August 8, 2023: DACC tied with Wicklow CC

On a gloomy Friday evening, Dalkey Archives headed down to Bray for a fixture more usually played at the beginning of the season after the rugby season has finished. However, Pres Bray resume rugby training in August, so the grass was now unsuitably long and thick. In days gone by, you’d arrive to see the great Steve Sheldon finishing mowing the outfield, but, alas, there was no sign of Steve or even a mower. There was also no sign of the white-painted boundary, now obscured by the lush herbage. Maybe we’d have to make to with a herbaceous border instead?

Strictly speaking this was barely an Archives team. Like last year, when Dalkey was fortified by 5 Greystones CC players, we had to rely on the kindness of fellow clubs to make up our all-star XI.

Greystones CC provided all-rounder Ian Smale, while Ashford CC lent us their colourful captain Nick Seymour, wicketkeeper Brian Fanning (no relation to our Dion), and Sree, who plays for absolutely everyone. We also welcomed 3 debutants of our own in Hunt, Vikas and Shailesh to supplement the Archives hard core of Sushant, Supreeth, Reay and Bennett.

Wicklow won the toss and sensibly chose to bat first, with fading light likely to be an issue later on.

Captain Sushant chose to open the bowling with Sree and unknown quantity Vikas. Neither disappointed, as the latter turned out to be yet another demon Indian fast bowler. Wicklow crawled to 4-0 off 2 overs before Supreeth took a neat high catch at leg slip off Sree’s second over.

After their opening spell, Wicklow had limped to 10-1 from 4 overs.

The other Indian debutant, Shailesh, was just as fast and accurate as Vikas, conceding only 2 runs in his first over. Apparently Sushant, Supreeth, Vikas and Shailesh all work for the same company in Dublin, but we suspect that this is just a front for an elite Indian cricket academy.

So after 5 overs of Indian dominance, Sushant decided to give Wicklow a chance by putting on a Caucasian bowler in the shape of Reay.  Much to the satisfaction on the other opener Sisley, who had hitherto scraped together just 3 singles in just under 5 overs. It’s very rare for a batting team to more than double its total in its 5th over, but two consecutive 6's over midwicket from the burly South African off the shellshocked Reay rocketed Wicklow from 12-1 to 25-1. And just when you think that hitting a maximum is the only way to get a boundary, Sisley proceeded to smack two 4's off the first 3 balls off Shailesh’s next over. He retired on 23, having hit 20 off his last 7 balls!

After almost trebling their score in just two overs, Wicklow were now comfortably placed at 35-2 after 7 overs and well on course for a respectable total of over 120. If, that is, they had anyone else remotely as good as Sisley. Fortunately for the Archivists, they didn’t.

Wicklow’s Nos. 3 and 4 retired into their shells, as Reay recovered his self-confidence with a tighter second over that only yielded 3 runs.

Coming on as 3rd change, Sushant and Bennett maintained the squeeze with a good line and length at pace.  To such an extent that Wicklow were panicked into running a suicidal single to Seymour at short mid-off who calmly under-armed the ball back to the bowler Sushant for an easy run out in the 11th over.

In the very next over by Bennett, new batsman Adam hit a strong straight drive that, on a normal ground, would’ve gone straight to the boundary. But this was no ordinary ground, and Bennett is no ordinary fielder. As everyone’s eyes swivelled towards the boundary, Bennett somehow managed to straighten up and stick out both hands for an instinctive, and rare, catch. At the end of the 12th over, Wicklow were tottering on 51-4, having scored only 16 runs in 5 overs.

The economical Seymour further tightened the thumbscrews by clean bowling their No. 5 in his opening over. His 2nd over was just as parsimonious, prompting another desperate run out, this time of No. 7 Paul for just 3. With Supreeth bowling with his usual speed and accuracy at the other end, Wicklow staggered to 71-6 at the end of the 16th over.

With the honourable exception of Sisley’s pyrotechnics, Wicklow had been throttled not just by the overgrown outfield, but also by consistently tight bowling that offered no easy pickings. However, the introduction of the bent-armed Hunt in the 17th over changed all that. The first ball, a slow long hop, was dispatched for 4 by Amit. 2 wides later and, after being told to straighten his arm, Hunt finally managed a dot ball. But the next delivery sat up invitingly for Amit who hit a powerful off drive that on any normal ground would have crossed the boundary with one bounce. But now it was Vikas’s turn to be no normal fielder! Although slight of frame and not even wearing full whites, the perpetually smiling Indian sprinted a good 10 metres from deep mid-off to take a stunning catch on the run. To everyone's astonishment. The beaming Hunt couldn’t believe his luck!

After a tidy over from Smale that yielded only 2 runs, Hunt proceeded to mop up the tail in his next over in an impressive debut. Another wide short ball sat up for the illegible No. 9  who sensibly decided to avoid Vikas and smacked it deep to mid-on instead. And straight into the reliable hands of Smale! Hunt was now inside Wicklow heads and, after a quick single by incoming batsman Eugene, No. 6 Sandeep inexplicably missed Hunt’s first straight ball with predictable consequences for his stumps. The mild-mannered Englishman with an odd action had taken 3 wickets in 8 balls!

Eugene and Captain Frank then managed to survive Smale’s last over, leaving Wicklow on a modest 87.

The immaculately maintained Wicklow scorebook

Although not the most daunting of targets, Dalkey still needed a solid start in the challenging conditions.

Shailesh prepares to open the batting for Dalkey

Unfortunately Shailesh missed a straight one in the 2nd over off Khalid, as did Vikas in the following over against Captain Frank. After just 3 overs, Dalkey were wobbling at 11-2. More worryingly, they had allowed arguably Wicklow’s most hittable bowler, Captain Frank, to escape unpunished. Would they pay later for such generosity?

Opener Fanning and Reay patiently rebuilt the Dalkey innings with a series of hard-fought singles and two's against a close well-set field and ruthlessly accurate bowling. There was no letup in the quality of the bowling, with Sisley and Adam proving particularly difficult to get away However, both batsmen were helped by some comically inept dropped catches that seemed to be contagious. In a hint of things to come, scorecard details are scarce, but it seems that they both retired on 21, even though Fanning’s last scoring stroke was apparently a single (?). Unfortunately, Hunt’s batting couldn’t match his bowling, as he departed 5th ball bowled for a duck. However, this did have the hidden benefit of bringing Supreeth to the crease with the score at 45-4 in the 13th over. He instantly eased the pressure with a first ball boundary and when Sushant replaced the retired Reay, the pressure was finally off.

By the end of the 17th over Dalkey were cruising at 76-5, with only 12 needed off the last 3 overs. No. 11 Smale had such confidence in the Indian pair and the depth of Dalkey’s batting that he decided to leave early. This is when Dalkey’s capacity for self-destruction kicked in. Believing that the score should now be updated on a ball-by-ball basis, Bennett, a man who shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a scorebook after his multiple gaffes last year, had peremptorily taken over the manning of the scoreboard from the hitherto utterly reliable Sushant Jr. After prolonged consultation with the scorer, who shall remain nameless, it was agreed to raise the target on the scoreboard from 88 to 89. Then Supreeth had the supreme misfortune to hit a lofted drive off Sandeep (Yes, another one!) to the only Wicklow fielder capable of catching even a cold.

In the mounting gloom, Bennett came to the crease with 13 needed off 16 balls. In normal circumstances, this would be well within the reach of Dalkey, but Sandeep was no normal bowler. Put bluntly, he was a demon chucker. Although blessed with an otherwise impeccable, almost Hadlee-esque, run-up and action, he inexplicably hurled the ball at the last moment. Invariably on a good length just outside leg stump. While Hunt’s bent arm can be forgiven because of his gentle pace, Sandeep’s extreme pace made his action more questionable. It’s also doubtful whether Test match umpires would even allow him to bowl in such tenebrous light. All of which explains why Bennett couldn’t lay a bat on any of the 4 balls that were propelled at him!

Dalkey were now 76-6, with 13 needed off 12 balls. The pendulum had swung.

After Captain Sushant took a comfortable single off the first ball of the 19th over, Bennett ran a bye off a wicketkeeper fumble. Although he, and the rest of the Dalkey team, thought that he had safely made his ground by the time the wicket was broken at the other end, Umpire Fanning wilted under Wicklow’s vociferous appeals and raised his finger.

Seymour strode confidently to the crease with Dalkey now requiring 12 off 10 balls. After exchanging singles with the Ashford captain, Captain Sushant hit the first 3 of the match thanks to a wild overthrow. As the tension mounted, the match was now descending into the sort of dark comedy that Bennett had enjoyed that lunchtime at the Bewley Café Theatre, where two familiar Theatrical Cavaliers were enacting a fictional encounter between Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett at a village cricket match in the Cotswolds. And yes, Bennett’s runout was a Krapp decision, to borrow a joke from the play that also namechecked the great Jack Crapp.

Another single and an extra took Dalkey to 83-8 in increasingly chaotic circumstances and near darkness.

The Archivists needed only 6 to win against the demon chucker.

But nothing could have prepared us for the absurdity of the final over.

After an early single, Dalkey needed just 5 runs from 5 balls.

A barely visible dot ball outside the leg stump tilted the game in Wicklow’s favour.

Off the 3rd ball, Seymour hit a strong off drive, but seemed more focused on admiring his technique than bothering to run. Even with Captain Sushant pelting down the wicket towards him, Seymour remained unmoved. If Captain Sushant has a weakness, it is that he is far too polite and gracious. And so he turned back However, like Captain Scott on his more arduous return journey, he was never going to make it.

And so the game approached its endgame, as Sree joined his Ashford captain with Dalkey now needing 5 runs off 3 balls.

Seymour missed the next ball. But so did the wicketkeeper! The dashing barista set off for the obvious bye, but now the tables were turned as Sree stood his ground at the non-striker’s end, leaving Seymour forlornly stranded in no man’s land!!

Dalkey were 84-9 with no batsmen left! No. 11 Smale had long gone home, so Captain Frank was desperately petitioned by Dalkey to allow a low-scoring batsman back. It would have been a betrayal of the Corinthian spirit to turn down such a fair request and, to his credit, Captain Frank duly acceded.

By this stage, Dalkey had somehow accumulated 5 batsmen with a score of 2 or less, so competition for this second chance was fierce! Keen to avoid another confrontation with the dastardly Sandeep, Bennett was discreetly edging away from the group of willing batsmen. Hunt had started preparing with one pad on. Seymour already had one pad off. Shailesh and Vikas also kept their heads down. Amidst this cauldron of hope, despair and uncertainty, Wicklow and Umpire Reay decreed that Seymour should return.

The Dalkey scorecard would now have mystified anyone not fortunate enough to have witnessed this crazy match. It seemed that Nick had batted at no. 8, Nick 2 at no.9 and Nick 3 at no. 11! Those unfamiliar with Seymour’s first name could have been forgiven for thinking that Bennett was a master of disguise, relentlessly refusing to stay out of the game.

And so, 5 runs were needed off 2 balls, an almost impossible task on this outfield, especially against Sandeep.

Off his second free ball of the match, Seymour managed to hit a single.

So in the end it all boiled down to Sree. Could he score 4 runs off the last ball of the match?

Unlike the witless Merrion CC in similar circumstances in the Handbags tournament 2 years ago, Captain Frank sensibly spread the field deep to protect the boundary.

Sree made excellent contact with a powerful off drive, but the thick outfield and unusually sensible fielding limited him to only 2 runs. Dalkey finished on 87, losing by just one run.

A scantily completed Dalkey scorecard with no running total

The Archivists couldn’t quite believe how they had managed to throw it away. What would they say to Smale who had so misplaced his trust in them?

Most of the Archivists and all of the Ashford contingent were so dejected that they failed to turn up at the Hibernia pub for the customary post-match drinks, spread and speeches. But those who did were in for a surprise. For it soon transpired that Dalkey’s incompetence extended beyond batting and also included scoring! Captain Frank’s close inspection of the two scorebooks had exposed Dalkey’s fatal error in upwardly adjusting the target to 89. Wicklow had actually scored 87, so the target was only 88. Meaning that the match had been tied!

Happy days and time for unexpected celebration by the small group of relieved Archivists.

Captain Frank congratulated both teams on a thrilling match and gave the Man of the Match award to Fanning for his strong batting and wicketkeeping performances.

In the wicketkeeper’s absence, Reay took temporary custody of the bottle of wine, only for Fanning to relinquish all rights to it on the following day on the grounds that Reay “deserved it”.

Captain Frank congratulates both teams

With Captain Sushant now at home, probably mulling over what he thought was a bitter defeat, Reay stepped up to thank Wicklow for their hospitality and give Sisley a well-deserved MOTM bottle of wine for his explosive batting and tight bowling. In the circumstances, maybe it should have been a Pinot Grigio?

Far removed from the bleakness of the afore-mentioned dramatists, this had been a match full of joy and pleasant surprises, epitomizing once again the exuberance and camaraderie of South County cricket on so many levels.

[Written by: Nick Bennett]

Reay rewards Sisley for hitting two consecutive 6's off him!

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