John Mooney’s superb all-round display ensured Ireland survived a scare against USA at Stormont on Sunday before securing a 46-run victory that keeps them at the top of the T20 World Cup Qualifying Group A table.
The Balbriggan all-rounder clobbered 20 from just seven balls to give the Irish innings some much needed late impetus, as they added a crucial 51 runs from the last four overs of their innings.
Having lost the toss, Ireland were put in to bat in favourable early-morning bowling conditions and they certainly struggled to pull away in the opening exchanges.
An excellent spell of spin bowling from the visitors’ Timil Patel (3-13) had the hosts on the back foot as Ireland lost openers Paul Stirling (8) and Niall O’Brien (7) early in the piece.
Kevin O’Brien (23) and William Porterfield (10) battled hard after that but both fell in quick succession when looking set to increase the pace, and at the half-way stage the home side had struggled to reach 57-4.
An excellent effort from Man of the Match Andrew Balbirnie who top scored with 44 from 34 balls (4 fours, 1 six) brought the batting side some respite as the chase for runs gained momentum in the second half.
Stuart Thompson made a patient unbeaten 15 late on but it was the late charge from John Mooney that allowed them to close on 146 for 6 from their 20- more than had looked on the cards for much of their innings.
Ireland needed to start well defending their par score and Alex Cusack provided the breakthrough in the first over of the reply, courtesy of a Gary Wilson catch behind the stumps. If truth be told the Americans never really threatened after that as the bowlers retained the upper hand.
Nicholas Stanford’s 19 was the pick of their reply as a solid bowling display kept Ireland well on top.
Mooney followed up his batting pyrotechnics by taking 2 for 17, with Alex Cusack (2-19) and Stuart Thompson (2-20) faring best with the ball on a day when John Bracewell’s charges won well without being emphatic.
The Irish fielding was top notch, with two run outs and some excellent catches as the Americans were dismissed for exactly 100.
It was tough work at times despite having plenty in hand at the end but maximum points from their two games so far is all that will matter going into Monday’s match against second-placed Nepal at the same venue - the action at Stormont gets under way at 2.15pm.
T20 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS, GROUP A
IRELAND 146/6 (20 overs, A Balbirnie 44, K O’Brien 23, J Mooney 20*, T Patel 3-13, H Shahid 2-36)
USA 100 all out (16.5 overs, J Mooney 2-17, A Cusack 2-19, S Thompson 2-20)
Ireland won by 46 runs.
Man of the Match: Andrew Balbirnie