Stars align on Observatory Lane; Archives versus Leinster CC
The old story is true: slow and steady wins the race, as the tortoises of the Archives recovered from Handbags ignominy to beat a hare-heavy Leinster outfit on Friday night. Led by Tony Kerr, the Archives pressed John Kerr of the Law Library into action to complete an Archives XI that featured – for the first time in a year – Hari Gupta fresh from Manchester, while Bennett and the Director also came straight from holidays (Portugal and Kerry, respectively) to make up the numbers.
This was your correspondent’s first ever outing against Leinster and his first impressions of our opponents was that this was a proper taverners team, with a playing roster drawn from across the age range: would Leinster’s comparative youth, mixed with obvious age and guile, win the day?
The Archives batted first, in a game of 15 8-ball overs, and facing somewhat eclectic bowling, took a little while to get into their stride. Goldstein, who batted with composure, was caught and bowled for 12 trying to get things moving, while Supreeth’s attempt to add some ‘oomph’ was a little more successful, bringing up his retirement with a 6 and a 4.
Although the Archives never really cut loose, there was only to be one more wicket, so the scoring remained steady, even methodical. Burgess and T Kerr both retired with a pair of fours to each of their names. Burgess survived a confident and vociferous stumping appeal, but square leg umpire Roberts stood firm in the face of some provocative backchat from Leinster's Australian wicketkeeper. Burgess was equally unbothered by the sledging that continued for several balls. If anything, the unflappable ambassador seemed to relish the distress of his Antipodean neighbour.
Tratalos and the Director came together as Leinster unearthed a couple of decent bowlers to try to wrest back control of the game. However, the last 4 overs relieved the pressure again and – a little belatedly – the Archives finally seemed able to score at will. Jamie hit three 4s on his way to 22*, while the Director was stumped on (a very fortunate) 19 trying to repeat the 6 he had hoicked to the boundary a few balls earlier. A quickfire 15* from Bennett and a run-a-ball 5* from J Kerr rounded the score up to a healthy enough 140. Gupta, Roberts and Kenny did not bat.
The Leinster reply got off to a simply astonishing start: 3 of the first 5 batters retired, two of them in what felt like the blink of an eye. Gupta in particular took a terrible pummelling. While the bowling was coming from the Gulistan Terrace end, the short leg-side boundary was found again and again. After 4 of the 15 overs, Leinster were more or less half-way to their target and the question started to be asked in the Archives ranks (by shellshocked troops wondering if their bowling would be treated as contemptuously as Hari’s had been), “Do they bat all the way down?”. But in truth, the Archives had fired a few shots in return: the other two members of the top order departed cheaply with Bennett and Supreeth each clean bowling a Leinster batter.
Bennett was denied a run-out in curious circumstances. Unable to collect a fast throw-in from Gupta, he accidentally diverted the ball onto the stumps with the batsman casually sauntering around several inches out of his crease. The umpire, however, deemed this an ungentlemanly appeal not in the spirit of Taverners. To be fair, most of Bennett's wickets these days are accidental any way. However, with 5 gone, the remainder needed only to average 10 or so each and the Archives would be dining on defeat again.
Happily, Roberts began the process of strangling the lower order by sending Smyth back (again, clean bowled) for a duck.
It turned out that Leinster did not bat all the way down: they had served the best wine first and although the last five batters could all bat, they could not find the boundary with the ease of their predecessors and so they needed to run if they were to score the necessary runs and, in this vital aspect of the game, the Leinster challenge faded: after hares had come the snails. At no point in the second half of the innings was there a pair in the middle who could run quick singles or turn ones into twos. What is more, the setting evening sun was coming into play from the Observatory Lane end and the flight of Kenny proved unplayable, while wickets continued to tumble.
J Kerr took a wicket on debut, while Goldstein and (almost uniquely this season) the Director were parsimonious. As the pressure told, there were two-suicidal run outs, with the coup de grace ably administered by Jamie in each case. Skipper Kerr (who did not need to bowl) had the luxury of saving Burgess for the death and with 40-ish needed off the last over, even the injury-ravaged 2022 edition of the Archives couldn’t stuff that one up.
[Written by: Simon Mills]