Just two days after a comfortable victory against Leinster CC, the Archives had to regroup for the stiffer challenge of a 30-over match against Chapelizod CC in the idyllic surroundings of Castleknock College. Unfortunately, the strong team initially assembled by Captain Bennett had been decimated by injuries, soreness and diplomatic duties, with Sibley and Kelley both succumbing to season-ending leg injuries, the aging bodies of Mills and Goldstein unable to cope with two games in three days, and Burgess being called away for an important work event.
However, sympathy for the supposedly hard-working ambassador evaporated when he later tweeted a post-prandial photo of himself in a box strewn with empty wine bottles at the Dublin Horse Show. If and when he is finally knighted, it will surely be as much for services to the New Zealand wine industry as for any of his diplomatic efforts.
Merrion CC kindly provided three players, including the ageless Barney who had taken a magnificent catch in the deep and batted so resolutely in the same fixture last year. However, on the day there was no sign of the great man, as it transpired that he had reacted badly to a booster jab received just days before. Our hosts had arrived with 12 players, so lent us another Hari, a keen-looking young Indian. As our own Hari was also in the team, back on a flying visit from his new home in Birmingham, they shall be referred to as Chapelizod Hari and Dalkey Hari in this report. Indeed, with Supreeth also playing for us and the two Merrion players, Guru and Amit, both being Indian, the Archives now had an unusually strong Indian contingent. Maybe this would be our only strength and consolation?
As Walker and Dalkey Hari were both keen to make early exits to the airport and port respectively, the captains agreed to forego the toss and allow the hosts to bat first. Even at this early stage, most realistic Archivists realized that this also had the added benefit of probably prolonging the match.
Walker and Amit opened the bowling, the latter having modestly claimed to be only a medium pacer. He turned out to be a shade faster than Burgess and just as accurate. With Walker also bowling tightly, the Chapelizod openers treated both bowlers with respect, playing them correctly and cautiously in the opening overs. Amit was warned for a zinging bouncer, but the batsmen remained unperturbed. As the sun continued to blaze down, so the fielding errors increased. To put it bluntly, some Dalkey fielders, the Captain included, were just not putting their bodies behind the ball, allowing themselves to be beaten by the fast and sometimes unpredictable outfield. The one shining exception was Kenny, who patrolled the square leg boundary with tigerish speed and efficiency.
With each bowler allowed a maximum of five overs, Captain Bennett decided to bowl both openers straight through and then introduce the all-Indian pair of Supreeth and Chapelizod Hari as first change. Well though they bowled, wickets would just not fall and the tired fielding team retreated to the welcome shade of some nearby trees for a short drinks break after 15 overs with the score at 93-0.
Dalkey Hari tucking in
Amit, Hari and Guru (from the left)
With music from an Indian independence festival, appropriately enough, wafting over from the nearby Phoenix Park, Archivists could’ve been forgiven for thinking they were like a toothless England team toiling under a scorching Bangalore sun.
At this rate, the Archives looked as if they could be facing a daunting total well over 230. However, Chapelizod Hari must have put something special in his water, as he clean-bowled one of their openers with his fourth ball after the break for 39 and promptly got the next batsman out first ball for a plumb LBW. There was suddenly a spring in the Archivists’ steps as they closed in to encircle the new batsman for the hat-trick ball. Although he survived that ball, Chapelizod still found it difficult to attack our bowlers and had only reached 123 by the end of the 20th over.
However, with Dalkey Hari and Keating coming on as third change, the batsmen finally began to open their shoulders and accelerate the run-rate. They were also helped by a sudden increase in extras, some more loose fielding and a string of dropped catches, the most surprising of which was by the normally reliable and unflappable Fanning.
Even when Bennett and Kenny came on to share the last six overs, the runs continued to flow. Walker dived acrobatically for a difficult catch at point, only to land awkwardly on his shoulder. Although it wasn’t dislocated, he was clearly in pain and decided to leave the field as a precautionary measure. As the pain and discomfort persisted, Walker wisely headed off for the VHI centre where a fracture of his collar bone was found! These injuries really are like buses.
Dalkey’s luck soon turned, though, as Bennett got their no. 4 well caught in the deep by Chapelizod Hari off a rank long hop. The next batsmen rashly decided to sweep a low ball outside the offside stump and only succeeded in ricocheting the ball off the hard mat and into his forehead. After staggering off the pitch, he bravely returned to the crease with his head bandaged up Terry Butcher style, claiming that the main damage had been caused by the fact that the ball had hit a metal plate that was already in his head (?).
Meanwhile, at the other end Kenny was on fire. Flighting the ball beautifully, he managed to tempt the remaining opener into edging a drive up in the air for a simple catch behind the stumps by Amit, who was proving to be a more than adequate replacement for the still slightly injured Tratalos. The next batsman mistimed a charge in Deadly’s last over, allowing Amit to wrap up an easy stumping. And just two balls later, he bamboozled the batsman into hitting his wicket! Chapelizod somehow managed to lose a 3rd wicket in the last dramatic over with an unnecessary run out that also featured some neat glove work by Amit.
And so Chapelizod finished on 205-7. Not an impossible target, but Dalkey’s extras and leaky fielding had contributed almost 50 runs to that total.
With the carnage of Dalkey’s top order being mowed down by Chapelizod’s opening bowlers last year still fresh in his memory, Captain Bennett had devised a strategy of protecting his better batsmen by promoting stubborn cannon fodder above them in the order. The initial team contained a good six players who deserved such protection, but the pre-match dropouts and Walker’s unfortunate injury had whittled that number down to a mere one - the redoubtable Supreeth.
After revealing his strategy to his team, Bennett was relieved not to have select the opening cannon fodder, as Tratalos and Amit nobly stepped forward to take one for the team.
Unfortunately, Bennett’s worst fears were confirmed immediately, as Tratalos was bowled first ball by the speedy and unerringly accurate PD.
Dalkey Hari now plays “midweek” cricket in England, which is apparently of such a superior quality to Friday cricket that he has not yet been called upon to actually bat for his new team. (We can only wonder whether he had also been asked to bowl.) Nevertheless, he claimed to be in good form “in the nets” and helpfully volunteered to go in at no. 3. His confidence was not misplaced (this time), as he smacked a beautiful on-drive to the boundary off just his third ball. However, despite a few more confident straight drives, he was clean bowled by the second ball of PD’s second over for 10.
The next batsman to face enemy fire was Captain Bennett, who had top-scored against Chapelizod last year and was quietly confident that he could see off their opening pair again. After a few tentative prods at some of PD’s vicious outswingers, he soon got his eye in and his technique together, as he settled in for the long haul.
Amit at the other end looked comfortable against the metronomic Antonio, but was bowled by the first ball of PD’s third over for 3.
This brought in wicket keeper Guru to help Bennett repair the innings. Like Dalkey, Chapelizod had also decided to bowl both opening bowlers straight through their five overs, so the challenge was clear. To survive the opening 10 overs while losing as few wickets as possible.
Unfortunately, Captain Bennett was so keen to get off the strike against PD that he called for a rash single off a pull to mid-on, despite a clearly enunciated rejection by his partner. This tactic had worked earlier in the season when a charming barrister had sacrificed himself to Bennett’s bullish deafness. However, Guru was made of sterner stuff and didn’t move an inch, leaving his captain pitifully stranded in the middle of the wicket.
The Captain scoring in Kenny's comfy chair
The next soldier to go over the top was Keating, who heroically saw off PD and Antonio in a resilient 4th wicket partnership with Guru that took the score over 50. However, when both fell in quick succession to the first change bowlers, Dalkey were tottering at 55-6, with Supreeth and Chapelizod Hari the new batsmen at the crease.
Of course, if Dalkey had managed to turn up with its original team, this score would’ve vindicated Captain Bennett’s tactics, with a string of high-class batsmen yet to face Chapelizod’s weaker bowlers.
However, everything now depended on Supreeth and the unknown quantity of Hari Chapelizod.
The main challenge last year was to avoid a defeat by more than 100 runs, but Supreeth now seemed to have other ideas. After carefully watching his first three dot balls, he exploded with 18 off the next five, including two massive 6’s. The field retreated as the run rate accelerated. Chapelizod Hari did not look like a conventional batsman, but his familiarity with the Chapelizod bowlers allowed him to lock up one end while Supreeth made hay at the other.
All of a sudden, drinks were being taken at the halfway point of 15 overs and Dalkey had reached 100-6. Game on!
Three overs after the break, the Archivists had advanced to 114-6 and some were daring to dream. A mere 82 runs were needed off sub-standard bowling in 12 overs. Were this an ODI with Stokes and Bairstow at the crease, an England win would surely have been a formality.
In the next two overs, Dalkey scored an additional 15 runs, but also lost two valuable wickets. Chapelizod Hari was bowled by first-change Yeshree for a hard-fought 10, but he had stuck around long enough to put together a potentially match-winning partnership of 61 with Supreeth, surely the Archivists’ biggest partnership of the year. Unfortunately, Kenny fell in the same manner to the same bowler just two balls later for a silver duck, with the score on 116.
At 129-8 with 10 overs remaining, Dalkey were still in the game, especially with the prospect of opener Tratalos returning to the crease as our lowest scorer (pipping Kenny by one ball) in lieu of Walker.
Fanning batted correctly with a straight bat, but mistimed a drive to depart for 3.
This set the stage for Tratalos to make history as the first batsman (AFAIK) to make both a royal duck (out first ball to the first ball of the innings) and a laughing duck (out first ball to the last ball of the innings) in the same innings.
With his first ball a wide and the second comfortably negotiated, Tratalos avoided the ignominy of bookending the Dalkey innings with a pair of golden ducks (a king pair).
However the required run rate was now creeping above 10 an over.
Maybe we should have told Supreeth that he was on 47? Maybe we didn’t realize his complete lack of confidence in Tratalos’s batting? In any case, with an unlikely victory still theoretically in sight, Supreeth chose the wrong ball to charge in the 25th over and was stumped with the total on 142, leaving the Archivists 64 runs short of their target.
All in all, it was a much improved performance on last year and in much more difficult conditions. Who knows what would’ve happened if some of the stronger batsmen had been available for selection? Hopefully we’ll find out next year. If we can continue the same trajectory of improvement, a victory against Chapelizod CC may finally be within our grasp.
[Written by: Nick Bennett]