The Archivists were prematurely roused from their hibernation by a call at very short notice from Merrion CC for this April game. With the help of Walker’s daughter Safia and new recruit Lewis, Dalkey did well to assemble 9 more or less fit and healthy men and a sprightly 14-year-old. There had also been rumours of mid-winter training in the St. Columba’s indoor nets by certain unnamed players, so the team had grounds to believe that it could hit the ground running.
This was also their first match in the post-Burgess era and, with Taylor still unavailable due to his extensive football training duties and Kelly still missing in action somewhere in the West, the Archivists were depleted of their usual antipodean talent. Fortunately they still had strong southern hemisphere representation from Goldstein and the redoubtable Indian pair of Supreeth and Sandeep.
Dalkey won the toss and chose to bat in a match that was restricted to 16 overs due to fears over the fading April light. While Supreeth took a few balls to find his timing, Monaghan drove strongly off his front foot for a boundary in the first over. It seemed that the resolute padding up from previous seasons had been replaced by a more aggressive attitude, borrowed maybe from his previous role as an Enforcer on the rugby pitch. It didn’t take long for Supreeth to start dominating the bowlers too, as he sweetly hit Dalkey’s first 6 of the season over the midwicket boundary. However, just when it looked as if he was going to take the bowling apart, he mistimed a pull and was caught by the safe hands of Gerry at just behind square leg.
The new batsmen Bennett took even longer to find his timing. In fact, it’s debatable whether he ever found it. After a few ugly mistimed swipes and prods for a single, he finally managed to pull off an authentic square cut to the fielder on the boundary for an easy single. As he ambled in at the following end, he heard the ball hitting the wicket behind him and turned round to see, to his astonishment, the square leg umpire putting up his finger. Monaghan had been undone by a superb throw direct throw from the boundary!
This brought Tratalos to the crease. He settled in very quickly, easily accumulating singles and twos with some confident stroke-play. Bennett’s batting had been rather pedestrian, so Tratalos assumed responsibility for upping the run rate. Unfortunately the wicketkeeper couldn’t keep out a fast yorker from the deceptively fast John who was bowling off a one pace runup.
After just 2 dot balls, Walker proceeded to score at more than a run a ball, while Bennett eventually scraped a few boundaries together and retired for an unconvincing 22. Walker hit a massive 6 onto the pavilion roof that bounced back into the field of play and was caught by the Merrion square leg fielder. To the Englishman’s huge relief, there was no provision in the local rules for this sort of wicket and he remained not out.
He soon followed Bennett back into the pavilion after another 6 for 25 quick and valuable runs. Unfortunately, there was not enough time for Sandeep and Lewis to push the score into 3 figures, as they finished undefeated on 5 and 1 respectively with the total only a modest 99.
As Goldstein had umpired for the entirety of the Merrion innings, captain Walker gave him the opening over. However, it soon became apparent that he was probably not one of the Archivists who had taken part in pre-season training. The rust was dripping off Russell, as he conceded 2 wides and a 6 in his first over. At the other end Sandeep was in supersonic mode, terrifying the normally ebullient John with his speed and accuracy. Indeed, it was no surprise when the Indian demon shattered his wicket off just the third ball. Goldstein fared little better in his second over, giving away 2 wides off his first 2 balls. However, the frequency of his dead balls induced an unnecessary sense of impatience in the Merrion batsmen. Off the fourth authentic ball of the over, the batsman safely mistimed a pull into the vacant area in front of fine leg fielder Safia. Or so we thought. With the unbridled enthusiasm of youth, she set off in pursuit of a catch that few of her older team-mates would even have dreamt of attempting. As they watched in trepidation, she stooped low in full flight to intercept the downward trajectory of the ball just a foot or two off the ground. As well as holding onto the ball, she also managed to avoid falling over, a fate that surely would have befallen her butter-fingered and less agile seniors.
Goldstein finished his spell with figures of 1-20. In marked contrast, Sandeep closed on 1-3!
If the South African could be described as rusty, first-change Lewis had an even better excuse for his proliferation of wides and dead balls. This was apparently his first match in more than 50 years! Unfortunately Gerry showed no compassion and unerringly dispatched Lewis’s authentic deliveries to or over the boundary. The carnage resulted in a rapid-fire retirement for the consistent left-hander and painful figures of 0-36 for Lewis. Despite this early battering, the new recruit showed signs of promise with an elegant high action and it is hoped that he is not deterred by this bruising experience.
Despite the relative frugality of Monaghan at the other end, Merrion had already reached a total of 71 at the halfway stage. With only 29 runs required off the last overs, captain Walker turned to Bennett and Supreeth to stem the flow. Bennett’s first ball was a beamer that was hooked for 4 and called a wide. The next ball was just outside the leg stump, the one after that just outside the off stump and the fourth ball was finally a straight one that eluded the batsman and hit middle stump. Thus calibrated, Bennett proceeded to bowl a surprisingly accurate line and length at a decent speed that temporarily tied down the Merrion batsmen. At the other end, Supreeth also bowled tightly and claimed a deserved wicket by clean-bowling Dave.
However, this was all too little and too late. By the time that captain Walker brought himself on to bowl the 13th over, the match was already gone. A swift 10 runs off his first 4 balls was enough to give the hosts a comfortable victory with 20 balls to spare. It later transpired that some of them had already played a few matches this season, so the Archivists should lose little sleep over a justifiably rusty performance.
No Man of the Match award was presented by Merrion, but we suspect that any such award would surely have misgendered the likely recipient.
[Written by: Nick Bennett]