Ireland v Scotland, 3rd ODI, Malahide September 12, 2014

MacLeod the winner, Mooney the hero

Scotland 243 for 2 (MacLeod 116*, Gardiner 89) beat Ireland 241 for 9 (Mooney 96, Haq 5-54) by eight wickets
Scorecard

In an ideal world, the ball would have flashed off John Mooney's blade, dissecting the two fielders stationed backward of point. It would have raced across the outfield and over the rope. It would have brought up his maiden ODI century. It would have prompted Malahide to rise in unison. It would have been a soul-stirring moment. But, this is not a perfect world, nor do such fairy tales regularly transpire.

As it was, Richie Berrington stooped forward, snaffled a low chance and ended an innings of consummate quality from a player who, less than twenty-four hours previous, had bravely revealed the full extent of his battle with depression.

Fittingly, all four corners of the ground rose in appreciation. It did not matter that the score under his name remained four short of a century or that Ireland's total was significantly under-par because, in the grand scheme of things, such particulars are irrelevant. The sight of Mooney back in the green apparel is enough in itself.

In the event, it was an innings that glued Ireland together against a purposeful Scottish side infused with a determination to wrestle a semblance of pride back following two underwhelming performances earlier in the week. Calum MacLeod's second ODI century ensured the visitors left with some positives to take before their World Cup preliminaries begin in earnest later this month.

The same top-order that had looked so helplessly vulnerable against the moving ball hitherto made light work of the target as they chased down 242 with minimal fuss. It was Scotland's first ODI win on Irish soil and was manufactured by a disciplined bowling performance led by Majid Haq's first five-wicket haul in the format.

It was little surprise that Preston Mommsen asked Ireland to bat first under cloud-laden skies. It was perhaps unfortunate that the outcome of a match was determined so considerably by the toss of a coin but it was another thing to ensure you made best use of such favourable conditions. Certainly, Scotland were resolute not to let the opportunity slip and built the platform for their wounded batsmen to flex their muscles.

The absence of Kyle Coetzer and Matt Machan has been felt significantly but in MacLeod they have an opening batsman enjoying the best form of his career; it showed here. A breakthrough season at Durham, particularly against the white ball, has raised genuine hopes that he is a player of the calibre Scotland have so desperately craved in recent years.

There was no sign of the hesitation that undermined his failures earlier in the week as he tucked into some charitable bowling from the hosts, who looked weary before wilting in the late afternoon Dublin sun. MacLeod formed a match-defining partnership with Hamish Gardiner, who may be looking over his shoulder nervously with Coetzer and Machan to return to the side.

The pair saw off the initial threat of Max Sorensen and Craig Young before taking advantage of easier circumstances as they matched each other blow for blow. That was until Gardiner, eleven short of a first century in Scottish colours, fell attempting to cut the part-time spin of Andrew Balbirnie.

Phil Simmons and the selectors will name an 18-man squad for the pre-World Cup tour to Australia and New Zealand on Monday and, while a series win was already assured, this reversal is a timely wake-up call.

Graeme McCarter is expected to miss out despite bowling eight economical overs with Young, who moved his tally of wickets for the week to nine with the early dismissal of Matty Cross, now ahead of him in the pecking order. None of the batsmen on the fringes added much weight to their case for inclusion on a morning during which Ireland stuttered and stumbled.

While they were able to negate the early advances of Scotland's new ball bowlers, albeit at a pedestrian pace, Haq's introduction in the 17th over paid instant dividends. Stuart Thompson feathered the offspinner behind to Cross and four balls later Andrew Poynter missed a straight one that went on with the arm. Mooney, however, added steel to the innings.

A towering six down the ground off MacLeod set the wheels in motion as he accelerated through the gears. Kevin O'Brien's departure, the ball after the second drinks break, halted Ireland's recovery after they had slipped to 95 for 4 but Mooney wasn't deterred.

It was his first half-century in four years and, in stepping down the pitch to Haq and crunching an expansive drive through cover, he brought up his highest ODI score, overtaking his previous best of 55. The fireworks were to come, though. An audacious reverse sweep which flew over the rope had the crowd purring and when he took Michael Leask for 12 off the 46th over, he moved within touching distance of three figures. It wasn't to be.

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