After two heavy defeats to DUMP and Malahide CC, the Archivists returned to the familiar setting of St. Columba’s College on Sunday to play in the Handbags Tournament, a triangular tournament generously hosted by the Theatrical Cavaliers each year that Dalkey had narrowly won the previous year in a three-way tie on superior run rate. This year the third team was Merrion CC, whom Dalkey had beaten earlier in the season.
The format was simple. Dalkey would play Merrion in the first match of the day starting Test-style at 11am, with the Cavs playing the losers in the second match and the winners in the third match.
Merrion CC v Dalkey CC
Dalkey’s previous selection at Malahide was bereft of its southern hemisphere talent, a major contributing factor to the heavy defeat there (as well as captain Mills’s extremely late confirmation of the match going ahead that led to several players arriving late with insufficient mental and physical preparation). However, for the Handbags Tournament, Dalkey were to be deprived of any homegrown Irish talent, if we are to exclude Sibley, the latest plastic Paddy in their ranks.
With captain Bennett arriving late due to navigational errors on the M50, Reay deputized for the toss which was won by Merrion CC who chose to field first.
With the outfield still damp from morning rain, Tratalos and Roberts opened for the Archivists. Tratalos was bowled in the second over, bringing Burgess to the crease. Despite having arrived typically well stocked with red and white wine, even His Excellency thought that 11am was a tad too early for a tipple. He therefore batted sensibly, calmly accumulating singles with a few twos thrown in. Roberts was equally unflappable at the other end, stroking his way to an untroubled retired 20. Kelly was surprisingly caught second ball. Mortimore was also lucky not be caught when a lofted drive headed straight towards a spot about 2 feet behind an immobile fielder. Fortunately for Mortimore the fielder only started to take the necessary one or two steps backwards after the ball had flown over his head. However, fortune begat misfortune, as Burgess was so exhilarated by the fielder’s slow movements that he rashly called Mortimore back for a suicidal third that Mortimore was too polite to turn down. The departure of a crestfallen Mortimore for 1 brought Sibley to the wicket. Although he looked comfortable at the crease, Sibley also departed cheaply, bowled for 5 by Nuala O'Faolain’s nephew, Terry.
Captain Bennett had packed the top order with our best batsmen and only 2 of the top 6 had scored more than 5 runs! Was the Handbags Trophy already slipping away in the morning session?
When Taylor was bowled three balls later for 1 by O’Faolain again, the Archivists were close to disarray. Our photos of the scorecards don’t show the total at that stage, but I reckon that Dalkey were tottering at about 60-7.
Responsibility now fell heavy on the shoulders of Walker, unlucky to be coming in so low at no. 7, and Wyatt. With boundaries still hard to come by on the damp outfield, they steadily rebuilt the innings with a series of quickly run singles and twos. After a long discussion between the Dalkey and Merrion scorers, Walker was eventually called in on 20, much to his surprise, while Wyatt finished unbeaten on 18 and Reay on 5. Bennett did not bat. The Archives had scored a mere 106 with only 4 boundaries, but calm heads remained confident that their bowling attack could contain Merrion.
To be brutally honest, the Dalkey team on this day contained 9 seasoned reliable bowlers. And Wyatt. To give himself more control later in the innings and exploit any early cautiousness by the Merrion openers, captain Bennett made the unorthodox decision to open the bowling with Wyatt. Who repaid the captain’s faith in him with probably the two best overs he has ever bowled for Dalkey, conceding only one boundary, no extras and a meagre 9 runs. With Roberts keeping things tight at the other end, Merrion started to feel the pressure immediately and lost one of their openers to an unnecessary runout in Roberts’ first over.
First change pair Walker and Sibley maintained the pressure with some very tight bowling. Sibley was rewarded for his accuracy with two well held catches in the deep by Roberts and Burgess. The two bowlers gave away only 12 runs in their 4 overs, leaving Merrion at 30-3 after 8 overs.
With strong bowling still to come, Merrion were always going to struggle to match Dalkey’s total on such a slow outfield. Left-hander Walsh tried manfully to bring Merrion back into contention with a massive six. He also dealt expertly with a barrage of rather fast short-pitched balls from a fired up Mortimore. It seemed as if Bodyline was back! Aware of the uncomfortable synchronicity of having been to the same school as Douglas Jardine (a privilege/curse shared by fellow Archivist Keatinge), captain Bennett advised Mortimore to tone down the short-pitched bowling, only to be told that the bowler had no control over where the ball was going! Despite always looking comfortable, the classy Walsh finally perished for 18, bowled by Burgess trying to force the pace.
In the end the Merrion batsmen seemed more concerned with maintaining their averages than mounting any realistic run chase, as they ended 30 short on 76. Dalkey’s closing pair, Taylor and Reay, conceded 8 runs in 4 overs, with the human metronome from Tasmania giving away only 1 run in his 2 overs. Oddly enough, Burgess and Sibley both finished with commendable figures of 2-7.
Theatrical Cavaliers v Merrion CC
With conditions worsening, the Archivists retired shivering to the pavilion to watch the Merrion v Cavs match. I don’t have the scorecards at hand, but for most of the time it seemed more like a game of endurance than anything resembling the beautiful game. The rain fell, catches were spilled and boundaries were non-existent. Some wondered whether the game and the tournament would be called off, while others suggested a 10 over game or even a golden over to decide the third match.
However, as the conditions gradually cleared, we were suddenly treated to a most thrilling finish. The Cavs needed 30 runs from 6 overs, with both Stott and Barrington looking comfortable and in control. An early boundary in the 15th over seemed to make victory for the Cavs inevitable, but some strange panic crept into the their batting. Instead of calmly accumulating the required singles and twos, they started going for the big hits. And kept missing!
Come the last over and they still required a very manageable 6 runs. This soon became 5 off 3 balls after a crazy run out. When Stott lost his head to be bowled on the fifth ball, the Cavs needed 4 runs off the last ball. On an outfield that had conceded probably less than 10 boundaries in 2 matches!
At this stage it is difficult to comprehend the thought processes within the head of the Merrion captain. One can only presume that he was so elated by the sudden turnaround and so confident of success that the thought of placing his fielders on the boundary never crossed his mind …
This strategic carelessness was punished by Ralli, who strode to the wicket and unleashed a magnificent deep cover drove one bounce over the boundary. Thespian joy was unbounded, as partner Cooke threw himself round Ralli’s shoulders and their relieved teammates celebrated a most unlikely victory from the jaws of a defeat that had also come from the jaws of victory.
This nail-biting finish set the third game up as a straight shoot-out between old foes Dalkey Archives and the Theatrical Cavaliers. Calculators could be put away for another year.
Theatrical Cavaliers v Dalkey CC
Dalkey lost the toss and were put into bat.
Confident in the depth of his batting lineup, captain Bennett decided to completely invert the batting order in an attempt to give everyone equal time at the wicket. However, as he strode to the wicket with fellow opener Reay to face the first ball of the innings, he had second, third and fourth thoughts about the wisdom of this strategy when he saw big Tim Stott measuring out his long run-up.
Although rapped twice on his unprotected thigh, the bruised Bennett somehow managed to survive the thunderbolts from Stott’s first over.
When opening partner Reay took a single off Swift’s over, Bennett was at last able to open his shoulders and sweep the left-armer to the boundary. An even firmer hit seemed to push the Cavs fielder right over the midwicket boundary, but Barrington claimed to have released the ball, Deol-style, before crossing the rope. Reay then took a couple of comfortable twos off Stott’s next over, before falling to a smart catch at point from a nice square cut.
After Bennett hit a few more twos off Swift’s next over, in which Wyatt also struck a magnificent first-ball 6, Dalkey were comfortably placed on 24-1. The batting order reversal had worked; the Cavs’ 2 best bowlers had been seen off for the loss of only 1 wicket and a good pace had been set. Bennett now had carte blanche to tuck into the weaker bowlers, but carelessly nicked a ball to the keeper in the sixth over.
Even in the first match, captain Bennett had elevated Taylor from his usual 10 or 11 to 8 in the belief that his batting and running skills were being underused. The Tenet-style batting order now brought him in at no. 4, a position that he soon justified with calmly placed shots and maniacally run singles and twos. Cavs began to wilt under the pressure, as the quick running between the wickets soon extracted several overthrows from the pressed fielders. With Wyatt playing equally confidently and comfortably at the other end, the pair amassed a valuable 25 run partnership at just over a run a ball, before Taylor retired on 20 and Wyatt was bowled by Barrington for 19.
Although Walker then fell for 1, Sibley and Mortimore maintained the run rate, with Sibley hitting 14 off 11 balls and Mortimore retiring on 23 off 12 balls, including 2 4’s and 2 6’s.
This brought in Kelly and Burgess at the unfamiliar positions of 8 and 9, but they too maintained the run rate by scoring 9 runs off 9 balls and 6 runs off 5 balls respectively, with a boundary each. They were also both well caught by Swift deep on the midwicket boundary, going for glory in the final over. Roberts ended unbeaten on 1 and the unfortunate Tratalos did not bat, as Dalkey ended up posting a very respectable 124.
After the success of his bowling strategy in the first match, captain Bennett decided to keep exactly the same bowling order. He also dispatched the fleet-footed Mortimore and Taylor to protect the short M50-side boundary.
Once again, Wyatt responded well to his responsibilities as opening bowler, conceding only 9 runs in his 2 overs against the strong opening pair of White and Barrington. The latter recognized the need for speedy running between the wickets in these conditions and reduced the palpably less fit White to sporadic bursts of breathlessness with his aggressive, but well judged, running. Both players batted extremely well to quick retirements, setting a strong platform for the Cavs run chase.
Cooke fell to a magnificent running catch in the deep by Mortimore off Sibley, but Stott maintained the run rate and the Cavs seemed to be cruising to victory at 58-1 after 10 overs, with captain Duggan fresh to the crease and the long lost sun limbering up behind the clouds. However, Kelly then bowled a tighter second over at the cost of only 1 run and Mortimore also found his line and length to concede a mere 4 runs in his second over.
By the time Bennett came on at third change for the 12th over, the ground was bathed in evening sunshine and striped with long shadows. After his first dot ball to Duggan, Stott remarked that buzz-cut Bennett looked like a Kamikaze fighter charging in with the sun behind him. Suitably encouraged, the Japanese translator tore in and clean bowled Duggan with one that nipped back. The blindingly low sun may also have been a factor.
With Burgess bowling typically accurately at the other end, Dalkey now tightened the thumbscrews. The pressure soon told, as dangerman Stott was bowled by Burgess in his second over for 13, trying to raise the pace. By the end of Bennett and Burgess’s spell, the Cavs had scored a paltry 16 runs in 6 overs and the contest was effectively over. The Cavs were at 79-3 and required 46 runs off the last 4 overs from the miserly Reay and Taylor.
Although Swift and Ralli offered token resistance, with the former hitting a magnificent 6 on the way to a retired 22 and Ralli scoring 9 off 7 balls before being bowled by Taylor, the result was never in doubt and the Cavs finished only 12 short on 112.
Mortimore was justifiably awarded player of the tournament for his fast bowling, excellent fielding in the deep and big hitting. However, the often under-rated Taylor and Wyatt would also have been equally deserving recipients for their strong all-round performances in both matches.
All in all, it was a most enjoyable day with excellent company and sportsmanship from both opponents.
[Written by Nick Bennett]