Malahide stopped the rot of recent years with a fairly facile win over the Archives last Friday night, as some sloppy bowling (much of it my fault*) and early season fielding mishaps helped the Northsiders to a total that proved beyond us. I’m working from memory here, but I think we have to go back to the Year of the Rambling Archives (2015) for the last time we were two matches into the season without a victory. I’m sure it’s character-building stuff, but I preferred having less character and more cricket-winning.
Malahide, who are always tough opponents, batted first. The opening pair retired, scoring slowly enough but largley untroubled. As I started to have flashbacks to the year that Malahide beat us and We Did Not Take a Single Wicket, there came a breakthrough: debutant F Gupta, son of H Gupta, bowling his first over for the Archives, drew a leading edge that popped up to more or less forward point where it was taken by (I think) A Walker, with aplomb. Hope.
Nor was it the end of the Gupta show. Hari snaffled a sharp one-handed catch at silly mid-off, b. Kelley (who was – like Taylor - exemplary in the field, especially when kept busy at fine leg by the Director-for-Life’s poorly curated overs). The last highlight of the fielding performance was a sharp stumping by Tratalos off Walker. The problem, though, was the run rate: breakthroughs were separated by too many shots that pierced the Archives Ring of Jelly. The total?: 148, including an uncharacteristic 17 extras, with 4 retirements. Were it not for some tight bowling at the death from skipper Reay (who also nearly pulled off a fantastic catch) and Walker (1 for 4 off his two overs), it could have been far closer to 200. So far, so uncharacteristic.
Still, this was not so different an Archives side to the one that once chased down 152 against Fitzwilliam with two overs to spare. All that was needed was some alacrity. However, what followed with the bat was more glacial than gluttonous: runs were scored like it was a 1980s ODI.
The Malahide bowling did not threaten much, but nor was it easy to score off: Kelley struck lusty blows that did not disappear to the boundary with their usual vim; Wyatt too. Kelley departed (for 9) to a ball that, on another day, would have gone for 6 but which on Friday was caught by a man scampering in from the leg side boundary. The DfL joined Wyatt in the middle to face some erratic bowling (the challenge exacerbated by the Malahide wicketkeeper providing a running commentary on which wide balls to hit and leave). Wyatt departed shortly afterwards to one that kept low (and bounced more often than is customary) for 18. Time for Tratalos and the DfL to shine, which we did: but this was the shining of a distant star, not the by-that-stage-necessary incandescence of the sun. Both reached 20, but very, very, very slowly. Unusually (and fatally) for Taverners, our cumulative 40 featured only a single boundary, although it did also feature that rarest of things at this level – a three.
By the time the DfL retired with his 20 it is fair to say (however paradoxical it seems) the damage was done: the run rate was approaching 8 an over. Achievable, but only with an acceleration that never came: the rest of the innings featured only three more boundaries, two of them in the final over. Gupta père et fils departed, caught (7) and bowled (4) respectively and Irwin’s respectable scoring was in the face of an ever-more-impossible ask. When Simpson and Walker came together with two overs to go, a mere 50-ish was needed off 12 balls. The Boy’s Own stuff never materialised, although Simpson’s brace of boundaries in the last over was a defiant tonic for the watching troops, but a futile one: we were on a (Mala)hiding to nothing at that stage.
In the end, a 36 run defeat.
* In my very limited defence, I discovered that my glasses wouldn’t stay on when I was bowling. I promise to fix this before Friday.
[Written by: Simon Mills]