England’s World Cup hopes on a knife edge after O’Brien’s innings catapults Ireland to stunning win

ENGLAND captain Andrew Strauss admits his side are feeling a sense of bitter disappointment after becoming victims of perhaps the biggest act of World Cup giant-killing of all-time.

After their uplifting recovery and subsequent draw against India on Sunday, England looked certain to follow-up with a commanding win against Ireland and record a second victory of the tournament.

The favourites cantered to what looked an insurmountable total of 327 for eight and then reduced Ireland to 111 for five, before Kevin O’Brien took over with a record breaking century.

The Nottinghamshire slugger struck the fastest ever World Cup century from 50 balls. He was eventually run out for 113 but Ireland kept their cool to seal an astonishing victory – they were backed at 399-1 in-running on a popular betting exchange – much to the astonishment of Strauss.

He said: “We thought we had done a reasonable job with the bat, we got Ireland five down and things looked comfortable.

“Our World Cup dream is not over, but we’ve been hemorrhaging runs too quickly. We’ve got to go away, lick our wounds. I’m at a loss to explain it.

“I don’t tend to rank my lowest moments – it’s not something I have a habit of doing – but it’s been a bitterly disappointing day for us.”

England are now on the brink of elimination having won just one of their opening three matches and will in all liklihood need to win their remaining three fixtures if they are to progress to the last eight, starting with South Africa on Sunday.

Strauss revealed that both Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Swann picked up niggles against Ireland, but should be fit for the weekend’s showdown in Chennai.

While England will be contemplating significant changes for that must-win clash, there will be no such soul searching going on in the Irish camp after they completed the highest ever run chance in the 36-year history of the competition.

Their success was built on a mammoth sixth-wicket stand of 162 between O’Brien and Alex Cusack, the former hitting 10 fours and six sixes, the latter contributing 47 from 58 balls.

Both were run out in the closing stages, leaving John Mooney and Trent Johnston to finish the job. But there was no doubting the hero of the hour, O’Brien, who could scarcely comprehend what he and his side had accomplished.

“That’s a long way the best innings I’ve ever played,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better.

“I’ll take that – a World Cup 100 off 50 balls in front of a billion people under lights against England. I don’t think they knew what they were doing with the ball.”