Some match reports call for the lyricism of Neville Cardus; others for the analytical mind of Mike Atherton; and still others for the lighter touch of Vic Marks or Simon Hughes. But this was a match best reported by Sigmund Freud, as Archive-on-Archive action shredded psyches and tested egos (and ids) left, right and centre. Roberts bowling at Mortimore; Kelley bowling at Roberts; Taylor bowling to Keatinge. Oh, and Mills bowling to Taylor…
2021 has not been a vintage year for the Archives. Scarcely even a vin de table year. Victory in the Handbags cannot sweeten the bitter draught of defeats to Chapelizod (twice), Malahide (twice), Fitzwilliam, Wicklow, DUMP (an eye-watering rout) and Papua New Guinea School for the Visually Impaired under-12s (2nd XI).
But last Sunday at Oak Hill presented a final shot at redemption, as the Archives faced an understaffed Ashford side pimped with a pair of doughty Archivers (Roberts and Taylor). Surely the Archives could beat the Archives? Well, in a manner of speaking, yes.
In any just world, the blink-and-you’d-miss-it Taylor cameo would be the headline. Or perhaps the 27 runs accumulated by Keatinge facing the twin-pronged attack of Roberts and Taylor. But they were ultimately footnotes to a losing cause as Ashford got home with three overs, but only a single wicket, to spare. In the end, it came down to two moments of controversy (one which should perhaps have been a bit more controversial than it was), as well as the Steve Roberts show and a clatter of dropped catches.
Ashford only had 10 players a few days before the game, while the Archives had 14. The plan was that they would take 2 Archivers and we would play 12-a-side. Perhaps too generously, we offered them Roberts and Taylor (but in the light of a couple of facile wins at Ashford in previous years, it seemed about right). Then late Archives withdrawals made it an Ashford XII v Archives XI. Still, there were reasons to be optimistic: Walker, Wyatt, Kelley, Kerr, Mortimore was quite the quintet to start the batting (Keatinge – whose fielding I have promised not to mention – Tratalos and Bennett lurked menacingly down the order).
However at 36 for 2, calculations were hastily rewritten and chickens hastily uncounted: Wyatt top-edged to the keeper early for 2, while a well-set Walker was adeptly caught and bowled for 16. Kelley bedded down and a sense of calm reasserted itself. Then Roberts – yes, that Roberts – came on to bowl: within minutes, Kerr (bowled) and Mortimore (controversially given out, caught behind) were back in the pavilion with 8 and 9 to their names.
70 for 5. This was a wobble and no mistake.
When Keatinge and Mills came together it was high stakes stuff: not only was the game in the balance; not only were members of our respective families watching, but the duo were also facing an all-Archive attack that was bowling with pace and guile (or in Taylor’s case, with a cricket ball).
Composed batting (from Keatinge) and frantic running (largely instigated by his partner) saw an unlikely 40-ish added for the 6thwicket, but it all happened very slowly: honours even between Archives attack and defence. Keatinge retired with the day’s top score. The Director’s growing inability to run (his Achilles heel turning out to be his actual Achilles heel) led to an ill-advised whoosh at a straight one. At 128 for 7, with four overs and four wickets left, 150-ish still looked on the cards. But, reader, the tail was not for wagging in spite of a quickfire, three-boundary 12 from Bennett, batting in the company of Tratalos. Had that pair survived to the 25th over, even 160 might have been on the cards.
Bennett and Tratalos survey the situation and the beautiful setting
We finished at 145 all-out with a full over left to bat, Irwin and Kenny managing a single between them and Tratalos marooned on 11. When we ran out of batsmen (being a man short), Irwin was given a second life as the lowest scorer, but the second chance did not avail him at all. The seeds of the later controversy were sown here: did not the justice of the situation warrant the hard-done-by Mortimore returning? And if not, were we a shade generous later on?
The hard-done-by Mortimore laughs it off
But 145 was a defensible total and of that defence there is much good to be said: early wickets for Bennett with a devilish in-swinging yorker and Mortimore (two, one of them nicking – and breaking – the leg stump bail) set the tone for what looked likely to be an uncompromising reprise of last year’s victory. Tratalos completed two sharp stumpings off – I think – Kelley and Kerr (and a third, too, scratched off by the ‘free ball’ rule) as well a catch that Mills did his best to sabotage. Irwin completed a sharp run-out facilitated by a calm, almost serene, swoop and throw from Bennett at short cover. Kelley was deadly and mean. Kenny was tight. Irwin took a wicket too.
Wickets kept falling, but why did the overs seem to be going so slowly, while runs accumulated with alacrity? I am still not sure, but none of it would have mattered if we had taken our catches: Diplomacy Obviously Urges Generous chroniclers not to identify the dropper of three of the catches (while a fourth chance was put down at point).
Doug drops by
One of the batsmen – dropped in single figures – went on to retire. That was the match right there. However, the maths still seemed to marginally favour the Archives: Ashford kept losing wickets and they were not getting too far ahead of the required rate. As the latter third of the game progressed, one more breakthrough would have won the day: yet Roberts remained unmoved. Only after he retired was there another glimmer of hope.
And, lo, came the day that had been foretold: Taylor did bestride the crease. And, behold, Mills was anointed to bowl. And Taylor spake terrible blasphemies about the bowling of Mills and Taylor readeth not the ball out of the hand, nor readeth he the ball off the pitch and nor did he strike it and thus did Mills smite him from on high: Taylor b Mills 0(2). And thus did the mighty fall and thus did the Archives mightily rejoice.
The rest of the Director’s single over was rather spoilt by the leaking of half a dozen runs. But now, it appeared, only the tail remained with 15 runs outstanding and Kerr and Mortimore having overs to bowl. And here a funny thing happened: rather than the Ashford skipper coming out to bat as he was slated to do, they sent out one of their lowest scorer for a second go. But their lowest scorer was no duffer; true, he was a hit-and-hope merchant, but if he hit, we would lose (indeed, Taylor, having faced fewer balls for a duck was probably the man who should have returned, assuming there was any basis at all for someone other than the appointed batsman coming to the middle).
And the hit-and-hope merchant hit. In the 21st over, he latched onto captain Kerr’s bowling. Again. And again. In the blink of any eye it was over.
Tight margins. Great company. The most beautiful ground in Ireland. Some great cricket (Tratalos must have pushed Kelley close for Man of the Match; and Keatinge would surely have been a contender too, except for the three events that it would be churlish to mention). A wonderful way to end the Archives’ year. At least as far as Steve and Wade are concerned.
Man of the Match Kelley
[Written by: Simon Mills]