KEVIN O'BRIEN struck a magnificent 124 from 62 balls in Muscat yesterday to complete a unique treble of centuries as Ireland crushed Hong Kong by 66 runs and kept alive their hopes of winning the Oman Pentangular T20 tournament.
The 35-year-old was already the proud owner of the most famous Ireland hundred, that World Cup tour de force against England in 2011, plus his country's only Test century, and at the Al Amerat ground he became the first Irishman to reach three figures in a T20 international.
Former colleague Trent Johnston, the coach of Hong Kong, could only look on in awe as O'Brien cleared the boundary seven times and smashed 10 fours to join a club of 14 batsman who have notched centuries in all three formats. No England player has achieved the feat.
O'Brien and Paul Stirling gave Ireland the perfect start, adding 80 from 50 balls, before the latter was bowled for a typically forceful 36, but after that it was largely a one-man show of intelligent hitting that took the Boys in Green to 208-5, their third best score over the shortest distance.
Boyd Rankin, Gareth Delany and Stuart Thompson claimed two wickets each as a Hong Kong side weakened by player bans and withdrawals limped to 142-9 in reply, giving Ireland a second win to pull level with Nepal and hosts Oman.
If Ireland beat Nepal in their final game tomorrow they must rely on Oman slipping up against the Netherlands, or the Nepalese on Thursday, and in hindsight coach Graham Ford may regret resting Rankin for Sunday's defeat by the hosts as the big man looks in fine fettle.
However, the focus of this trip to the Middle East is the T20 World Cup qualifier that starts in the United Arab Emirates next week and having Rankin fit for that is far more important than winning what amounts to a warm-up tournament.