John Mooney, Ireland’s most improved international, was the difference between victory and defeat yesterday as the men in great defeated Namibia in the first one-day game at Stormont.
The North County all-rounder came to the middle with Ireland struggling on 107 for six and left 22 overs later with the total on 235. He hit 86 of those runs came off his bat in a 73-ball innings which included nine fours and two sixes.
Namibia’s target was 242 and despite a late flurry when 37 runs come off two overs, the Africans could not bridge the chasm created by Mooney.
When their last wicket fell they were 26 runs short.
It took Mooney eight years to win his first 40 caps but since the Twenty20 tournament in England in 2009, he has been been in nearly every Ireland squads across all forms of the game.
The statistics back up his improvement: Of the 68 games Ireland have played in the last |two years, Mooney has missed just four and, as well as scoring his first century for Ireland, he has also hit five other 50s, all of them at either No7 or No8.
As captain William Porterfield also noted, he is also now a regular bowler on the team.
“The way he has stepped up to the plate with both bat and ball over the last 18 months has been fantastic. It is great to see,” said Porterfield.
Mooney’s final over did go for 23 as Namibia No9 Louis van der Westhuizen launched a late attack but the all-rounder’s runs with the bat were already in the bank and Ireland were never seriously worried.
Indeed, the biggest worry was the early loss of wickets for the second time in three games this summer.
It is an area Porterfield wants addressed in today’s second game between the teams.
“There were a lot of soft dismissals in the top six and that is not acceptable. But Niall [O’Brien, with 57] battled through, played his own game and John’s innings was key for us today.”
Porterfied added: “He was positive from the start and to come out on top the way he did was fantastic. He probably deserved 100 but it was so pleasing to see him play under that pressure and see us through to a winning score.”
With George Dockrell getting 10 overs under his belt and Boyd Rankin bringing his county form into the one-day arena, after the nervy start — and finish — it proved to be a good day at the office for IrelandBY IAN CALLENDER