The meeting between high-flying Balbriggan and near neighbours, The Hills, was eagerly anticipated by the players of both clubs and supporters of cricket in Fingal. On a beautiful sunny day at the Jack Harper Ground, Balbriggan won the toss and elected to bat first. Interestingly, The Hills chose to open the bowling with pace at one end, and spin at the other end, and this combination proved to be very effective with The Hills taking 4 wickets for 41 runs by the seventeenth over. Another wicket was taken in the twentieth over, and Jonathan Tall had taken 3 wickets for 25 runs in his ten-overs spell. Dylan Blignaut and Tomás Rooney-Murphy were the other wicket-takers during this period, and it appeared that the visitors were in the box seat. Balbriggan’s fight back was led by Gregory Ford (40), Ryan Hadley (20), Campbell Davies-Webb (10), and Andrew Darroch (10), and the home side’s total was 159 all out in 44.4 overs. Jonathan Tall was the stand-out bowler for The Hills, and the figures for the other bowlers were Tomás Rooney-Murphy (3 for 33), Dylan Blignaut (2 for 32), Levon Shields (2 for 28).
A former Balbriggan and Hills player expressed the view that any score in excess of 150 runs would be difficult to chase because there appeared to be the proverbial “bit in the wicket”. The Hills had a nightmare start with the fall of a wicket in the 2nd over when there were only 5 runs on the board. Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin and Athar Farooqi set about re-building the innings and combined for a partnership of 39 runs which ended when Farooqi was run out. Dylan Blignaut and Cormac (37) put together another partnership of 39 runs when Cormac was unlucky to be bowled in an over which had already yielded 11 runs. Dylan Blignaut (19) was out to a brilliant catch on the boundary by Chris de Freitas off the bowling of Dylan Lues, and that was possibly the pivotal moment of the game. From that point onwards, Balbriggan managed to impose a stranglehold on the game through a combination of tight, accurate bowling and good fielding. Tomás Rooney-Murphy (19) and Bhavesh Lakhotia (16) led a spirited resurgence, but the last 4 wickets fell for 2 runs, and Balbriggan had won by 23 runs to maintain its unbeaten record in the league. The bowling honours for Balbriggan were taken by Ryan Hadley (3 for 22), Andrew Darroch (2 for 12), Dylan Lues (2 for 23), Farooq Nasr (1 for 31) and Malcolm McGregor (1 for 24).
Cricket is a game of fine margins, and the key moments in the game occurred during The Hills’ innings. If Dylan Blignaut’s shot had gone one foot either side of de Freitas, it would have been a 6 and Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin looked to have played on to his wicket when he was batting well. Balbriggan has assembled a very competitive team and will be difficult to beat either home or away. On this occasion, The Hills had bowled and fielded well, but the batsmen will be disappointed not to have chased down 160 runs. That game is gone, and there will be an opportunity next week to rectify matters when YMCA visit The Vineyard. Until then, it is onwards and upwards.