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Kevin O'Brien sweeps the final ball to the boundary to earn the tie.
Kevin O'Brien sweeps the final ball to the boundary to earn the tie.
Emmet Riordan (Irish Times)

Six years on from their stunning World Cup victory over Pakistan in Jamaica, Ireland secured an amazing tie against the same opponents in Clontarf in a thrilling first game of the RSA Insurance One-Day International Series.

A century from Paul Stirling and a barnstorming 84 from 47 deliveries from Kevin O'Brien saw Ireland match the par score of 275 with O'Brien hitting the last ball from Saeed Ajmal to backward square leg to set off wild celebrations amongst the Irish supporters in a 2,000 strong crowd. It certainly warmed up a brutally cold day, with the second game in threee days time set to be a sell out with the series up for decision.

Requiring 15 runs from the final over to win, O'Brien hit Ajmal for a six off the fourth ball before scrambling a two off the penultimate ball to leave Ireland needing a six for victory or a four to secure a second ODI tie for the country following the game against Zimbabwe, also at the World Cup in 2007.

Ajmal, the world's best ODI bowler, is far to wily to offer anything short, but O'Brien did brilliantly to clip the the off-spinner off his pads to put it wide of 7ft 1in Pakistani bowler Mohammad Irfan and into the advertising hoardings.

O'Brien was at his bludgeoning best in hitting 11 fours and two sixes, although his power can sometimes hide the fact that he possesses an acute cricketing brain and the perfect temperament for the big occasion.

Ireland's golden generation of cricketers has also been blessed with the arrival of Stirling as a world-class batsman and the 22-year-old from Belfast recorded a second straight century against Pakistan after his knock in Stormont in 2011.

The Middlesex right-hander joins Ireland skipper William Porterfield with five ODI centuries to his name, his 103 coming off 107 balls and including 12 fours and a six off Ajmal that smashed into the corrugated roof of the Clontarf clubhouse.

After taking the somewhat surprising decision to bat first after winning the toss, Pakistan made light of four weather interruptions to make 266 for five off their 47 overs.

On a pitch with a tinge of green and under cold, leaden skies they made a slow start to proceedings with Trent Johnston and Tim Murtagh working well in combination to keep openers Imran Farhat and Nasir Jamshaid in check.

The showers came regularly, one even lashing the sizeable crowd with hailstones before moving quickly through thanks to a strong wind.

Despite beating the bat on a number of occasions, Ireland's new-ball pairing failed to make inroads, and it was local hero Alex Cusack, given a big ovation on his home ground, that made the breakthrough with just his third delivery.

After scratching out nine runs from 33 deliveries, Farhat slashed a wide ball from Cusack straight into the hands of Stirling at first slip.

Jamshaid had already left the pitch, having retired hurt with a sore back after making 15 that included a six over the clubhouse roof off Johnston in the seventh over, the game's first boundary.

Cusack's breakthrough failed to inspire Ireland in the field, with Hafeez and Asad Shafiq going on to dominate the innings with a stand of 188 for the second wicket.

Playing the more orthodox hand, Hafeez would go on to make his fifth ODI century, mixing both beauty and brutality, as he punished anything short of a length.

It was one of the failings of the Irish attack, with Shafiq full of wristy invention as he went past 50 off 63 deliveries to Hafeez's 67.

Cusack would eventually end the partnership with the score on 221 when Shafiq chipped one to Johnston at mid-on in the 43rd over after he had made 84 off 89 deliveries.

Jamshaid returned to add five before falling to a brilliant catch from Murtagh on the long-off boundary, while Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq was run out next ball by his opposite number Porterfield after a poor call from Hafeez.

Odran Flynn (Newstalk)

Ireland forced a remarkable tie off the last ball of the match when Kevin O'Brien hit the world number 1 ODI bowler Saeed Ajmal for four past backward square leg. It crowned another stunning innings by O'Brien who is now very comfortable at the highest level.

His 84 not out included 11 fours and 2 massive sixes. He is now has the highest aggregate runs in ODI's for Ireland with 1833 which took him past his captain William Porterfield. The result had been set up earlier by a magnificently controlled century by Paul Stirling, his second in a row against Pakistan, which contained 12 fours and 1 six and came of just 102 balls.

His second wicket partnership with Ed Joyce of 96 was instrumental in keeping Ireland in contention. He had earlier shared an opening partnership of 62 with William Porterfield.

The much vaunted Pakistan bowlers were at times made to look ordinary by the Ireland batsmen with the biggest surprise being the 71 runs conceded by the World ODI number 1 Saeed Ajmal. Both Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan got wickets but conceded a run a ball from their bowling stints. Their best bowler was Mohammad Hafeez who took 2 for 34 of his 10 overs to compliment his marvellous century.

Earlier on a cold and blustery morning Pakistan won the toss and despite a green looking wicket decided to bat first. Pakistan selected their strongest team so the 2000 spectators, which included a significant Pakistani contingent, will get their first look at the tallest player ever to play international cricket, the 7 foot 1 inch tall fast bowler Mohammad Irfan.

Ireland was also at full strength with the exception of the suspended John Mooney who was replaced by Andrew White. Pakistan made a very cautious start against a tight opening spell by Johnston and Murtagh which yielded just 32 runs from the first 12 overs which was punctuated by a massive 6 over the pavilion by Jamshaid. He then had to retire in the 10th over following a blow on the knee from a Trent Johnston delivery.

The introduction of Alex Cusack, bowling on his home ground, resulted in the first breakthrough when Stirling took a sharp slip catch to dismiss Imran Farhat for 9.

Four rain breaks which reduced the match to 47 overs disrupted Ireland momentum but did not phase Pakistan as Mohammad Hafeez and Asad Shafiq put together a largely untroubled partnership of 188. Both batsmen produced an array of wristy shots which included 21 fours and 2 sixes. As hard as they tried the Irish bowlers lacked the spark that we are normally accustomed to seeing from them.

Even the fielding was comparatively lacklustre. While Cusack and Kevin O'Brien each took 2 wickets they went for over 6 and 8 runs per over respectively as Hafeez in particular punished any delivery that was marginally offline.

Because of the reduced number of overs, Ireland, under the Duckworth Lewis system, required a formidable 276 runs and just came up a fraction short.

Man of the Match was Kevin O'Brien. Misbah ul Haq, the Pakistan captain acknowledged O'Brien's performance and felt that Ireland deserved to win.

It is a measure of how far Ireland has come when the players expressed a degree of disappointment with result. The second match in the series in three days time cannot come soon enough.

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