Mooney's class steadies Irish ship to victory over Namibia
JOHN MOONEY lived up to his reputation as the world's best No 8 in Belfast yesterday with a hard-hitting 86 from 73 balls that set Ireland on the way to a 26-run victory over Namibia.
The North County all-rounder shared important partnerships of 39 and 59 with Niall O'Brien and George Dockrell to help Ireland to 241 all-out at Stormont, after the home side's top order batting had wobbled to 107-6.
Namibia began their chase brightly before Dockrell, playing his first game for Ireland since dislocating a shoulder at the World Cup, strangled the life from the middle of their reply.
After taking a couple of overs to find his range, the 18-year-old Leinster lad grabbed two key wickets, and with Boyd Rankin claiming excellent figures of 2-29, the Africans slipped well behind the asking rate.
Ireland were reaching for the cigars when danger man Gerrie Snyman was caught for 61 in the 46th over -- with 67 still needed -- but an astonishing ninth-wicket stand of 37 from 13 balls caused a few late jitters.
Trent Johnston ended the fun before it got too serious and Alex Cusack's third wicket polished off the innings on 215, but Ireland will be wary of a tougher challenge in today's second match.
Any sort of win had seemed in serious doubt as Paul Stirling, Cusack and William Porterfield all succumbed to the early swing after Ireland had surprisingly chosen to bat. Andrew White also went cheaply and when World Cup hero Kevin O'Brien departed for five, Mooney and the older O'Brien had to get their heads down to repair the damage.
Niall O'Brien only struck three fours in a determined 57 from 83 balls but Mooney was more expansive, lifting two sixes as well nine fours as he accelerated in the later overs.
A second century for Ireland was still in Mooney's sights when he skied a catch to cover in the penultimate over, leaving Dockrell on a valuable 22 not out.
Meanwhile, Kevin Pietersen has given Alastair Cook his complete backing despite consecutive defeats for the novice captain as England trail in the NatWest Series 2-1 with two to play.
Pietersen said: "The last thing you want as captain is everybody telling you, you are not doing the right thing. I give Cooky my sole backing."
SCOREBOARD IN FACTFILE