Fresh from their successful defence of the Handbag Trophy just six days before at St. Columba’s, the Dalkey Archives returned to the wonderful setting of the secondary school overlooking the M50 and Marley Park to entertain Chapelizod CC in a pseudo-home match on the first pitch. With many Archivists leaving the big smoke for domestic and foreign holidays, Dalkey found themselves five short and severely in need of charity from friends. Desperate supplications to other clubs fortunately produced five willing stand-ins.
The match was to be over 30 overs, with a free first ball, a maximum of 5 overs per bowler and LBWs allowed, but only after a warning had been given after the first LBW.
In overcast and muggy conditions, captain Sibley chose to open with Burgess and Bennett, but the Chapelizod opening pair looked battle-hardened and unperturbed. However, with the outfield still damp, they were only 25-0 after 6 overs.
First change pair, debutant Kenny and keen ringer Gaskin, were also unable to make any inroads into the Chapelizod batting order, but still kept the run rate at a respectable level. Kenny looks like a promising recruit and his left-arm spin bowling may jeopardize the place of our only other left-arm spinner, director Mills.
Scorecard details are now very sketchy, as we have no end-of-over totals, batsmen totals or even dismissal/retirement methods in the scorecard. However, I do remember that third change bowler Irwin finally got the breakthrough in his first over, thanks to a comfortably held catch at deep mid-on by Barney. Irwin collected another wicket in his next over, as Gaskin took a very neat catch at deep leg slip. Credit for this wicket must also go to the shrewd field placement of captain Sibley.
As an indication of the slight lack of familiarity within the Dalkey ranks, Irwin’s third change bowling partner appears in the scorecard as John Something, a verbatim rendition of Bennett’s notification of the bowler’s name to the scorer. Subsequent reference to the scorecard for the Dalkey innings reveals that this was John C. His surname still remains a mystery, but I can confirm that he was a charming player from Balbriggan CC who fielded wonderfully on the square leg boundary for Dalkey.
At no stage did Chapelizod really take the Dalkey bowlers apart. Most of the runs, and all of the boundaries, came on the legside. However, the Dalkey bowlers could probably be accused of being overgenerous with the amount of extras given away. Sibley bowled particularly well as fourth change, conceding only 20 runs in his 5 overs.
Even when Bennett and Burgess returned to close the innings, the Chapelizod batsmen were unable to raise the run rate, despite their evident intentions of aggression. Burgess even secured two late wickets, clean bowling two batsmen going for the big hit. In the end, Chapelizod closed on 165, which is hardly a massive total in a 30-over game.
On recent form, Dalkey would have been confident of reaching 166 in 30 overs. Against most Taverners teams.
However, the Archivists were in for a rude awakening. The initial field placings of three slips and a gully evoked the days of Lillee and Thompson. Most of the other fielders were close in as well. But, instead of those lean machines, the Dalkey openers were faced with a genial, slightly rotund, bowler with curly silver hair and glasses. Antonio was also Italian. Had Chapelizod lost their minds?
John C was cleaned bowled by Antonio for 2 in the first over.
Promoted to opener in order to catch a hastily arranged early evening flight to London for important trade talks, Burgess was caught nibbling outside the off stump for 9 off the equally accurate AP.
Reid was unlucky to be run out for 1, following a rash call for a second by Tratalos and a powerful throw from the boundary.
And when Tratalos was caught cutting Antonio, the Dalkey innings was in tatters at 30-4 after seven overs.
Dalkey’s problem was that there was no respite at the other end. Antonio and AP were a formidable opening pair who just didn’t bowl any bad balls.
New batsmen Bennett and Gaskin assessed the situation and decided that there was still plenty of time left, if they could just survive the opening onslaught in order to exploit the weaker bowlers later. Dalkey were now in Test match mode, fighting for survival.
Both batsmen rose manfully to the challenge, ignoring balls outside the off stump, but still picking up ones and twos with quick running between the wickets. Bennett benefited from the unusual LBW rules when he was trapped plum in front of the stumps by the naggingly accurate Antonio.
Chapelizod responded to this fightback by withdrawing some of the close fielders, but still maintained the slip cordon.
When Antonio finally finished his spell, Bennett breathed a sigh of relief, only to be told by his partner that the next bowler, PD, was even more dangerous! His first ball pitched on off stump before swinging away at lightning speed. It looked as if the wait for the weaker bowlers was going to be a prolonged one.
Bennett adopted the front foot approach and left anything that wasn’t on the stumps. This resulted in a few nicely timed drives and tickles round the corner for valuable runs. He only received one ball from PD that could be described as remotely loose, a shortish ball outside the off stump that was flat-batted back over the bowler’s head for two. The outfield was still slow, so runs were extremely hard to come by. The determined Gaskin also batted extremely well, defending doughtily against PD. Both batsmen were in for the long haul.
At the other end, AP had been replaced by the accurate, but less threatening, O’Connor. When Bennett swept him for 4 in the 14th over, it was the first boundary of the innings! Dalkey were only on 49, but a famous victory was still not out of the question. If only Chapelizod could show some generosity and put on some weaker bowlers.
Both batsmen were relieved to hear that a drinks break would be taken at the end of the 15th over. The quick running between the wickets and intense concentration required in the heat of the battle had taken their toll and they both needed a rest.
Unfortunately the 15th over was bowled by PD, who cleaned bowled both batsmen with absolute peaches to effectively end the contest. Gaskin had scored 7 very hard-fought runs and Bennett finished on 17.
After the drinks break, Chapelizod ran through the Dalkey tail like the proverbial hot knife. Irwin was a bit slow off the mark for an easy single to square leg by Sibley and was run out by yards without troubling the scorers. There was now immense pressure on captain Sibley to hold the innings together and he responded well by hitting O’Connor to the midwicket boundary. However, he went for one big hit too many against PD and was caught at midwicket for a rapid 7. When Kenny was bowled by O’Connor for 0, Dalkey had collapsed from 50-4 to 58-9 and the end looked very nigh.
As Dalkey only had 10 players, captain Sibley gave the unfortunately run out Reid the chance to return as no. 11 to partner Barney in the last rites.
Captain Eagan kindly showed some mercy and withdrew PD and O’Connor for himself and Topping.
The field was tightened to almost ridiculous levels. Reid complained indignantly that it was intimidating, while Barney wanted someone to take a photo of the array of slips and gullies behind him. There was only one fielder in front of the wicket, the indefatigable Antonio.
But the pair survived. Over after over. Reid’s unusual batting technique of seeming to hit each ball twice imparted an extra zip to his shots and he even managed to score the third boundary of the innings. Wearing his pads inside his trousers, Barney was like some sort of inverted cricketing Superman. He also had an impeccable technique and temperament to match, dismissing one particularly desperate Chapelizod appeal for caught behind with a peremptory “Get away with yer!”.
The initial target was to avoid defeat by 100 runs. With that easily enough achieved, the batsmen revelled in the lack of pressure and began to enjoy themselves. Reid admonished Pratik for bowling fast to an old man, but Chapelizod could find no way past Barney’s resolutely straight bat.
Having started with gentle off spin, Topping soon reverted to fast bowling, cradling the ball in both hands, Merv Hughes-style, during his long run up. Reid stood tall and just hammered the ball back. Or played and missed. When he offered Topping a simple caught-and-bowled chance, the bowler inexplicably dropped it, much to the hilarity of his team-mates and Reid, who promptly performed a celebratory dance at the crease.
However, the fun and games had to come to an end at some stage and Pratik finally applied the coup de grâce by bowling Barney for 7. Reid was unbeaten on 8, and the pair had bravely put on 17 runs in 9 overs, the second longest partnership of the innings. Dalkey finished on 75 in the 27th over, not quite able to bat out their allotted overs.
Captain Sibley wisely chose Antonio as the Chapelizod Man of the Match, but captain Eagan diplomatically declined the chance to nominate a MOM from a distinctly outclassed Dalkey team.
Despite the grim-looking scorecards, it was actually a very enjoyable match played in excellent spirits. Warmly welcomed and appreciated by Dalkey, the five new players added to the jollity of the occasion and reminded us all of the unifying camaraderie and pleasure that cricket can bring.
[Written by Nick Bennett]