It was like getting off the train at Hogwarts at the start of a new term. All hustle and bustle trying to see who had wintered well and who had not. We last met as a unit at the Leinster Awards Dinner when we collected our victory pennant and medals. Promoted to Division 12 we are looking forward to meeting new teams and challenges.
The personnel changes are as follows. Moon and Rehan have gone to Phoenix to try their luck in the ‘big show’. They played a significant part in our achievement last year and we wish them every success. We have 2 new boys ~ Umer Naru and Clive Wardrop. Umer has been introduced through Ahsan whose agency, Findaplayer.com is fortunately run on a non-profit basis and we are indebted to him once again. Clive, late of Laois Parish has a reputation as a fine batsman and we look forward to hearing the crack of leather against the boundary boards.
Our skipper, Mick Neville, had warned us that we could not afford to be under prepared. In the circumstances we could not organize any friendlies and so we had to make do with nets. Our first match against Bagenalstown was abandoned as the pitch was too wet which is ironic as they tried to make us play in a swamp last year. Wet is no longer the new dry in Bagenalstown.
We assembled in Halverstown punctually at 12.30 for an umpired game. The benefit of external umpires is less controversy, which is very much to be welcomed. The downside for some of us is that it is the most time we will spend on the pitch during our innings.
Neville Case was a late withdrawal, as he had to take his father to hospital. Barra has strained his back and is ‘hors de combat’. We send them both our good wishes and look forward to their return.
We won the toss and elected to bat. Richard (48) and Clive opened the batting. Richard was riding on the back of an excellent season last year but his demeanor is always the same. He is Mr. Unflappable. The two North County opening bowlers were ‘on the money’ from the start and the pitch is still drying out after the winter. Runs were going to be hard got. An unfortunate run out saw Clive back in the hut before we had an opportunity to see his skillset. However he looks like a batsman.
Gunter, the hero of the 2017 League decider, marched out purposefully. He faced Ali Zawwar for North County who is left hand over the wicket and bowls late inswingers rather like Trent Boult. Gunter wasn’t allowed to settle and didn’t get that bit of luck that you need as a batsman in your first few overs. He was bowled and we were 2 for 6. Umer came to the crease looking confident and assured. He and Richard started to put on runs and hit the ball over the fielders to compensate for the soggy pitch. Barry (38) was the other batsman to score runs and looked well rested after his sabbatical. By the time he was out we were 8-137 and the innings closed on that score. Extras were 37.
We had a delicious tea provided by Liz, Mick Neville’s better half and our reputation for good teas remains firmly intact thanks to the ‘good ladies of the parish’.
Thus fortified we took to the field. In the absence of Neville, Umer opened the bowling. He was precise and effective with an economy rate of 2.5. John (2 for 13) took a wicket with his first ball from the other end and you felt that nothing had changed. He can bowl fast or slow, he can turn it both ways and he has a slow ball that is difficult to pick. As previously noted we were without 2 of our best bowlers and it fell to the part timers to fill in. Apart from the skipper (1 for 15) the bowling was rusty and we conceded a large number of wides.
North County were patient and only used 5 batsmen to knock off the runs aided and abetted by 42 extras. It’s no good thinking about what might have been. You play with your best side on the day and you win or lose as a team. Our Report Card reads ‘room for improvement’.
Our next match is against Lucan, away on Saturday 19th May.