Leinster CC v The Hills, 30 August 2021
The flurry of re-fixed games continued unabated as The Hills visited Leinster CC for a 20 overs per side game. Due to pressures of work, The Hills had three changes from the team which had beaten Pembroke on Saturday. Lorcan Woodhouse came into the team, Andrew Kavanagh took the wicket-keeping slot, and there was a first-team debut for Sam Smyth. Saturday’s victory had lifted the relegation pressures on The Hills, but this was not the situation for a Leinster team which up to that point had failed to win any game in the BUAKIT Premier League.
Leinster won the toss and opted to bat first. It was evident that the fear of relegation had produced a highly motivated team, and by the end of the 6th over, Leinster had accumulated 56 runs for the loss of a single wicket. The introduction of Jonathan Tall, the left arm spinner, induced a slowing of the run-rate initially, and then he took the prized wicket of Joey Carroll, last Saturday’s centurion, and former Hills’ player. At the other end, the first ball which Sam Smyth bowled in Premier League cricket dismantled the stumps of Bilal Azhar (38) who had been batting brilliantly. According to one of The Hills’ statisticians, this is the first occasion that a debutant has taken a wicket with the first ball that he bowled in Senior cricket. A variety of Leinster cricketers got starts, but none of them went on to make a significant contribution to the score, and Leinster’s final total was 156 runs 8 wickets.
Regarding the bowling performance, it was wonderful to see Sam Smyth take a wicket with his first ball and to witness the celebrations which ensued. Jonathan Tall’s 4 overs for 22 runs and 1 wicket were pivotal in slowing down the Leinster scoring rate, but at an overall level, The Hills’ bowling lacked the accuracy of recent performances, and 17 wides were conceded. Although Andrew Kavanagh did not concede a single bye, the general standard of The Hills’ fielding was several notches below the normal standards of this team.
A target of 157 runs to win was very challenging, and there was the ever-present fear of deteriorating light. The Hills’ opening pair, Cormac McLoughlin (21) and Bhavesh Lakhotia, had accumulated 36 runs when Bhavesh had to retire injured due to a hamstring strain. It was unfortunate that some of the Leinster fielders were less than sympathetic to his plight as he left the field and made some uncalled for comments. Bhavesh’s injury brought the in-form Murray Commins to the crease, and he proceeded to bat brilliantly. With Dylan Blignaut as his partner, this pair added 42 runs to the score until Dylan was run-out due to confusion in the first instance regarding an LBW appeal. 20 more runs were added when Andrew Kavanagh became the second run-out victim of the evening. With the pressure mounting and the light deteriorating, Murray Commins (51*) and Cian Nulty (18) displayed superb game management skills by ensuring that The Hills remained ahead on the DLS score. The 16th over was the pivotal one which effectively decided the result as 23 runs were scored (3 sixes, 2 singles, and 3 no balls) off Saqib Bahadur. Cian Nulty’s wicket fell when the score was 138 runs. This left Tomás Rooney-Murphy and Murray Commins to negotiate whatever overs were going to be allowed. After the third ball of the 18th over, the umpires decided that it was no longer possible to continue, and this decision produced lengthy and heated discussions while the light deteriorated even further.
Some of the Leinster supporters were under the mistaken impression that when a 50 overs game is reduced to 20 overs, there cannot be a further reduction and that the game should be declared null and void with the teams sharing the points. The umpires and a Cricket Leinster official were able to inform all and sundry that the regulations had been changed, and results were possible using the DLS system once a minimum of 10 overs had been bowled in the second innings.
In the end, this was a magnificent batting performance by The Hills CC. Murray Commins batted superbly; there were valuable innings from Dylan Blignaut (24), Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin (21), Cian Nulty (18), and Bhavesh Lakhotia (16*), and a challenging target was achieved under adverse conditions. The games continue to come fast and furious. The Hills will entertain YMCA at The Vineyard on Tuesday and the last game of the league will be played against Clontarf at The Vineyard on Saturday. Until then, it is onwards and upwards.