What Ireland did to Pakistan’s “strongest department” – bowling – has revealed the visitors’ preparations before the upcoming Champions Trophy. There is an incommensurable difference between the team who was practicing under the guidance of Wasim Akram and the one who failed to defend a reasonable target of 276 runs against the minnows. Pakistan would have lost the match but for the Duckworth–Lewis method.

[caption id="attachment_1106" align="alignright" width="261"]Hafeez’s century did not help Pakistan win the match (Photo: AFP) Hafeez’s century did not help Pakistan win the match (Photo: AFP)[/caption]

Saeed Ajmal, who is currently the world’s number one spinner, gave 14 runs in the last over against the inexperienced side, and if Kevin O'Brien had hit six instead of four on the last ball, the ending would have been reminiscent of the 2007 World Cup.

O’Brien was rightly given the man-of-the-match award for his 84-run innings on just 47 balls against the so-called world’s best bowling attack. He outshone the centuries of Pakistan’s Mohammad Hafeez and teammate Paul Stirling. O’Brien evoked the memories of 2011 World Cup match between Ireland and England.

After a good opening stand of 62 run at Clontarf, Dublin Stirling and Ed Joyce added 96 runs in the second wicket. Stirling played a remarkable innings of 103 runs, and the rest was done by Kevin O’Brien. As soon as O’Brien entered the ground, the runs gathered pace, and he single-handedly led the team so near to victory. O’Brien’s rampage can be determined by the fact in the fourth-wicket partnership of 59 runs between him and wicket-keeper Gary Wilson, the latter’s share was just 11 runs.

Given Pakistan’s skilled bowling attack and their experience in the international cricket, it seemed that Ireland could fail to salvage the match despite wickets in their hand. Even in the last over, the hosts require another 15 runs to win. O’Brien and Trent Johnston managed to scorer only three runs in the first three balls of the over. But the match escaped from Pakistan’s clutches after O’Brien’s six on the fourth ball and four on the last ball. Although the match ended in a draw, it is considered as Pakistan’s defeat.

Ajmal’s performance in the match was also the worst bowling of his career. He could not claim a single wicket in the match and gave 71 runs in 10 overs. No Pakistani bowler could control the flow of runs barring Hafeez, who gave 34 runs in nine overs at 3.77.

Earlier, when Pakistan started their innings, their slow posture was evident of the fact the visitors were finding it difficult to acclimatize to the new conditions. When Pakistan’s first wicket fell on 33 runs, it was the 13th over which means their run rate was below three even in the powerplay overs. And Pakistan paid the price for this sluggishness. After Nasir Jamshed was retired hurt, Asad Shafiq, who is now playing at the third position after coach’s direction, came in to accompany Hafeez.

Hafeez played an unbeatable 122-run innings and Shafiq scored 84. The team’s skipper Misbah-ul-Haq was run out for a duck. Shafiq reached his 1,000 ODI runs, playing the best innings of his career. However, he failed to score his maiden one-day century and was caught on long-on when he tried to score a six. He made a partnership of 188 with Hafeez.

The innings, interrupted four times with rain, ended on 266 off five in 47 overs.

Ireland’s Alex Cusack and Kevin O'Brien took two wickets apiece.

Both teams will come face-to-face again on May 26 at the same venue to play the decisive match of the series.
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