The form lines for this home match were ominous. After three straight defeats, the Archivists welcomed a confident Phoenix team that had apparently won its first three matches of the season. Unusually, the home team was oversubscribed in terms of availability and had managed to assemble a strong-looking team through a mysterious process of random selection by the uncommonly modest Director of Cricket who failed to select himself. Reintegrating promising new recruits Pickford and Sushant, the Director of Cricket also offered a debut to Fletcher, another member sourced from the Dalkey Forum Facebook group, the new incubator of SCD cricketing talent.
On the way down to the home pitch at Shanganagh, Captain Bennett convened an impromptu liquid team meeting at Brady’s in Shankill with Sandeep, who had kindly offered the captain a lift. The straits were dire and devious tactics were desperately needed for a first victory of the season. Unfortunately, none of the other Archivists were tempted by the meeting and mystery shall forever shroud the plan devised by the Anglo-Indian pair. Would the team suffer by its absence at Captain Bennett’s ill-attended rousing speech in the early evening sunshine of Shankill? Or would the performances of Bennett and Sandeep be affected by their pre-match refreshments?
Team meeting held at Brady's in Shankill
With key player Monaghan yet to appear, Phoenix won the toss, elected to bat and offered Dalkey a keen fielder in the shape of Conor. The composed techniques of the Phoenix opening pair stirred memories of the same fixture last year when the team from the Park used the occasion as batting practice for its accomplished league players. However, their technical superiority was not reflected in a modest run rate sapped by the damp outfield topped with fresh clumps of mowed grass. After comfortably seeing off opening pair Reay and Roberts, opener John retired for an untroubled 20.
Sushant bamboozled their no.3 Ben with a few pacy balls before putting him out of his misery with a straight one for just 3 runs. Pickford bowled well on his debut at the other end, but was unlucky to be faced with the other comfortably settled opener. Who was still scoring slowly.
Third change Goldstein tempted their no.4 into spooning the ball up in the air for a comfortable catch by Tratalos in front of the stumps for a paltry 2. When the remaining opener finally retired after a slightly pedestrian 20, incoming batsmen Paddy added some much-needed momentum to the innings with some strong hitting.
Debutant Fletcher started bowling slow left-armers, but soon advanced to Underwood-esque levels of pace and accuracy, eliciting a mistimed pull from their no. 6 to deep midwicket for a well-taken catch by Sushant. Such is the promise of this new left-armer, that it may not be just his own modesty that keeps the Director of the Cricket out of the team in the future.
Bennett tied down the other end with equally parsimonious bowling. After Paddy retired for a quick 20, something inspired the captain in his second over to pull Sushant many metres in from a deep mid-on and the frustrated no. 8 duly obliged by hitting the ball straight down his throat for an easy catch.
With Monaghan still missing, Captain Bennett obtained permission from Phoenix skipper Paddy to allow 2 Dalkey bowlers to bowl an extra over each in tandem with Supreeth to close the innings. Offered the opportunity to nominate the 2 bowlers, Paddy gracefully declined and left that decision in the hands of Bennett. When he selected Reay and Roberts to step into Monaghan’s shoes, Tratalos objected vociferously to what he perceived as a lack of sportsmanship, claiming that the pair were Dalkey’s best bowlers. Without intending any disrespect to Reay, Bennett replied to both Tratalos and Reay that the southsiders were blessed with many fine bowlers. Deep down, however, he didn’t want either of them to perform too well in their extra overs …
Wanting to give Supreeth the last over, Bennett asked Roberts to take the 17th over and Reay the 19th. When Supreeth bowled their no. 7 in his first over, the score was meandering to a modest sub-90 total and Phoenix were running out of batsmen.
And when their no. 10, a thin Indian looking no more than 15 years old, arrived gingerly at the crease, the umpire asked closing bowler Supreeth to take it easy on the poor young fellow. After playing and missing his first ball, he calmly stroked the second ball over the square leg boundary for the first 6 of the match!
The carnage continued in the next over, as Reay was smashed for a 6 and two 4’s by the wispy tailender. At least Bennett could no longer be accused of unsportsmanlike conduct. At the end of his over, the battered bowler took his captain’s ironic thanks for vindicating his decision with typically good grace and a rueful handshake.
Just as it seemed that Rahul would be the 4th retiree of the Phoenix innings, he fell off the last ball of Supreeth’s second over to a marvellous running catch at deep mid-off by his team-mate Ben who was deputising for the missing Monaghan.
Thanks to Rahul’s sparkling late hitting, Phoenix ended on 109, a respectable total for such a slow outfield.
The Phoenix CC innings
With the required run rate at just under a run a ball, the Dalkey openers Tratalos and Pickford made a positive start. The South African powerfully drove his second ball for 4, but fell in the third over with the score on 15. Roberts also found the boundary with his second ball and then joined Tratalos in accumulating easy singles.
After 5 overs, Dalkey were comfortably placed at 31-1, marginally above the RRR. Then disaster struck. A stinging cover drive by Tratalos was fumbled by the fielder. The wicketkeeper set off bullishly for the single, apparently deaf to the stentorian “No!” from the other end. The reader can guess the rest in this battle of wills. Roberts was unable to retreat fast enough from the oncoming Tratalos and was run out for 8, without even making the effort to reach the other end. It later emerged that Tratalos had not forgotten being run out by Roberts in another home match last year, as he triumphantly declared that they were now even. Little did we realize that Tratalos’s gentle demeanour hid such a vengeful long memory. Some even compared his ability to hold a grudge to Roy Keane’s brutal treatment of Haaland Senior.
However, the loss of Roberts merely exposed Phoenix to the Indian nucleus of Dalkey’s batting line-up. Those of a certain age may remember the famous Three Ws from the West Indies in the 1950’s (Walcott, Worrell and Weekes). Future generations will also look back on the Three Ss, who decorated Dalkey’s middle order with similar style and panache (Sushant, Supreeth and Sandeep). Sushant batted correctly and circumspectly until he was unluckily run out for 19. Meanwhile, after Tratalos retired for a boundary-less 20, Supreeth hit two 4s and one 6 one the way to a rapid 16.
Dalkey were cruising on 74 after 12 overs, with only 36 needed from the remaining 8 overs.
Even the departure of Fletcher second ball for 0 did not appear to threaten the run chase.
However, the Phoenix bowling was still neat and tidy, giving away few loose balls. Goldstein struggled to hit the ball off the square and Sandeep, conscious of the weak tail to follow, played with exaggerated defensiveness, carefully blocking even the most innocuous balls. Goldstein even played out a maiden over, as his team-mates grew restless in the distance. 4 overs later and Dalkey had only advanced to 84. They now needed 26 runs off 4 overs. Sandeep finally opened his shoulders for a massive 6 in the 17th over that relieved some of the pressure, but Goldstein remained bogged down in the following over that yielded only 1 run. All of a sudden Dalkey needed 18 runs off 2 overs, surely an almost impossible task on this outfield ...
To make matters worse, the semi-retired Kevin was lurking menacingly beyond the boundary, ready to come on and bowl his unhittable creepie crawlies.
Sandeep rose manfully to the challenge with two boundaries in the 19th over to take the score to 103. His strong hitting also led to his inevitable retirement, so 7 runs were now required off the last over with Reay to face and Goldstein still clinging on at the other end. Wicketkeeper Dan was the bowler and he was giving nothing away!
A single from Reay shifted responsibility to Goldstein, who responded magnificently by getting himself caught for a marathon 3 runs!
Captain Bennett therefore approached the wicket with 6 runs needed off 4 balls. The light was fading, the fielders suddenly had a spring in their step and the maths was clear. With twos and threes still difficult to come by, boundaries were needed. Dreaming about a single ball finish, he only managed to flick his first ball round the corner for a single.
5 runs were now needed off 3 balls and both batsmen agreed to run, whatever happened. Reay managed a firm drive to mid-on, but only for a single.
Dalkey now required 4 runs off the last 2 balls. Off good bowling.
When Dan pitched the next ball just a little short on the leg stump, Bennett pulled the ball as hard and high as he could without paying any attention to the fielding positions. Momentarily sickened by cries of “Catch it!”, he was relieved to see the ball fly over the midwicket fielder and cross the boundary with one bounce. Engulfed by a sea of handshakes and fist pumps from Reay and the generous opposition, Bennett walked off the pitch in a daze, barely believing what he had just achieved.
The Dalkey Archives innings
Punctuated with all sorts of unlikely plot twists and ebbs and flows, it had been a thoroughly enjoyable match between two very well-matched teams. Credit should also be given to Paddy for allowing Dalkey to give an extra over each to Reay and Roberts and for not deploying their secret weapon Kevin.
Bennett awarded the Man of the Match to Rahul and was lucky enough to receive the same award from Paddy for his 2-ball innings, although any of the Three Ss would also have been deserving recipients. In particular, it was really Sandeep’s well-constructed innings that swung things Dalkey’s way. Maybe these pre-match liquid team meetings should become mandatory in the future?
[Written by: Nick Bennett]