Phoenix Rising: the Fixture that
Time Adrian Forgot.
No sooner had the season ended on the downer that was defeat to Ashford than Walker realised that we had neglected to plan for our actual final fixture of the summer: a trip to the Phoenix Park for a game against that park’s eponymous club.
It was a match where we faced two obstacles: (a) the other team and (b) incipient September dusk. A 5.30 start and associated corner-cutting was intended to account for the latter, while we trusted to the captaincy of Bennett to deal with the former. We limped to a full side, with Barney and Nigel (both of Merrion Taverners) making up the numbers in a strong side, featuring in particular the resurgent Willoughby fresh from an appearance for the Law Library earlier in the summer.
Dalkey batted first and the Director and Barney took an over or two to get going. Following a pair of fours (one a lofted cover drive) in the third over, Mills felt it was time to move the rate along. He was swiftly disabused of this notion as Barney (who had earlier assured the Director of his willingness to engage in quick singles) remained unmoved – in every sense – by his partner’s exhortations to eke out a run following a soft-handed push of the ball in the broad direction of cover.
There was some ire en route back to the pavilion as the Director rued his fate at some length and volume. However, 22 runs had been put on at roughly a run a ball, so no great harm was done. The passage of time is also a wonderful healer, so readers will be spared a more detailed description of what was, after all, just a minor misunderstanding. The Merrion pair of Barney and Nigel now came together and started scoring at will, retiring on scores of 16 and 20, respectively. Barney’s premature retirement to give others a chance was a typically generous gesture.
At this point, things slowed down a little, as a combination of decent bowling and tentative scoring – with Doris the main swing-and-miss culprit – saw a minimal number of runs added in the middle overs. To be fair, many of the balls that Doris faced were unsloggable grubbers from an elderly gentleman that just rolled along the ground, some dangerously close to his stumps. Back in the pavilion Captain Bennett fulminated quietly at this geriatric, but surprisingly effective, version of Bodyline. Monaghan injected some urgency when on strike, with 3 fours before his dismissal, run out for 14.
What shot was Monaghan about to play?
Doris takes a break from some dastardly Grubberline bowling
When Doris was clean bowled for 5, it fell to Walker and Tratalos to do some smiting, which they did: adding 33 in the dying overs (including 19 in a single over off the unlucky Wall).
Adrian’s retirement, on 23, brought Bennett to the middle for a one-run cameo, before being run out off the last ball of the innings. Reay, Willoughby and Kenny did not bat.
116 was, in the end, a perfectly decent score at a ground where we had once (nearly) defended 89 or so. But whoever got the quicker start in the reply would surely have the advantage: the soon-to-gather gloom was likely to favour whichever side was under the least pressure when the death overs came.
Tratalos moves forward on his back foot
A well-engineered sweep from Walker
In the interests of ensuring a quick start (for Phoenix, at any rate), Bennett appointed the Director to open the bowling in tandem with fellow left-arm spinner Kenny and – to the usual collective amazement – Mills accounted for one of the openers, clipping the top of off stump. Although what followed ebbed and flowed a little, the impetus thereafter largely remained with the Archives. The passage of time before writing this match report together with the lack of the Phoenix scorebook, means that only a couple of highlights can be furnished. Barney calmly took a fine catch on the long-on boundary from a stratospheric skyer. (Captain Bennett had placed him there precisely because he remembered Barney making a similar catch in the same position against Chapelizod look ridiculously easy.) Willoughby was an unknown quantity to the captain, who had pencilled him in for just the one over due to his age and less than nimble movement in the field. The Phoenix batsman also underestimated him, charging down the wicket to a beautifully flighted delivery. A fatal move when you have a keeper as sharp as Tratalos behind the wickets. Willoughby was justly rewarded with another over that yielded yet another fully deserved wicket. More generally, the Archives – Doris and Willoughby to the fore, with some fine work by Kenny too – fielded like demons with little of the generosity at or near the boundary rope that has characterised some of our other outings this summer.
Reay and Bennett kept on the pressure by extracting quite a bit of bounce from the fast mat wicket. Reay, however, was the more accurate of the two, conceding fewer extras and taking more wickets.
Although Walker did fail to get anywhere near one skied chance on the midwicket boundary (we can agree to blame the murky half-light), Phoenix wickets tumbled with sufficient regularity to dampen a brief flirtation with victory.
With Taylor missing, Captain Bennett, acting on pre-match intel he had received about Nigel’s bowling accuracy and reliability, paired him with Monaghan as the closing pair. By the time they came on to bowl the final overs, something special was required. Unfortunately for Phoenix, Nigel lived up to his reputation and, as Diarmuid Murphy strolled to the middle amidst the encroaching early autumn darkness with Phoenix’s hopes on his shoulders, 10 were required off three balls. Soon it was 9 needed off 1 and the Archives could breathe easy.
[Written by: Simon Mills]