Ireland staged a fightback against Pakistan on day four of their first-ever Test, thanks to centurion Kevin O’Brien (L). (AP / PA: Niall Carson)
He was there when Ireland beat Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup, his fastest World Cup century helped his country beat England four years later, and now Kevin O’Brien has registered Ireland’s first-ever Test ton.
The milestone was far more than just a personal triumph, as the 34-year-old Dubliner helped Ireland bounce back from the follow-on on day four of the country’s first-ever Test match.
The home side now is in sight of a possible draw against Pakistan, with just the barest sniff of an unlikely victory at Malahide.
Hours earlier on day four, the Irish faced the prospect of an innings defeat but they lost only three wickets in the final two sessions to reach stumps on 7-319 in their second innings after following on.
Cricket Ireland tweet: HISTORY MAKER! @KevinOBrien113 has our first ever Test century! Take a bow! #IREvPAK #BackingGreen
Even a draw would be a marvellous achievement for a country which was awarded Test status only last June.
O’Brien became the first player to score a Test century for Ireland and he was there at the close on 118 not out, with his 114-run partnership with Stuart Thompson (53) for the seventh wicket proving decisive.
Tyrone Kane was with O’Brien on eight not out at the close.
Mohammed Amir shrugged off a nagging knee problem to be the pick of the bowlers, finishing the day with figures of 3-57 as he reached 100 Test wickets.
Resuming their second innings on 0-64 after being asked to follow on and still needing 116 more runs to make Pakistan bat again, Ireland had slumped to 4-123 by lunch.
When Amir removed Gary Wilson (12), caught by Haris Sohail in the slips, and Paul Stirling (11) was trapped lbw by Mohammad Abbas, Pakistan looked to be set for a comfortable victory.
But O’Brien’s circumspect batting — his 118 has come from 216 balls and contained 12 fours — has ensured Ireland stay alive at Malahide.
O’Brien’s century forced Ireland to set up an impromptu honour board in a demountable at the ground.
In 2011 at Bangalore, O’Brien crunched 113 runs off 63 balls — including 13 fours and six huge sixes — as Ireland chased down a target of 328 for a famous victory.
That win, coupled with another big upset by the Irish against Pakistan in Kingston, Jamaica at the previous World Cup — where O’Brien was there at the finish alongside Trent Johnston — kickstarted the push for Ireland to get Test status.
Pakistan is still a good chance of winning, although with rain forecast for day five a draw is a likely outcome.
But the efforts of O’Brien and the rest of the Irish side means that the home side’s bowlers will get one last crack at the tourists in search of improbable glory.