captain William Porterfield - in the first ball of their innings. The beneficiary was a chuffed James Anderson, but his joy soon turned to anguish as Ireland raced to 62/1 in 9.4, courtesy some lusty hits from Paul Stirling. The same batsman however perished to Tim Bresnan for a 32 off 28 balls, but Niall O'Brien and Ed Joyce kept the momentum going, taking Ireland past 100 in the 20th over.
What followed was a flurry of wickets, with off-spinner Graeme Swann rocking the middle order. He castled Niall O'Brien for 29 off 32, had Ed Joyce stumped for 32 off 61 and trapped Gary Wilson in front for 3 off 14. With the score at a dismal 111/5, it indeed looked like England had the game in the bag. But a feisty Kevin O'Brien, backed up by a resilient Alex Cusack had other ideas.
In the 27th over, O'Brien heaved Swann twice over midwicket for sixes as the momentum slowly began to swing back Ireland's way. Then after Ireland passed 150 in 29 overs, Cusack got into the act. He slapped Stuart Broad for two consecutive fours, following which, O'Brien subjected Michael Yardy to similar treatment and brought up his fifty (off just 31 balls) with a six off Anderson.
In the 34th over, O'Brien carted Bresnan for a boundary and a maximum to bring up Ireland's 200 in 34 overs. The Irish now required just another 123 off 16 overs, with victory looking a stronger and stonger possibility. O'Brien then laid into Anderson again, getting him away for two fours and a six in the 35th over, reducing the equation to 106 required off 90 balls.
Fortune shone on the batting pair in the 38th and 39th overs as England dropped a catch each off both batsmen, while in the meantime they had brought up their side's 250. Now the underdogs needed just 76 to win from 66. Cusack and O'Brien closed up the deficit further when they knocked a six and four, respectively, off Paul Collingwood in the 40th over.
O'Brien ran two runs in the next over to bring up his 100 of just 50 balls, but an over later, his ever-reliable partner was run out for 47 off 58 balls. England sensed a chance to pull things back, but O'Brien just kept going. He was eventually run-out himself in the penultimate over with Ireland needing 11 runs of 11 balls. A flourish at the end from John Mooney (33 off 30 balls) and Trent Johnson (7 off 4 balls) took Ireland to the magical figure of 329 and a truly historic win.