Sport on TV: O'Brien hits a purple patch to become the hairo of Ireland
Sunday 06 March 2011
As if smashing England all round the park in Bangalore on Wednesday was not bad enough, Ireland's hero Kevin O'Brien then took his helmet off and revealed his purple quiff to celebrate his historic hundred off 50 balls. Perhaps Shane Warne's Advanced Hair Studio has taken on an acidhead stylist. Purple hair, green beards, orange sideburns – oh no, hang on. That's their natural colour.
The hilarious adverts for Warne's Wig Shop on Sky Sports were a welcome diversion from the action as England put down chance after chance. They might have picked up some brisk business in England as we tore our hair out at home. Mark Nicholas "interviewed" the spinner with his own carefully coiffured bouffant on display and pictures of Michael Vaughan's syrup all over the walls. It was like a room full of preening peacocks. In the week, the England wicketkeeper Steve Davies came out, the only secrets left in the game are: what is reverse swing and is Mark Nicholas's hair real?
Back to the cricket, and England have spent the last week making our hair stand on end. The commentators were typically condescending about the Irish, although at least they didn't resort to saying "the bloke with the blue barnet" whenever they couldn't remember their names – they hadn't dyed their hair to make themselves more identifiable, but to show their support for a cancer charity.
When Kevin's brother Niall was out slogging to leave Ireland on 111 for 5, David Lloyd snapped: "Maybe he thinks 29 is a good score." No, Bumble, he just thought it was time for his big brother to take over. But the game was surely up? "They've collapsed in a heap," shouted Nasser Hussain, though soon it would be us who were sinking to our knees and reaching for the smelling salts. Later, the Irish would collapse in a different way after drinking every last drop of Guinness on the subcontinent.
The scenes of jubilation in the Irish dressing-room looked like the most raucous ever seen at a cricket ground. Hussain got caught up in the excitement: "Yeah son! Well played! Throw your bat in the air! Throw your helmet away! Pick 'im up! Put 'im on the ground!" He got so carried away that he slipped into fluent estuary English and was dropping more vowels than England had dropped catches. But it sounded less like a celebration than what might happen in the dressing room after Hussain had been run out for nought by a team-mate.
England couldn't get O'Brien out; he ran himself out simply because he ran out of breath. He might have said "Not bad for a fat lad", as Andrew Flintoff once declared after winning a Man of the Match award, and the comparisons were evident from the solid physique and meaty hitting, even down to the long-peaked cap and the spitting and sniffing.
Like Freddie, he is an entertainer, and a self-effacing one too. "We could have just pottered around and got 220 off 50 overs for 8 or 9, and the game would have been pretty boring to watch. There wouldn't have been anything to watch on TV," O'Brien told Mike Atherton, who may not have grasped the notion that batting can be fun to watch. O'Brien had certainly pressed all the right buttons and England weren't remotely in control. It must have made Strauss all the happier to know that O'Brien wasn't even trying to win.
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