This is the day you dream about when you are huddled up in front of the fire and it feels like the winter will never end. Sunny skies and a performance that defied superlatives. Whilst it was only 3 days short of St Crispin’s Day which occurs on 25th July I fear the Bard would have cashed in his ticket for Agincourt and rebooked for the main event at Halverstown. It was a case of “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war”.
We were quietly cautious because Wicklow had won their 3 matches by some margin and we anticipated that they were the form team. However with the exception of JT and Tim we had our ‘A’ team out and we were happy to take on anybody. Ray and Moon looked particularly relaxed and you got the feeling that it was going to be a good day. Interestingly the skipper looked less anxious than usual although that is only a comparative statement.
We lost the toss and Wicklow put us in to bat. When you have a batting line up like ours you are happy to bat and if we had won the toss we would have done the same. Ray (125) and Richard (84) strode out to the crease. Umpiring your own team mates can be stressful as you know their foibles but no quarter can be given. To our immense relief Ray took a stance outside leg stump. No more LBW’s for this man ~ he had ’got the religion’.
The opening partnership was 177 and Wicklow were in complete disarray. Ray scores quickly and Richard unselfishly feeds him the strike. With the exception of Sreedharan (50 for 2) the Wicklow bowlers were cavalier at best. Raikar decided that the way to stop Ray was to bowl short. The leg side fielders were almost on first name terms with the sheep in the adjoining field such was the number of times that they had to climb the fence after the ball had sailed over their heads. Once the bowler had tired of this he decided to bowl full outside the off stump but such is Ray’s ability that he clubbed these wides into the boundary. Admittedly they were mere 4’s but as a containment policy it lacks conviction. 100 of Ray’s runs were scored in boundaries.
You would think it was all about Ray but it wasn’t. Richard quietly accumulated runs and played the most valuable of innings while his other team mates came and went. Barra (18) and Darren (23) played their part. For those of us who have been around for a bit we know that every season Darren will put one into the river. He doesn’t plan this but it just happens. He didn’t disappoint. A massive 6 cleared the trees and the ball went to a watery graveyard alongside the others that he has put there in the past. Boom-boom Bayer wrapped up the innings with a quick fire 44* and he has secured his place as the ‘red inker’ of the team.
The statistics are impressive. The first 100 came in 13 overs, the second in 11 overs and the third in 14. After 40 overs Wicklow looked as though they had been hit by a tsunami. Interestingly Ray wanted to field first. You can’t make 125 chasing 15!
Wicklow County was set a target of 305, which was a mountain to climb. Whilst our Rolls Royce batting attack is relatively new our bowlers have been defending low scores for a couple of years. This time our captain had the luxury of a massive total behind him and set the field accordingly. It was quite claustrophobic behind the wicket with 3 slips and a gully. A lot of chatter in Punjabi and Urdu meant that Ray was at first and Moon second. Ray was elated after his century and Moon was happy for him. The skipper couldn’t have enforced the ‘no talk’ zone even if he’d wanted to. Next to them was Gunter at third and Richard at gully. Four of Halverstown’s finest close catchers.
Neville who at the age of only 38 has decided that retirement is still an option opened the bowling and was immediately in among the wickets. Moon backed him up with some of the fastest bowling we have seen from him. The keeper was standing back another 5 yards and still the ball was on the rise. Halverstown used 4 bowlers; Neville (9 for 5), Moon (3 for 2), Ahsan (3 for 1) and
Kevin (0 for 1). Presumably Neville will put off his impending retirement again and we may not hear about it for at least 6 months. He needs the odd ‘fifer’ to keep him away from the pension office. Congratulations to Kevin who has been putting in some serious work on his bowling and got his first Halverstown league wicket.
Richard took a sharp catch at gully off Moon and modestly remarked that he had been “born in the gully”. Only those who were there on the day will know what happened to Ray’s ‘catch’ at slip. A case of what happens on the field stays on the field.
Whilst Wicklow fielded 11 players only 10 of them batted and they were all out for 15 after 14 overs. They were a sporting side and we look forward to meeting them for the return match when they will have home advantage.
Psychologically it was a fascinating game. By the 16th over Wicklow had all but
given up and despite their captain’s efforts to give them confidence their fielding deteriorated steadily.
The match was a tale of 2 captains. Mick was in his element. His batsmen had done the job for him and so he was going to turn the screw. A 7-2 field and an array of slips reminding us of the days of McGrath and Gillespie in their pomp. The batsmen just wilted. It was also the reward for leading from the front for two years. He is always thinking about the game and weighing the odds as befits an insurance broker and a follower of the ‘ponies’. Harsh words are used when necessary but praise also. Never afraid to speak his mind we wouldn’t be happy if we didn’t get the odd text rebuking us for something ~ usually time keeping. Stockholm Syndrome? Probably.
Our next fixture is the Minor Cup semi final against AIB, away, on 5th August.