Kevin O’Brien has already played one remarkable, expectation-defying and match-winning innings in his career, now Irish cricket fans – and probably a few more besides – will be daring to dream that he can do it again.
From the ignominy of 7/4 and having to follow on, Ireland, through the medium of O’Brien, have not just clawed back some much needed pride but unbelievably crafted a situation where they could possibly emerge as victors.
That of course is getting too far ahead of things, for the moment we should just savour O’Brien’s remarkable knock that has upset the expected order of things just as greatly as his blunderbuss 113 against England did in the 2011 World Cup.
Then he hit the fastest ever World Cup ton, in a record World Cup run-chase, stunning England and the world, now he has written his name into the history books once again.
Ireland it should be remembered started the day still 116 runs behind Pakistan’s first innings score, defeat by an innings was still very much on the cards – and looked increasingly likely when the well set Ed Joyce managed to needlessly run himself out.
That it hasn’t happened is almost single-handedly thanks to O’Brien, who first became the first man to register a 50 for Ireland – with pleasing symmetry it took him 100 balls, exactly twice as many as his extraordinary 2011 century.
O’Brien though was far from finished and it was in partnership with Stuart Thompson that he slowly dragged Ireland back into the match. It was a partnership that purposefully plodded on, meandering from morale-boosting rearguard via pride-restoration all the way to the summit of Mount Unlikely Comeback.
While it may not ultimately affect the result, a turning point came with another costly drop from Pakistan, Thompson spilled behind the stumps by Sarfraz Ahmed, when he had scored just six runs and the score was 168/6 – when he was eventually dismissed by a ripper from Shadab Khan, he had made 53 and added 103 more.
When Thompson did eventually fall, less cool heads than O’Brien might have worried about their tilt at three figures, as it was he placed full faith in Tyrone Kane, the pair picking up exactly where Ireland had left off.
With history on the line, there can scarcely have been anyone present at Malahide whose nerves weren’t shredded as O’Brien inched his way from 97 to 99 over the course of three overs, the re-introduction of Mohammad Amir into the attack only adding to the sense of jeopardy.
O’Brien though was not to be defeated, eventually he pierced the off side field and with a roar became Ireland’s first ever Test match centurion.
He finished the day undefeated on 118, having spent more than five and a half hours at the crease, about as different an innings as possible to the one in Bangalore all those years ago but just as momentously unbelievable.
Ireland then will start the final day leading by just 139 with three wickets in hand, a Pakistan victory should surely still be the most likely outcome – that any other result is even possible is only thanks to one man.