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Niall O'Brien

O’Brien brothers in good nick as Ireland get ready for Pakistan Test

Ireland news

Centuries from Stuart Thompson and Andy Balbirnie the other highlights of the first-class match between North West Warriors and Leinster Lightning.

Kevin O’Brien came to the party with an unbeaten 52 to help Leinster Lightning, the defending champions, deny North West Warriors an outright win in an Inter Provincial Championships match on Thursday 3 May. 

The match is significant in that it’s the last first-class game for the Irish players before the squad for the historic one-off Test against Pakistan is picked, and between the two teams, a total of 17 Irish internationals were in action. 

Batting first at Pembroke Cricket Club, the Warriors put up a big 509/9 in 137 overs. In response, Lightning were bowled out for 286 and made to follow on. It did get tricky for them at 137/6, but they held on to finish the game at 227/7. 

Talking points

Peter Chase picked up two early wickets for Leinster Lightning
Peter Chase picked up two early wickets for Leinster Lightning


Early strikes from Chase
 
Peter Chase, the right-arm medium pacer who has played 22 one-day internationals, was on the money at the start of the Warriors innings, sending back David Barr and then Aaron Gillespie, who scored 57. When Gillespie fell, the Warriors were 93/3, but that was as good as it got for the Lightning bowlers. 

The O’Brien-Thompson stand 
When the two batsmen got together at the fall of Gillespie’s wicket, the match was evenly poised. But the experienced hands – Niall O’Brien has been one of the leading lights of Irish cricket and Stuart Thompson has also played 20 ODIs and 20 Twenty20 Internationals – added 308 for the fourth wicket to put the Warriors in the driver’s seat. 

Niall O’Brien hit 165 in 294 balls with 15 fours and three sixes, while Thompson hit 19 fours and a six in his 148, scored in 216 balls. 

William Porterfield was dismissed for two in his only innings
William Porterfield was dismissed for two in his only innings


William Porterfield and Andy McBrine falter
 
Fantastic as the O’Brien-Thompson stand was, two major Irish players failed before and after it. Up at the top, the national team captain William Porterfield became the first man out, bowled by 23-year-old right-arm pacer Tyrone Kane for 2. And soon after Thompson fell, Andy McBrine was caught behind off Kevin O’Brien for 10. 

Dockrell comes good 
George Dockrell has been Ireland’s leading spinner for some time now, but had a poor time of it at the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 in Zimbabwe, dropped after three wicketless outings. Against the Warriors, he didn’t get a wicket till late in the script, when he sent back Niall O’Brien, but then quickly accounted for Ross Allen and Boyd Rankin to finish with 3/120 in 29 overs. 

Young leads super bowling performance 
The Lightning first innings lasted just 86 overs, and it was due to an excellent combined bowling performance from the Warriors, led by Craig Young, who finished with 3/49. 

Young, 13 ODIs and 15 T20Is old, has been in and out of the Ireland squad, but gave a good account of his abilities by dismissing Ed Joyce early and later picking up two more wickets. 

All the Warriors bowlers used – Rankin (2/72), David Scanlon (2/47), Thompson (1/67), McBrine (1/15) and Allen (1/9) – picked up at least a wicket.

Andy Balbirnie struck an unbeaten 114 in the first innings for Lightning
Andy Balbirnie struck an unbeaten 114 in the first innings for Lightning


Balbirnie keeps Lightning in the fight
 
Though it was not too impressive a batting effort on the whole, Andy Balbirnie, whose 105 against Scotland was one of the innings of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018, was solid in his 114*, scored off 238 balls from No.3. His 104-run stand with Jack Tector, the opening batsman who scored 53, was the best part of the Lightning innings. 

Tector does it again 
Tector is just 21, and only six first-class matches old, but was the best of the opening batsmen on show, scoring 53 in the second innings to go with his identical score in the first. While he took just 64 balls for his runs the first time out, the second one was a relatively more patient knock, consuming 95 deliveries. 

Kevin O'Brien scored a match-saving 52* for Lightning
Kevin O'Brien scored a match-saving 52* for Lightning


The other O’Brien saves the day
 
Despite Tector’s efforts, Lightning slipped to 137/6 – two wickets each for Rankin and Scanlon – and the Warriors were in sight of victory at that stage. But Kevin O’Brien batted out 101 balls, with Dockrell giving him company with a 79-ball 31, to save Lightning the blushes. 

The one-off Test against Pakistan – Ireland’s maiden one – will start on 11 May in Dublin. 

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