Having previously only ventured as far afield as Balbriggan in North Dublin, the Dalkey Archives rounded off another enjoyable season with their first trip out of the Pale all the way down to Valentia Island off the coast of Kerry.
Connected by familial links that led to the inception of both clubs, Ashford CC had been travelling down to Valentia CC for 8 years and kindly invited the Archivists to join them this year.
The original plan for a triangular tournament with the hosts and Ashford CC was thwarted by demand to watch Ireland’s first game in the Rugby World Cup at 2.30pm. It was thus decided to have one match in the morning between Valentia and Ashford (for the prestigious Cable Trophy), with Dalkey on hand to supplement either team with any required players.
As the trip had been arranged at relatively short notice, Dalkey only managed to bring 9 players to the island, so would likewise look to Valentia CC for extra players for the second match of the day against Ashford CC after the rugby.
Director of Cricket Mills led the advance party, arriving en famille early on Friday afternoon. His participation in the match had been threatened by the awkward timing of his wife’s birthday on Saturday, but Mills had ingeniously reconciled his two passions by booking a swanky hotel for his wife and 2 youngest children at nearby Finian’s Bay on the mainland. This had the added bonus of ensuring the presence of Mills Jr., who had already performed well for the team in the earlier fixture at Oak Hill.
Likewise, Supreeth, Tratalos and Shailesh had also managed to convince their respective families to make a weekend out of it and arrived separately later that evening. Shailesh also travelled with his cricket-playing friend Sahil, while Reay, Sushant and Bennett drove down together and set up the team’s HQ in an AirBNB just down the road from the Royal Valentia Hotel. As the instigator of the trip and assembler of the team, Bennett was made captain.
Waiting for the ferry
Driver Reay takes a well-earned break
One of his earliest decisions as captain was to book a table for 6 people at the Royal Valentia Hotel for Friday evening for himself and any other tired travellers who might like to join him. After checking numbers with his fellow travellers, he successfully updated his reservation to 15 people on the Friday morning before the match.
However, due to a combination of bad traffic, poor communication, late departures and confined road rage, Captain Bennett had to make a succession of apologetic phone calls en route to the hotel, incrementally reducing the reservation from 15 down to 11 and then down to 7. When he discovered that a third family of four would not be joining him, he no longer had the heart to inform the restaurant that his original reservation for 6 would actually be halved to 3. Like fine wine, it seemed that the Dalkey Archives didn’t travel well.
Unencumbered by any type of family, the intrepid trio of Captain Bennett, Reay and Sushant soon made their way to the hotel for their long-awaited dinner. Not unsurprisingly, they bumped into a few well lubricated Ashford players and some charming local islanders there. As the only other player who had managed to secure accommodation on the island, Tratalos also put in a brief, but welcome, appearance after dinner. Captain Bennett departed relatively early, but Reay and Sushant continued to work their charm on all and sundry deep into the night. Outstanding stamina and dedication, especially from Reay who had driven all the way down.
Come Saturday morning and Captain Bennett duly received a message from his Ashford counterpart Nick Seymour that 3 Dalkey players would be needed for the first match.
The breakfast of champions for late night revellers Sushant and Reay
The message arrived at 10.22am and the match was starting at 10.30am! Reay, Sushant and Supreeth were dispatched to what turned out to be a rather one-sided victory for Ashford.
Ashford CC take on Valentia CC
After an equally easy Irish victory over Romania, Dalkey and Ashford finally assembled in Cracow Park overlooking the terrace of fine cable houses and a shimmering blue sea at about 4.40pm. Captain Bennett won the toss and elected to bat, remembering how the team batting first had won all 3 of the Handbags matches.
He had earlier inquired whether Dalkey should bring new balls, but had been told that they would be wasted on the sticky Valentia wicket. Resident horticulturalist Reay described the wicket as soft and boggy and it did seem that it could benefit from a heavy roller.
No new ball needed
And so Tratalos and Mills strode out to open the Dalkey innings in unseasonably hot and humid conditions. Ashford’s opening bowler Ray flirted with both lines either side of the wicket in his first over, finally eliciting a wide from the lenient Umpire Bennett. Neither he nor Ro at the other end seemed the least bit threatening, as Dalkey progressed comfortably to 10-0 after 2 overs.
But in his 2nd over Ray found his line to devastating effect. After a 2nd ball wide, he surprised Mills with his first straight ball of his spell. Expecting a little more bounce, the Director of Cricket played one of his trademark expansive drives, only to watch in horror as the ball dribbled under his battle with just enough speed to dislodge a bail.
After Sushant safely negotiated his first ball with a single, Tratalos played back to a grubber that did actually cut in a bit and rattle against his off stump. Dalkey were tottering at 12-2! The fine wine analogy was looking even more apt. (Despite the fact that none of the Archivists show any sign of improving with age.)
The Archivists certainly hadn’t travelled all this way down to Valentia just to be humiliated by Ashford, so Umpire/Captain Bennett urged caution to Sushant and incoming batsmen Shailesh. Both scored freely off Ro’s second over and Booth’s first over, taking the score to 31-2 off 4 overs.
Sushant and Shailesh in full flight
However, Booth had injured himself bowling. And with Ashford only fielding 10 men, it was agreed that 3 bowlers could bowl a 3rd over. As always, Captain Bennett assumed that Ashford would not give these extra overs to their best bowlers …
But just as Dalkey were looking to accelerate toward a commanding total, they were faced with 6 overs from Ashford’s two best bowlers! Malcolm clean bowled Sushant and Shailesh for 15 and 12 in his first and third over, after both Indians had managed to find the boundary twice.
Coming in at no. 5, Supreeth scored 2 boundaries, but was well caught by a diving Seymour off Francois for a comparatively sedate 11 off 10 balls.
Supreeth hooks a beamer for four
Dalkey were 54-5 in the 10 over, with only Reay protecting a long tail including Mills Jr, two Valentia players, Captain Bennett and the untested Sahil.
Reay and Mills Jr. dug in, but the youngster soon succumbed bowled for a 5-ball duck off the last ball of Tony’s first over. Valentian Shane was stumped for 1 off the first ball of Tony’s next over, leaving newcomer Sahil to face the hattrick ball with the score on 62-7 in the 12th over. Having safely survived that test, he and Reay proceeded to rebuild the innings.
Reay’s resistance was only broken by a moment of madness, as Sahil turned down an easy second run off a strong on drive that cleared the fielder’s head. The horticulturalist was already committed to the second run and was well short when Francois’s throw from the deep arrived at the bowler’s end.
After taking a few balls to acclimatize to the pitch, Captain Bennett called Sahil for an easy single after the latter’s dab behind the wicket was misfielded. This time Bennett had made it all the way down to the batsman’s end before Sahil finally woke up and declined the run. In retrospect, maybe Bennett should have sped past the immobile Sahil to ensure that the Indian was punished for pulling rank.
Sahil had now run out 2 senior Archivists, so was under severe pressure to redeem himself with the bat.
Which he did in fine style, hitting 3 sixes to retire on 25! The only easily hittable balls on this wicket were full tosses, which Ashford were thankfully very generous with.
Dalkey finished on 104, which looked like a decent enough total on this sort of wicket.
The Dalkey innings
In their previous match against Ashford, Captain Bennett’s main strategy had been to hold back his better bowlers for Ashford’s big hitters. However, the 9-man Dalkey team boasted an embarrassment of riches in the bowling department, so the captain’s only real challenge was to bowl the Mills pair early enough to allow them to make an early exit for the birthday dinner on the mainland at 8pm. The Dalkey Nine were also supplemented by two locals, Oscar and Kieran, who were reluctant to bowl. However, as Kieran conceded that he would be happy to try one over, Captain Bennett decided, with Seymour’s approval, to follow Ashford in giving three of his bowlers a third over.
Shailesh opened the bowling and took a wicket with his 2nd ball, surprising opener Oscar with his pace for a neat catch by Supreeth in gully. But when Francois then dispatched his first ball for a massive six over mid-on, cracks began to appear in Dalkey confidence about their total.
Hope was restored by an opening maiden at the other end by Sahil and then the dismissal of the other opener Ro bowled for 6 in Shailesh’s next over. Ashford were 18-2 at the end of the third over, with Tony, their usual opener, coming in at no.4.
The classical bowling action of Sahil
At this stage, Ashford were well ahead on the run rate, having lost the same amount of wickets as Dalkey had.
But Francois soon retreated into a shell that we never knew he had, treating the Dalkey bowlers with the utmost respect. Likewise, Tony also struggled to score even singles off the first change pair of Reay and Sushant. Ashford’s innings ground to a halt in the sweltering sun.
Captain Bennett asked Kieran if he would like to chance his arm, but the islander was still traumatized by the experience of Francois hitting 3 sixes off one of his overs in the earlier match.
Eventually Captain Seymour could take no more of his team’s pedestrian batting and retired Tony after a marathon 25-ball innings of 5 runs. Ashford had crawled from 18 to 25 in 6 overs! Reay conceded only 4 runs in his 2 overs, while Sushant had bowled 2 maiden overs.
Ashford’s only hope now was for Francois to revert to his normal self. So it was no surprise that his eyes lit up when Mills Sr. replaced Reay. And when Mills gifted him a long hop off this third ball, the South African finally opened his shoulders with a massive drive to the midwicket boundary. We will never know if it would’ve cleared the rope, because Supreeth sprinted 10 metres around the boundary to make a difficult catch look easy.
The match now looked effectively over with Ashford tottering on 25-5 after 9 overs.
Mills Jr. was harshly treated by the umpire for balls that bounced twice before they reached the batsman. His father also conceded two no-balls, two wides and a boundary in his less impressive second over, as Ashford showed signs of mounting an extras-assisted comeback. All of a sudden, Ashford had doubled their score in 3 overs and were now back in the game at 52-5 after 12 overs.
At this rate this game would be over in 4 or 5 overs!
Captain Bennett restored some order by sharing the next 4 overs between Sahil, Reay, Sushant and local man Kieran. Unknown quantity Kieran bowled magnificently, conceding only a single and a wide. Sushant and Sahil were equally stingy, giving away only 3 runs altogether.
Reay started his third over with 4 dot balls, before moving Captain Bennett from mid-off to mid-on. For some inexplicable reason, Dermot hit the 5th ball straight to the relocated Bennett, who made no mistake with the chest-high catch. Reay finished the over with another dot ball for the second wicket maiden of the innings.
As the shadows lengthened, so Ashford's hopes evaporated in the late afternoon heat. The scoreboard remained forlornly unupdated.
The lengthening shadows spell the end for Ashford
It was left to Supreeth and Bennett to mop up the innings with 2 wickets each in the last 4 overs. Malcolm was bowled by the Indian speedster for just 4 runs, a rare failure perhaps attributable to fatigue. Bennett claimed two wickets in three balls from well-taken catches by Oscar and Supreeth close in. And when Supreeth took the final wicket in off-spin mode thanks to a smart stumping by Tratalos, Ashford were all out for 77, 28 runs short of their target.
The Ashford innings
Speeches were delayed until after dinner in the Royal Valentia Hotel. However, with the Mills family living it up on the mainland and most of Dalkey’s Indian contingent retiring to their accommodation with their families, it was left to Reay, Sushant, Tratalos and Bennett to fly the flag for Dalkey, as they had done on the previous evening.
Captain Seymour gave Sushant the MOTM award for his fine bowling and tireless socializing, while Captain Bennett rewarded Tony for his excellent bowling (2 for 8 off 3 overs) and for sacrificing his wicket for the greater good. The victorious captain remarked that the Archives had achieved their two aims of beating Ashford and denying Malcolm his habitual MOTM award.
Sushant socializing for Dalkey (Ashford's Dermot and Tony in the background)
Captain Bennett speechifying for Dalkey
Although a third match featuring the islanders and any remaining Ashford and Dalkey stragglers had been mooted for the following day, a combination of grey skies and tired bodies sparked little enthusiasm. Players from all teams were pleasantly sated by the entertainment and hospitality of the previous two days .
After the undoubted success of this first expedition to Valentia Island, some sort of better planned repeat trip is definitely to be hoped for next year.
[Written by: Nick Bennett]