Mick won the toss and decided to bat. Within the first over we were 2 wickets down to some amazing bowling by Ullah. Amazing because he swung the ball so far that he appeared unplayable but if he missed the wicket it was a wide. His colleague Dharmanna suffered from the same problem and so in the opening phase of the match we amassed extras faster than runs from the bat. In one over there were 5 wides! This kept us in the match.
It was left to the old guard to rescue the situation. Messrs Greene (19), Ronaldson (12) and Neville (18*) anchored the innings with help from Darren Ryall and Gunter Bayer. Gunter never seems rattled. He just leans into the ball with a look that says bring it on. Of course he is used to the rarefied air on the high veldt and the ball coming onto him a lot quicker.
Darren interestingly has learned a new shot ~ the ‘leave’. A vital weapon for any serious batsman. JT was glowing with pride as he explained that he had encouraged this years ago ~ the headmaster’s satisfaction at seeing a wayward pupil brought to book. He was unlucky to be run out and the umpire told him that he had treated him harshly, afterwards.
Richard and Tim struck the ball hard while Mick played delicate shots around the park. This triumvirate of senior players is still firing and once Tim had gone to a big catch in the deep JT stepped in with a couple of balls to go. He can get going from a standing start and with this array of talent we can say now that we have depth in our batting.
I use the term ‘old guard’ and ‘senior player’ advisedly. The hair may be thin or in some cases absent but these men are youthful. Tim is taking his wife to Robbie Williams on Saturday. Who knows it could be Donny Osmond next. Maybe there are one or two who play a riff of Brown Sugar on air guitar when nobody is watching? Well, Richard excepted.
At the younger end of the team we have Barra who wears jeans that are impossibly tight and would cause a medical emergency in any of the older men. One fears that eventually he will end up in the soprano section of the church choir. However he is a superb cricketer and we are delighted to have him on board.
At the end of our innings we had scored 94 slightly unlikely runs, with extras being top scorer.
AIB bowled and fielded well and much to Mick’s evident joy they ran between overs to their new fielding positions. In another world he could have been a Sergeant Major but he is resigned to the fact that we are poor parade ground material.
With the exception of Darren’s run out the umpiring was excellent and continued to be so throughout the match. Which one of us can say we haven’t given a poor decision and it is much easier to accept when the umpires are independent?
We had a chat at the break. We acknowledged that we didn’t have enough runs on the board but we knew the strength of our bowling and maybe we could ‘shade it’.
Case and Threadgold opened the bowling. Neville has a sensitive nature coming from the Glen of Imaal and therefore has to bowl downhill with the wind behind him. John is more robust and does the ‘grunt’ work uphill with the wind against. They are both remarkably good at what they do.
We knew that even with the strict umpiring of wide’s we wouldn’t give away many and that proved to be the case although the swing bowlers, Neville and Ahsan, were more vulnerable than the others. First to strike was John who had both openers dismissed with sharp catches from Gunter and Darren.
The game remained evenly balanced throughout the innings and the superb bowling and sharp fielding kept us in the game. Another 2 outstanding catches from Rehan Ali, one a caught and bowled that was hit so hard that nobody knew where it had gone until Ray held it aloft. Our Nemesis turned out to be Bruce Thompson (42*) who we couldn’t shift despite a couple of half chances.
In the end AIB won by 6 wickets with 2 overs to spare. The feeling in the dressing room was that another 20 runs would have seen us home. However their bowling attack was very good and we expect them to win the final.
Our skipper left the field with a smile on his face congratulating us on a great effort ~ that doesn’t happen after every match!
This dream is over but the future is bright. We’ve got a great deal out of this tournament and rebuilt confidence. Our skipper gave us a rousing speech at the end and told us that if we played the rest of the season like this nothing was impossible.
If he’d shouted, “I am Spartacus” there would have been another ten voices echoing that refrain.
Our next match is a league fixture at Malahide.