July 8, 2023: DACC beat Ashford CC by 1 over

The Archivists headed south to the magnificent Oak Hill in Wicklow to take on Ashford CC in a fixture that usually rounds off our season in September. As Bennett had subbed in for the home team on the previous Sunday, he was appointed captain by Director of Cricket Mills for his inside knowledge. With very little help from Bennett, Ashford had pulverized Greystones, successfully chasing down 159 for the loss of one 1 wicket and 3 retirements! I’d like to say that Dalkey brought down a strong team, but in fact it was their only team possible. It included 2 debutants in Lappin and Lynch, while Dunphy and Harrington only had a handful of Dalkey appearances between them. By comparison, Pickford, Sushant and Lewis, who all made their debuts back in May, were seasoned veterans. This was Dalkey Archives 2.0.

The format was to be 30 overs, retirements at 30, 5 overs max per bowler and the usual Taverners rules of a free first ball and no LBW. In recent years, Dalkey has an appalling record in 30 overs matches, consistently being on the wrong end of thrashings by the Dublin University Museum Players (DUMP) and Castleknock CC. Imagine Captain Bennett’s horror, therefore, when he recognized familiar foe Sree from multiple defeats to both teams (At least, he revealed himself to be a keen reader of our match reports!). To make matters worse, Dalkey had generously lent the home team Ravi, one of our Indian stars from previous years. The only good news was that the hard-working Director of Cricket Mills finally declared his availability on Saturday morning. How significant would his presence prove to be?

Pitch perfect

Captain Bennett won the toss and lamely asked the home team to bat first in the pessimistic view that this might prolong the match. With only 4 proven frontline bowlers at his disposal, he decided to hold them back for Ashford’s explosive middle order and to open with the experimental pair of Dunphy and Lappin, based purely on word of mouth and a few balls in the nets before the match.

They both responded manfully, restricting openers Tony and Dermot to just ones and twos in each of their first overs. All of a sudden, Dalkey Archives had 6 proven frontline bowlers!

So impressed was Captain Bennett by their opening overs that he decided to bowl them straight through their maximum 5 overs unless a devastating middle order batsman appeared…

In his 4th over, Lappin extracted a bit of lift and got Tony smartly caught behind by Tratalos.

Dunphy’s nagging accuracy was rewarded when he clean-bowled danger man Francois in the next over. However, Captain Bennett hadn’t recognized the big hitting South African under his helmet, so continued to hold back his main strike bowlers.

Ashford were tottering 27-2 at the beginning of the 7th over.

Opener Dermot and Brian attempted to repair the innings, but just 2 overs later Tratalos dived smartly to his right to take a wonderful one-handed catch in Dunphy’s last over. The batsman Dermot was already halfway down the pitch, oblivious to the possibility of being caught behind.

In his final over, the impressive Lappin clean bowled no. 4 Brian, only for umpire Francois to call a no ball out of the blue! We don’t know if Lappin had been close to overstepping on previous deliveries, but at this level of cricket some sort of prior warning is generally the norm. With Carey’s controversial stumping of Bairstow barely a week old, mutters about the spirit of cricket undulated through the unimpressed fielding team. Nonetheless, at the end of their first 10 overs, Ashford were only 42-2.

With no big hitters in sight, Captain Bennett could have given the final 20 overs to his original 4 frontline bowlers, but decided instead to spread the next 5 overs across his less regular bowlers. Not only would this prevent any regrettable TFC appearances, but it also ensured a more competitive contest, as Dalkey were, unbelievably, threatening to restrict Ashford to an embarrassingly low total.

Brian had now been joined by Malcolm, who had previously played one match for Dalkey, funnily enough on this very ground. Despite living in Ashford, that was the first time that the genial South African had heard of Ashford CC and Oak Hill. The rest, as they say, is history. Our loss was certainly Ashford’s gain.

First up to the plate was debutant Lynch, who had already impressed with some very athletic fielding on the deep midwicket boundary. He was then followed by Lewis, Pickford and Harrington. Although neither of them managed to take a wicket, they all managed to contain the two experienced batsmen, as the score had only advanced to 73 after 15 overs. (Pickford was the lucky bowler to get 2 overs!)

Of these 4 bowlers, Lynch had the least conventional bowling action. Again, at this level of cricket, the odd bent arm is generally overlooked by umpires, but square leg umpire Francois vociferously objected to the legality of Lynch’s bowling and implored fellow umpire Tony Buck to call more no balls! Fortunately, Buck took a more charitable view and Lynch escaped unpunished.

Although Brian and Malcolm were now ticking over nicely, there was still no pressing need to bring on our Indian speedsters, so Captain Bennett shared the next 5 overs between himself and Mills. The former found a good line and length pretty quickly and was gratified to hear Brian advise Malcolm to “just survive” his bowling. Meanwhile, at the other end, Mills also settled into a good rhythm and managed to bowl Brian out for 22 in his 2nd over. In his following over, he did the same to no. 6 Ro.

Mills was ripping the heart out of Ashford’s middle order. But still there was no sign of the big hitters. Scanning the pavilion, Captain Bennett realized that the most destructive batsman from the previous weekend wasn’t playing. But Ravi had yet to appear and Bennett still thought that Francois had not batted.

Nonetheless, Dalkey had now reached 20 overs with Ashford on 96-5. To avoid any messy calculations in his head, Captain Bennett opted for the easy option and brought on Supreeth and Sushant to share the last 10 overs.

No. 7 Cillian struggled with the pace and accuracy of both bowlers, while Malcolm’s retirement for a stylish and unflustered 30 brought Ravi to the crease. He immediately signalled his intentions by charging and missing his first ball from Supreeth. Thereafter, Captain Bennett brought the fielders in very close for Cillian, but withdrew them for Ravi, inviting the single and protecting the boundary. But such was the quality of the Indian bowling that scoring was difficult for both batsmen. Eventually Ravi mistimed a heave against a well-pitched ball from Sushant and was bowled for 4.

Including retirements, Ashford were 117-7 at the end of the 24th over. With only the tail to come and Captain Bennett finally realizing that Francois had already been dismissed, it was time to take the foot off the pedal. Ashford were in danger of not completing their 30 overs, so Bennett accepted Mills’s selfless offer to be replaced by his son, Mills Jr., who had been patiently watching from the pavilion. He had also taken 2 wickets in a Colts match earlier in the day!

Supreeth was unfortunate to be taken off, but his bowling was just too good for the circumstances! With Sushant reverting to off-spin, Mills Jr. teased the batsmen with his leg spin. Despite being hit for a boundary in his first over, he came back well in his next over with a beautifully flighted ball that bowled Cillian. In his final over, he was unlucky to be deprived of a second wicket as Lappin spilled a difficult running catch near the deep midwicket boundary from a big hit by Sree. Clearly not yet familiar with the poor quality of the Archivists’ catching, Mills Jr. sank to his knees in despair at such adult incompetence. A late flurry by Sree and Binay off Sushant’s over saw Ashford reach a respectable, but by no means daunting, total of 149.

Time for tea

Dalkey openers Tratalos and Lewis started slowly against the impressive Binray and Francois. Lewis was in Boycott mode against the pace pair, although it was sometimes difficult to tell whether his wafting outside the off stump was a genuine leave or not. But in a 30-over match he was totally correct to play conservatively. In his 2nd over, Francois erred on the short side and was mercilessly pulled for two 4s by the in-form Tratalos. However, after successfully seeing off the opening bowlers, Tratalos surprisingly fell caught to Rowham in the 6th over for 14 with the score on 22. A rare failure to retire for the prolific wicketkeeper.

This bought Harrington to the crease with the situation requiring an urgent increase in the sluggish run rate. But, to the mounting concern of the Archivists in the pavilion, the run rate plummeted in a barren partnership that produced only 6 runs in 4 overs! Lewis continued to frustrate and infuriate Ashford with his airy bat waving, while Harrington managed to hit the third boundary of the innings with a beautifully timed drive through the covers. Whereupon he suddenly announced that this was the first boundary that he had ever hit in his life! The applause started by Umpire Bennett rippled through the generous fielders.

In the end, Lewis wafted once too often and departed bowled for 3 in the 9th over with the score at only 29. Dalkey now needed 121 in 21 overs.

What better man to remedy the situation than Pickford, who was soon joined by Sushant when Harrington was bowled by turncoat Ravi for 9. However, tight bowling and a well-set field restricted both batsmen to dot balls and singles. By the end of the 20th over, Dalkey were only on 69-3, with 81 needed off the last 10 overs. The pendulum had swung Ashford’s way and Lewis’s limpet impression was beginning to look costly.

This all changed when Pickford was bowled for 22.

Supreeth replaces Pickford

Incoming batsman Supreeth instantly assessed the urgency of the situation and announced his intentions with a boundary off his first ball. He then treated Malcolm with unusual respect for one over before hitting 19 runs off his second over (6,4,6,0,2,1)! A single later and he retired for a blistering 30 that had turned the game around.

Or had it? With Supreeth’s departure, the run rate inevitably fell again, as Sushant and new batsman Lynch struggled to find the boundary. The debutant was soon clean-bowled for 5 by returning opening bowler Binray. With his fellow opening bowler Francois back at the other end, Dalkey were once again in trouble, requiring 20 runs from the last 3 overs. With little in terms of proven batting talent to follow, the pressure was on Sushant and incoming batsman Mills to score at more than a run a ball against Ashford’s fearsome opening pair…

Not for the first time this season, Mills rose to the challenge as a finisher, taking 9 runs off the first 4 balls of the 28th over, with a judicious mixture of square cuts and drives thru a large gap in the field. With Sushant taking a 2 off the last ball, Dalkey were back in control with only 9 runs needed off the last 2 overs.

A leg bye at the beginning of the 29th over left the Archivists needing only 8 run from 11 balls. Surely victory was now in their grasp? Never one to make things boring, Mills then proceeded to call Sushant for a wildly optimistic run and tore down the pitch. Only to find a bemused Sushant still standing at the other end when he actually bothered to look up. The Indian batsman graciously took a few steps forward to sacrifice himself for a patient and valuable 16.

Dalkey now needed 8 runs from 10 balls with the untested Dunphy arriving at the non-striker’s end. To his credit, Mills redeemed himself by protecting his relieved partner from the strike and confidently knocking off the required runs in the remaining 4 balls of the 29th over, finishing 17 not out.

Dalkey had won with an over to spare, as Mills bathed in the admiration of his incredulous family.

Mills congratulated by yet another Mills Jr. as Ravi looks on

Malcolm had little choice but to give Supreeth the Man of the Match award for his match-winning innings, while Captain Bennett awarded his South African counterpart for his astute field placements and for being the only Ashford batsman to reach retirement.

Malcolm gives Supreeth his well-deserved MOTM bottle of wine

Captain Bennett about to do the same to Malcolm

As always against Ashford, the game was played in fine spirits with just the right amount of competitiveness and good humour. A handful of Archivists also managed to lure their long-suffering partners to the match in an attempt to convert them to the charms of cricket. No better place to achieve this than the Arcadian setting of Oak Hill. Indeed, in his post-match speech, Captain Bennett speculated that the day may even have saved a few marriages and cemented some new relationships.

[Written by: Nick Bennett]

A Dalkey partner framed during the tea break

1 Comment

  1. Another masterclass in cricket reporting


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