Kevin O'Brien, the scourge of Kenya with the bat in recent years, was the hero with the ball as Ireland completed a 3-0 series victory in the RSA Challenge at Castle Avenue. Kenya needed 10 off the last over to give them their first one-day international ranking points but O'Brien, Ireland's sixth bowler on the day, conceded just five singles to give Ireland the win which elevates them above Zimbabwe and back into 10th place in the ODI table.
The overall performance was not nearly as convincing as Saturday's nine wicket success but with the series won, National Coach Phil Simmons had left out his two professionals, Trent Johnston and Alex Cusack, to give a first game of the week to Paul Stirling and a debut to Andrew Britton. Stirling, after scoring a century in the Intercontinental Cup game between the teams last weekend, showed he should be in the first choice XI in all forms of the game with a superb 84 from 92 balls as Ireland recovered from 109 for five to post an unlikely 256 for seven.
John Mooney, who, after being missed on five, finished with an Ireland-best 42, joined Stirling to lead the recovery - from the 28th to the 36th overs they scored nothing but singles, 28 in a row - but it laid the platform for the final assault. So, even after the record sixth wicket O DI stand of 76 was ended and Mooney followed three overs later, Kyle McCallan and Regan West scored 51 from the last 26 balls in a stunning finale, with West finally showing off his hitting prowess in in a green shirt, hitting three sixes including one onto the roof of the scorebox.
Rain delayed the restart and another interruption in the fifth over set Kenya a revised target of 245 in 46 overs. Britton opened the bowling and after a nervous first over had gone for 12, he came back well to concede just 15 runs from his next four overs. At the other end, Boyd Rankin, in his 40th international and a county professional with Warwickshire, was proving even more expensive as, for the second day in a row, Alex Obanda took a liking to him and hit him for three fours and a six in successive balls. After seven overs, Kenya were in 49 for one.
The spinners came on with a face-saving mission but for long spells they too could not halt the runs with singles more common than "dot balls', the Kenyans doing much as they pleased. Two wickets in successive overs from McCallan and Andrew White, who owed Ireland one after dropping a sitter off Obanda which cost 20 runs, gave Ireland a lifeline but the one man they could not dislodge was Collins Obuya. Fortunately, three more wickets fell at the other end, albeit due to rash or impatient shots, but still, needing only 13 from 12 balls with four wickets left, there should have been only one winner. And it wasn't Ireland.
The reduced overs meant only one Ireland bowler could bowl 10 overs and the decision to give McCallan the 45th proved to be a match-winner. Even with Odoyo in full flow - he hit 78 from 69 balls with five fours and three sixes - Kenya managed only three singles in the over and Kevin O'Brien, introduced in the 38th over in place of the inexperienced Britton, did the rest. He was helped by Nehemiah Odhiambo's amazing decision to attempt a reverse sweep off the third last ball - he missed - and then turning down a second run of the next ball which would have left them needing only a four to tie the scores.
Unlike Ireland they don't know how to win the big overs - their last 26 balls yielded only 22 runs - but that's why Ireland are the leading Associate Nation and now back in the world's top 10.
- Andrew Britton and team mates as he gets his first cap
- Roy Torrens, William Porterfield, Andrew Britton and Boyd Rankin
- Runs for Paul Stirling
- John Mooney batting
- Played to midwicket by Paul Stirling
- Pulled to the boundary by Paul Stirling
- Six hit by Paul Stirling
- Paul Stirling is bowled
- Andy Britton bowling
- Andrew Britton bowling
- Catch for Gary Wilson
- Huge appeal by Boyd Rankin