John Mooney, the most improved Ireland international, bar none, was the difference between victory and defeat as Ireland returned to winning ways in the first one-day game against Namibia 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. All but 86 of those runs had come off his bat in a 73 balls 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 and were 26 runs short when their last wicket fell. It took Mooney eight years to win his first 40 caps but since the Twenty20 tournament in England in 2009, he has been been a virtual ever-present in the Ireland squad in all forms of the game.
The statistics back up his improvement. Of the 68 games that Ireland have played in the last two years, Mooney has been involved in all but four and as well as scoring his first century for Ireland, he has also hit five other 50s, all of them at either No 7 or No 8. Looking back, Mooney identifies a training session that changed the course of his career.
"Before we headed away to the 2009 World Twenty20 I hit the ball cleanly in a training session, Simmo (National Coach Phil Simmons) gave me a hit in the tournament and got the chance to play against the best sides in the world. I scored some runs and started to believe in myself a bit more. "It's also massive that we have the contracts. I can go and hit balls every day of the week and that's a huge difference to me. The fact that I was also able to play yesterday (for North County) was also a big help. I was unlucky in the way I got out and I brought that confidence into today's game," he said.
And 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 No 9 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.
The biggest worry was the early loss of wickets for the second time in three games this summer. It is an area that Porterfield wanted addressed in the second game between the teams on the 5 July. "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. He was positive from the word go 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 situation 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 Ireland.
- William Porterfield
- Cut away by Paul Stirling
- 4 for Porterfield
- Stirling bowled by Christi Viljoen
- Viljoen celebrates Portefield's wicket
- Runs for Niall O'Brien
- Gary Wilson
- Tucked away by Niall O'Brien
- Andrew White trapped in front by Gerrie Snyman
- Celebration for Namibia
- Niall O'Brien works to leg
- More runs for O'Brien
- Straight 4 by John Mooney
- Trent Johnston edges to wicket keeper Ewald Steenkamp
- Another boundary for Mooney
- Square cut by George Dockrell
- Boyd Rankin beats the edge of Heldo ya France's bat
- Ewald Steenkamp bowled by Boyd Rankin
- Gerhard Rudloph run out
- Craig Williams trapped lbw by Alex Cusack
- ya France caught behind by Gary Wilson
- Gerrie Snyman pulls George Dockrell
- Raymond van Schoer goes aerial and is caught by Gary Wilson
- Stephen Baard through extra cover
- Baard lbw to Dockrell
- 6 for Niccolaas Scholtz
- Snyman gets in a tangle ...
- ... Wilson looks on
- Scholtz just home
- 6 for Scholtz
- Fire in the pavilion?
- Kevin O'Brien catches Snyman
- Louis van der Westhuizen hit 22 off 8 balls
- Louis Klazinger hit 16 off 7 balls
- Namibia team enjoying the late flurry of runs
- William Porterfield catches van der Westhuizen on the boundary
- Niall O'Brien catches last man Klazinger