KILKENNY: 176 for 6 off 30 overs
Batting: Mohammed 52 retd Shazhad 30 Joy 12 retd
Bowling: Mohammed 4-1-13-3; Sap 4-1-6-2; Shyjith 5-1-9-1 Pradeep 2-0-11-1; Shazhad 4-3-3-0
HALVERSTOWN: 109 for 8 off 30 overs
Batting: K.Hodson 51* B.McAllister 16 S. Hayes 7 retd A,Barber 4 T.Gayle 3
Bowling: B.McAllister 4-1-13-2 ; D.Drumm 6-1-25-2 K.Hodson 5-0-20-1 ; A,Barber 5-0-49-1
S.Hayes 3-0-11-0; Umer 6-1-25-0
Given that it was only the first game of the season it might be a little early to say that we witnessed the innings of the season from an Oaks player. However, the innings of Kevin Hodson- the 2018 Oaks Player of the Year- against Kilkenny may well merit that description. Anyway, to begin at the beginning, our opening game in the cool sunshine of beautiful Harristown was against Kilkenny, a team re-formed in 2018.
Kilkenny has a noble history of cricket. The first recorded game was in 1829 in the grounds of Kilkenny castle. In the 1880s there were 45 teams in the county and “ there is no game held in such high esteem at the present day as cricket amongst every class from the peasant to the nobleman and all love it”. 1896 was the peak year with 50 teams noted and a year earlier a letter writer to the Kilkenny Journal implored cricket clubs to help to establish hurling in the county! There were still a number of teams in the 1930s but post the Emergency (sometimes known as the Second World War as a youngster once wrote in an essay I was judging) cricket declined sharply and by 1958 only Mount Juliet remained. Until now, with the welcome revival of Kilkenny.
The new Kilkenny is powered by south Asian cricketers in the main and ,as might be expected, is no mean team. Having won the toss I decided to bowl, feeling that if we batted first the game might be over rather swiftly and after all they had travelled all the way up from the Marble City. In the event we bowled rather well, helped by a late draftee in Umer from our league team, who happened to be at nets that morning when I was desperately looking for a replacement for a sick Jon Kirby. It was a good deal I thought.
Although we bowled well their score just kept building, thanks largely by a partnership of Shazhad (30) and the talented Mohammed (52 not out). They helped take the score to 176 for 7 off the allotted 30 overs. Brian McAllister’s terrific spell of 2 for 13 and Kevin’s 1 for 20 off 5 were the bowling highlights whilst I took a couple of wickets(one from a smart stumping by keeper Cecil). with a deserved wicket for Andy Barber on his debut.
Our innings took ominously familiar shape as we quickly imploded: after 4 overs were just 7 for 3! We struggled up to 23 for 3 after 9 overs. Just when it was beginning to look like respectability might be achieved the brilliant Mohammed struck with a sensational hat trick- all 3 batsmen bowled with uncanny accuracy in a triple wicket maiden. We were now 23 for 6 after 10 overs. Throughout this mayhem Kevin kept cool, somehow managing to avoid Mohammed but for the odd ball. Brian joined him at the crease and we finally had a partnership that gave us some breathing space. Terry Gayle was our fourth highest scorer (3!) on his debut despite having a broken thumb whilst Stuart Hayes gallantly retired to allow Deaglan to get on the scoreboard. Finally, thanks to Kevin carrying his bat and scoring a well paced 51 not out, we posted a respectable 109 , losing by 67 runs to a team which seemed to be stuffed full not just of good batsmen but excellent bowlers too.
Kilkenny hurling does not need much help from cricket clubs these days, but I suspect that the amazing record of the Cats’ hurlers may well be grounded in the extraordinary popularity of cricket in rural Kilkenny in the 19th century. If Kilkenny cricket prospers then maybe there might be some payback in terms of recruiting former hurlers, but for the moment the revived Kilkenny team is doing fine as it is based on our rather chastening experience!