Wednesday 21 February 2018

That is the best I've seen from this side - Simmons

John Mooney celebrates after hitting the winning runs to seal victory for Ireland against the West Indies. Photo: REUTERS/Anthony Phelps
John Mooney celebrates after hitting the winning runs to seal victory for Ireland against the West Indies. Photo: REUTERS/Anthony Phelps

David Townsend

It wasn't a shock. It really wasn't. When John Mooney hit the winning runs the earth failed to move as it had seemed to four years ago in Bangalore when a similar boundary beat England.

The celebrations were joyous and loud, but not of the "I-can-scarcely-believe-we've-just-done-that" variety.

There was a wobble at the end of both innings but otherwise Ireland completed a four-wicket victory over the once mighty West Indies almost as a matter of routine, dominating from the moment William Porterfield won an important toss.

The victory, with 25 balls to spare, should have been by a greater margin. There was none of the scrambling over the line, with the last two waiting to bat unable to don gloves for the trembling of their hands, as there had been against England, and before that Pakistan in 2007.

There have only been five successful World Cup run chases in excess of 300 and, after overhauling the West Indies' 304-7, Ireland have three of them.

The Boys in Green have clearly arrived on the world stage, and everybody knows that, from the capacity crowd watching at Nelson in New Zealand to the bleary-eyed office workers guzzling coffee in Dublin after a sleepless night in front on the TV.

Granted

Everyone that is, except the men that matter at the ICC, who seem determined to make Ireland wait another four years before possibly being granted a chance - and a chance only - to join the full members with whom they can clearly already compete.

Four years will be too long for veteran Ed Joyce to win a so richly-deserved Test cap. It was Joyce who drove and controlled the Ireland chase at Saxton Park with a sublime 84, containing 10 fours and two sixes that showcased both his power and touch.

Four years may also be a challenge too far for 33-year-old Niall O'Brien, who saw the job finished with an aggressive 79 not out that he can proudly stick on his CV beside the gritty match-winning 72 against Pakistan in Jamaica.

Sadly, it may also be too impatient a wait for young man-of-the-match Paul Stirling, who will surely be courted by that shameless lot from across the Irish Sea, especially with his friend and Middlesex colleague Eoin Morgan installed as England one-day captain.

There will be others to replace them, though. Bright young talents like off-spinner Andy McBrine, who showed nerves of steel on his World Cup debut.

With Mooney feeling his hamstrings, McBrine was thrown the ball as early as the seventh over. Facing him at the other end was Chris Gayle. No pressure then. The 21-year-old lad from Donemana, Co Tyrone didn't blink - and proceeded to bowl a maiden to the most destructive batsman in the world. McBrine conceded just 26 from his 10 overs.

"Andy bowled fantastically well," said Porterfield, who hails from the same small village. "It wasn't the biggest boundary - and he bowled a couple of overs in the powerplay too - so to come off with figures like that was excellent.

"We came into the game positively, we were right on the money in the first 10 overs and carried that on throughout.

"Taking wickets is crucial in this form of cricket because the way teams are set up for late in the innings can make it very difficult for the fielding side. To have them five down for less than 100 was a great effort."

Ireland coach Phil Simmons, whose namesake Lendl rescued the West Indies from 87-5 with a top-score of 102, was unusually fulsome in his praise for his charges.

"The way we were in the field and the way the top four batted - was the way we want to play our cricket," Simmons said. "It excited me the way we played. All round in the field and with the bat is the best I've seen yet from this side and it augurs well for the future."

Asked if he had any sympathy for his beaten countrymen, who are in disarray both on and off the field, Simmons shook his head.

"I can't have sympathy for my opponent. In their next game, yes, I will be supporting them. but when you play against me I am supporting me and me alone," he said.

Simmons will now give his team a couple of days off before starting to prepare again for next week's second group match against the United Arab Emirates in Brisbane.

 

The Nelson pillars

William Porterfield: The captain won an important toss and had the courage to use off-spinner Andy McBrine early on, which proved a masterstroke. Not in the best of nick, 'Porty' nevertheless set the tone for Ireland's chase with a mighty six in the second over.

Paul Stirling: The chunky Middlesex man is the cleanest hitter in the side. 'Stirlo' tucked into the West Indies bowling with a meaty 92, including nine fours and three sixes, that earned him the man-of-the-match award.

Ed Joyce: Best batsman alive without a Test cap. Was at his fluent best during the Ireland innings and will be a key figure in the games ahead. Joycie's 84 equalled the score he made against the West Indies in a losing cause in 2011.

Niall O'Brien: Ran out his brother Kevin as Ireland contrived to lose four wickets for 18 runs late on, but then settled nerves with successive boundaries. 'Nobby' admits to being too "nurdly" at times and is trying to be more positive at his third World Cup.

Andy Balbirnie: It would have been easy for the former Pembroke all-rounder to have nudged his side to victory, but his dismissal to a catch on the boundary showed ambition as well as inexperience. 'Balbo' was clearly thinking of Ireland's overall run-rate.

Gary Wilson: Belfast lad and recently deposed captain of Surrey, 'Willo' is the team's wicketkeeper and known as the "finisher" with the bat, although he was unable to see the job done this time. One of the most popular figures in the dressing-room.

Kevin O'Brien: The much-travelled T20 specialist used to be known as 'Nobby's brother' until THAT century against England in Bangalore. Bowled well in his early overs against the West Indies, and the bit of tap he received later won't faze the Railway Union man.

John Mooney: The most passionate cricketer to pull on an Ireland shirt. 'Johnboy' is the heart and soul of the team after courageously going public with his battles against depression. Has now hit winning boundaries against England and the West Indies.

Andy McBrine: Son of Ireland international Junior, he has forced his way into contention with a string of economical bowling performances. Youngest member of the side will be able to tell his grandchildren how he bowled 17 dot balls to Chris Gayle.

Max Sorensen: Born in South Africa, he was the only non-Irish native in the side. Called up when Tim Murtagh broke his foot, 'Maxie' impressed Aussie legend Brett Lee last week and was preferred to Craig Young for the opener. Plays for The Hills.

George Dockrell: Somerset left-armer is the youngest player to win 100 caps for Ireland. Made his full Ireland debut, aged 17, in 2010. Dockers' 3-50 was an important contribution to the Ireland win. Has been known to read Franz Kafka.

Irish Independent

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